I'm a middle-aged gentlelady, but when I'm held up against the backdrop of video game history, I'm damn near ancient. I started playing in 1984, and I never stopped. I talk to cashiers who tell me the first game they remember playing is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64. You know what? I'm old. I can handle it. Heck, I can own it. I'm happy I've been part of such an important bit of human history since day one (well, close enough).
My first exposure to Internet-based video game fandom happened in 1995, via my school's BBS (I attended a Collegiate Institute, AKA a high school that was on top of techy stuff). Sure, kids paired into Sega and Nintendo camps on the playground, but the [pause for '90s guitar riff] Information Highway added veritable dimensions to game criticism. I could argue with people around the world about the N64's prospects--and I often did. Loudly. Obnoxiously.
That was a long time ago, but the fog of fandom is as thick and toxic as ever on the Internet. So if you allow me to do just one Old Person thing in my life, let me fill my stiff, creaky lungs with air, open my mouth wide (lookit my dentures!), and bellow forth the following:
Video game companies are not your friends. You are not their soldiers. You will not be rewarded for your fervent loyalty or "service."
Alternatively, and more crudely: Calm your tits.
Representatives from the game companies you expend so much energy defending will never appear on your doorstep with money, free stuff, or even a certificate of thanks. In fact, if you get put away for illegal acts connected to attacking people who don't share your views on video games, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft et al will be happy to see you go. They don't want that kind of press stinking up their image.
This missive is inspired (sigh) by the fact it took me twenty minutes to access Jim Sterling's review for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Between DDOS attacks and a comment thread that's becoming larger and more vicious than Calamity Ganon, Sterling's site is barely crawling at the time of this writing. The abuse isn't limited to the site, either. Sterling has been dealing with a deluge of death threats on social media for his "terrible" review of Link's latest adventure.
What counts as "terrible?" Sterling complains about the game's weapon degradation, bad voice acting, and inconsistent frame rates, but praises the game's character and imaginative world. He might have gotten away with it, but he committed the grave sin of quantifying his complaints with a number: A dreaded 7 out of 10.
Cry havoc, and let slip the Wolfos of war.
Sane people are aghast at the outrage, and there's been a lot of talk about how Nintendo / Zelda fans are a rabid bunch. I hate to pull a "Not All Fans" here, but it's important to note our reviewer Caty suffered a similar torrent of bile over her "low-scoring" review of Horizon Zero Dawn, a Sony exclusive--and that came with the added benefit of gendered insults.
This manner of over-the-top frothing and screaming over review scores (and subsequent fretting over a game's final Metacritic number) is not weighted more on one company, publisher, or system. It's endemic to video games in general. And it's time for it to stop, though I expect saying as much will be as effective as shooting a Nerf gun at a charging rhino.
Still, I need to try. I'm not OK with the fact I live in a world where people in developed countries suffer for lack of food, shelter, and clean water, but game reviewers are receiving death threats because they told the Internet that Zelda's voice actress isn't great.
There's also the sad fact fans of other media usually don't go Three Mile Island when a critic pooh-poohs something they love. Before writing this, I visited Rotten Tomatoes and looked over the reviews for Logan, a hot movie critics and movie-goers alike generally adore. It's currently sitting at a collective 92%--a very high score for a movie, but a number that would be considered quite low for an entry in the Zelda series, but let's not get into that just yet.
Still, there are a few critical outliers for Logan, most notably Rex Reed of the Observer. Reed scores Logan with a 1 out of 4 and calls it a mind-numbing waste of Hugh Jackman's time.
I hit the Googles and Twitter for responses to Reed's criticism. There are certainly some disagreements that range from polite to "go eff yourself," but I didn't detect even a whiff of what Sterling is going through, or what Caty went through (and is still going through). Movie critics certainly deal with their share of weirdoes and fanboys, but I doubt it's to the extent of what game critics endure. And I definitely doubt movie critics are put on the rack for giving a movie a seven out of ten and saying, "This is good, but it has a few notable problems."
Handily, I disagree with some of Sterling's criticisms of Breath of the Wild, so let me tutor the Internet on the proper way to react to a review you feel contrary towards. Simply inhale, flex your fingers, sit up straight (posture!), and write: "I disagree with this review, but you bring up some good points. Thanks for writing this."
It needs to be noted that a reviewer who goes against the consensus shouldn't necessarily be congratulated for (ahem) "not [performing fellatio on the publisher of the game in question]." There is nothing in Sterling's review that indicates he's trying to "take Nintendo down a peg" or "open up the sheeple's eyes," or any such twaddle. Breath of the Wild is a stellar game, but it still has flaws. Those flaws happened to grind Sterlings' gears more than they chafed me or Mike. But when lots of people dislike something the world regards as untouchable, it doesn't make that thing any less classic. I don't like Gone with the Wind. I don't like chocolate ice cream. My opinion obviously doesn't lessen the worth of either.
Let's all just try to grow up a little.
Let's all try to be the kind of gamers Satoru Iwata believes we can be.