No, Video Games Aren’t a “Cult”

As I previously reported on Ship2Block20, the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky has been delayed. While most fans were supportive, like always, there was a very small minority that got a bit too mad, sending death threats to the director of the game. The director, Sean Murray, said this about it on Twitter:

I have received loads of death threats this week, but don’t worry, Hello Games now looks like the house from Home Alone #pillowfort

While people of power in the industry regularly receive death threats, how many of these people sending threats actually represent the fans?

According to The Wrap, pretty well. However, I disagree.

First things first, the writer brings up the Ghostbusters controversy and the #SayNotoHydraCap campaign:

But lately it seems like folks are extra mad. Just in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had outlandish outrage over: The return of the sexist backlash to a “Ghostbusters” remake that nobody has seen starring a female main cast; Captain America being a secret HYDRA agent in the first part of a comic book story line that hasn’t been resolved; “No Man’s Sky” getting its release date pushed back by six weeks.

Let me get something out of the way, if you think people hate the Ghostbusters reboot because it has a female cast, you’re looking at this the wrong way. The reason there is such hate for the Ghostbusters reboot is because in all honesty, it doesn’t look funny. At all. Also, the reason the twist in the Captain America comic is so hated is because it is so against Captain America’s character, it damages the character’s reputation as a WWII hero written by two Jewish comic book writers. Also, I’ve seen almost no outrage over No Man’s Sky’s delay. Most people are very understanding of this, because this game is a huge undertaking by a small indie studio.

Things like the all-female Ghostbusters film are not criticized because of its female cast, but because the trailers have given consumers a very negative look at the film.

Four years ago, Electronic Arts released “Mass Effect 3,” the conclusion to a video game space opera trilogy that is still considered one of the best things to ever be spat out of the games industry. That’s despite the horrid ending to “Mass Effect 3,” which in early 2012 sent gamers into quite a tizzy. […] they started something called Retake Mass Effect, demanding that the series creators at video game studio BioWare make a new, better ending for their beloved series. When I say they “demanded” I really mean it. The uproar was wild. Folks were talking about making complaints to the FTC for false advertising, as well as other legal action.

The reason people were so mad about Mass Effect 3 was because, from the beginning, they were promised that their decisions from the first game would affect the final game. However, when the players who had played the entire trilogy (at a cost of at least 180$) received no payoff of their earlier decisions, they felt cheated. Because of this, they protested and (eventually) got a response.

What was happening was not an adverse response to a work of art, but complaints that a tech product didn’t function as intended. They were whining in the same way people whine when iTunes deletes all the music off their computer.

No, they weren’t. If Mass Effect didn’t work as intended, they would have gotten a refund for the game, or report it to the developers to fix in a patch. The ending of Mass Effect 3 is a fundamental flaw in the game’s design, and brought the series down as a whole. Also, I’m sorry that you think spending 60$ (70$+ including DLC) for a game that completely ignores everything you’ve done in the time playing in the ending, despite advertising saying otherwise is “whining”.

Mass Effect 3 recieved heavy criticism for its ending, and the consumers started a campaign to get a more satisfying conclusion.

This is the bed that the video games industry insiders made for themselves. They don’t treat games as art, and they don’t sell them as art. They act like art is part of a larger feature set that includes cool graphics and the most realistic falling animations and as much of your time wasted as possible

Don’t know movies do this too? When you see the latest trailer for a blockbuster, you don’t see the character development, they show you the big setpieces with the biggest explosions. However, movies are still an artform, and no matter how bad a movie is, it’s still art. This is also true for gaming. For example, while the Battlefield 1 trailer is almost entirely shooting and explosions, the game is still art.

Games are an artform. Even if the game is a big blockbuster, like Battlefield 1, it is still a piece of art.

A friend of mine in the industry remarked to me a few weeks ago that video game marketing isn’t selling you a game, but rather a membership in a cult. That video game marketing is, essentially, weaponizing fandom. In other parts of pop culture, it’s simply incidental that kind of intense brand loyalty would spring up amongst a small group of fans. […] Heated nerds are a fringe element there. But in games, that fringe is the entire target audience. The industry caters to their whims at all costs, attempting to foster that possessiveness […] You’ll be able to see this clearly in a couple weeks, when the big video game publishers hold their year’s multi-million-dollar press conference extravaganzas ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3).

No, it’s not. Look at the sales of Call of Duty, Battlefront, Battlefield, and GTA V. These games appeal to a large audience of people who don’t usually play games, aka the “casual” market. Also, it’s funny you bring that up, seeing as two of the biggest publishers, Nintendo and Activision, will not have press conferences this year. In fact, Activision won’t even have a booth this year.

The article continues to meander about the reaction to negative reviews of Uncharted 4, and specifically calls out Sony for this “cult” of fans. However, this whole article forgets one very specific fact: most of these acts, such as death threats, are (usually) not actually done by the fans and are instead pulled off by trolls. In your own article, you say these death threats to the creator of No Man’s Sky are signs of a “cult” of gamers. However, if these threats aren’t actually from the fans, how could they possibly prove this “cult”?

Also: There’s something very specific that cults have, and video games do not: an ideology. Video Games, as a concept, have no belief. However, cults are built around a belief in something (AKA Ideology), such as a magical leader who could talk to gods, or an alien overlord out to “save” humanity. While specific games may have an ideology embedded within them, the culture as a whole does not.

In the end, games aren’t a cult, and you calling out the fans of this game for something they most likely didn’t do is wrong. But would we expect anything less

Matthew Sigler

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Gamertics Managing Editor in training; Ship2Block20 Contributor; Meme; Failure