Packing a Punch

While humanity as a race has continued to evolve intellectually, at least in terms of technological progress and development, there is one fundamental aspect of our nature which one could easily argue has remained in its feral state – the pack mentality.  It could also be said that this desire to gather allies in order to apply force has actually increased along with our intelligence, shifting from being a necessary survival instinct within hostile environments to one where it has become the breeder of hostility.

In modern times, these vulgar displays of power reach as far back as the bulletin board systems where someone would happen to mention that their favourite band’s latest album wasn’t quite up to scratch and, before you can say ’900 baud’, another dozen people have rallied around to tear the original commenter to shreds, denouncing their right to class themselves as a fan of the artist.  In some cases, the debate would continue for weeks on end with the occasional passer-by supporting the originator’s right to have a contrasting opinion but, all too often, the claws would come out and people would be pulled in from outside sources in order to form a dark alliance and bring about the retirement of the individual who dared to question the talent emitting from the album in question.


The games industry is no different, with forums divided by those who support one particular manufacturer over another and who, regardless of actual facts, will continue to claim that their choice of console is superior to all others in every aspect.  The truth is, each console has its reason to be lauded even if the reason is that it was able to pull in an entirely-new demographic while, at the same time, presenting itself as an under-powered casual solution. Arguments over spec would result in either team clutching at straws to support their own console, much like a search engine optimisation specialist would cherry-pick high-ranking phrases to prove their worth while choosing to ignore those which didn’t: “Ours plays Blu-Rays!” versus “Ours has more online players!”. In most cases, a stalemate situation would occur and both sides would tire of debate, leaving the thread hanging.

Underneath this surface layer of vehement fanboyism, however, lies a seedy underbelly which stretches far beyond support for the technology itself and it is perhaps the most powerful, yet vitriolic, of all factions – the franchise supporter.  Much like the homogeneous Hollywood action movies, there will be a moment where sworn enemies unite in support of a much greater cause in an effort to overthrow the evil overlord and, in the case of the games industry, this generally happens when someone dares to speak negatively of a cross-platform title which has a strong army of supporters on all sides.  Suddenly the gloves are off, pitchforks are being primed by hones fashioned from arrogance, and the internet airwaves become thick from the smoke of the virtual flag-burnings.

It is at this point where the individual’s right to free speech becomes suffocated by a pillow of ignorance, stuffed into their mouth with enough force that it’s near-impossible for them to stand their ground and put forward a reasoned argument.  The rate at which negativity spews forth increases, the circling pack squeezes ever-closer to ensure that all means of escape are blocked and that the words of protest from those who had the courage to question their beloved franchise go unheard over the mob, chanting in unison while demanding retribution.

But what punishment befits the crime where a publication brands a title, be it cross-platform or exclusive, with a low score when the fanboys demand that it be treated ‘fairly’ with a solid 9/10 or better?  The reasoned individual would perhaps suggest that the most obvious course of action would be to boycott the source and deny them of a readership, but the angry mob probably already understand that being denied the presence of those who cannot accept contrary opinions is of no great loss, and so the rusted wheels of hate continue to grind until a more severe alternative is decided upon.  The punishment doled out to one of our colleagues for such a crime was to encourage as many people as possible to join their forum and cause as much trouble as they possibly could.  The fact that they opted to target a site which, by its very nature, gives practically zero fucks about anything and cares not a jot about forum trolls would suggest how successful their attempts were.  They tried, though, and that is bad enough.

In our case, the level of vitriol and the speed at which it escalated was staggering.  Accusations of encouraging our writers to give low scores in order to create controversy and garner hits were quickly resisted with explanations of how we are perhaps the antithesis of this, avoiding many triple-A titles in favour of unknowns and against cherry-picking quotes out of context in order to generate attention-grabbing headlines.  It made no difference, however, and within fewer than thirty minutes of having the article published we were officially ‘the enemy’.

The typical threats of never reading the site again were hurled around, as you’d expect, and then it happened – ‘The Independence Day Moment’.  Standing on the balcony of the gaming industry’s answer to the White House, a call to arms was heard.  We had committed the most heinous of all crimes by branding their beloved franchise with a low review score, and so the punishment should reflect the severity of our actions.  Cries of “voting down” and “banning” could just about be heard over the squealing of pigs and within thirty-five minutes we watched three years of building up an in-site ‘reputation’ disappear.  To what end, though?  Ultimately, it means absolutely nothing because the site in question is well known for being incestuous and almost nepotistic in its ways, so removing our reputation was the equivalent of being branded a ‘pussy’ by the regulars at a bikers’ bar.  There’s nothing to stop you from drinking there, but you’ll likely be ignored by those around you, and sometimes that’s more of a blessing than a curse.

