As we discussed in Beardcast Episode 80, EA has been making a surprising run-through of Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America.” Now that the polls are closed and the votes counted, Consumerist has declared (via internet poll) that EA is the worst company in America and awarded them a tongue-in-cheek golden poo. Previous winners of these titles include scummy luminaries such as BP, AIG, and Comcast. The Consumerist takes suggestions for nominations, investigates the claims of anti-consumer behavior, and decides if they deserve a spot within the NCAA-style bracket.
As you can assume, the industry reacted to this with a misapplied and grotesque caricature of perspective.
This has been the newest notch in the “Fucking gamers” belt that gaming journalists and developers have been wearing for the last year. It is the new hip thing to do to paint with the widest brush possible and be as rude as they can be to draw a clear line between themselves and what they consider the unwashed masses. Any time that gamers, the audience for gaming journalism and video games in general, feel upset, manipulated, mislead, or taken advantage of, game journalists fall over themselves to use words like “entitled” or “missing the point.”
It is an unfair and rude generalization that needs to stop. This type of snobbery honestly has no place within an entertainment industry, especially one that claims to foster community. You don’t think this game’s ending needs to be changed because it compromises the industry’s art? Surely you can express this without claiming it is the fault of some vocal whiners or tweeting some thinly-veiled finger pointing at people for ruining “your” hobby. Oh no, gamers are mad because of on-disc DLC! I guess they just don’t understand how easy it is to get the DLC codes, all you have to do is ask on twitter (if you’re a game journalist). Lousy, entitled gamers too lazy to use twitter.
Game journalists are eager to prove that they are above their station and do this by meticulously outlining who is below them. If you agree with them, then you’re smart and reasonable. If you disagree, then you’re an entitled minority that is simply whining because everything is not all rainbows and sunshine or whatever other strawman one can think of for these purposes.
Maybe they think there is an inherent danger to thinking of your audience as people. If you think of them as abstract concepts, just “whining” coming from some back channel with Hatsune Miku avatars, then it probably won’t bother you when they do have legitimate gripes. Developers and journalists may not simply want to think of their consumers as people with complex thoughts and logic so they can simply hand wave their complaints away as emotional reactions. When there is an event that people are talking about, the gaming media will circle the wagons to explain why gamers are at fault.
Yes, everyone understands that EA is not actually worse than Bank of America in terms of real-world effects. Congratulations, you made the correct value judgment that foreclosing on homes is worse than forum bannings being tied to access to games (and in a good bit of irony, mentioning the Consumerist poll gets you banned from the forums, too). Neither Bank of America nor EA was suddenly going to see this poll result and change their ways, so for as little as this poll actually mattered, getting upset that the more morally outrageous choice was not picked does little besides provide an excellent example of public grandstanding. To do this while defending EA’s acts as an actual anti-consumer company is mind-boggling, as if video games themselves needed defense from…people who play video games.
It is perhaps hypocritical of me to complain of soapboxing while actively engaging in it myself. And the amusing part may be that I find myself close to their line of thinking in how little I care about the hypocrisy here, but if my glibness is such that it allows me to call out the rudeness and sanctimoniousness of the gaming industry for what it is, then I have absolutely no problem with that at all. The real lead, buried under EA’s meaningless victory (or loss) in this arena, is that consumers are more complex than their entertainment and information providers give them credit for. They can only be so dismissive and ungracious before the audience realizes they don’t need them any longer, either.