It should come as no surprise that gamers, by our very nature, are competitive creatures. We argue and debate amongst ourselves constantly, which more often than not is the reason gaming is such a vibrant subculture. No, arguing is not an inherently bad thing, but there are a series of discussions which pop up from time to time that serve no real purpose other than to divide. These are invariably circular arguments which should be purged from our collective dialogue, pointless disagreements that use our competitive natures against us, that serve no purpose other than as springboards for even more irritating secondary bickering about other people’s grammar and what they “really meant” by what was said. In short, these are the four most destructive arguments gamers have.
WRPGs vs. JRPGs
Few, if any, topics lend themselves as frequently to misleading arguments, because the conflict between fans of western-made RPGs and Japanese-made RPGs is only rarely about the games being discussed. Instead, it’s more about how gamers identify themselves by the games they play, and will angrily defend those games from any perceived slight. The size of many RPGs, and the large investment of time required, often saddles debates with emotional weight, and players take the time they spent more seriously. It is incredibly easy for a comment thread to begin on a relatively innocuous note (ie, “Which do you prefer, JRPGs or WRPGs?”) and end up a verbal battle royale from even the tiniest dislike on either side, simply because it’s so difficult not to take things personally.
In the end, the best answer is simply to broaden your horizons. Identifying yourself exclusively as a JRPGer or WRPGer is simply limiting your experiences, shutting you out of potential sources of enjoyment. There’s nothing wrong with preferring one style of design over another, but allowing it to reach the point where you refuse to play games identified as one or the other is, at best, foolish.
This Series Needs To End!
Along a similar but more specific line, gamers also tend to identify themselves with the games that have been important to them, and long-running series are often at the top of the list. Unfortunately, long runners have a tendency to stumble along the way, and when they do, there tends to appear a person with an unusual perspective: that failure to please means the series should end.
It’s pretty easy to see where this could lead to loud and angry arguments, but the real problem lies in the total lack of logic in the idea. The best thing about long running series is their flexibility, their ability to try out new ideas and evolve and change. Not every change is going to be a winner, but that hardly justifies the idea of abandoning a successful series. Other arguments often put forth include the idea that series that go on too long stifle creativity, which is patently false. Though it is true that repeated installments of the same series prevent development teams from working on other, more original ideas, it also provides more income for the company as a whole, making it more likely that they will risk releasing a stranger, more innovative game.
JRPGs are Dying!
This argument tends to quickly devolve into a less-friendly version of the WRPG vs JRPG fight, but the real destructive basis of this argument is its lack of supporting evidence. A look through a list of the games released in the last three or four years shows no significant drop in the number of Japanese-produced RPGs, but very rarely is actual evidence ever cited. Instead, this argument is usually based on anecdotal evidence, and the fact that fewer JRPGs have been produced for consoles.
The explanation for this is fairly simple: the huge cost of producing games for an HD console combined with the already high expense of producing an RPG means that many developers have moved to handhelds like the PSP and DS. The cost of production is lower, the installed base is higher, and the lower cost of purchase means more gamers are likely to give an unknown title a chance, all of which results in a massively lower risk for the game developers and publishers.
This argument tends to point up an unfortunate lack of real data within the gaming community. With no real research available to the public, gamers’ ideas of how things are going for the industry tends to be distorted by anecdotes and “it feels like” statements.
Used Games are Killing Us All!
A point of discussion that tends to pop up about every six months or so, this argument tends to absorb all other discourse for a week or so before dying down again. But the real damage isn’t the sidetracking of other discussions, but rather the fact that it turns a financial discussion into a moral one.
The underlying point of this argument is that, since development studios don’t get a cut of used games sales, they distort sales figures and suck funds away that could be used to produce new titles. This puts gamers who buy used at the center of an amoral black hole, a group of villains willing to trade new titles for cheap old ones. But when the things a person purchases becomes tied to how moral they are, we enter a situation where a person’s goodness is directly tied to how much money they have. Gaming is already a very expensive hobby, where staying on top of your favorite series can set you back some serious cash. Do we really want to turn gaming into a subculture where only the well off get to decide what games should be played?
In closing, I should reiterate that argument is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. On the contrary, there are plenty of things gamers need to keep on talking about: discussions about piracy, especially the legitimacy of piracy in the context of oppressive and/or stupid DRM; about promising games that never make it out of their country of origin; and especially about the quality of gaming news and media outlets. And some of the most destructive arguments actually have nothing to do with gaming at all. I’ve lost track of the comment threads and forum discussions which have gone from fine to flying screaming off the rails as soon as someone mentions the grammar in someone else’s post. But the above arguments are the ones that start destructive and stay destructive, the ones which come around time and time again, sit in the same orbits for weeks on end, and never accomplish anything.