It seems that every time gamers are disappointed by AAA games and big game studios, the phrase “gamer entitlement” gets thrown around by mainstream game journalists. This is a topic that Reaxxion writer Steve Alexander touched on in the past with regards to Bloodborne. But what got me thinking about gamer entitlement recently was a video by IGN.
Why “Gamer Entitlement” Is A Myth
IGN’s staff was discussing this petition on Change.org for Star Wars Battlefront. Lets take a look:
The game will be launching this November. It seems that EA has already shot down Space battles and the ability to fight in the Clone wars Era. Dont get me wrong im all for the original trilogy. But we all know that EA is going to push these out in DLC content forcing players to spend more money.
Space battles were a huge part of the second game. Yes, I will admit that space battles are a huge part of what makes Star Wars what it is, but do they really matter in the context of the game. There are some in-atmosphere dogfights in the game and those seem like they will be an absolute blast, but for the most part, the space maps are almost cookie cutter copies of each other in Battlefront 2. If DICE were to put space battles in the game it would require some variance, both the Battle of Yavin and the Battle of Endor provide good opportunities for varied and unique space battles.
The inclusion of the Clone Wars-era battles is also a missed opportunity mainly because planets like Kamino or Felucia are planets that could be beautifully rendered in the Frostbite 3 engine. Of course, the lack of Clone Wars content probably has more to do with Disney’s direction for Star Wars as a brand than it does with EA and DICE trying to make more money off of DLC. After all, Disney rejected George Lucas’ ideas for Episode VII.
Now, the petition went on to ask for the inclusion of instant action, a single player mode that allows the player to fight AI-controlled enemies on any map. It was a feature that was included in the original games and is something that has been missing from Battlefield for quite some time now. As fun as it is to play with bots, I don’t quite see how that feature will make or break the game.
While this petition is arguably an extreme and somewhat demanding case, I found the sentiment behind it to be far from entitled. The author of a petition is concerned with the quality of the game more than anything, and I think that’s great. With that being said, I won’t be supporting the petition and I feel like more information about the game is needed before anyone should jump to conclusions.
The Great Ending Controversy
Perhaps the most famous case of so-called “gamer entitlement” in recent memory is the Mass Effect 3 fiasco. I probably don’t need to go into the details of that case, considering it’s well known to be enough to be used as an insult on HBO’s Silicon Valley. But it was a big enough incident to get gamers to butt heads with game journalists and developers. Eventually, gamers got a better ending, but the incident soured BioWare’s reputation with gamers and made people like IGN’s Colin Moriarty look like complete tools. Colin’s argument was easily rebutted by Forbes contributor Erik Kain, who had this to say:
The relationship between gamer and developer, and across the entire community, is a social and participatory relationship. Gamers may not work on the actual development of a title like Mass Effect 3, but they’ve invested their time and money and support into that franchise and there is no one “proper” way to complain about the ending. Nor are angry fans merely “entitled” or “spoiled” simply for angrily voicing their concerns or asking for a new ending.
Going beyond Mass Effect, I would argue that gamers have done a great deal to improve the industry by voicing their opinions. You might recall E3 2012, when Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One. Microsoft took a great deal of flak for including restrictive DRM and requiring the console to be connected to the internet 24/7. That announcement was a huge blow to Microsoft and even gave Sony a massive head start in the current console generation. Nonetheless, had gamers not been vocal about the Xbox One’s policies, I don’t think the Xbox brand would be able to survive this console generation.
Gamer entitlement has also been used to discuss instances were gamers have criticized individuals within the industry for their opinions. Back in 2006, Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler made some comments that gamers disliked.
A fast-forward button. Games almost always include a way to “button through” dialogue without paying attention, because they understand that some players don’t enjoy listening to dialogue and they don’t want to stop their fun. Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combats even if you’re a player who only enjoys the dialogue. In a game with sufficient story to be interesting without the fighting, there is no reason on earth that you can’t have a little button at the corner of the screen that you can click to skip to the end of the fighting.
It wasn’t until six years later that Jennifer Hepler was taking flack for those comments. Of course, BioWare in general was taking a lot of heat in 2012. I can tell you right now that a fast-forward button for combat is a silly idea at best. I can see why gamers would want to lash out at the idea of removing gameplay; basically, the game would be pointless and instead be an interactive film. Needless to say, some fans were quick to blame her for the problems with Dragon Age II, and that lead to a great deal of alleged harassment. Hepler has since left Bioware to pursue other interests.
At the end of the day, “gamer entitlement” is a phrase used to dismiss criticism from gamers. In a creative industry such as video games, the consumer has a vested interest in the final product. This is something that is becoming more and more apparent with how accessible developers and figureheads in the industry have become. Add in the growing popularity of crowdfunding services such as Kickstarter and people are going to want a bigger say in the final product. Hopefully, developers can harness this criticism to make better games.