Hysteria (noun): exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group. In psychiatry- a psychological disorder whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms, selective amnesia, shallow volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior. The term has a controversial history as it was formerly regarded as a disease specific to women.
The brief vocabulary lesson may seem out of place but will become important very shortly. But first, let us move back just a tad. The epidemic of hype has always been prevalent in mainstream popular culture, but has seen exponential growth with the dawning of communication connections such as the internet, and later, social media. The showcase of something new and innovative in a medium that millions of people are passionate over and dedicated to for one reason or another is bound to excite. The intensifying sensation of exhilaration and anticipation grow as the day’s tick away to the release of said new product.
THE HYPE IS REAL
Fans clamor together to discuss these things that they eagerly await. Without a doubt, the conversation will center around these new things, and eventually, speculation and expectation will arise. In no other medium is this quite as evident as video games. It may come from the length of time that gamers spend in each installment of a franchise; sometimes hundreds and even thousands of hours of certain dedicated players in select games. Or it may be related to the rather hefty entry price for a new game; $60 USD may be worth it for what you get out of it, but the bottom line is that it is still more expensive than the average book or movie. There is a possibility that it stems from a psychological similarity that individuals drawn to the medium of video games share on a different note. Regardless, with a new announcement, the rumor mill is never far behind.
And by all means, this can be a great thing. Such conversation, especially on public forums, helps to spread information about games and even introduce franchises to those who may have never played them before. Honestly, it benefits the studio, the publisher, and the community in their own ways. It is inspiringly reminiscent of the days most had back in school, sitting around the cafeteria table, and creating their own lore and presumptions from drips and drabs of news. Only, now it is on a much larger scale.
THEN THINGS GOT WORSE
Yet, like most things, this simple and innocent conversation about what may come from a video game people are waiting for can take a much darker turn for the worst. In the midst of these talks, a small group of fans will start to develop unshakable expectations for said game. The ideas that they have created amongst themselves and portions of the community become law and must be met, otherwise the game will not be good enough. To clarify, the developers and studios may help in egging these talks along as well.
Either way, the problem then arises when these expectations are not met in full. When a game releases that does not completely match each and every little note that has been set, it seems that some members of the gaming community take this as personal insult and indiscretion. Now, this vocal minority of the community sets the pace for public perception of gamers as a whole. To the surprise of no one, this little group that takes things to extremes are the ones that get the publicity and notice, thus creating the idea that they represent that grander community.
AND THE HYSTERIA HITS
An example of fans going too far with anticipation comes from late May of last year. All from the simple announcement from Sean Murray and Hello Games that the eagerly awaited No Man’s Sky would be delayed. By pushing the massive space exploration video game from June 21 to August 9 of 2016, Murray and other members of the studio quickly began receiving threats to their life. All because a game development team decided to take seven extra weeks to polish their upcoming title. Forty-nine days equated to death threats.
And it did not stop there. News of the delay first came about from news outlet Kotaku. Reporter Jason Schreier broke the news and for days was at the receiving end of violent threats and taunts to him as his family until Hello Games confirmed the delay. An individual simply shared breaking news with the public and was treated to a reward of horrendous terrorizations as a result.
Now, do not think that this was an isolated incident focused solely on this game in particular. In just the last wee, the greatly anticipated and speculated BioWare follow-up to the massive, intergalactic role playing game Mass Effect: Andromeda released. Regardless of your personal feelings on the game, there are some obvious aspects that are subpar compared to many other massive, modern titles. And some fans just could not stand for this.
Allie Rose-Marie Leost, an animator connected to Mass Effect: Andromeda, received a flood of threats, both violent and sexual in nature. This was all due to facial design and animation that were not up to expectation. Because a game lacked in a few specific areas a portion of the gaming community felt riled to the point of violence and justified in expressing such feelings, directed towards an individual.
THE FIGHT WE LOSE
These are just a couple of examples of the vocal minority of the gaming community acting in a vile manner beyond justification. The problem is that these are the situations that mainstream news tend to pick up of the gaming-sphere. This leads people who are not up-to-date and involved in the gaming community to get a skewed vision of gamers. It is all too funny and sad that a group who have dealt with and fought against the negative stereotyping that their hobby and passion leads to violent tendencies still have to deal with pockets perpetuating such. The irony is really that gamers do not need to fear those outside of the community that warp perceptions. The real enemy are the members within the greater group that perpetuate this by leading the negative example. But, as long as the soap box of social media is used to express negative outbursts, but rarely positive acclamation, this is an uphill battle the community will continue to lose.