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There was a phrase coined this year after gamers and gaming media butted heads on a number of occasions where the gaming community felt as if they weren’t being properly acknowledged nor their concerns heard regarding the state of the gaming industry. Gamers began calling gaming media a state of the Doritocracy because it seemed as if the interests of gaming media was not in favor of gamers.
So what is it exactly, the Doritocracy? What does this term mean or stand for? Well, quite simply put it’s almost an unconscious convening of some members from enthusiast media aimed to – sometimes unknowingly – protect and proliferate pro-corporate culture in gaming society. The institution isn’t always a hateful juncture of press meets consumer, but sometimes the things that happen in game culture deserve more attention (and in the right ways) than what they receive. Here are the top 5 moments of 2013 that really rustled the Jimmies of gamers due to the politics of gaming media.
Total War: Rome II Review Fiasco
Gamers ask for very little (that isn’t really true, but we’ll go with it for now) and one of the little things that they ask for is that reviews maintain a modicum of honesty, truth and information. When a game tries to ram-rod you like a beefy prisoner in a guard-free shower room with broken features, DRM or microtransactions (and sometimes, all three) gamers want to know about it. I mean, who likes anti-consumer surprise buttsecks? I know I don’t and I know some of you don’t either.
Sadly, gamers were on the wrong end of that ram-rodding when Creative Assembly and Sega released Total War: Rome II at the end of the summer to mostly glowing reviews. So what was the problem? Quite a bit actually. Many of the reviews failed to mention or bring up that majority of the game launched broken, something gamers only found out after they bought it. It was so bad that Sega’s own PR warned reviewers (but not gamers) about a few issues before the game even shipped. Even worse than that, reviews went up before the day-one launch patch was issued, meaning their version of the game was even more broken than the uber-broken game that shipped out to gamers. The community wondered high and low how reviewers skipped over so many borked-beyond-recognition bugs, glitches and crashes; but reviewers managed to do so, with many saying nothing about those issues in their reviews. It was only after a thorough lambasting by Angry Joe and the gaming community did Creative Assembly get put under enough pressure to quickly issue patches to fix the problem.
Barely a week into their launch and the PS4 and Xbox One ended up breaking hearts and causing frustrations like a bad rom-com from Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan. The issue that people took most to heart was a little something-something called microtransactions. The two biggest culprits of altering their gameplay to fit around in-app purchases (i.e., the same ones oftentimes found in free-to-play mobile games) was NBA 2K14 and Forza Motorsport 5. Both games opted to alter elements in the way players engaged the titles to grind out their experiences with smaller payouts and greater incentives to head to the cash shop.
From Reddit, to N4G, to Gamefaqs to NeoGaf, gamers were originally infuriated that media completely skipped over the cash-shop-beckoning grind that permeated through every aspect of 2K Sports’ NBA 2K14 and Turn 10’s Forza 5, with the exception of Giant Bomb. Subsequently, gamers’ rage went even further after they found out about NBA’s always-on DRM mechanism, which a lot of gamers felt was under-reported by gaming media. The community was also terribly peeved at how many sites didn’t warn them about the prevalence of microtransactions present in Forza Motorsport 5, as well as how much some of the cars costs. When the same issue arose for Gran Turismo 6, gamers took reviewers to task to ensure that they brought up and mentioned just how pervasive the cash shop presence was in the game.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
This one right here was the cause a lot of salty cheeks back during early 2013 when gamers discovered that they had pre-ordered a turd, minus the foul smell of excrement. What were they told by gaming media? “Stop pre-ordering video games”. Oh burn. A lot of gamers felt betrayed given that the whole pre-order bonus, pre-order goodies and pre-order incentives are such a strong part of the media promotion campaign for a game leading up to its release, especially by the same media outlets saying NOT to pre-order only after gamers were sucked into the trap. Gamers also find themselves buying into the rampant promotion by many media sites only to discover that a game is not what was advertised. A lot of the community was angered that the embargos for Aliens: Colonial Marines didn’t lift until the day the game launched, which was already too late for a lot of people.
