Gaming Grievances, Part 1 – Social Stigma And Steep Pricing

Two things I hate about you.

Written by Ash Wood.

Not what you were expecting to be featured on the pages of TheSixthAxis? The staff, contributors and community spend an inordinately large amount of time talking about the positives of gaming and how enjoyable and interesting it is. So, I thought it was about time to turn that on its head and give the opposition a look in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love gaming, but if we all were to be brutally honest, there are a lot of things we don’t like about our hobby of choice. I am therefore going to invite you to join me in talking about what really gets on my nerves and see what you think about it too.

First of all, there’s the social stigma. I’m sure you’ve all faced it: you tell someone you’re a gamer and you can see that flash of negative perception pass across their face. Suddenly they see you differently, you’re now some socially inept lonely soul who sits grasping a controller in a dark room for hours; they imagine you fuelled purely by copious numbers of energy drinks and pizza as you desperately work towards to a fictitious goal.

This, while worryingly accurate all too often, isn’t the whole picture. Us gamers have been know to be likeable and social beings. Every once in a while we go outside, take in some sunlight and experience normal, everyday lives. Gaming is simply the way we choose to spend our downtime, the same way someone may enjoying kicking a ball around on a sunday morning or partake in a particularly intense cross stitch session of an evening.

We know this is the case but unfortunately, the sad truth is, the average person will view you in a worse light if they happen to discover that your primary leisure activity is gaming. At the very least, they will expect you to grow out of it shortly.

Mix this general social stigma with the all too frequent mainstream press pieces about the danger of video gaming (remember that Call of Duty level from the video above?) and you start to realise we are quite a misrepresented bunch of future murderers and mindless stereotypes with no grasp on reality. The thing is, we just have to accept that fact. No matter how many big names in the industry and the gaming press criticise these misquoted, shoddy attempts at journalism it will be ever-present because it’s easy.

It’s easy to write, it’s easy to get away with and it’s an easy way to shift a few extra copies or get a few extra clicks. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, we cannot take on these unethical behemoths, we simply have to take a deep breath and move on. We are faced with little choice but to wait for the whole thing to blow over and let them move onto the next easy target to prey on.

THRESS-IL1

We do, however, have to consider ourselves lucky. Thanks to the monumental shifts that the video gaming industry is experiencing, the ratio of gamers to non-gamers is dramatically shifting in our favour. With the gargantuan growth of social and mobile games almost everyone who has a Nokia 3210 and above is playing some form of game now.

All these people who happily tap away on Candy Crush, Threes!, Angry Birds or any other light and friendly social game for the evening while in front of the TV are keen to play these small titles, but that is only half the battle. Telling them you spent the evening fighting off mythical creatures with magical oversized weaponry quickly makes you realise these people are not the same type of gamer as you and I. They unfortunately will still look down upon you far more often than we would like.

But there is still hope. The influx of new gamers of all ages and the added worth of owning a games console for more than just playing video games means more people are dipping their toes into the waters of gaming on a more serious level. While it is still likely to be a fair few years before gaming is a full social norm it will soon be the case that it will no longer be the few that are taken aback by negative social stigma, but rather the many.

Eventually, the mainstream press and society as a whole will realise that their fictitious versions of what being a gamer means no longer sits well with us lot. At which point they will shift their sights and pick another group of people to target.

pounds

Unfortunately, it isn’t only the way people perceive gamers that gets me as angry as a certain bloodthirsty Spartan. Another key factor that you can’t ignore when thinking about the elements of gaming that get on your nerves is the price. Whether we like it or not, gaming is a very expensive hobby and nobody likes to lose money. With new games usually clocking in at around £40, or a touch more while the new gen is still fresh, it’s no small fee to pay. Especially when the game ends up being shorter than you would like it to be, without the tacked on multiplayer that is.

It isn’t just the games that make the pennies fly out of your account, either; consoles are on a whole other level. While it’s fair to say they are probably a lot cheaper than they could be given the wealth of technological gubbins packed away inside, they still endeavour to thieve a hefty chunk of your bank balance when you make the jump and upgrade. Only for your hardware of choice to unceremoniously mock you a short while down the line with their various red rings, yellow lights or who knows what for PS4 or Xbox One (but touch wood on that one for now).

You are then left with another bill to foot in order to repair or replace the stricken machine, once again taking a bit of your hard earned cash with it. Don’t forget that those of you with your new Microsoft or Sony machines are playing on largely untested hardware. No one foresaw the hardware failures exhibited by the Xbox 360 and PS3 so maybe it’s worth keeping a bit of money to the side just in case. But you know, fingers crossed and all that.

Add to that all those £9.99 map packs, £1.59 costumes or skins and whatever else the game tries to monetise and all those “well it’s only a little bit of money” buying decisions soon stack up. Suddenly you’re considering selling a kidney on the black market just to ensure that you can ease the financial strain of driving that new car, firing that new weapon or ensuring your character has a fancy new outfit. But we don’t learn, do we? Next time there’s another DLC pack that tickles our fancy we come back running and snap it up.

