Over on YouTube, players and content creators have been roasting my bad gameplay video of Doom Eternal, the sequel to 2016’s Doom that comes out on the PC and consoles on March 20. In this video, it took me too long to figure out the path to escape to the next level, and it left people wondering if I was trolling them.
The internet attacked me. Or worse. It was laughing at me. To defuse and cool down the social media storm, I took the video down and thought about how I could explain myself to gamers who have become quite familiar with my unskilled gameplay. (Someone else kindly grabbed the video from the Internet archive and reposted it.) Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder why this matters to anyone, but in some circles, it has become emblematic of the gulf between game journalists and gamers. But I used this incident to bridge that gulf, and it made me feel better.
Originally, I posted the video on YouTube of about 10 minutes of gameplay with a one-sentence description. I’m reposting this video with a longer description that fully explains what I’m trying to accomplish in the video. On top of that, I have added a voice-over for the video that will convey what I was thinking as I played this particular scene that people felt I botched. I’m sorry the earlier video was annoying people. I cannot defend it as good. I can only hope that added context will help people understand it better. And I have come to appreciate people who make that genuine attempt to achieve that understanding.
My game crimes rap sheet
I originally inserted this video into two stories that I wrote, but I didn’t link to them from within the video. I didn’t think it was important to link and to include a full description. But that gave other people — with their own agendas — more freedom to define what they thought this was all about: more proof that game journalists are incompetent at their jobs. It reminded me of writer Ian Sherr’s story on CNET about angry gaming YouTubers “who turn outrage into views.” Some YouTubers expressed their outrage without ever trying to solicit my point of view.
How naive of me to fall into their clutches yet again. They may have been fed up with me over various gaming foibles of the past, like when I called on developers to cut the gritty stuff out of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (and then later changed my mind when I actually finished the game), or when I had trouble getting through the tutorial and first level of Cuphead. In each of those instances, the fan outrage was so bad I was getting death threats and a lot of people on the internet felt it was perfectly OK to be mean to me or make fun of me.
So my poor context-less YouTube gameplay was just more bait — unintentional on my part — for these folks to ridicule me again. My video was meant to show off how you solve a puzzle, and yet it gained this greater significance. This treatment is why so many people come to me and say that they are too ashamed to share their gameplay on the internet. They feel it isn’t good enough, even if they have fun, and so they don’t dare share it with all of those angry people out there. I think that’s a shame. We’re here to have fun.
There was some context for this video, but it just wasn’t linked in the video. I wrote two stories that included an interview with id Software’s Hugo Martin, creative director of the game. And I also wrote a hands-on description of my gameplay session. These stories were published at the same time as the video was, but most people came into this directly from YouTube.
Divided gamers and game journalists
After these angry videos started appearing, I started reaching out, and luckily one person responded. I did an interview with this wider context in an interview with Seth at Tasty Loot Gaming, who had his own reaction video “roasting” my gameplay. He was a stranger. But I figured in the name of journalism and fair-mindedness that I should embrace the notion that you should seek out someone’s point of view even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I asked him to talk.
I wanted to know if he would have a conversation, and he said yes. Our 1 hour, 45-minute video interview is posted here. It was quite gratifying, and it was a way to reach across the divide and connect with someone in a normal conversation. Seth was quite reasonable, but he asked me everything that gamers have wondered about game journalists when they see reviews or coverage that annoys them. I answered them as I could, and I tried not to come off as some kind of insensitive, ivory tower asshole making excuses.
We interviewed each other, and the way that conversation went made my hunch feel validated. Some good could come from this. He noted his frustration that when he googled a game review, all of the results came back with reviews by mainstream game publications, with pretty much the same take. Where was the diversity in the opinions and the alternative takes, Seth wondered. That led me to acknowledge that alternatives to game journalism are necessary, so long as all of the YouTube and Twitch videos weren’t full of the same uniform angry gamer stereotypes.
I also had a civil conversation with a history-minded gamer, Ace1918, who doesn’t like game journalists who put down gamers. He had done a lot of research to back up his views to suggest that there’s a pattern here. (Here’s our interview).
