Thatgamecompany’s PS3 exclusive Journey released just over a month ago to universal acclaim. When I saw something about Jenova Chen, the title’s Creative Director, I was intrigued. What would the creator of such a unique, powerful video game have to say about the culture of gaming? In an interview with EuroGamer, Mr. Chen made the following controversial comment:
“There’s this assumption in video games that if you run into a random player online, it’s going to be a bad experience. You think that they will be an asshole, right? But listen: none of us was born to be an asshole. I believe that very often it’s not really the player that’s an asshole. It’s the game designer that made them an asshole. If you spend every day killing one another, how are you going to be a nice guy? All console games are about killing each other, or killing one another together. Don’t you see? It’s our games that make us assholes.”
Journey creator Jenova Chen. -EuroGamer
I don’t agree with Jenova’s statement and couldn’t help but mutter, “what the hell,” when I read it. I should be clear that I don’t have anything against Jenova Chen or his quality work, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. In fact, I was looking for a different take on things, and I certainly got it from Mr. Chen’s interview, but his opinion has compelled me to respond.
For starters, I don’t automatically assume that meeting someone online is going to be a bad experience. Sure, it’s annoying when you’re playing an online game that requires cooperation and somebody doesn’t have a headset (which I’ve gone on about before.) I may also scoff at somebody’s low level when I’m playing on an exceedingly hard difficulty that they shouldn’t be attempting.
Regardless, I find that when somebody does have a mic we usually get along well. We talk strategy or team work, I find out where they’re from, we make some jokes and the experience is typically good. The times when I do run into an annoying somebody? I (thankfully) have a number of options in order to prevent them from hindering my experience.
Muting, kicking, or calling them out and challenging them one on one are just a few of those options. If they are on the other team, I gladly let them talk all the crap they want. I just give it back to them threefold after I beat them. I figure they deserve it and likely expect it at that point anyway.
Jenova does acknowledge that we’re not all born to be assholes, which I agree with. I don’t agree that game developers and video games turn people into assholes. Think back to history where there were plenty of people who didn’t know a thing about TV or video games and were none to pleasant.
Look at how people treated prisoners or criminals, subjecting them to torture, rape and slavery just to name a few. Ever hear of the method of execution known as hanged, drawn and quartered? (Think Braveheart). That’s a particularly barbaric bit of business there and just one example. In fact, I could write several articles on this subject, and I have already, but I’ll leave it at that.
Console games where I’m killing someone’s online cartoon avatar or enemy AI doesn’t make gamers into assholes. Back when I used to play Call of Duty, I actually enjoyed the competitiveness. It was a nightly social event and my real-life friends, as well as people I’d met over Xbox Live, all came together to have a good time. We worked together, helping each other with bits of shared gaming wisdom.
The experience was akin to playing hockey with my friends. I’d get that rush of excitement after a really good win, and our work together honed our skills to a military precision where we knew each other’s moves. We got to a point where, in a few clipped words, we could bring the pain to almost any enemy team. Sure we ran into people that would boast talk a lot of garbage, but wasn’t a problem. We kept our cool and showed sportsmanship no matter who we played online.
I should note that we even occasionally ran into the opposite kind of team where, after a match, we’d congratulate each other and comment on the awesome moves and kills each team pulled. I think you get a mixed bunch any time you play, just like any random group of people you might see on the street. Some might be immature with low self esteem and foul mouths, and others are there to have fun, make friends, and play/compete in a friendly manner.
Do you think competitive games, by design, turn gamers into jerks? Please let us know in the comments or tweet us @GameJudgment.