Cheer up: it’s only a game

Wednesday, 9 July 2014 14:32 GMT By Dave Cook

Flame wars, trolling, forum arguments and fanboy format armageddon have been reignited with the coming of the latest console generation, but sometimes we all just need to chill out and remember that they’re only games. Right?

oculus fun times

”There are no “hardcore gamers,” “girl gamers,” or “casual gamers,” in my mind. To categorise our fellow hobbyists in such a manner is to deem them somehow different or inferior.”

Today is my last day on VG247 and as a games writer.

I struggled over what the focus of my final blog should be for some time. I wondered if one of those big, long-winded “how I got here, and why I entered this mad, mad industry” stories would be appropriate, but then I remembered that I’m not an important person or going to linger in the memory of the masses for longer than, oh, I’d say a week after today.

So no, I won’t be going down the back-slapping route. It just feels self-serving, you know?

Instead, I wanted to talk about you. That’s right, you sitting there reading these words. You might be male, female, trans-gendered, black, white or a member of another ethnicity. You may be religious, atheist, politically-minded or indifferent. Perhaps you consider yourself a hardcore gamer, or maybe you just enjoy playing phone apps for a few minutes a day.

There’s a lot of debate about inclusion and representation in gaming today, but I don’t care who you are or where you come from, just like you probably don’t care about my life story and reasons for being here today. All that matters is that you’re a gamer; a member of the biggest interactive medium this planet has ever known. This is an inclusive club with no entry requirements or pre-requisites that say “you must do this or be that” to enjoy the hobby.


You died. Probably because you’re a casual n00b who sucks at games. AMRITE? LOL!!1

There are no “hardcore gamers,” “girl gamers,” or “casual gamers,” in my mind. To categorise our fellow hobbyists in such a manner is to deem them somehow different or inferior. You may have even used these descriptors to put someone down or to exert rank over another player.

The truth is we live in a time now where those tags mean nothing. We are all just “gamers.”

To you sitting there reading these words, whoever you are, I say “welcome, fancy a game of something?”

”As a games writer you have little choice but to roll up your sleeves and plunge your writing hands into the sewer of gaming’s darkest, most hateful recesses. You really need a thick skin.”

However, while I hope you’ve enjoyed your time as a game enthusiast so far, I have to admit that – thanks in large part to the advent of the internet – that this hobby has grown incredibly toxic over the years. I’m speaking specifically about the social media space (forums, Facebook, comment feeds and the like). It’s a damn shame too.

Chances are if you’re a happy, content gamer who simply plays games and enjoys them, you won’t have seen the ugly side of the medium that I have. In this job you can’t avoid the screaming, angered, puerile, nasty and downright poisoned exchanges that go on between fellow gamers in the online space.

As a games writer you have little choice but to roll up your sleeves and plunge your writing hands into the sewer of gaming’s darkest, most hateful recesses. You really need a thick skin when putting out articles that might be read by thousands to millions of people, and I’ll admit that I’ve failed in that aim on a few occasions. That’s because I wear my heart on my sleeve and my name is on these pages. Whatever I or other game writers say is instantly at the mercy of the masses. Backlash is inevitable when expressing an opinion on hot topics.


An inaccurate depiction of every game journalists everywhere, bathing in bribe money

During my seven years as a published writer I’ve been called every name under the sun – ‘shill, corrupt, misleading, liar, not a gamer, bribed, paid off, fanboy’ – just for doing my job or daring to have a public opinion. I’m always open for a right to reply however, and where possible I’ll speak with those giving me shit to politely talk about the dispute. Nine times out of ten we talk about it calmly, and once the issue is resolved we remain followers and even friends on Twitter.

That’s heart-warming. But what about you, the gamer sitting there? Do you possess the capacity to to forgive and calmly debate whenever such arguments kick off? When someone expresses their interest in Sony consoles, do you instantly defend your preferred Xbox format? Do you feel everyone who owns a Wii U is an idiot? Are fans of mobile games casual idiots or elderly people? Do you feel PC gaming is dying?

My best piece of advice to you is to calm down and remember that they’re only games.

I don’t mean this to discredit the power of gaming as a medium. Of course, to say they’re “only games” is to overlook the emotional effect of some titles, as well as the hard work, dedication and sheer artistry that goes into making the games so many of you, sitting there, profess to hate with such passion.

This is an incredible medium, one that triggers immense feeling and causes us to lay awake at night while pondering a plot twist or shock ending. It makes us converge at expos and wait in line for hours to play something we can’t wait to own, decorate our play spaces with figurines, posters and other merchandise. We buy the companion novels, watch the cartoon tie-ins, buy the DLC and play together online as friends, comrades.

When gamers rally together and support the medium as keen fans, instead of acting like angry children towards each other, we can achieve excellence. Those are the moments where I’d sit back from my keyboard and genuinely smile, because I can tell you for certain that seeing all of you game for charity, petition for positive change or simply share in your collective enthusiasm is a shining light amid a sea of negative darkness. You’re doing it right.

sick kids

My local charity Sick Kids Save Point sees gamers raising mad-cash for children’s hospitals each year, just for playing games.

Regular readers will know I’m always ready to give games the benefit of the doubt, because I believe that if you stay close minded you’ll be missing out on some superb experiences and who knows, maybe even your new favourite game of all time? Don’t rule it out, seriously.

It’s disheartening then, to see people commenting on a game’s one minute, cinematic reveal trailer and saying something like, “this game will be shit.” That game is dead on arrival to that person, and the work of hundreds of talented coders, artists and designers has been written off with a few keyboard taps. I’m sure many of you out there cannot imagine a world where you are like that person. I know I could never be so down about a past time I love this much.

For such a progressive, engrossing and entertaining medium I just can’t help but feel that such negativity doesn’t belong, but then I remember that we all have opinions. You can’t win them all, although in the majority it’s your passion, enjoyment and genuine keenness for gaming that have kept me in this job for so long. I just feel it’s simply time to tackle a new challenge.

To anyone who has read my silly words and kept my faith in both humanity, as well as the gaming fanbase flickering all this time, thank you, sincerely.

Remember: they’re just games and they exist to be enjoyed in the first instance, not used as ammunition to hurt or discredit your fellow hobbyist. Don’t close yourself off from the joy that this medium so regularly dispenses, I promise you will feel richer for it.


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