The unkind people wondered why I shouldn’t be fired from my job, as they thought I was a full-time game reviewer. They saw my video and wondered if I played games at all. But as I’ve stated before, you don’t have to be an esports star to write about video games. You just have to enjoy them. Seth agreed with me on that point.
I do enjoy playing games. I’ve covered games for 23 years as a beat, and I have covered tech for longer. I am not a game reviewer, primarily, and this preview has no score. I write a half-dozen game reviews a year and am part of a team of four people with others who do a lot more reviews. My main job is covering the business and technology of games, and I organize a conference about that as well.
I cover game investments and acquisitions, AR/VR, esports, mobile games, influencers, and the core PC and console business. Posting videos on YouTube is perhaps 1% of my job. And yeah, maybe I should slow down a bit and post better game videos.
My favorite games include The Last of Us, Halo, Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto V, and God of War. I have finished these and many other games over the years. I played and finished Doom 2016, the sequel to Doom Eternal. That game’s ending was hard but I managed to get through it, albeit on the easiest level.
Id’s preview event
I went to a preview that id Software held in San Francisco, where I was allowed to play the game for up to three hours, from the very beginning. The rule was that I could capture no more than a half-hour of gameplay and run no more than 15 minutes of it. The video you see happens to be the section of the game, about 2.5 hours into it, where I was stuck when I was allowed to start recording video.
This is not a trolling video where I deliberately tried to rile people up. I could have used B-roll from the developer, but I thought that my own gameplay would at least illustrate one point, which was that the gameplay involves puzzles and clever design that you have to figure out. This is a compliment to the game developers. I am not trying to insult them by saying their game is too hard. Playing with a game controller, I enjoyed this section of the game, and I thought the game was great.
As you can see from the video, it wasn’t totally obvious to me that the general rule of Doom Eternal — always keep moving, as Martin put it — applied here in this section of the game as well.
I came at this level fresh in the gameplay session, and there was nothing like it in the earlier part of the game. I did not shoot much from afar at the spider-like enemy because I knew my weapon would be ineffective at that range. (I didn’t have the sniping and slo-mo ability you’ve seen in other videos, as far as I knew). I closed in on the Arachnotron (the spider-like beast) so that I could recover some health through a glory kill (if you melee an enemy that is stunned, you get health back). For that purpose, using the shotgun up close was the ideal, ammo-efficient solution.
I looked at the map to try to figure out what to do. I knew that I had to get up high to the upper platforms that led to the next level. I saw the gray areas of the map where I had not traversed yet, but they fooled me. I kept looking to the right because I figured the area on the left was impassable, with that chain. And even if I got past it, it was not going to get me to the elevated area where I needed to be. On the other side of the map, I thought there must be something I was missing that could get me much higher, like the slanted pillar.
I could not see around the corner to the left. There was a fire chain there, which I had not seen before in the game, and it was presumably put there to fool me into thinking that I could not cross it. I also knew that the round platform in the lava would sink into the lava. I had already wasted some health getting burned in the lava, and I didn’t want to die in the lava. I tried and failed and I did die in the lava.
Fortunately, I had earned an extra life in prior gameplay. But now I paused again, making the game agonizing for people to watch. I used that life and tried again to go through the burning chain in the lava. I was losing health fast, but I remembered Hugo Martin’s comment about how I should always be moving. So I ran to the corner for the last gray section of the map. And I was surprised to find something the map did not tell me: the booster that would send me high to get up to the platform. Once I got to the top of the platform, I was on safe ground. That’s where the play session ended and where I ended the video.
I actually enjoyed figuring out the problem in my own authentic way, but I realize that those who figured it out before me were very annoyed at how long it took for me to catch up to their thinking. They just wanted the video to come to an end. With me, they got the extended gameplay bonus.
In hindsight, maybe I should have just sped it all up or deleted parts of it. That would have reduced the social media storm, but it would also have been quite unauthentic. I realize that putting this video back up will invite more vitriol. But my skin is thick.
And I’ll do it if it means I can find another fair-minded person out there.
Register for GamesBeat's upcoming event: Driving Game Growth & Into the Metaverse