Let's Set the Stage First
This post is not like any other I’ve done thus far. I love almost every aspect of video gaming and collecting so my posts have always been motivated by passion and excitement. That is not the case with this post. Instead, I will be addressing something that angers me about the video game world: hack journalists publishing sub-standard work about video games and using their work as a platform to push their own beliefs about everything. If you prefer to be spoon-fed what to think about everything by the “influencers” of social media and heavily politically biased “news” outlets then this post might not be for you. You’ll probably be triggered or offended or something.
I’m going to do something I’ve avoided doing until now. I’m going to briefly disclose some of my own beliefs about the world and politics. I have not done so because, in the current social climate, stating your beliefs can be dangerous if they aren‘t shared by certain groups of people. By no means am I implying that I feel like someone would harm me if I shared any of my beliefs. I simply mean it could be social and/or professional suicide. That said, I’ll disclose very little and only what will be relevant to the rest of this post.
I absolutely detest both political parties and cannot fathom how anyone can go “all in” and support either side with any sort of enthusiasm. I think the biggest problem in America right now is that both of the major parties get all the attention and vehemently hate the other side. Instead of “team red” vs “team blue” it should be “team red, white, and blue”. It seems like several years ago, people started getting more and more vocal about their own political beliefs while becoming increasingly hostile to those who don’t agree with their viewpoints. Over time, the social and political tensions increased while the closed-minded supporters of each side began to insist that their own beliefs should influence literally everything around them. Science, speech, television, movies, and pretty much everything else was attacked and, as a result, a lot of those things have become uninteresting, watered-down shells of their former selves. Not my video games, though! Somehow video games stayed out of the crosshairs of the zealots…until recently. Suddenly I am discovering scathing reviews of first-person shooters for being too violent and zombie-apocalypse survival games for having protagonists for having a white, male protagonist. Thankfully, I have yet to see an example of these sorts of politics infect the actual games so far.
Let me be clear about one last thing before I get to the meat and potatoes of this post. I judge people only by their character or lack thereof. Never has the race, religion, gender, nationality, etc of a video game’s protagonist weighed in on whether I want to purchase a game. I honestly couldn‘t care less 99% of the time. When I feel like one of these things is forced onto a character for no other reason than to “make a statement” and it detracts from the overall experience then I most often avoid that game. Honestly, though, I can’t think of an instance of that ever occurring yet. I don't care about the characters' appearence, but rather the game's play time, control, graphics, stability, etc. My main question when evaluating a game to purchase is "Will I have fun playing this game and, if so, for how long?"
Gaming Is Supposed to be An Escape
People play video games for several reasons including, but not limited to:
- escaping reality
- passing the time
- personal enjoyment
- friendly competition
- bonding with a friend/family member
- having fun!
Whether you are trying to save the princess, guiding an unlikely hero through an intense quest, racing cars you will never be able to afford, playing through the NFL season in hopes to win the Super Bowl, etc, you are experiencing something through video games that you’ll likely never experience in real life. To make games more identifiable and therefore more interesting, developers try to incorporate certain aspects of reality into games while enhancing or even completely omitting others. Things like political bias, financial struggles, social issues, etc don’t exactly make for enjoyable game content. Hell, sometimes even real-world physics take away from the experience. Instead, we are meant to focus on the main point of the game while immersed in a virtual world that might include realistic-looking explosions, semi-realistic physics, real-world consequences (you get shot, you die), etc.
Lately, there seems to be a particular breed of video game reviewer that insists on trying to inject politics (one of the less enjoyable aspects of reality) into their game reviews. Lots of “woke” reviewers are determined to use their video game review as a platform to push their own personal beliefs onto the reader rather than focusing on the point of the game. They also seem to want to smear or hurt the game's sales and/or the developer's or publisher's image. When I read a game review, I’m usually trying to answer questions like:
- Is the game buggy?
- Are the controls well done?
- Is the game graphically pleasing?
- Is there a high replay value?
- How much content is in the game?/How long can I play this game?
- What is the gameplay style?
- Is the story any good, generally speaking?
After answering those basic questions I can then conclude whether spending $60 of my hard earned money makes sense to me. This is the whole point of reading reviews, isn’t it? Part of being an informed consumer requires doing this sort of research prior to making a purchase.
