Gatekeeping “Gamers”

“Git gud!”

“Piss off, casual!”

“Is that even a game?”

“Ugh, console plebs.”

Those are the sorts of things one might hear if you were to browse the forums of a gaming website. There’s a fascinating amount of bickering to be found on what constitutes a “real” game these days, and quite a few individuals will spend more time arguing about that – and mocking those they consider to be “inferior” or “fake” gamers – than they will just enjoying the hobby. It’s bizarre.

I’ve heard it myself in a few variations; I’m supposedly not a real Silent Hill fan because I actually enjoyed Downpour and thought The Room was a less-than-stellar product. (I do toe the company line in saying that Silent Hill 2 is the best, though; in fact, it’s my second favorite game of all time.) I’m not a real gamer because I think games like JourneyBraidAbzu or other games that claim to be about “emergent gameplay and storytelling” are frequently so much pompous trash, and I don’t enjoy them. I’ve been informed I’m not a real gamer because The Last of Us bores me to tears, because I can’t stand Kingdom Hearts, and there’s quite a few of those old LJN games that I actually had fun with. I’m not a real Metal Gear fan because I didn’t think The Phantom Pain was awful. And so on and so on.

But the main thing I’m going to discuss today has to do with the artificial reward system found in most games today. Call them Trophies, Achievements, Benchmarks, whatever, there’s a magic list to show that you spent way too much time doing something in a game, typically alongside a percentage to show you how rare that thing is and make you feel better about yourself. This has changed the way some people play games; no longer does one enjoy the story and decide the game is done when they say it’s done. Now it’s about doing bizarre (and often counter-intuitive) things at just the right time, or grinding some tedious (and often overinflated) number of repetitive tasks out, or hunting for collectibles that ultimately do nothing except prove you spent too much time worrying about minutia (and following video walkthroughs, in a lot of cases.) Because you’ve gotta get that 1000 points or Platinum Trophy, or else you’re not a real gamer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this reward system. It gets me to play things I might otherwise not have, or stick with a game longer. Sometimes it leads me to explore areas I would otherwise have ignored, or to push myself for the 100% or beating the game on the highest difficulty. Far too much of my own self-worth is wrapped up in my PSN Profiles ranking. But there’s some bad sides.

During the 360 era, I was obsessed with achievements; I would play games specifically for them, even if it was garbage that I hated. There were some games on my card that I was proud of – Fallout 3Fight Night Round 3Crackdown – but a large percentage of the list was made up of games I couldn’t stand, that were done solely for the achievements. Avatar: The Burning EarthTeenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesMadden ’06 and dozens of other “easy peasy” sports titles for games I couldn’t care less about. (My interest in sports games has always been low. Give me something arcadey and over the top, like Blitz, or give me a good boxing or hockey game, I’m in. Anything else? Nope.) It was stupid, and pointless, and just filling GameStop’s coffers for an inflated sense of self. I got over it.

These days, I’m still a hunter. Mostly Trophies, as there isn’t much for Xbox One that really grabs my interest, but when I play a game (for either system) I do my best to clear the list as best I can. But I don’t buy or rent games just for trophies anymore. I play what I feel like playing, and do my best to complete it. But because I like laughing my ass off at how bad something can be, and frequently stream the results, there’s also a lot of crap on my trophy card. Things like Little Adventure on the Prairie or My Name Is Mayo. I get those on my ticket for the lulz, as it were. But in some trophy hunter’s minds, that makes me “not a real gamer.”

My 100% in Borderlands or Darksiders 3 doesn’t wash away the stains of Mr. Massagy, even though all of them were played for the same reason: To have fun. And I did. Isn’t that the point?

Of course, there’s also those folks (the ones who have the top rankings on PSN Profiles), who only seem to play quick-and-dirty games. The ones you can swipe a Platinum from in an hour or two, and even better if they have multiple region stacks and save compatibility. They’ll have the same game from 8 different countries, a Platinum in all of them, in the course of an hour, and somehow think they’ve accomplished something. You typically have to scroll quite a ways down their list before you find a game that’s not at 100%, and typically that will be the first thing most folks would call a “real” game. A lot of folks despise these individuals – and I can’t say there isn’t a twinge of anger at them from me, as well, since climbing the ranking is almost impossible with these people at the top – but those same folks will then decide who is and isn’t such an individual based on certain games. If they find Doodle God in your backlog, you’re not a real gamer and that’s the end of it, no matter how many Uncharteds you’ve finished.

It’s kind of silly, really. Why spend so much time arguing over who’s a “real” gamer based on a bunch of imaginary rewards that are literally there for no reason other than e-peen (and so easily manipulated that it doesn’t even really mean that much) when you could be off enjoying the hobby?

Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. But what about you folks? Am I right in thinking arguing over who’s a “real” gamer and what constitutes a “real” game is a waste of time? Do you think the Achievement system in games needs to go away, or become a bigger thing? Is there a Trophy or Achievement that you have that makes you ridiculously proud? (For me, it’s “1000000%” from Binding of Isaac: Rebirth) Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature

As you all know, health problems have been beating me down quite badly of late, and I could use some help. If you like the stuff I do and want to help me keep doing it, if you could drop a dime in the bucket either through Patreon or GoFundMe, or even just like/share/comment/etc my stuff, it’d help a lot. Not a requirement, and if you think I’m not worth it, it’s okay… no hard feelings. But it does help. Thanks.


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