Taking things too far: why I’m not a gamer anymore

Caleb Hendrich
Caleb Hendrich

*Correction* The printed version of The Editor’s Corner refers to a developer from Call of Duty: Black Ops receiving death threats. This is incorrect. A developer from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was recieving threats in July over the changing of game play. The Collegian regrets its error.

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life. I started with Pokemon Red when I was 6, and I worked my way up the gaming ladder ever since. I’ve played almost every genre of game there is: horror/survival, first-person shooter, RPG, MMORPG and real time strategy.

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And I’m done. I’m officially done with gaming. I sold my Xbox 360 over the summer, and I haven’t touched my PC games in several weeks apart from the occasional foray into Minecraft in my (increasingly rare) spare time. Essentially, I’ve gone cold turkey on video games.

And there’s a very good reason behind this.

I’ve been a pretty vocal advocate for gamers both on and off the record. I’ve defended the gaming community against accusations of being the cause of mass shootings. I’ve defended the gaming community against people who want to censor them as an art form. I’ve defended gamers who are overly bombastic, misogynistic or for being trolls on the internet.

But recent events have taken things way too far, and well past my tolerance for dealing with the gaming community.

A couple of weeks ago, the company Bioware (the company behind the Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Knights of the Old Republic series) lost a writer over some specific comments on the Internet.

Jennifer Hepler, a writer on Dragon Age 2 and the upcoming Dragon Age Inquisition, was interviewed as part of an investigative piece by gaming magazine Polygon regarding dangerous and derogatory dialogue towards developers.

Hepler had previously been incorrectly blamed for changes to Dragon Age 2’s combat system, something that gamers were livid over. According to the Polygon article, Hepler did her best to ignore the bulk of the threats, but decided to leave when death threats were leveled against her children.

“I did my best to avoid actually reading any of it, so I’m not quite certain how bad it got,” Hepler said to Polygon. “I was shown a sample of the forum posts by EA security and it included graphic threats to kill my children on their way out of school to show them that they should have been aborted at birth rather than have to have me as a mother.”

For me, that was too much. If this is the response to a change in a game, threatening to kill someone’s children, then I want nothing more to do with this community. That is the behavior of psychotics, not fans. I don’t care that it might just be a small vocal minority, hell it doesn’t matter if it’s a minority. That behavior paints us all in a horrible light, and I can not and will not be a part of a community that sanctions that behavior.

Threatening to kill someone’s kids isn’t trolling. It isn’t messing around. It’s a very real and very serious threat. Period. You do not, ever, go after someone’s kids. I don’t care how angry you are over something in a fictional universe, that’s going too far.

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In all honesty, I should have left it much earlier because this isn’t the first time that a singular developer has threatened with death.

In July, a developer for the game Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 received death threats over a miniscule change in game play. Were certain weapons removed? Were certain levels added in? Did some character skins change? No. Call of Duty fans were forming a lynch mob over the firing time of one particular gun changing from 0.2 seconds to 0.4 seconds, and the chambering time changing from 1 second to 1.1 seconds.

That’s it. That’s what all that uproar is about.

Robin Walker, the programmer from gaming giant Valve, said the Nerdist Podcast that despite the vitriol there is often a legitimate point hidden in feedback, even if it is hateful.

I no longer buy that argument, with all due respect for Walker.

This sort of thing isn’t about feedback anymore. Death threats are never, ever something that should be resorted to when sending in feedback. Death threats are just never okay period for goodness sake. It evokes the savage days where old playwrights would have their homes burnt down if the crowd didn’t like the play they saw.

And what’s more, things like this will only serve to hurt the community as a whole — not just because they’ll all be portrayed as spiteful, entitled 12-year-olds ranting in forums.

What gamers really crave is something new. They aren’t satisfied with the same old game played over and over again, even though they’ll cough up hundreds of dollars a year to get them. New, creative games like Minecraft, Portal or Fez are sparkling jewels that are worshiped by gamers. They are absolute gems of the creative process, and their celebrated status is well deserved.

But the thing is, to echo Jim Sterling from the Escapist Magazine, when creative people are met with threats and behavior like this, they probably shouldn’t enter industries like gaming. They should instead be taking their talents elsewhere. For the creative process to work, you need to have the opportunity to make mistakes. And if the clientele doesn’t give you space to make mistakes; if the stakes are endless accolades or threats of death, you will never have the space to work.

That’s not the community I want to throw my support behind. That’s not the type of community I want to be a part of. That’s not the community that anyone should be a part of.

It’s going way too far, and I want nothing to do with it anymore.

Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science double major. He was formerly a member of the gaming community. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.