Of course there are a few ways to get a good deal. Those of you who prefer a PC to a console benefit greatly from the, frankly ridiculous, Steam Sales. While Sony and Microsoft’s attempts at big savings frankly pale in comparison, their efforts to offer a good deal are improving. Sony’s PlayStation Plus is the most obvious bittersweet way to spend and save. While it is an undisputedly great saving in the long term, it is still £40 a year that you need to factor in somewhere in order to play online.

But it isn’t just the games and consoles is it? Once gaming becomes your primary hobby a new smorgasbord of game related purchases rise to the surface. Want to play with someone else when LittleBigPlanet 3 lands? You’re going to need a second controller so that’s another £50. Want to try out The Playroom? That will need the new PlayStation Camera and another £50 to throw at the vendor. While they aren’t vital components to your gaming experience, it is always nice to be fully kitted out and so having to shell out another lump of cash stings a fair bit.

I dread to think just how much money I have spent on gaming over the years, but do you know what? I don’t really mind, which is almost as crazy in itself! My bank balance may have taken a beating over the years thanks to games and gaming but am I prepared to say that I’ll give up gaming to save some cash? Not in the slightest, and I guarantee I’m not the only one.

What are some of your personal gaming grievances? Ash will be back with more of his own tomorrow.

32 Comments

  1. Both issues are a problem. The first issue I’ve had on many occasions because gaming is something deemed by some to be anti-social, immoral, unhealthy, and/or unintelligent. There’s little I can do about that view really, other than say try it for yourself and be understanding. Of course too many people get sweeped into silly political views through the media, and that’s that isn’t it.

    The second view has really only been an issue in the last few years. Publishers and developers have sought to drain excess amounts of money through DLC, to the point that CoD Season passes are the price of a new game. Not only that, prices rise with every generation, and £50 is ridiculous. Even though PC gaming is cheaper per game, it costs more to purchase the computer/parts and by the time you make savings, it’ll be time to upgrade again and all those nice console exclusives will have passed again.

    I mainly get round it through patience and sales. Looking for a bargain, as well as cashing in on PS+. But the 8th generation of gaming is so ridiculously expensive I won’t be taking the plunge for a long while now. Gaming never used to be expensive, but now Sony and Microsoft, along with a few publishers (of those certain franchises), have turned it in to a mass industry.

    The only other grievance aside from the two you mentioned is Internet reliability. 7th generation saw a massive spike in this, and I don’t some games being multiplayer focused, but it’s the fact that some basic features require internet connectivity. Furthermore all these day 1 patches mean I can’t simply buy a game from the shop any more unless I research it and know for certain it works unpatched. It’s terrible, and a far cry from the memorable days of gaming I used to have. Like I say, it’s changed, a lot.

    Btw, great article. Lovely to see this side of a debate.

    • Thanks Avenger, it was good fun to get a bit angry and write.

      I think you’re right. For me anyway gaming seems to be more of a money sponge now that it has been before.

      And as for internet downtime, make sure you read part 2 tomorrow.

    • Gaming has ALWAYS been an expensive hobby. I remember Atari 2600 games being £40 a pop back when I was a kid & look how terrible some of those games were! Skip to the MD/SNES era £70 for Virtua Racing & I’m sure starting (star fox?) was about the same. The 3DO was something like £600 on initial release, the Saturn was £400.
      For me the biggest gripe these days id DLC that is already on the disc, for me if it’s already on there, then you’ve already paid the price of admission . I’m not a big online gamer, so the fact that with Sony, you can still just play FTP on liners if you don’t want to pay for it.
      My favourite part of being a gamer is going round the globe to gaming conventions & seeing all the amazing things people can do with old machines! Roll on E-Jagfest :)

  2. Steam Sales are far better than console sales- but only for older games.

    New games don’t get large discounts (or one at all) in the Steam sales however, while we more regularly see big games get large discounts within a year of release on the PSN.

    Coupled with the complete absence of the bundle deals which used to be the star attraction of Steam sales and we see the gap between Steam sales and console sales closing ever more- and not in the way we wanted it to.

    • The thing is, new PC games are still far cheaper when you compare them to their console version. For example, I pre-ordered Watch Dogs (about a week before release) for £21 – if I had pre-ordered it for PS3 or PS4, it would have been £40-50.

      Also, I think many people forget sites like GreenManGaming, Gamersgate or GoG offer Steam and DRM-free games at similar, or sometimes better prices than Steam. And while Steam doesn’t offer great bundles anymore, sites like Humble Bundle or BundleStars offer quite a few games for just a couple of quid.

      Of course, you could argue that the savings made on games just gets spent on hardware, but you don’t need to if you don’t want to. And when you do want to upgrade, you don’t have to spend anywhere near as much as a console to ensure you can continue playing every game you want to.

      • Forgot to say, nice article Ash, I’ve definitely experienced that social stigma you mention, even from people that happily spend more time just playing FIFA than I do gaming!

      • The absolutely massive difference is that a game bought on Steam (in sale or not) is a digital purchase so there’s no resell. With a disc on the PS3/4 you could easily have your fun and then sell it on, possibly only losing five to ten pounds of your initial outlay.

