Hi Garrett Martin,
Recently Paste Magazine posted an article on the “Git Gud Mentality,” and how it is why people don’t take games seriously. I considered dropping a comment on the page but, frankly, the odds of it getting lost in the kerfuffle and not read or given attention by anyone outside of the mob would make the whole act futile. Just look at the length!
So here I am. I wanted to discuss a few points brought up in the piece, civilly, and point out a few things without letting the trolls or #gamergate people get in the way.
First off, let’s get something clear about the “git gud” meme. It is just that, a meme. Most of the people who use the term are using it ironically, but the sentiment is two-tiered. On one side, it’s an attack on the idea that if a game is too hard, the answer is to demand that the game become easier. The other half, as games are competitive, part of the strategy people use is psychological. Get in your opponent’s head and frustrate them to throw them off.
Let’s talk about Polygon’s Let’s Play of Doom, to which you state:
These critics argue that the person playing DOOM in that video isn’t “good” at games and thus their opinions shouldn’t be respected, and since they work for Polygon it undermines the entire site’s credibility.
You know what? I completely agree. Polygon, like any individual or organization in existence has a target painted on its back by the world’s population of cynics. Since the big thing these days is for the public to brigade pretty much anyone calling themselves a journalist and attack their credibility, the best you can do is to ignore these people. Do you really think that they would stop shouting if the video that was put up was well played? No, like everyone’s mother-in-law, these people will find their flaws to point out, even if they have to pull out a magnifying glass and start calculating the person’s hit percentage.
Devoid of any obvious critiques, they’d make something up. Again, think mother-in-law. Yes, you became a self-made millionaire and got yourself a mansion and got married but that Miller boy down the street has two kids and when are you going to give your mother some grandkids?
It goes back to that old idea that if you hate someone, all of a sudden everything they do is offensive to you. Look at them playing their games, like they know journalism. Shooting aliens in the crotch like they own the freaking place. Jerks. Except in this case, the internet fuels something of a jilted lover complex between people and things. I hear more about Polygon from my contacts that hate them than those that casually read their pieces. Likewise, I don’t know a single person that listens to Justin Bieber, but I know two people who absolutely hate him enough to be up to speed on whatever he is doing these days.
But here’s the thing, and I say this as someone who doesn’t hate Polygon and has made several bids to try and work for them (disclaimer). The big complaint that I have, and that I’ve seen, is that the video was kind of a mess. If it was meant to show how the game plays, it didn’t do a good job of that. With no commentary, it was just awkward to watch.
In addition, it lacked a lot of important context, like who was actually playing the game, leading people to believe that the same person who played the game in the video would also be reviewing it. The gameplay footage showed a person who seemed to barely understand the controls or how to run and gun. It wasn’t a critique, but that’s not the point.
Let’s put it this way, you don’t need to know how to put together a cable box in order to review the service. That said, I wouldn’t trust my dad when he says that the remote sucks because he still hasn’t figured out that the play button is the triangle and “how is the average person supposed to know that?” Nor would I trust when he says that our wifi sucks because he drove to Walmart five miles away and couldn’t get a signal.
Now Arthur Gies reviewed Doom and gave it an 8.5, which is a very good score.
The video is still a terrible representation, but you can look at my Youtube channel and see that they can’t all be winners. I promise this is where I stop bringing up the Polygon Doom video because I want to talk about the whole ‘git gud’ argument as its own topic.
What is worth mentioning is the reaction to that video, and how it reinforces negative impressions about so-called “gamers.”
Gamers, for the most part, do not care what people think about them. They don’t have to, in spite of the negative stigma that the term “gamer” still gets, video games are the largest entertainment industry in the world. By 2017, the industry will be raking in over $100 billion globally on an annual basis. There are more than 1.2 billion people playing video games in some capacity right now. To say that video games have a problem bringing in people is about as absurd as saying that more people need to recognize Coca Cola.
I’ve written here and elsewhere in the past asking why “casual” gamers try so hard to be called gamers, in spite of the negative stigma. In fact, most titles denoting some professional air seems to come pre-packaged with some note of elitism or condescending snobbery. If you look up “why are Foodies” on Google, the first suggestion is “why are foodies so annoying.” So is the third.
The issue that we have with the ‘git gud’ crowd is that gaming is a hobby, and as such will always have the hardcore hobbyists spewing elitist dribble and talking down to everyone else because they believe that they know best. You see this in every medium, from film to music to books to cars, everything even remotely subjective. They will talk, by god will they talk, and at great lengths about how knowledgeable they are and how pathetic and plebian the rest of the world is because they know not the greatness that is [insert here].
