When criticism that is against consensus is inherently distrusted and favourable reviews of games are considered, uniformly, more honest; when contrary opinions are always suspected to be fake, and part of a self-satisyfing attempt by the writer to gain internet celebrity, get more hits and ultimately earn more money, then it is clear that videogames are over-commercialised, over-commodified and not only fighting a war against expression but winning it, by making the very people who buy and play games distrusting of difference.
What a dismal audience games seem to have. We readily, proudly, aggressively align ourselves with advertising. Our ideas about people – likely not helped by literal generations of games which have featured simple, base, disposable barely human characters – are so blinkered and cynical, we assume constantly we’re being lied to, or that if a critic or game-maker turns against the grain, it can only be out of self-interest. And we are such cowards. To require, always, total unblemished unanimity regarding the quality of videogames betrays our fear of confronting the idea that games might be flawed, and that the big companies which have sold us a sense of identity our whole lives might not actually be our perfect friends.
How insecure and threatened must we be – how unprepared to embrace the true meanings of “art” and “criticism” – that we consciously, actively, repeatedly lash out at anything which breaks step from common understanding? Questioning of artists and critics, and challenging games, game-makers and game reviewers is healthy. Doing so on behalf of brands – which do not care if we live or die – or as part of an effort to maintain an undeviating popular opinion, the mitigation of which would only lead to different perhaps better ideas, is a misuse of our time and proof that we are being manipulated. It’s such a pity, that the audience for games is so susceptible to advertising and merchandise we try to strip interrogative critics of their credentials, by insisting they are only speaking from the heart because it pays better. If we can only see conflicting games and game reviews as part of an attempt by their authors to become more vocationally or financially successful, capitalist dogma has filled us up and is now staring out our eyes. If we value the preservation of a videogame’s high score on Metacritic over the presence of critical writing, not only are our priorities out of order when it comes to the safeguarding and strengthening of games as cultural form, we value a company’s propensity to boast about its product over a person’s ability to explain what they think.
Videogames have grown wealthy from encouraging us, time and time over, to distrust and compete with our fellow Person. To people who have perhaps felt inferior or looked down upon, games have given identity and a sense of belonging. The result is an audience that is now both predisposed toward cynicism and afraid of being alone – which values homogeneity over heterogeneity and group-think over independence. We accepted instructions. We played as superheroes, wizards and space soldiers. Consequently, we believe in and trust received information, which in reality manifests as PR and the corporate party line, and see individual, real, thinking people as weak. When our hobby was still for geeks and virgins, we felt powerless and alone. Now the group, defined and belonged to in real-life via our subscription to consensus opinion, makes us feel like we have presence and company. Afraid of losing it, we viciously defend our right to think the same.