A new word has been popping up a lot lately in the crazy world of gaming media. It’s a word used to devalue the complaints, movements, petitions and consumer rights of gamers everywhere. That word, in all of its insulting glory, is “Entitlement”.
You see this word thrown around constantly by all variety of gaming sites, and its become especially common over the last few weeks as various media outlets attempt to report on the recent controversies involving Bioware and Mass Effect 3. Frankly, I’m less interested in outlining the myriad of issues in Mass Effect 3 than I am in pointing a finger at the countless gaming websites, publishers and developers that have insulted and mistreated so many of us with sickening smugness.
Take for example this video by IGN’s Colin Moriarty. This is a man who can get on camera and say that he wouldn’t see anything wrong with ME3 being 90% on disc DLC, all while dramatically steepling his fingers and laying down the law of reality on what he clearly sees as nothing more than a gaggle of impotent nerds. It’s a growing sentiment amongst the gaming media, and it’s shocking that anyone who actually contributes to a professional gaming website can be such a massive douchebag to so many people while keeping a relatively straight face.
I’m sick and tired of seeing this buzzword spread from one corner of the web to another, spouted by people who haven’t had any proper sense of perspective in years. It’s for this reason that I will now thoroughly and utterly crush the concept of gamer entitlement into the ground.
First of all, what is entitlement? Originally it had more to do with the concept of rights and how you, as a citizen or human being, were entitled to be treated by law. In modern times, entitlement has taken on a different meaning and is now interchangeable with spoiled. Essentially, someone who believes that they should be treated better than others, despite the fact that they are undeserving of this treatment or have done nothing to earn it. However, I don’t believe that this concept applies to consumers.
Imagine that you’ve gone to a restaurant for a nice steak. Once you’re seated your waiter doesn’t bother to bring you a menu until you flag him down and is generally rude and impatient with you. He brings you a drink that’s different from what you ordered and doesn’t even bother to refill your drink a single time. When you finally get your steak it’s cooked twice as long as you wanted and has a nice thick hair on it that’s not yours. In the eyes of the gaming media, if you complained to management, gave the waiter a bad tip (or no tip at all), wrote a bad review about the restaurant on a local attractions website and then never ate there again, you would be an overly entitled eater. Which is, of course, wrong.
The above argument perfectly illustrates my point in that there is a clear difference between being a spoiled brat and simply being entitled to a decent treatment from the goods you’ve paid for.
Consumers don’t buy rotten food from grocery stores. They don’t like using services that screw them out of their money or don’t do what they’re advertised to do. They don’t keep broken electronics and other goods. If you buy a $60 appliance and it doesn’t work, you can take it back to the store for a full refund. If you buy a $60 game, open it, play it and find that it doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re often shit out of luck unless you want to resell it for a massive loss (something you can’t even do if you purchased digitally).
Wherein then is the gamer’s recourse? Message boards, Twitter, Youtube, Metacritic and countless other communities are often the only place that these people can go to give voice to their issues. Sometimes this happens in destructive and controversial ways, with threats of boycotts, public flaming of developers on Twitter, and occasionally even hacking. All of this is usually quite dramatic and exactly the sort of thing that the gaming media loves to report on, but they tend to criticize and paint the fans as rabid basement warriors, rather than trying to understand how a group of rational people could feel so out of options that their passion drives them to such actions in the first place. It’s no wonder that these controversies pop up left and right given that the gaming industry has a tendency to treat its fans in an adversarial manner quite unlike that of any other entertainment medium.
In a netscape where developers openly call people “Fucking Morons” on Twitter and casually delete complaints off official forums, why shouldn’t angry consumers bomb Amazon and Metacritic reviews? Why shouldn’t they create petitions and flood message boards with their anger? What else can they do? Besides, numerous are the petitions, lawsuits and fan movements that have brought about real changes in the way developers and publishers do business and treat their customers.
I suppose that when you get right down to it, what really bothers me is that when we work and live in a world already rife with so much trouble and hardship, why is it that we have to play in a gaming landscape such as this? An environment where developers have all but cut support for split-screen and LAN play out of their feature list. Where game content is cut into pieces and sold to different companies to entice you into buying from one retailer or another. Where PC gaming is treated to terrible port after terrible port, some so shoddily done by major studios that they prompt you to hit the “Start” button on the menu screen. Where Microsoft can charge millions of gamers for peer to peer online and nobody cares. A land where it’s okay to lock away content on the disc that you’ve bought so that they can sell it back to you. Where mod tools are barely an afterthought. Where it’s policy to tack a multiplayer component onto a single-player game just so that they can charge you for an online pass. A place where it’s perfectly fine to release buggy, broken games and then rely on patches to fix them months later, or even more commonly, not at all. Where beloved franchises are gutted and turned into generic first-person shooter properties. Where the reviews are done by websites whose paychecks come from the company whose product they are reviewing. Where intrusive DRM punishes the consumer far more than the pirate. Where you can get in-game advantages in multiplayer focused titles by buying Mountain Dew.
That sad, barren gaming landscape isn’t one that I would ever want to call home, yet here we are. The next time you see a website calling you entitled just for wanting better for yourself and the games you love, call them out on it. Stand up for yourself, because none of these media outlets really care about your best interests and they never will. What they do care about is exclusive preview content, early review copies and ad revenue. For that reason the vast majority of these sites will always be on the side of the corporations and not the consumers.
Entitlement? I think we’re all entitled to our own opinion and the right to express it however we like; for good or bad. An industry where such a thing is looked upon with smug contempt is not the sort I would ever wish to be a part of, and neither should you.