Monday, August 05, 2013

It's Okay To Complain About Games

I had a topic in mind today before I began playing catch-up on the morning gaming news. Aussie-Gamer required me to change my blogging with this: Hey, Video Gamers. Stop Complaining.

Yep. One writer for the website, Tynan Muddle, is tired of gamers complaining about everything. From consoles, to new releases, to even the frame-rate. Yeah. The frame-rate. Muddle cites an example with the latest CoD: Black Ops 2 for the Wii-U that boasts a 60 frames per second on the non-consoles, console. Sometimes it drops a few frames here and there because, well, sh*t happens. It’s a lot of crap to process. Muddle wasn’t happy at how much people were complaining over 3 dropped frames and that the culture of the gamer has turned into a bunch of brooding, whining teenagers.

So the article is basically complaining about people complaining too much.

Alright maybe I’m being a bit harsh there. Muddle does bring up some good points regarding when it is and isn’t appropriate to complain about a product and a friendly reminder that developers are humans too. They have feelings, and hopes, and dreams, and need a paycheck like the rest of us. Threatening any of them with violence is not only childish, but illegal. And stupid.

Here’s the thing about the internet: It is an ocean of complaints. People feel less restrictions and consequences by voicing their opinions online because of the beauty of anonymity. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Working conditions, the quality of a product, all of these things are understood through public discussion, like the internet. The consequences of speaking up for ourselves are almost non-existent because we don’t have to put our name or face out there. In many cases, those online complaints are a good thing. Does anyone remember when Family Guy went off the air? Yeah. It really did happen. After a few short seasons on Fox, the show was cancelled. It was picked up in syndication for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup, and after a flurry of internet complaints and petitions, the show returned. The same situation occurred with Futurama, though it did move to Comedy Central upon its contract renewal. For something game related, how about Mass Effect 3? Yeah.
We all know the internet uproar that followed the ending that left many gamers a little more than unhappy. And they flooded the internet letting BioWare know their true feelings. If you ignore the threats of violence and death, there were a lot of very valid concerns and well-thought out responses. Gamers can be civilized in their complaints. It prompted BW to create an extended cut of the ending, and they have been more than making up to the “fan-rage” with the DLC content released over the past year.

Having an outlet like the internet to have your voices heard is not a bad thing. The manner in which you direct your complaint and how you word it can make a big difference. “You suck. You all can die. You destroyed the game with the frame rate drops!” is not going to even float through a developers mind. Whereas this will more likely garner a response: “My recent experience with [this product] left me a little concerned regarding the dropping of frames in cutscenes and action sequences. In particular the ones at [list mission names here] there seems to be a significant frame rate decrease, thus interfering with the experience of the game. Will there be a patch in the future to correct his issue?”

Voicing a complaint online is not a terrible thing. Do we complain a lot more because of it? Absolutely. Being able to hide yourself online does make it easier to be honest because the repercussions are limited. No one knows your face, or your voice through a phone call, or your handwriting if you write in a letter. So there will be times where some complaints seem unjustified, for example the 3 dropped frames in a 60-fps scene with high action. Yeah your eye is not going to be able to register that unless you are pausing it frame by frame. The human eye only really needs 24 frames per second in order to see an image. The rods and cones in your eye can create the rest of the image without the need for the other 36 frames. Movies are generally played at 24-28 fps, very rarely over 30. The fact that the Hobbit was at 48 fps was…kind of annoying actually. It gave a more “video-game” quality to the image and allowed for crisper details. In doing so, it also provided a lot of headaches. With digital characters the images have a smoother rendering. You can’t really do that with humans, even with a digital camera. In many cases characters on the screen in The Hobbit felt jittery, even jumpy because of how smoothly they moved. Our eyes weren’t able to process the information as readily as it could with a game. Even myself, as a gamer, came out of the theater with the headache. I found myself having to stare at a wall or something else just to get my eyes to focus again.

TLDR: You don’t need 60 FPS for a game, and 3 dropped frames here and there is not the end of the world.

So back to the topic at hand, complaining online isn’t bad nor should we be discouraged from doing so. But there are a few things to take into consideration before voicing your concerns that everyone, gamer or not, should take into account:

Fully use or play through a product before making an opinion. This happens a lot with games where you play for a few hours and decide it sucks, so you toss it aside. Some games are actually fantastic after you get back hour 5. You need to put the effort into actually TRYING the product before you voice a concern. It will also allow you to be better informed about concerns and you won't come off as an annoying consumer because you didn't give the product a chance.

Don’t jump on the hate bandwagon just because it’s popular. (Unless it’s about hating EA. That’s a universal thing at this point.) Just because your friends hate it, doesn’t mean that you should too. Be honest with yourself and love things because you love them. Dislike things because you dislike them. Friends shouldn’t influence your opinion.

Think before you write. Most complaints can be whittled down into the following categories: death threats, sue threats, and legit concerns. You want to be in the third position because that will garner a response compared to the others. Be honest with what the problem is. Why didn’t you like the product? What happened when you used the product? What can be done to improve the product? Take the time to really sit down and elaborate on your issues with the product. Write it out in a word document then read it. Re-read it with an editing eye. And then read it one more time. You don’t need to sound professional in your complaint, but you shouldn’t be coming off as a spoiled kid either. Be honest. Be sincere. And don’t threaten violence, death, or lawsuits.

Remember that the company is full of humans too. Okay that sounds weird, but it’s a valid point that I agree with Muddle. Developers are people too. They make a product that they have invested a lot of time and money into on the hopes that they can at least make enough back to start the next project. When you threaten someone with violence, you’re not talking to a nameless corporation, but a real person. Someone with a family and friends. How would you feel if someone sent you an angry Twitter message that they were going to find your address, post it online, and send criminals to get you and your family. It’s not cool, so don’t do it. Remember that people do exist on the other end of the complaint mail and they deserve to be treated as humans.

So hopefully those few tips help out. An article complaining about the complainers, and now I’m complaining about it. It’s the cirrrrrrrrcle of liiiiiiife!Complaints are going to happen. It's the culture of the internet. How you voice and respond to those complaints will set you apart from the mess.

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