Games can make us angry. Whether it is rage quitting, breaking a controller, punching an inanimate object or screaming at the screen, most people who play games will have some experience with the frustration that games can bring out in players. They are competitive and they are challenging. That adrenaline that fills us in a boss battle or a really close multiplayer map is an example of how they affect us emotionally and can trigger chemical reactions within us.
Of late though it feels like gamers have being getting angrier and more violent. We all know of kids screaming insults and swears into the microphone in multiplayer matches, the death threats sent to developers, reviewers and competitive major league players and the new trend of ‘swatting’ (notifying authorities of terrorism to bring armed swat forces to game streamers’ houses). Then there is the ever present perception of gamers as unstable outcasts who are one breakdown away from shooting up a school.
It is undeniable that games make people angry, just as it can make them happy. I believe that the issue goes deeper than this though. The anger felt in games is a short spike that arises from frustration and is felt during any activity that tests you when you do not perform as well as you want to. It is linked to the moment and should end when the angering moment has ended. Instead though we see a growing culture of anger that is festering beyond the emotional triggers of the games themselves.
What drives somebody to write a death threat and send it to a specific person? What about ringing the police with the intention of placing someone at the receiving end of a gun? The thing that most of these things tend to have in common is that it is children that tend to be doing it. It is not exclusively minors but the vast majority are.
And that fact there is what links to my earlier statement of it being a deeper issue than games themselves. Children are no longer taught how to lose or how to be wrong. It sounds weird to say, doesn’t it? Competition has been drastically reduced in schools because it promotes upsetting negativity. There is a single winner and multiple losers. Loser is a negative term. Everybody is a winner in their own way. This is a prevailing outlook in modern society. Children now are never confronted with failure or shown that they are not special. They are not taught to debate either. They are told what is right, either by their parents or teachers, then nothing ever confronts these world views until they enter the big wide world.
Look at all the problems that are coming out of university campuses at the moment. These are places of knowledge and freedom, of new experiences and changing outlooks but it is the student themselves who seek restrictions, censorship and safe places to hide away from opposing ideas. They do not know how to handle a world that is not catered directly to them.
Bringing this idea back to he domain of games, increasingly games are used as a new age child minder. Before kids were placed in front of the TV and were raised by programs while now they are given games to keep them quiet. 18 rated games are bought buy parents who don’t understand that games are not just a children’s toy and given to their kids to play despite how unsuitable it may be. If you have played an online 18 game with voice chat on then you will have heard squeaky voiced kids calling you a faggot.
These children who have never experienced failure are suddenly in a competitive environment and are not equipped with the social skills to deal with it. Like the kids that they are, they throw tantrums and bully those around them. We all know that school was the worst time for bullies. Children are naturally selfish and tend to pick on others. All we are seeing is that kind of attitude bleeding into the digital space. These kids are growing up in this environment and as gaming becomes more mainstream we are seeing an increasing number of them.
Of course, not all younger people who play games are bad. Maturity is not something that can be wholly measured by age. The trouble is though that the vocal minority always draws the most attention. Gamers at heart are good people. If you look at the communities that grow around games and all the money raised for charity by those very same communities such as Extra Life and Operation Supply Drop among many others. Tens of thousands of people play games. It only takes 1% of them to be petulant arseholes to give us all a bad name.
Sadly this is not something that we as gamers can self manage and change. It is a growing issue with society at large that can only be resolved through a fundamental change in the way we educate our children. There are many series discussions that need to be had about the direction that the gaming industry is heading but, as we have seen a lot over this past year, no discussion can be had when anger is the prevailing emotion. A single kid sending a death threat or any other downright stupid act to any side of a debate can instantly destroy any olive branches that are extended to achieve a solution.
Gamers are angry but anger isn’t always a bad thing. It drives us to try harder and to keep getting up when we are defeated. I call this the Dark Souls Effect, where anger fuels our improvement. Use the anger as a positive to continue fighting the negative stigma that we have and to oppose the dangers that threaten to cripple the industry that we love. Don’t let all the anger and hate that we see in our community bring you down. We are better than it.