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At what point does the “I’m unhappy with the current state of video games” mindset turn from a genuine critique to elitism and gatekeeping?

I see it in various incarnations all over the place. It's especially common here on Reddit (and this subreddit), people expressing disdain for the current state of gaming. Usually it's a critique on the medium not living up to its potential as an artform, or how monetization has taken precedence over content creation. Mostly, it seems it can be boiled down to: "DAE think games are bad and they used to be good?"

Gaming and being a "gamer" was a big part of my identity for the vast majority of my life. Since the days of N64 until probably about 2016, it was what I did. I played games, I posted in forums, I read gaming magazines. In the last few years, my career's taken a focus in my life, I've gotten married, bought a house. I've transitioned into what I'm sure could generally be more categorized as a "casual gamer". This has given me an outsider's perspective on games and the culture around them that concerns me. It seems like most of the complaints I see aren't really trying to make anything better, rather instead to have people insist that everything is falling apart for completely controllable reasons.

To editorialize a bit on this, I think sometimes this criticism is fair. In fact, I want more of this criticism to be fair because I want to have a real discussion on how we can make the industry better. It can always be improved. However, usually it seems like these types of complaints fit into one of the following patterns:

  1. Viewing the past with rose-tinted glasses. There was always a plethora of shitty games, but due to survivor's bias you're not thinking about all of those games now. For every Perfect Dark or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time there were 20 stinkers designed to make a quick buck or cash in on an IP.

  2. The industry has gone a different direction that you specifically want. I think it's safe to say that the current trend in gaming is to cater towards a more social experience. The big blockbusters typically are multiplayer-centric titles, and the rise of indie titles of a similar nature like Valheim and Among Us echo this as well. Games are digital experiences that are designed in a way that we share them with each other. Just because this isn't the experience you're looking for doesn't mean that it's inherently bad. I understand that maybe Fortnite isn't your idea of a good game, but that doesn't mean other people aren't allowed to have fun. I also wish there was a resurgence of artful and experimental games, but that doesn't mean people are wrong for supporting and enjoying other types of games. These trends gain momentum for a reason, just because it's not what you want, it's clear that these are the types of titles that the majority enjoy as they're the major sellers that have crossed over to the mainstream. Also, to point 3, it's also where the money's at.

  3. Games are all about money now and it's stifling creativity. Games have always been about money. That's literally why they exist. For most of the history of the industry, except for maybe some very extreme exceptions, every beloved gaming experience you've ever had is because someone somewhere was trying to make money. I think that this Games as a Service (GaaS?) model that's gotten popular in the last 10 years or so has made it a little more transparent in people's minds, but all in all this is not new. If anything, the reaction to this GaaS model powered by self-publication and open source game engines, we're actually seeing a lot of growth in more passion projects and indie games in the last few years than ever before.

Read more:  inFAMOUS: A Revisit

From my perspective, it seems like the vast majority of complaints about gaming fit into one of the categories above. I really believe that these ideas typically come from a genuine desire to express concerns of a medium that people love, but a lot of them feel sort of like whiney gatekeeping to me. It's people watching other people have fun and then complaining that the people enjoying themselves don't know how to have fun right.

So I guess my questions are:

  1. Do you find these types of complaints and concerns valid? Are these too general? As I mentioned, I've put this culture on the backburner the last few years and am maybe making some outdated assumptions.
  2. What are some topics of concern about the industry that you have that wouldn't really fit into the categories above?
  3. Am I gatekeeping gatekeeping? Have become the very thing I swore to destroy?

Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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