Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Opinion: Ask Questions First

Let's have a real talk for a moment. We need to break away from the gaming news and have a chat. I don't know what to title this discussion, but I know that I'm really tired of this "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality that some gamers have lately. Whether it's pre-ordering a game based on hype and promises with little gameplay to back it up, or trolling a developer's employee without researching if said person is affiliated with the company (it's very easy to fib on the internet, and just as easy to catch someone in that fib), gamers are becoming their own worst enemy.

I'm becoming disappointed in how gamers are handling themselves lately. Harassment isn't a new thing for developers, but to take it to such a degree is more then disturbing. And the kicker is we don't know if the woman in the story actually worked on the game in question: Mass Effect: Andromeda. BioWare has since issued a statement that any type of harassment is wrong, and have denied any claims that the woman being trolled was involved in the project. Since then, the employee and cosplayer has taken down almost all of her social media. She has her Twitter account still active, but it's gone silent. Her profile has been updated to no longer reflect her employment. It's revolting.

Side note men and women: if you're trying to attract a companion, issuing sexual assault as well as death threats to someone on Twitter is not the way to do it.

In the old days, if we didn't like a video game, you know what we did? We didn't buy it. We stopped making purchases of products released from the developer. If it was bad enough, we would write in a letter or an e-mail that was polite in tone and didn't involve threats of dismemberment.

I can understand some people being unhappy with the animations in some games. Mass Effect is feeling the brunt of it right now, but many also said the same of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Heck, I did too. The dinosaur robots showcase more emotion then the humans. Photo-realism, while very cool to look at in still shots, is a work in progress. It's getting better each year, but they are stilted and sometimes goofy looking. Some moments are breathtakingly amazing to watch unfold, while others are kind of silly. It's not perfect right now, and it's still going to take time to reach that point. Look at 'Star Wars: Rogue One' and the animations used to make a young Princess Leia. When she wasn't moving, walking, or talking, it looked great! But once the character moved, it was kind of awkward. You could tell that it wasn't an actress that looked like Carrie Fisher (may you forever rest in peace our Space Princess), but an animation on top of a person. The face was too plastered, too flat, and trying too hard to look real that it was weird. It all comes down to the nuances. Eye twitches, wrinkles forming around the corners of lips as someone smiles, even breathing can make the difference between reality and animation.

Photo-realism with movement has a long was to go before we hit that perfect marker of it being too real that it could be mistaken for a living person. So how to other movies and video games make it happen? Well, they don't. Overwatch and Super Mario may have characters that show more emotion, but they are designed in exaggerated ways that they don't look like your average human. Body sizes, shading, colors, simplified faces all lend themselves to having more cartoonish features. This makes them easier to animate with emotions that are can be understood by a wide audience. It's easy for us to get caught up in stories where the characters do not look real. It's a challenge to make something look real and still be compelling to watch.

This isn't an argument for or against Mass Effect and Horizon. I've only made it through the character creation process in Andromeda after spending an hour having to update my graphic card (thanks NVidia for that last minute driver...). So I can't provide honest feedback about the animations in ME yet. But I can say for Horizon, as I have played a good chunk of the game, I still found myself enjoying the story. I may have found the characters goofy to watch with their stiff expressions, but I wanted to keep playing. The characters were well developed. The story was exciting and fun to unfold with each step into the robot wilderness. It kept me intrigued, and that made up for the animation. Andromeda could easily do the same.

Needless to say, I've also been disappointed in how quick some gamers have reacted to GIFs and cut-scenes without playing the game. It's no different then saying "this movie is bad" without ever having seen that movie. The core of BioWare has always been storytelling. You are not going to grasp the magnitude of The Old Republic, KOTOR, Jade Empire, or Mass Effect by watching the battle mechanics. And the trailers BioWare has been providing us haven't focused on stories or characters, but more on game play. That's left some gamers unhappy that we haven't learned more - honestly, I'm okay with that. We know the basics premise; you're part of a human crew set to find a new planet to colonize in a distant galaxy, and it takes place 600 plus years after the original game. That's all I need. Part of the joy of playing a BioWare game is discovering what it's about. Learning the lore, meeting the characters, and being swept up in the journey. If BioWare laid it all out in a trailer, I wouldn't be as interested. None of us would. But some games have been so quick to react and pick on every little thing...well it's taking some of the fun out of playing the game for the first time. Too many negative comments can take affect.

What's mind boggling is that so many of these people haven't played the game yet! Andromeda was released yesterday. If you have Origin Access, you got a 10 hour preview, and even that isn't enough to give you a full view of what the game has to offer. So what I see people posting such hateful things about the development team, the game, the cut scenes, without picking up a controller and seeing it for themselves, it's disparaging. Is this what we have become as gamers? Quick to react without any justification? Fast on the keyboard, typing heinous comments before researching?

Again, I'm not trying to defend Andromeda - not until I fully play the game and can provide a thoughtful review. And yes, there are some games and developers that should be held accountable for their bad practices. See Assassin's Creed: Unity. While death threats were not warranted, the terrible game play and the bugs were awful. Ubisoft saw a decrease in sales with their follow-up AC game when fans boycotted, and have since broken their yearly release cycle to give the next game the attention it deserves before releasing it.

Gamers, stop being dicks.

It's okay to not like something. But don't hate it if you haven't experienced the game. I dislike Layers of Fear and I didn't form my opinion until I played. The reviews from other magazine, gaming sites, and bloggers, and crappy GIF's didn't give me the ammo to call out the bad story and trope plot devices. Playing it is the only way to understand what's going on. In doing so, I found some good things as well as bad. It's okay to have an opinion, but at least have an informed one. Don't tell me "Beauty and the Beast sucks" if you haven't seen the movie. (Which the live action one does suck, but that's a rant for another day.)

If you don't like something, don't go crazy ranting on forums, social media, or throwing out death threats willy-nilly. Some states prosecute against that stuff now, as they should. Show sanity for yourself and your fellow humans and stop being a dick.

We are better then this, gamers. You know it. I know it. Unless you want developers to stop making video games, because that's a likely future if you all won't stop being dicks.

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