Game journalists pretend to respect their audience, but their output as of late has been moralizing in tone, if not overtly condescending. In one of VICE’s year ending articles, Managing Editor Danielle Riendeau noted 2016’s “disappointments and hottest messes” and spoke down to video games and actual developers like a real-life Dolores Umbridge.
“You’re all here on a Saturday for a reason,” wrote Riendeau. “Detention.”
It’s not a particularly creative, or even interesting way to criticize products—let alone works that could possibly be described as “art.” Regardless of their merit as pieces of entertainment, the exercise is both tedious and insulting to any reader with more than two braincells to knock together.
There are legitimate complaints about some of the games she listed—Battleborn, The Last Guardian and Mighty No. 9 were disappointing duds. We even covered a few of them in our worst of 2016 list.
The entire piece, which already rests on a shaky foundation, falls apart when she addresses the likes of Battlefield 1 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Earlier this year, the two games received deafening criticism from the vocal minority of easily offended (yet somehow influential) circle of game critics.
For being too fun to play, hypersensitive writers savaged the World War I-themed Battlefield FPS. Because war is hell, so too should any game that depicts it. Riendeau took issue with the game’s “ill-advised marketing campaign” for “making a really tasteless joke” that made memes out of the gameplay.
“Thankfully, you took the jokes down and issued an apology,” she wrote. “You’re still in trouble, but at least you seem to know what you did.”
Apologies are not enough for social justice warriors.
As for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, its crime was to feature the words “Aug Lives Matter” in some of its artwork and in-game content. She even linked to Manveer Heir’s rant as if it somehow carries weight. Heir is vocal in his hatred of white people.
“You dared to take the Black Lives Matter movement’s language and adapt it to your game? And then you doubled-down and make yourself look like a bigger jackass when people called you out on it. You two are going to be in here every Saturday until you graduate, so get comfy.”
Where would video games be if not for the critics who take it to task for the slightest offense? There’s criticism, and then there’s moralizing. Riendeau’s words fall under the latter. If art is not allowed to thrive for fear of offending the hypersensitive, then what good is it?
The VICE scold concludes her piece with an admonishment for Palmer Luckey. The Oculus Rift creator received widespread ire for supporting Donald Trump through a one-time donation to an organization that made pro-Trump, anti-Clinton ads. Luckey’s political affiliation is not an issue that registered on most gamers’ radars until game journalists made a big deal out of it. After all, who he voted for had no bearing on the performance of the Oculus Rift.
“Oh boy. Palmer, you are certainly entitled to your political opinions. But funding a tasteless, sexist, misogynist, thoroughly sh*tty online smear campaign is not how a grown-ass man should voice his concerns. Or how any reasonable person should conduct themselves, ever. What’s worse is that it seemed like you thought it was all one big, hilarious goof. You’re going to be in here until you grow the hell up and learn to take responsibility for your actions.”
VICE wasn’t the only outlet to voice their outrage at Luckey. On the popular gaming website Giant Bomb, its staff declared Luckey the year’s “hottest mess” for the same reasons. They ignored the many disappointing, and downright terrible games that came out this year, like No Man’s Sky—and the myriad complaints that followed in its release. For Giant Bomb, partisan politics came ahead of everything else.
“Until recently, Palmer Luckey was, by all accounts, the poster child for the burgeoning VR industry. Why wouldn’t he have been? A boy genius inventor who seemingly forged an exciting new technology by his own hand? A feel-good story of self-made success is the kind of thing PR and marketing people adore, especially when faced with the task of figuring out how to sell a risky, but potentially major new technology to skeptical consumers. VR has been such a distant-seeming technology for so long, but suddenly, here was this smiling, enthusiastic face, beaming with positivity about the viability of commercial VR, and doing so with a functioning, as-close-to-affordable-as-we’ve-ever-seen headset in-hand. It was a perfect pitch, so of course it turned out to be anything but.”
Well, no, of course it didn’t. Like anyone else, Palmer Luckey is a person with a right to his own opinions and political views. Unless he’s funding terrorism or committing crimes, how he chooses to spend his money shouldn’t be anyone’s business.
It’s worth noting that Max Temkin, the creator of Cards Against Humanity and darling of the game enthusiast press paid for multiple advertisements against Donald Trump, including a gaming-inspired billboard. Temkin even politicized his card game in typical anti-Trump fashion.
When Giant Bomb wasn’t pontificating about Luckey’s supposed sins, the website provided a platform to largely irrelevant people (read: friends of Giant Bomb) like obnoxious “weird Twitter” troll BAKOON and GamerGate “celebrity” Zoe Quinn, whose tastes range from “Anime Hell 1995” to “Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015: Do You Still Shower With Your Dad?”
I don’t even know what to make of that. Clearly, gamers deserve better and the journalists at the forefront of the industry are making a mockery of it.