The Gaming Community Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Quit Having Fun Comic

I see a lot of folks in the gaming community bemoaning all the game studio restructuring, layoffs and closures (big and small) over the last year. Such actions have been happening industry wide to massive companies and small companies alike – independent or not, acquisitions or not. Personally, I’m still reeling from the news that KeokeN (makers of Deliver of Us Mars and Deliver Us The Moon) had to lay off the entirety of their staff.

You can quite rightly blame “capitalist” incentives for a lot of this – companies big and small (and each unit within a company) need to make money in order to survive. Ideally, investors (both private and public) want to see growth in the endeavors they put their money behind. It’s a sad reality that a number of projects aren’t projected to make enough money over the next few years to justify their existence given macroeconomic headwinds.

There certainly is a lot to all of that bearish outlook that is out of the community’s control. However, instead of simply bemoaning circumstances, the gaming community could be actively trying to help. We can and should be trying to grow our community and the overall gaming ecosystem – to increase the number of total gamers who purchase titles alongside us.

There are certainly many many positive voices in the community who try to do just this. Streamers, community managers, tool creators etc. A great example is Jon Scarr (@4ScarrsGaming) who is the model gaming citizen. I have made so many friends in the gaming community over the years and remain inspired by the work so many people put in toward making it a better place.

However, at times, there is also an overwhelming amount of negative and counter-productive voices making a lot of noise in the community (side-note: I was previously pretty naive to think this was just a Stadia issue). Unfortunately, this noise often reaches a volume where it drowns out everything else.

Bad Behaviors

I see so much gatekeeping in the gaming community on a daily basis that is simply draining – lots of people trying to limit what the definition of a “real” gamer is. I see mobs trashing Indie games (as an entire collection of work) as not worth the time of day. They say your PC needs to meet certain arbitrary specs like a minimum FPS on AAA games. Flocks of gamers attack games for trying to be diverse and inclusive as too “woke” and criticize character design based on physical appearance. Hell, at times, mobs of gamers even attack other real people in the community because of their gender, their race and other personal characteristics. The amount of disgusting behavior I see female streamers complaining about on a daily basis is just gross.

Gaming Trolls

Everyday, I see gamers trying to shut down platforms that are not their own preferred way to play. They champion the idea of games being excluded from others. They mercilessly attack new and innovative technologies like Cloud Gaming (*cough* Stadia) that have the potential to reach new players. They attack affordable gaming solutions (e.g. mobile gaming and consoles like the Xbox Series S) that make gaming more accessible to others.

To conclude this laundry list of observations, it seems like there is a significant fraction of gamers who really just want to feel like they are in an exclusive club (having paid some sort of dues over the years) and demand that the industry cater only to them and their power trips.

This behavior within the community is not the only headwind the industry is facing, and it is likely not the most significant. But, this loud and obnoxious group of gamers is a problem for the industry. We need to recognize that these behaviors are keeping people away.

We can do better!

We as gamers can (and should) be championing more ways to play games. And, we should be supporting other helpful changes. More games on more screens. More form-factors. More cost effective systems and platforms. Less lock-in. More diverse sets of games from indie to AAA. More games that appeal to more people who aren’t just stereotypical gaming males (myself included)!

It’s great to champion technology and platforms you enjoy. Shoot for growth, not the destruction of other people’s preferences. Even the best selling consoles only reach ~1% of the world population. This shouldn’t be a zero sum game. There is plenty of room for the entire pie to grow.

Let’s be welcoming to both new gamers and new ways to play. We can speak up when others are being obnoxious. Help others have a good experience no matter where they play and support tools that make it easier to get started and to game anywhere – e.g. that lets you track achievements across a dozen platforms.

The more people who play and the more ways they play, the more we all win. Be a positive influence within the gaming community, not a gate-keeper. I definitely haven’t always met this bar myself, but, now more than ever, it’s time to try harder.


Jack Deslippe

Jack Deslippe is an HPC professional with a PhD in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. As a hobby, he is passionate about consumer technology and Cloud Gaming in particular. He volunteers as an editor for Cloud Dosage in his spare time. See the games Jack is Playing at ExoPhase. Like his content? You can follow Jack on Threads: @jackdeslippe and Buy Jack a Beer.

2 thoughts on “The Gaming Community Is Its Own Worst Enemy

  1. Sadly, I fear you may be proverbially ‘wishing’ into the wind with this.

    I too am an idealist, and a lover not a fighter (!), but I’m also a bit of a maverick, and of an age where testosterone doesn’t dictate my decision making anymore, which isn’t the case for the majority of vocal gamers.

    Why there is so much toxicity is a subject for a very long thesis (and I’m sure there are several), but fundamentally I believe it’s the same reason why there is so much of it in sports, politics, religion etc., Humans, at least since the end of the last ice age, have lived in social groups that are generally too big. Professor Robin Dunbar, an English academic who has spent his life studying these things, has shown that the ideal size of a human grouping is 150 (known as the ‘Dunbar Number’). More or less just leads to issues.

    To attempt to constrain bad behaviour in groups greater than 150, we invented policing and religion. Religion is the important one here as it is typically a set of social rules enforced by an intangible premise. Fundamentally (no pun intended), once individuals are committed they will defend the group to the actual or metaphorical death, as in the simplest state, falling out of the group could lead to your own end, or the demise of your immediate family.

    What’s this got to do with gaming (or sports, or politics, or religion)? In the often irrational actions of one platform against another, or one game against another game, we are simply seeing the ancient instinct to belong to and ultimately defend unquestioningly the group. We ‘enlightened’ souls find this bizarre behaviour, but it’s actually completely natural for primates and if anything just serves to remind us of how animalistic we still are as a species.

    Of course content creators experience this also, including (in my case largely) from other content creators. My answer is simply to keep away from it – and that includes not playing multiplayer games or putting too much effort into social media engagement. It’s really sad to have to live like this – but apes will be apes.

  2. Thanks for the comment Rokk! There is a lot of insight there! Just spent an hour reading about the Dunbar number. Interesting stuff! Intuitively, I think there may be a bit of fear/insecurity about a loss of investment that is connected here as well.

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