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  • John Nubern

Hot Take: Gamers are the Problem with Gaming

Updated: Apr 5

Join John from Podcasters United as he shares his hot take for gamers and the industry as a whole!

We’re the solution too. Now that I’ve got your attention let me explain.

I realize that’s a clickbait headline, but it wasn’t disingenuous and to be clear I don’t think gamers are by any means the only problem with gaming. We are, however, in the best position to affect necessary change in the gaming industry. I’ve previously argued that gaming is an art form and like all popular art forms, gaming is subject to the whims of the masses for better and worse. Of course, we like to believe that makes games better over time (and I think we’ll eventually find this to be true), but I would be remiss not to mention that we’ve had some growing pains: microtransactions, gaming as a service, fraudulent and borderline “clone” games, and generally predatory and repetitive mobile games. The outlook may seem rough, but I dare say recent trends in gaming suggest that healthy consumer practices, more than any other thing, are now actively influencing gaming largely for the better. Baldur’s Gate 3 has sold millions of copies and for all the right reasons.

Please don’t go. I have a point, I promise!

Baldur’s Gate 3 is an RPG nearly unmatched in scope spanning hundreds of hours of adventure, couch and online co-op, genre-defining voice acting, visual fidelity, and top-notch sound and music. All of this came at the oft-debated price point of $60 and a concrete promise from the developer, Larian Studios, that it would never feature a single microtransaction. As I stated previously, we should absolutely be looking at Larian’s stellar example in terms of both quality of the game they’ve produced and their overwhelmingly ethical behavior and what it means for the industry writ large. But this is where we, as consumers, need to make sure we’re properly voting with our wallets to show the rest of the gaming industry that we will not tolerate sub-standard product (Bethesda), excessive microtransactions or serialized “service” games (Activision-Blizzard, Electronic Arts); and we certainly will not take the notion that we’re “not going to own” our games lying down (Ubisoft). 

“Wake up Trainer, we’ve got a gym to burn.”

I don’t beat the drum of Baldur’s Gate or any of the other dozens of current top-notch RPGs in the current generation simply because I’m a die-hard dungeon diver (maybe a little); I try to sell it to everyone at every turn because we need to reward good behavior like that of Larian Studios. I say that as Palworld made some $200 million in little more than a week while managing to be a buggy cloned amalgam of Pokémon, Fortnite, and Ark: Survival Evolved, and is topping the Steam charts despite very likely being built with AI and/or dubiously sourced assets. Enjoy Palworld if you like and call me cynical, but everything about it is antithetical to what we, as gamers, should expect from a developer. 

It is at this point in the conversation where some may try to halt the conversation to suggest that I’m being a “gatekeeper” for trying to suggest that someone’s fun is wrong or something like that. Now, while I don’t necessarily appreciate the sentiment behind that label, I’ll at least acknowledge that it’s correct, just not in the way one might think. In fact, there is a proper nomenclature for “gatekeeping” that we use in most practical industry and applied science; it’s known as “quality control”. Gamers must hold each other accountable when the temptation to just consume product becomes too strong.

The artwork is top notch and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t picked up a couple packs.

As a life-long Dungeons and Dragons fan, I swore off Wizards of the Coast products after a potential radical change to their Open Gaming License (which hadn’t substantively changed in decades) was leaked in December of 2022 and was going to radically alter the landscape of the tabletop gaming space, as well as that of major content creators across the internet. They ended up not going through with the change, but the damage was done. However, only a few months later, Wizards would again step in it when they hired Pinkertons – mercenary police – to intimidate a Magic: The Gathering fan who’d released a video on YouTube of him opening a box of cards he wasn’t yet supposed to have but was delivered to him because of a company error. Two months later, in April of 2023, Wizards would release a set of Lord of the Rings inspired cards for Magic and you know what I, a diehard Tolkien fan and MTG aficionado, did? Nothing. I let it pass me by because I refuse to reward bad behavior and we, as gamers, should have the conviction to maintain our principles. 

And that is my hot take: we are the problem. I say it with a heavy heart as games like Palworld, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto will likely continue to be made and will continue to break sales records. But I maintain that we gamers are also the solution and when I see indie games like Hollow Knight or Hades become sleeper hits; or (last time, I promise) Baldur’s Gate 3 become Game of the Year, it makes me feel like we’re finally course correcting after nigh on a decade of live-service lootbox-laden garbage. Gamers as a whole have to learn to be better, more discerning consumers and we need to make sure we’re holding each other accountable so that the abusive practices of corporate profiteers don’t continue to run roughshod over our hobby spaces.


About the Author:

John is the newest author to join the ranks of Podcasters United! John's 30+ year love affair with gaming first started on the tabletop and eventually segued into digital dungeon diving with the original Legend of Zelda on NES. He retired from technical work on air and spacecraft in 2021 and now teaches full-time. When he's not working or gaming he's avidly writing and reading all things sci-fi and fantasy.

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