Now it is common to find reviews that dwell on a character’s gender, the treatment of female characters in the game, representation of minority groups, overall morality of the game’s story, etc. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about any of those things. Games are supposed to be our escape from those concerns and issues. I would never kill a person in real life except in self-defense (and statistics say that will almost certainly never happen), but I will gladly rack up an insane kill count in a first-person shooter. I’ll never be a mutant from another dimension placed into a fight-to-the-death tournament where I can rip my opponent’s head off with my bare hands. I do, however, enjoy playing any of the Mortal Kombat games when I have friends over to compete against. My point is this; I don’t have to agree with what is happening in the game to enjoy it. When I stumble across reviews that fixate almost entirely on the story arc and the social injustices or questionable morality in that story arc, none of my questions get answered. Instead, I conclude that the reviewer has an agenda, I either block or make a mental note of the garbage “video game” site on which I’m reading said review, and I continue to search for a real review by a real journalist that actually likes video games.
Recent Examples of Terrible Video Game "Journalism"
I recent months I’ve concluded that I don’t need sites like Kotaku, EuroGamer, and The Verge in my life. These sites, along with several others, are exceedingly guilty of the click-bait, agenda fueled “video game reviews” I’ve been talking about. I’ve been having a bit of a moral dilemma regarding this section of this post because I need to provide links to and reference reviews of the nature I’ve been describing, but I in no way want to support or drive traffic to any of these trash sites. For the sake of credibility and supporting my main point, I’ve decided to provide links to some particularly awful reviews guilty of the poor, biased journalism I’m focusing on in this post. Otherwise, my argument would be weak and vague.
This whole article is a trainwreck full of speculation that tells me very little about the actual game, but I'll list a couple "highlights".
This article shouldn't even exist. The whole article is a hit piece on Mortal Kombat 11 based 100% on identity politics and sexualization of characters. It holds absolutely no value to anyone looking for info to help them decide if the game is any good and it and is only meant to communicate the writer's own beliefs and potentially deter people from buying the game. It tries to make the point that the creator SHOULD have been tone deaf to the current social climate of everyone being offended by everything and NOT toned down the characters clothes even though that is probably the safest approach to take to avoid the Twitter mobs.
I could keep listing more examples of what I am talking about, but I think you probably get the point by now. Ironically, this blog post, in a way, is me injecting my own politics into gaming as a whole. The difference is that my stance is to keep politics out of gaming. I wish I lived in a world where people didn’t get offended by literally everything then broadcast their complaints to the world to anger others. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Lot’s of people seem to wake up each day only to spend their time and energy searching for something to be angry about. That sad reality only seems to get worse with each passing day.
What happened to the idea that if you didn’t like something about a product you just didn’t purchase it? If you want to make a statement, make it with your wallet. If you are a video game reviewer/journalist, it is not your job to make a statement publicly. It is your job to write something that thoroughly answers the readers’ questions about the game so they can decide for themselves if they want to buy it. Trying to incite outrage over ridiculously trivial aspects of a video game that 99% of “real” gamers couldn’t care less about is not journalism. It's a sad attempt at activism and, in my opinion, it has no place in the gaming community.
What Can We Do About These Politically Charged Reviews?
It seems as if the politically charged game reviews are here to stay. We will probably see more and more of this pointed “journalism” appear on video game sites for some time to come. Fortunately, it seems to only be a small subset of video game-centric sites interested in publishing this garbage. I make a statement with my clicks. If a site is guilty of the things outlined above, I add them to the blacklist on my router’s firewall. This way I don’t have to remember that a particular site will only waste my time, I just won’t be able to access it. Admittedly, I don’t block video game sites because I have a video game blog and need to access these sites occasionally when researching my own posts. I do, however, apply this same approach to news sites and have blocked several. It at least saves me time and frustration and prevents me from contributing to the site through ad revenue. This, to me, seems like a more mature and more effective approach than trying to slander a site or company on social media. Doing that would make me a hypocrite.
That said, I will not provide you with a list of terrible video game sites to avoid. Obviously, I have already mentioned a few for the sake of supporting my viewpoint. I will leave it at that and allow you to make your own decisions on which sites are worth your time and your support via ad revenue.
To the video game journalists and reviewers out there, I ask you to leave your own politics out of your writing. Your reviews are supposed to be for the reader, not yourself. Quit injecting your politics into your game reviews and articles and focus more on delivering the type of quality content that most gamers reading your work are seeking. If you have to drag a game through the mud because of your gender politics or social justice warrior sensibilities, do it on Twitter where it belongs. That cesspool seems like your target audience and no one will be surprised to find that kind of content there.