I have to hand it to you, though, because you still have the determination to fight a toxic subset that most of us got tired of years ago. I have enough bans for arguing with efficiency trolls in MMO forums that if they were speeding tickets my license would have been revoked back in 2008. At this point, if they’re not being BTFO’d in most gaming circles, these people are just paid lip service until they go away.
There’s nothing interesting or noteworthy about one random, unnamed employee of a videogame site being bad at one specific game.
That “Git Gud” mentality is one part of a larger effort by “gamers” to keep games as their own private sanctuary from the wider world, open only to those who are as passionate about games as they are, and only if they’re passionate about the same games as they are.
Once again, we’re talking elitism in a taste-based medium.
I’ll give you a universal phrase that gets rid of these people in any situation: I don’t care what you think. You can add all the profanity you want, so long as the final message is the same. Trust me, this works nine times out of ten. This elitist toxic subset that I speak of, they thrive not just off of the idea that their tastes are superior, but off of the acknowledgement of others that their taste is superior.
You don’t accomplish anything by shaming them, or claiming that they want the hobby to be smaller and to push the more casual crowd out. That’s exactly what they want, they talk on a daily basis about how much things were better when the [insert hobby] was smaller and the company didn’t cater to casuals. Pushing people out is the intended side effect, if not the primary goal, one that they’re not very good at because “I 100%’d Halo on Legendary” and “I only buy films on Laserdisc” isn’t an argument. But there is also a need to reaffirm said superiority through argument and putting down lesser fans and people who aren’t interested, which leads to a very fragile, easily shattered ego.
Which is why the best thing you can say is “I don’t care.” You’re not arguing details, not waxing poetic or talking semantics, you’re not really engaging the person. It serves as a rather crushing reminder that the thing they put so much dedication into really isn’t that important outside of their specific group. Treat it the same way you would some guy who pulls up next to you and starts talking about how crappy your car brand is while going into all of the modifications he made to his own ride. Or the person that pops into your conversation at a restaurant to brag about how she met one of the earlier Doctor Who actors and starts waving the photo in your face.
Roll your eyes, and walk away.
This kind of hostility towards “outsiders” is why so many think poorly of games and the people who play them.
Maybe it’s because I cover and thus play a lot of MMOs where player interaction often involves tracking someone down and murdering them in cold blood, then looting their inventory and sending them back to their spawn point empty handed, that I have a hard time taking the whole “I don’t get into games because some people are jerks” argument. For specific games, absolutely. Like I said, I’ve played a lot of games where the aim is to murder someone and render their last hour or so of resource gathering into your payday, so maybe I’m just used to offensive action being a little more in-your-face.
There is, without a doubt, a problem with toxic behavior in games. Just look at our coverage this past week to see that I don’t deny it, there are people dressing up as KKK members in RuneScape for crying out loud. The best advice I can give is to find a friendly guild and keep most of your chat to them. You can’t let the rabble keep you out of the pool.
Fighting the ‘git gud’ mentality through reasoned argument is like fighting quicksand. The more you struggle, the harder it pulls.
The market for videogames stays stagnant, with designers making the same kinds of games for the same homogeneous audience, afraid to take risks because the people who might embrace them are driven away by this arbitrary “gamer” litmus test. By trying to keep out people who don’t agree with them or share their same skill or enthusiasm level, “gamers” keep the medium trapped in an insular, incestuous bubble.
Yea, you’re right, and that is why indie development has become so massive over the past few years. Casual customers don’t really know or care about the differences between AAA and indie developers, they just know that Life is Strange is a fun game and was published by those guys at Whoeverthatwas Entertainmentwhatsit. Indie gaming is how we get titles that are experimental and are increasingly seeing crazy success, like ARK, like Bastion, Shovel Knight, Binding of Isaac, Banner Saga, Fez, This War Of Mine. We’re hitting a point where if you want a specific game, odds are someone has made it or is making it.
So at the very least, rest easy knowing that the small subset of people who want gaming to return to when it was in the toy aisle, are losing the fight. I say this as a socially awkward, pale white nerd who never had a girlfriend, can count his circle of friends on one hand, and who spends a lot more money than I should on games, Pop Vinyls, Amiibo, and video game toys. I also say it as someone who has spent years trying to bring people of all stripes into gaming, with great success.
If you’d like to check my gamer cred, my Steam account is here.
Other than that I have no opinion on the matter.