Let’s talk about … Entitlement
In this inaugural post of GGS’ brand new editorial series, Dan Long wants to Talk About Entitlement. Yours, his and every puce-faced keyboard warrior you’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter …
We gamers are a funny bunch. A disparate and otherwise completely random group of people, connected only by our love of interacting with a wide variety of digital adventures. Each and every one of us has a different outlook and different expectations. But one thing is clear – gamers know what they want and they want it now. If not sooner.
“… gamers know what they want and they want it now. If not sooner.”
And that message is coming through louder and clearer than ever. You only need to spend a few short, sharp moments on Twitter to see it in action – the anti-DRM pressure groups; the people lobbying to ‘ban’ a PC version of GTAV; the completists who want an extra 250 permutations to their favourite character’s wardrobe. Perhaps it is a symptom of the ‘social media’ age, maybe it is an uprising in consumer power, but one thing is clear – it is gamers who are pushing to squeeze and shape the industry.
Often, this can present itself as a positive thing. An overwhelming collective sentiment – particularly online – that screams for more innovation in games, more originality in the ways to play and more emphasis on an ‘experiential’ storyline. However, this would appear to be a vocal minority that doesn’t truly reflect what people actually want.
When presented with something new – anything that pulls too far from the well-trodden path of kill/death ratios, old-as-the-hills franchises or ‘realistic sports simulation’ – gamers, as a whole, just shrug their collective shoulders and wait impatiently for ‘Generic Product 5: More Gun-Points’ to hit the shelves. With a short break to moan about the fact that they didn’t get a product ahead of the actual release of course.
“… gamers, as a whole, just shrug their collective shoulders and wait impatiently for ‘Generic Product 5: More Gun-Points’ to hit the shelves.”
We ask for this game and that game. Bring back that feature, get rid of this one. And then when the finished game comes out, no one cares. The niche games stay niche. The established stays the most coveted. It’s rare for anything that pushes those boundaries of expectation to succeed.
As I write this, a few dozen people are probably writing about how they can’t wait for more Zelda titles – both new and HD remakes. People will be tweeting about how it could be the game that saves the innovative-but-ignored Wii-U from a fate worse than being dropped by Asda. But is that a healthy way to think about it? Surely it at least begs the questions ‘do we really need another Zelda title’, even if this time it will have slightly snazzier graphics and a new esoteric bit of apparatus to use? Maybe a theremin or a froe?
Otherwise it’s just the same old journey in the same old format – hewn out of pure familiarity.
Lovely, safe-but-at-any-other-time-contemptible familiarity, nestled in the snuggly udder of a videogame cash cow.
“And so here we have a situation where what people want and what they say they want don’t match. Or at least not in a way that is sustainable for a business.”
And so here we have a situation where what people want and what they say they want don’t match. Or at least not in a way that is sustainable for a business to use as a method of creating new products for the future.
Which brings us neatly to Microsoft and the big reveal of the Xbox One. Despite the obvious shortcomings of the presentation itself, when you sat down in the cold light of day and evaluated the core messages, they actually made a lot of sense. Much was made of the focus on TV and Call of Duty – two subjects that fly in the face of how modern ‘gamers’ think about the medium. ‘No, no,’ they say, ‘It’s all about the gaming and those unique killer apps that add something to my videogame life story.’
There might be some truth in the sentiment, but the empirical evidence would suggest that’s only the tiniest plot point from a much bigger tall tale. Case in point – when I fire up my PlayStation or Xbox, and I go through my friends list, you can guarantee that 50% will be watching Netflix and 50% will be playing games. Of those actually playing games, about half of them will be involved in some kind of online deathmatch, trading shots in CoD. That leaves 25%, playing something a little bit leftfield, on the dashboard or generally just noodling about.
“And so we end up stuck in this weird cycle where we tell games companies what we want and, though they seem to try their best, we just shun them when they give us what we say we want.”
I’m no expert, but I’d lay money that it was research – based on what gamers ACTUALLY do, rather than what they’d ASPIRE to do – that helped shape their initial offering for Microsoft’s next-gen console. But, in the same way that holding up an actual mirror points out crow’s feet, grey hairs and all the other things you loathe about yourself, the suggestion that many ‘hardcore gamers’ spent as much time watching the latest episodes of Game of Thrones as playing the latest critically acclaimed game touched a raw nerve that many people couldn’t assimilate or wish to admit without first flying into the biggest of hissy fits.
And so we end up stuck in this weird cycle – bordering on an abusive relationship – where we tell games companies what we want and, though they seem to try their best to keep everyone as happy as possible, we just shun them when they give us what we say we want, instead falling into the arms of that handsome lug of a game with ever-increasing numbers after its name.
Where do we go from here? What’s next in this marriage between gamers and the industry? Well perhaps it’s time we own up and admit that we don’t really know what we want. We’re indecisive and fickle. We make snap decisions and quick judgements. We face a bewildering future of choices. We are gamers and we’re not just entitled – we’re scared.
What do you think? Are gamers trapped in a fog of disillusioned entitlement? Tell us your view – and your reasons for it – below! We’d love to hear from you.
If you have an idea for a future Let’s Talk About feature – or even fancy submitting a guest post yourself – head on over to our contact page and let us know!
Image credit: http://dragonofwarmirage.deviantart.com. And, er, Nintendo. Obvs.