A few days ago, a friend told me “fandoms are weird” and I told him people were weird, but now I find myself agreeing with him.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released a couple of weeks ago, and as you know I absolutely adore it and I enjoy every minute of my time with it. I not only like the game but I’m glad it received so many high reviews and that the sales have been great. I’m a giant Nintendo fan so I like hearing about them doing well.
But not every reviewer has the same standards or tastes, and every opinion is different. Reviews are opinions, educated opinions, sure, but experience and personal preferences play heavily into the text of a review and even more so the score. I’ve said it before that while I do argument my reviews and mention what I disliked and why, the score is absolutely subjective. It’s why you get scores of 6/5 sometimes, and lower or higher scores than the average.
I have received loads of death threats this week, but don't worry, Hello Games now looks like the house from Home Alone #pillowfort
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) May 28, 2016
As a fan, I have sometimes felt defensive against a contrarian opinion, and even found myself defending the indefensible, or at least I did. In the past, few years I’ve understood that being a fan and loving something doesn’t mean you can’t criticise it. In fact, you most definitely should.
But if there’s one thing I have never done and even now I can’t understand, is the act of attacking a reviewer, critic or any media outlet for reporting negatively against something you’re a fan of. In the past year, it’s happened with anything from release day delays to reviews, with not just emotional and social media abuse but also death threats, denial of service attacks on pages and much more.
It happened with No Man’s Sky, it happened with Final Fantasy IV and those were just announcement of delays and the reactions were spectacular. Sure, when Ben Lamoreux reported on the delay to Final Fantasy XV people got abusive but, as Kotaku pointed out “at least there were no death threats.”
Jason Schreier wasn’t so lucky when he reported on the delay to No Man’s Sky, receiving death threats for reporting on a video game. Basically, he did his job and because people couldn’t accept it, they said they would go to his house and murder him.
And it’s the same for Jim Sterling who seems to be a magnet for this kind of internet psychopath. He gave No Man’s Sky a score of Mediocre and within minutes his site was down, brought down by what I like to call the Legion of Doom of fandom. And guess what happened when Jim dared to give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild the horrible score of 7/10 (I’m being sarcastic by the way, in case it’s no easy to tell in text)? More abuse, his site brought down at once and people accusing him of clickbait even though he doesn’t depend on clicks for his livelihood.
I’ve said it before. I don’t get it. I didn’t get it with Gamergate, I didn’t get it with the assault on female journalists, developers, critics, reviewers or any other role. Hell, I don’t get it when it comes to Anita Sarkessian, another magnet for crazies, even though I often disagree with her pieces, which I consider narrowly focused, nitpicky and often ignoring the context and narrative of the things she criticises.
It’s a bit to do with the anonymity of the internet, of the ability to say anything you or even potentially do anything online because the likelihood of being found is very low, almost non-existent. But there are deeper issues in each of these people that go beyond abusing the internet. There has to be something wrong with them on a fundamental level that it turns their love for something into a violent hatred towards those who disagree.
And I say “something” because in the end, video games are things. They are products, human-made. If it sounds irrational to get this abusive over someone making a comment about a chair, why isn’t it just as irrational to react violently when it comes to video games? It’s a product, a piece of entertainment. Members of the gaming press aren’t insulting a close relative, they’re not harming people you love, they’re merely stating an opinion, in case of a review, or reporting based on a lead. These aren’t things that deserve death threats. Nothing related to games media should make someone send death threats. I makes no sense.
Some will complain that a bad score hurts the game’s metacritic score, potentially bringing it down from a position of prestige, but who the hell cares? Let companies worry about aggregated scores, a games value to a player should only be measured in the enjoyment you get from it. If someone else’s opinion taints your own enjoyment of a game, I’ll have to say it again, fundamental issues.
You know, if this kind of behaviour is what it means to be a fan, then I refuse to be a fan of anything ever again. I’ll just be an enthusiast. Because clearly, fans are batshit crazy!