Recently it was announced that No Man’s Sky (a pretty well followed and highly anticipated title) is going to delay their launch. First of all, I don’t feel like that is all that uncommon of an announcement in the industry. Whether or not that should be the case is a different argument, but with the way game development works today it is not uncommon that either unrealistic goals are set, or something happens, like a late bug discovery etc, which means that a game launch needs to get moved. While personally I would rather a company wait to launch something they are proud of, I do understand that it can be disappointing to fans who then have to wait longer to get their hands on the product.
However, the response that some people had to not only the developers, but in one case even to the reporter who wrote a story on the delay is really frustrating to me. I am very engrossed in gaming culture, in some ways to a fault. There are definitely people who would call me obsessive about it. However, there is no game, gaming news story, opinion piece, or industry situation that justifies threatening someone’s life in my opinion.
I don’t know if these death threats are really more common on the internet now, or if they are just getting more attention but it seems like a gross over reaction to anything related to the world of gaming and gaming news. Even the Kotaku author who received some of these death threats comments about how this has become “the new normal”, which is something I really wish the gaming community would take steps from the inside to change.
I spend a lot of time both online and in person with members of the gaming community, and I have to say the two versions are really polar opposites. I would love to say that the online community is not as toxic as the news stories and such make it out to be, but there are definitely many situations that are. I’m not saying that the entire online gaming community is toxic, in fact having played Guild Wars 2 for years I have TONS of stories of amazingly friendly and/or helpful strangers online. However, it is clear that the anonymity provided by the internet does indeed bring out some very toxic and nasty behaviors.
The thing is in person I have never experienced behavior that is anywhere near as toxic as that I see online. I was at PAX during the height of GamerGate, and when there were twitter based death threats that were directed at the show and yet I did not have a single interaction with a person that would ever indicate that type of behavior. No people are not perfect, and not every person you meet at PAX will become a new friend, but in general people at the shows are at least courteous and respectful. In fact, in comparison to some non-gaming gatherings I have attended the general population at a gaming show is actually more friendly and easier to get along with than others.
Is there a way to tone down the toxicity online that gamers have become known for? Maybe. Some game developers (like Riot) have taken steps to try to combat it. In my opinion though it is really going to require the community as a whole to take a stand and change. The question is, will the people who aren’t trolling be heard over those who are?