      • True, I never trade in games so didn’t think of that!

  3. Church.

    • Church?

      • He speaks the divine truth. It’s a street-wise way of saying one agrees. I picked it up from some youths called Keith.

      • I mean YOU speak the divine truth. Sorry, Ash, never meant to go all royal third-person on you. ;-)

  4. As a student who has just managed to earn enough through savings and a temp job to buy a PS4, I fully agree on the issue of price. I originally had my eyes set on the Mega bundle with Killzone, the camera and an extra controller, but decided to settle on the standard console at a discount.

    I’m still ecstatic that I’ve managed to get the console, but it will be a while until I can afford to buy any of the new games, and even then I might forgo them and save for the likes of Destiny instead. Luckily, PS+ is doing plenty to keep me happy with what has been provided so far.

  5. Great read and it sums up a lot of my feelings too.

    The gaming stigmatism is annoying at best, I have a situation at work where a gaming friend and I sit opposite each other. We have been told in no uncertain terms by the woman next to us that we should grow up and talk about something else. Imagine her surprise when the eldest member of our team declared she plays all sorts on her 3DS and thinks we should discuss what we want.

    It gets on my nerves the way gamers are treat like a cash cow to be milked by microtransactions and on disk DLC content. I like the season pass model provided the content is new and would like to see more games go down this route if they are planning DLC.

  6. Nice article & good to see it done here too. The social stigma is just one of those things seemingly peculiar to the west?
    As for the cost of gaming, yes it’s always been an expensive hobby when you compare it to the cost of living. I started with an Atari 2600 and that wasn’t cheap at the time & neither were the cartridges, even a Spectrum was an expensive computer for households and the games, at first, weren’t cheap either until Mastertonic appeared, not mentioning the cassette swapping that was rife back then ;)

  7. As a 36 year old gamer, although I agree with most of the article, I must be part of a lucky minority.

    Firstly I have never experienced any stigma being a gamer, since Atari 2600 days (nearly 30 years ago) to date with a PS4 and Vita no one I know has labelled me as an anti social nerd. I suppose they may do it behind my back but I’d like to think not. I also have an awesome wife that although she’s not interested in gaming herself lets me spend what I like on my hobby as it keeps me happy and I don’t spend all my weekends in the pub boozing. In fact when we moved into our new house 7 months ago she let me build a cinema gaming room with a HD 3D projector and a 133″ screen connected to my PS4, PS3 and 2TB Sky Box in the 2nd living room.

    With regards to bad press about gaming I firmly blame the likes of Daily Mail online etc for sensational headlines and badly written articles, often with incorrect information making our pastime as some sort of sordid act.

    The thing I don’t agree entirely with is the cost of gaming nowadays . Yes Hardware can be expensive but so was a SNES back in the day and if you take into account inflation etc I bet they would almost be the same price now. The same goes for software. Back then it was either Christmas I got a new game or saved my pocket money forever to get a new one. Again I bet the relative costs would be the same today.

    The only difference is I now have a good job, great wife and can spend what I like on my hobby :-)

  8. Pricing can certainly be an issue for me. I get around it by rarely buying games until they are at least a year old. by that point a surprising number will have appeared on PS+. Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Metro Last Light, Far Cry 3 are all games I got to play more or less for free thanks to a little patience/stinginess.

  9. Good article. It’s sad but true that it’ll take another generation (not talking about consoles here…), until gaming had become so mainstream that the stigma will be gone. For my part, I decided to keep these things apart, not talking to work mates about my gaming hobby, and not accepting name requests on my PS4.

    With respect to price, I quite strongly disagree. At least where I live, there’s no PC hardware, which runs games halfway as reliable and with decent resolution for the low price of a console. The PC hardware I got, which costed about that, doesn’t even run videos stutter-free. So, people who keep comparing resolutions of £1000 PCs to consoles just make me laugh.
    If anyone wanted to start gaming cheaply, I’d recommend them a PS3. There, games almost always get cheaper quite soon after release, so if you don’t always have to get new stuff on day one, then I wouldn’t consider gaming expensive. With the PS4, I still wait for the prices to come down. Meanwhile, it is collecting dust in the corner. But it doesn’t worry me, and that’s the good thing about having a backlog on the PS3… :o)

  10. My grievance with gaming is more about the industry getting larger, which has the double effect of expanding and producing new kinds of experiences but also tending toward sameness. Is it any surprise that No Man’s Sky is getting such attention? I think the consensus is that consumers are bored with Call of Duty’s and Battlefields, even Assassin’s Creed is taking some flak for, although it looks amazing, being a similar experience as its predecessors as well as making the mistake of falling back into the assumption that everyone wants a male protagonist.
    I hope the ultra-linear experience will soon fall from the mainstream of gaming, players obviously prefer freedom. No Man’s Sky! Destiny!

    • Yes! Ive been waiting for a game like No Man’s Sky for a long time on consoles. I hope the positive reaction to it will inspire other devs & publishers to stop chasing that CoD pie and do something more interesting. And as you say, less linear games would be nice as well.

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