Gamers Love To Be Right And It Makes Us Boring

By Gus Mastrapa in Pretension +1
Friday, May 27, 2011 at 9:00 am
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Now that the dust has settled with the PlayStation Network fiasco and most people have finished playing and griping about L.A. Noire gamers need something new to chew on. And with E3 still a week or two away we're grasping for straws. Or pitchforks, rather.

In a recent article Venture Beat writer Dean Takahashi suggested that the new Warhammer 40k video game is a rip off of Gears of War. Not suprisingly a flood of amateur nerd ombudsman flocked to his story to deride the writer for his ignorance. He later clarified his position and apologized for his glib manner. But the damage was already done. Any geek (or Wikipedia user) knows that Warhammer lore predates Gears of War by decades. Even Takahashi knows this. He writes it in his article. But never mind that. 

The folks commenting on the article saw an opening and took it. Because gamers love to be right. And the more petty and vindictive we can be about our correctness the better.

This sad affair says more about gamers than it does about Dean Takahashi's journalistic chops. Sure, the guy does come off as a little mis-informed. Especially when he compares the bulky armor of the Gears of War COGs with Warhammer 40k's space marine power armor. Warhammer 40k did, indeed, go for that bulky look first. But what a boring point to score.

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I'm more interested in Dean's notion that a 3rd person shooter set in the Warhammer 40k universe feels redundant after Gears of War. It does. And I also share his skepticism that Relic Entertainment, a developer of real-time strategy games, can deliver combat (or narrative, for that matter) as well as Epic can. But that discussion will have to be tabled for a later date (possibly never) because, in the minds of gamers, Dean Takahashi has once again proven that games journalism is a total and complete joke.

Takahashi's biggest sin isn't that he's misinformed. He knows the score when it comes to the space marine time line. His sin is one of geek ignorance. He doesn't know that Warhammer 40k has special claim to the space marine -- a free pass among geeks for carrying the space marine torch passed along by Starship Troopers and Aliens. As an under-appreciated expression of the space marine archetype all Warhammer 40k books, board games, and video games are grandfathered in. But that's not something you can read on Wikipedia. I'm not entirely sure its a position that you could readily discover through research. Or at least not the amount of research someone could reasonable expect to pour into a hands-on preview of a video game.

Knowing that Warhammer 40k is special is learned over a lifetime of geekdom. The only way know this is to be told. But to really understand it you kind of have to live it.

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But, again, none of these points are really germane to the people who expressed their derision underneath Takahashi's story. Primary to many of them is the validation of their opinion that games journalism sucks. And Takahashi's misinformed opinion is just another bit of evidence for the file. What amazes me is that these people don't stop reading games journalism. I think they like being mad all the time. Just like the people who watch CNN, MSNBC and Fox News like having their panties in a bunch about the fact that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It's comforting to have one person (or group of persons) to blame for this decline.

And for a group of gamers that scapegoat is games journalists. 

I don't know about you but this seems like a fairly boring and tiresome way to live your life -- constantly pouncing from one outrage to the next, vehemently expressing your dissatisfaction like a Phoenix, AZ retiree who was served a lukewarm cup of McDonald's coffee. Do you guys realize how predictable you are and how dull that makes you seem?

I know gamers are an informed, passionate bunch. But lets give it a rest. Or skip to the part after you proved that you were right. That's where the more interesting conversation is going to happen. Because as tired as space marine videogames are (and c'mon, didn't you roll your eyes even a little when you saw that the game was actually called "Space Marine") they're still worth talking about. Let's have that discussion.  

Pretension +1 is a weekly column by Gus Mastrapa dissects the gamer corpus, for science of course.


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