As the new year rolls around people start making the same declaration. “Next year will be better.” No matter how good or bad 2012 was, people will tell themselves that 2013 will be better. There were some great games this year. There were some terrible ones. There were games we thought would be great and ended up terrible. So here’s hoping that every game next year is a gem.
But games require players and as gamers we have some stuff we need to work on. So here’s five ways to be a better gamer in 2013.
1. Be Nice Online
“Well duh.” You tell me, “Obviously I’m going to be nice.”
Well… no, no you’re not. Online we’ve forgotten what it is to be nice. A lot of people don’t say anything mean and think that makes them kind. Kindness is complimenting your teammates, telling everyone when they did a good job. We’ve started punishing online bullies and jerks and that’s a step in the right direction but I think we should be rewarding those who are fun to play with.
There’s that bit in the movie Office Space where Ron Livingston is telling his bosses that since he doesn’t get rewarded for doing well, he’d only do enough work to not get fired. You can argue that virtue is its own reward and all that but in reality people will be only be as nice as they have to be to not get banned.
There are a few games that reward you for being a good person. League of Legends has honor points that are given when people vote you’re a good teammate, honorable in defeat or things like that. Until every game rewards you for being nice however you’ll have to do it out of the kindness in that twisted black hole that used to be a heart. Step by step we’ll slowly make online play into an actually pleasant environment.
2. Buy a game outside your comfort zone
We all have our niches, our genres. Some gamers refuse to buy anything that will never be played in a tournament. Some only play Japanese RPGs and consider anything from the west to be a ridiculous facsimile. Go out and buy a game you normally wouldn’t buy! I’m not saying that you should go out and grab Barbie’s Unicorn Dancing Sim but maybe play something from a genre you wouldn’t normally look twice at. If you play nothing but JRPGs maybe you should go grab Persona 4: Arena. You’ll get to play a hardcore fighter but with a lot of those JRPG aesthetics. If you’re more of the Call of Duty type, maybe go grab Fallout 3. It’s a lot different and I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun.
You don’t need to go out and grab a sixty dollar game that you’ll probably hate, but maybe go check out the games on sale on Steam and pick up something for cheap that you wouldn’t normally. Grab Civ 5 or Saints Row 3. It’s good to expand your horizons and even if you hate it you’ll be able to say with certainty why you hate it. Your gaming vocabulary will expand and you’ll be better off for it.
3. Watch the Credits
When they beat a game, many gamers will start pressing all the buttons to figure out which one skips the credits. In 2013, watch the credits when you beat a game! These people worked hard on the game, at least watch the credits.
You should learn the names of those who had a big impact on the games you love. Think of your favorite three games. Do you know the directors of those games? Did you love the graphics? The design? Learn who was the art director, the lead designer, or the sound designer. You don’t have to learn the name of every programmer obviously but you should be able to know who makes your favorite games. Some people will go see a movie simply because they love the lead actor or the director. We should be able to say the same thing about games.
We’re slowly building up to that too! If somebody hears that like Schafer or Jaffe was the lead director on a game they’ll definitely give it a closer look. This is great and we need to work on this more. Find out who your favorite directors and designers are, learn what they’re working on. It’ll only enrich your experience.
4. Buy Games that got Average Review Scores
A lot of people don’t like the numerical review system. At best it’s a simple representation of a complex opinion, at worst it’s an arbitrary meaningless number. You should read game reviews, they’re very useful! They can give you an idea of what a game does well, where it falls flat, things like that. But you should take the score with a grain of salt.
More importantly however, you should go out and try games that got scores under a nine! There’s a definite mentality that anything under an 8.5 is a complete failure. Just look at Obsidian’s New Vegas infamous 84 score on Metacritic. Bethesda, the publisher promised bonuses at 85 so Obsidian got nothing. There’s a larger issue here about tying bonuses to review scores but that’s an issue for developers and journalists. As a gamer you just need to show your support by buying games that got mediocre scores.
These games that got 6 or 7 or even 5 are still good games and you’ll still have fun with them. By only playing those big budget games that consistently score high; you’re crippling the industry by discouraging experimentation. So read those reviews. Read the ones that love the game and read the ones that hate the game. Learn about what they thought of the game, but don’t base your decision entirely on the number beside the words.
5. Stop Justifying Piracy to Yourself
Obviously this one should read “Stop Pirating Games you Jerk” but let’s be honest, the pirates wouldn’t listen. Instead, here’s what you should do. Stop justifying piracy to yourself. Whenever there’s a talk of piracy there’s always a bunch of people who say things like “I’m just pirating the game because I disagree with their DLC policy” or “I’m pirating the game because I hate their DRM” and so on and so on.
Stop it. You’re not a crusader; you’re not a freedom fighter. You’re just some kid with utorrent. If you’re going to steal games, then steal games but stop saying that you’re sticking it to the man by doing so. You’re the reason DRM is crippling and invasive. You’re not fighting DRM by pirating, you’re encouraging it.
There’s another excuse I hear for pirating all the time. “If I like it, I’ll buy it.” The idea is that you’ll pirate it, enjoy it, and then go purchase it. If you love the game, you’re probably not going to buy it. You already have it. If you want to try it out, most computer games have demos on steam. There are Redboxes everywhere in America and they usually have the big names that come out. Rent it for a day then buy it if you like it. Go get a Gamefly account, it’s cheap and it’ll let you keep the games you really like.
The fact that piracy is such a problem is abhorrent. Stop pirating games, and if you can’t do that, stop lying to yourself.