Call them fanboys, otaku, analysts, armchair pundits, or trolls, they all seem to have one thing in common. They are more than willing to defend the business decisions/shortcomings by their favorite console producers or game publishers at their own expense. Maybe it’s the recent prevalence of the newly established “online pass”, or the long Capcom tradition of selling us the same game multiple times with minor changes, or maybe it’s the strange justifications and posturing about how it’s OK for Sony to have had a massive security breach. Why would people take the side of big-business to their own exclusion? What would drive someone to, when criticized, actively feel defensive about something they had absolutely nothing to do with? Even just for practical reasons, shouldn’t most people align with the perspective that would make their lives safer, easier, more convenient, and cost them less money? Why then, is there a growing disconnect between what would be directly beneficial to an individual and what their opinion sometimes sways toward?
I would wager that a lot of the disconnect stems from a complex psychological correlation between an individual’s perception of a given brand and their personal identity. Once you factor in their interpersonal relationships and how they believe they (often falsely) view themselves and each other, the nature of the issue tends to become a bit more transparent. Is it that these individuals actually believe that they are acting to their own exclusion, or is it more likely that they have a projected brand relationship that would “benefit” from strong business and support? There is also the added possibility that amongst their circle of friends they have propagated the image of someone who is an insider, (which in itself could be something manifesting from an underlying interdependent psychological pathology) resulting in the feeling that each hit of “success” in the market is reaffirming and indicative of a strengthening of their perceived brand relationship.
It would be hard to pin down the endemic nature of this phenomena to just running amongst those in the gaming community. This behavior is unfortunately seen widely in politics as well. Why would people in largely unfortunate financial positions choose to vote based on policy that would favor and embolden the rich? Again, this could stem from an underlying feeling that sympathy is warranted based around an imaginary self-image. There may be a feeling that the best way to get amongst the people they wish they were would be to talk the talk, and later in life, things should sort themselves out. Unfortunately, this perception will generally terminate in feelings of deep resentment and rejection when the perceived alignment is either exposed publicly to be imagined, or over time, never yields fruit.
In line with similar issues in politics, I’ve also seen a good number of people posting “response images” to the Occupy Wall St. movement that claim they are neither part of the 99% nor are they part of the 1%. They claim to be “The 53%”, but in reality, they are a group of confused masochists who are actually just confusing the scope and objectives of the OWS movement. They take jabs at the people who they perceive to be acting with a sense of entitlement, yet ignore the bigger picture, where they are really only continuing to support the people who would keep “The 53%” working 3 jobs at minimum wage. Wouldn’t you want to live within reasonable means and still have the time and energy left to enjoy the only life we know we have? What kind of hell do we think we need to be living in to appease this apparent self-loathing that would put us at odds with people who are only trying to help? It’s fine for these people to be actively sabotaging their own happiness, but once it crosses into the realm of public policy (as with religion), there is a problem.
I am in no way saying that these people shouldn’t be proud of their accomplishments and hard work, that is something to be praised. Their personal sense of responsibility and financial self-sufficiency are both assets in fixing a nation-wide crisis, however, no one should be so blind as to accept that everyone is in an equal position with equal opportunities. You don’t want to end up in a position like Rep. Ron Paul at a Republican debate where he was asked: if a man couldn’t afford health care, should society just let him die? Paul answered no, but the crowd yelled “YEAH!” (http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnntea-party-debate-audience-cheers-letting-uninsured-comatose-man-die/). Is that how we feel about helping each other at this point, we are actively cheering the potential death of our fellow citizens? Unless I no longer have perspective on what living in this society means anymore, you should feel disgusted, embarrassed, and a little bit angry about this.
To bring us back to the realm of implications in the video game and tech industries, it should be noted that these same issues displayed within these fields have the privileged position of existing completely within a world of excess and never have to touch base with reality the way that politics do. I say privileged because the people behind these industries know that they make devices and products that largely prey on our disposable incomes, and as such, their value is much less tangible and is to be determined largely by what the market will bare. Lives and livelihoods aren’t on the line the same way as they are in politics, all that we’re really breaking into is the future of how we as consumers feel we would like to do business. Let’s not forget, consumers have 100% of the power. There is simply no arguing that if a product does not get bought, (regardless of how potentially amazing the product is) the company behind it will be the one scurrying to “fix” the problem… and in a world where the richest 1% are doing everything in their power to ensure themselves the largest yearly bonuses the world has ever seen, it wouldn’t kill them to establish a little good-will amongst the people they are “farming for cash” on a yearly basis.
It may sound overly entitled to even express any sort of ill-opinion about the pricing structures within the games industry, after all, they’re just trying to do their jobs and get paid too right? Of course! I support them being paid a fair wage for their work (and I think the individuals pulling 80 hour work weeks should be handsomely rewarded). The problem (as is often the case) comes in the fine print. Is it really ethical to make a product, market it, then take a few of the features out and sell them at additional cost, despite what you thought you were getting? Well, the industry collectively knows that they can get away with it and they’ve been pushing the boundaries of fair business practices since the beginning, only now, as gaming has gone much more mainstream, they’re not as worried about the industry simply drying up and vanishing if their ventures don’t work as expected. In fact, it may be big-business who has the sense of entitlement. They’ve come to accept that someone, somewhere, will buy everything they produce regardless of how intrusive (think ToS policy), unfair, or overpriced it may be.
Every single time we’ve felt ripped off by some shady business practice within this industry it’s been our own faults for tolerating it in the first place. Experimental pricing structures were just dipping their feet in (and that’s fine), but now that we know what to expect (and to some degree, from whom), there is becoming less and less of an excuse for enabling them to inch further away from fair business. If we don’t like the way things are going we simply need to join together and let it be known. We’ve never had more tools at our disposal to do so with, and we’ve never been more outspoken. The next time you feel like things in the industry are working counter to being reasonable, don’t sympathize with the company doing it, let’s talk about it and send a message that it’s bullshit. Regardless of which end of production we’re on, we still have the ability to help shape the industry we love. Now we just need to get the word out!