The debate then arose about embargoed reviews set for the very day of a game’s release, and how unethical it is on the front of consumerism. Gamers looking for information to gather before a game releases and being met with tons of PR-worthy fluff until the game’s review embargos lift is viewed by gamers as one of the shadiest moves happening in the gaming industry at the moment. Worst yet is when gaming media attempt to defend their role in having to play along with the publisher’s demands in order to continue to promote a game and maintain the status quo or else they’ll get the shaft. Nevertheless, on the side of recourse for Colonial Marines, two sites bothered to dig for full disclosure and Kotaku did step it up only at the very end of the debacle. Those two sites? It was Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Jim Sterling from Destructoid that did a fantastic job of exposing the horrid politics that led up to the community backlash over Colonial Marines, as well as Sega and Gearbox’s role in it all.
Pathetic. This is the best way to describe what amounted to one of the worst unnecessary gaming scandals in recent history. Corked benchmarks, pro-corporate apologists, publishers spreading misinformation and consumers stuck in the middle due to a muddied and unhelpful gaming media. Resolutiongate was mostly a pathetic display of how far pro-corporatism will be spread to protect resources and interests. While originally things seemed harmless, with many members of gaming press claiming they couldn’t tell the difference between two vastly different resolutions (e.g., 720p and 1080p – one of which is twice the pixel rate of the other) some publishers joined in on the fray by fixing the benchmark results to make the distinguishing factors worse, especially for gamers who were truly curious which game console and port would offer the best bang for their buck.
The truth of the matter is that Infinity Ward was eventually called out and IGN apologized after it was discovered that the benchmarks were corked in order for the press to present an even playing field between the Xbox One and PS4 during the graphical comparisons, which occurred due to a parity release embargo that was set in place. This led many gamers to believe there was no difference between the Xbox One and PS4 as far as hardware performance goes, although in honest benchmarks it was made abundantly clear that there is a difference. Sadly, gaming media was sullied in result and gamers were left with a bad taste in their mouths after the whole ordeal.
Xbox One DRM & Adam Orth
This is the most depressing item on this list and one of the scariest. When rumors emerged that the Xbox One – at the time, codenamed “Durango” and referred to as the Xbox 720 – would have heavy measures of DRM at its core, preventing the use of pre-owned games and having other restrictions in place, gamers were dismissive but curious if any of this was true. The only evidence were leaks from an Australian hacker who managed to get his hands on dev kits for the PS4 and Xbox One, but everyone wanted confirmation… and they sort of got it.
Former creative director at Microsoft, Adam Orth, took to Twitter to berate and belittle gamers who were against an always-on DRM future. This line of thinking caused a massive uproar in the gaming community, resulting in Orth resigning and lots of negativity leading up to the announcement of the Xbox One. When it was confirmed that the system would indeed embrace the worst forms of DRM, it was the gaming community – angry mobs led by Angry Joe and a #NoDRM campaign from NeoGaf – that helped get things changed around.
Gamers became very disappointed at how dismissive and reluctant many of the larger sites had become in directly addressing the Xbox One’s DRM, after they first put pressure on Microsoft and then opted to re-edit and change the story to fit a different narrative. Many gamers felt the backtracking by media set a very bad precedent in the way the press reacted to Microsoft’s evasiveness – especially for not properly putting consumer concerns before corporate demands. Gamers also felt that Microsoft should have been put under greater scrutiny by gaming press regarding the question of why stringent DRM was such a necessity – a question that has yet to receive an answer from Microsoft – as opposed to giving the company so much leeway and a free pass, which is what happened in detailed interviews like the one from Rev3Games. This resulted in many members of the gaming community becoming embittered with Microsoft and pre-ordering the PS4 out of principle, with pre-order numbers so staggering that it eventually led to Microsoft doing a reversal on the Xbox One’s anti-consumer DRM policies. Thankfully, in the end gamers prevailed.