Fuzzy Logic - The Slings and Arrows of Outraged Fandom

 

 


Fuzzy Logic


GeekPlanetOnline’s Editor-in-chief, Matt Dillon, is a man of many passions - although most of them involve a joystick. In this semi-regular column, he shares his thoughts on life, love and the pursuit of video games (and occasionally other things).


This week’s column was originally planned to be an enthusiastic look at the Nintendo Switch and in particular its potential as a platform. I wanted to talk joyously about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the first Zelda title in decades to make me sit up and take notice; I wanted to provide a counterpoint to the endless stream of negativity that the vocal minority – as always seems to be the case in the gaming community – were getting attention for. Mainly, however, I wanted to enjoy talking about the release of a brand new Nintendo console, something which has excited me since the age of nine. Unfortunately, that vocal minority had other plans, so instead, I’m going to be talking once again about the insane levels of self-entitlement that the internet age has instilled in fandom which is, quite frankly, now bordering on psychosis.

No, I’m not using that term pejoratively; I mean it as the dictionary definition of the word: “A mental disorder characterised by symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, that indicate impaired contact with reality”. And no, I’m not saying that we’re there yet, but the behaviour of certain individuals has come damned close.

On the 12th of March, the same day as my last column was published, independent games journalist Jim Sterling released his written review of Breath of the Wild. As with all of Sterling’s reviews, it was open, honest, and gave equal space to both its triumphs and its flaws. Overall, he liked it and  - this is a very important point – awarded it a mark of 7/10. 7/10 is a good score. If 0 is unplayable and 10 is near-perfection, 5 would represent “average” making two degrees above average. But it wasn’t a 10. It wasn’t perfection. And people on the internet took exception to that.

It began with abusive comments. Whenever Sterling says something at odds with “received gamer wisdom” – like pointing out that transphobia in video games is unacceptable, that big games publishers really don’t give a damn about their audience beyond their wallets or that *GASP* Nintendo isn’t beyond reproach – it will, without fail, inspire diatribes about his looks, his weight, his sexuality, his gender identity and his skills as a journalist. He will be called a sellout, an attention seeker and a clickbaiter. This, for somebody at Sterling’s level of prominence, is par for the course; what’s fairly new, however, are attacks on his publishing platform.

For two days following the publication of the review, Sterling’s website – thejimquisition.com – was inaccessible, due to a DDoS attack orchestrated by a group of outraged Zelda fans who couldn’t deal with the fact that Sterling liked a game that they also liked, just not as much as they did. If you’re not familiar with DDoS – that’s Distributed Denial of Service – attacks allow me to explain: they are an attempt to make an online service, such as a game server or a website, unavailable by bombarding it with so much traffic that it gets overwhelmed and falls over. This is achieved using automated software; it’s low-level cyber-terrorism, and it can be brutally effective; if somebody relies on advertising revenue, for example, it can rob them of their income, and at the least, it is an effective form of censorship.

Sterling, of course, has been a victim of this exact level of censorship tactics before, following his review of No Man’s Sky, an attack which, it must be noted, was based on outrage over a poor review of a game which at that time hadn’t yet be released to the public; a game which got resoundingly trashed for failing to deliver on the same hype which had whipped Sterling’s attackers into a self-righteous frenzy. What makes matters worse is that it’s pointless; Sterling’s income comes from Patreon supporters, and whenever he is DDoS attacked fans will take archived copies of his review and mirror them. Moreover, Sterling himself can still get his message out since he maintains a popular and prominent YouTube channel, and the attacks themselves only serve to provide more fodder for his in-character rants. If the relative few who take their dislike for his opinions to these extremes were even slightly in touch with reality they would realise this, but they aren’t and clearly they don’t; they’re just nasty, messed up little children with too much time on their hands – time which, ironically, could be better spent playing the game they’re so angry at Sterling over.

It's sad and painful to see that, in an era where media and broadcasting reach are more democratic than ever, people will spend time trying to shut down other people rather than expressing their own opinions. It saddens me deeply to see what the gaming community has become over the last decade, spawning hate groups like GamerGate and playgrounds full of petulant self-interest like Take Back Mass Effect. It cheapens our hobby, it blackens our community and it sucks the joy out of a fandom that I’ve been a part of since I was three years old. I only wish I knew what the solution was.

 


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With a grateful nod to Hugh K. David for inspiring the title of this week's column.