When you look at the server logs the following day, however, and see that all four cores were running at 100% for several hours with the same half-dozen IP addresses attacking your site (one of which also belonged to a commenter who was stupid enough to threaten us from the same PC) while constantly changing their user-agent in an attempt to disguise themselves, you realise just how far these people are willing to go for the games they love.  Damaging a practically-useless reputation quite literally has no effect whatsoever, and calling the site an attention-seeking controversy whore is water off a duck’s back when those around us know that the site exists for exactly the opposite reasons – which is to be honest, no matter how much it affects industry relationships – and so the only thing left is to attempt a Denial of Service attack on the server.


Live and let live, people. Seriously.

Because a writer, whose opinion we trust, gave a low score to a game with passionate supporters.  Nothing more. That’s one step too far, as far as I’m concerned. When did the video game industry start practising Jingoism?  At what point did we dust over that line in the sand which allows us to have differing opinions and work through them with heavy debate?  I saw an entirely different side to the gaming industry this week; one where an all-out attack on a small site is justified in order to show them that their game should have been awarded with a 9/10 score, unquestionably.  The internet is riddled with websites advocating gang rape, gun violence, nazism, racial hatred, antisemitism and all manner of questionable values and yet they are allowed to exist with nothing more than the odd negative comment here and there.  Dare to place a low number on a video game review, however, and you’re inviting a world of hatred and Denial of Service attacks.  It didn’t work, however.

> I feel fantastic and I’m still alive.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Pete Pete says:

    Seriously? What the actual f***? What is wrong with people these days?Why does t’internet foster such idiocy and make people feel it’s ok to do that sh*t just because they can and because they have the cloak of anonymity to hide behind?

    Hope the buttholes didn’t cause you too much grief.

  2. Richie rich says:

    Here’s the thing. These idiots get emotionally invested in their products and I get that to a degree. I fucking love the Speccy/Dreamcast/Amiga/360 (before it got wank) because they are great machines but I don’t love Sinclair, Commodore, Sega, Microsoft. Gamers, especially the pondlife on N4G, need to realise they are gamers first, not customers. Instead they hound sites who try to give fair reviews instead of hounding the companies that take well-loved IPs and put out bad reboots and sequels.

    Ergo, if you take bad reviews personally but didn’t have a part in the game’s creation, you are a fuckwit and need to find the nearest dangerous implement to sterilise yourself with.

  3. Furie says:

    This whole thing comes down to entitlement versus empathy, with a unhealthy lack of self awareness. At its core we have people who believe that their opinions are sacred and others who have differing opinions are out to get them. I suppose it’s easy to see why, especially with gaming.

    Development takes so long these days and people follow those games, waiting with bated breath between each tiny info drop, screenshot or video. To a degree the game becomes their main passion in life. When someone says they don’t like that thing then there are many different types of people who would take that as a personal attack on them. “How dare they insult something I’ve been so passionate about for so long? Don’t they realise how hurtful they’re being?” would be what someone self aware would say, but how often do you meet someone who is actually self aware? Instead they react like children. That opinion differs to theirs and that makes them feel bad, so they set out to make the others feel worse. “They must be punished for making us feel bad.” the not self aware guy says and thinks this is perfectly reasonable due to a lack of empathy. After all, how could anyone else have an opinion that matters more than their own? And the people on the other side of the conversation react the same way because how could their opinion be ridiculed that way?

    A cyber attack is the new thing that cowards do when they can’t express their opinion. It’s the equivalent of shouting out of a car window as you speed past, something I’ve seen the kids round here do when shouting obscenities at girls before driving off. In short, I blame the parents for not raising their kids to be self aware enough to express their opinions without throwing a tantrum, and for teaching them that their little opinions are worth more than anyone elses.

  4. UselessJack says:

    This is just so sad.

    While the internet is full of haters and trolls, they’re never as annoying as an actual attack. More like a white noise in the background you get used to after a while. But actually HACKING a website because you disagree with somebody? That is beyond childish and trolling. There will always be people disagreeing with your opinion, because after all that’s what opinions are for. If we’d all have the same we wouldn’t need reviews and all that.

  5. Pete Pete says:

    I think a self aware person is more likely to say “that’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it. My own is mine and I’m entitled to it too”

    This kind of reaction from people is on the same level as religious fanaticism in my view. It’s all the same, just over something more tangible in a sense.

    Either way it’s pathetic and the morons who use those tactics to make their point need a bloody long hard look at themselves, potentially with a psychiatrist.

  6. Victor Victor Anfu says:

    Blimey. What pricks.

  7. Edward Edward says:

    I love fanboyism because it reminds me how if we put our minds to anything GOOD we gamers would be dangerous, but instead we prove why we can’t have nice things.

    Band together to promote equality in the medium, fair payments and better conditions? Nope.
    Show publishers we don’t appreciate shitty tactics to sell things? Nope.
    Try and destroy websites who don’t like the same things as you. Yeah, that’s the thing they band around.

    Fucking hell, man.

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