Gaming has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and with so many taking part in the hobby, even breaking into the eye of the mainstream, several questions have arisen that need answers. We’ve discussed some of them here at APGNation before, such as diversity, the role of journalism in gaming media, and so forth. But one topic we have not talked about at length is entitlement. Now, before we continue, I will note that entitlement is a rather loaded word and first requires a stated definition. For the purpose of this article, entitlement is the feeling that we as gamers are owed something from someone else — be it a developer, publisher, media outlet, or anyone else within the industry for that matter. Today I will discuss these feelings, who they are directed at, and the effect it has on our perception of gaming as a whole.
So what are we entitled to, for starters? Good games, as companies should do everything in their power to put out a decent and bug-free product. Reasonable journalistic standards, as we need to be fair and objective when covering gaming events. Finally, an industry that understands its fanbase and the various segments contained within. One that realizes different people want different types of games. There are likely others, but for the most part I think we’re not owed much more than that. So with that in mind let’s look at some examples of entitlement and how it can be used for both positive and negative ends.
In gaming, entitlement often means expecting certain things from developers that are sometimes reasonable but occasionally can be seen as overstepping consumers’ boundaries of gamers roles, as fans of the works developers create. Just a few years ago Kotaku covered players’ outrage over the ending sequence of the game Mass Effect 3 — a science fiction RPG notable for its open-ended narrative and optional decision branches during conversation.
Many fans were not happy with aspects of the game’s ending. Even though the player is offered a particular choice towards the game’s finale many, as quoted in this IGN article, felt the choice you were faced with did not coherently link with the themes and content of the rest of the Mass Effect universe, and thus was a disappointing end to the series. The Kotaku article goes so far as to mention that “This [petition] exists because the game’s ending does not respect the player’s investment in the universe or creative force in the game.” This is a form of entitlement unto itself. As the fans had seen the lengthy sum-of-time that they put into the series as an investment, they felt entitled to a satisfying ending as a return on the hours spent playing through the Mass Effect universe. In the case of Mass Effect these desires were eventually answered by Bioware on their Facebook page with the following statement:
“We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending.
We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending.
Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused. Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.”
Later, Bioware would actually alter the contents of Mass Effect 3 ending with the release of an Extended Cut version of the game that provided more closure for players who felt the original ending was not enough.
Being the interactive medium that it is, videogames allow for companies like Bioware to change existing content through patches and DLC in a manner that movies, television shows, and books cannot. But the real question here is should they? In the case of Mass Effect 3, large swaths of the game’s fandom were incredibly upset and refusal to address these concerns could have been disastrous for public relations, and even possibly affect sales of the game. More importantly, as a story-driven game it allowed for the narrative of the Mass Effect trilogy to be finished in an expanded, satisfying way. Bioware put out a product that was out of line with what their primary audience wanted, but in the end that same audience managed to push in a positive and constructive way for a solution to the issue, resulting in a situation most people could agree was a good thing.
We can also see a positive use of fan passion when Assassin’s Creed Unity was first announced, when a minor outcry emerged against the game’s lack of female characters after an interview with gaming website Polygon featured the following statement from Ubisoft Director Alex Amancio.
“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.”
This resulted in a backlash across Twitter and other social media platforms over both the statement and lack of female characters in Unity which put front and center the apparent desires of a large portion of the gaming community to see more female leads in AAA games. This did little to change anything regarding Unity‘s development, though it did lead to an amusing secret outfit in the game Sunset Overdrive. The entitlement, the desire to see more diverse representation in big name games, some felt regarding the situation was able to spark a conversation about gaming we might not have otherwise had on such a large-scale. Like with Mass Effect’s ending, situations like these can spark conversations among fans that, if they grow big enough, can actually spark people to take action.
But just as being invested in a series can lead to situations like the Mass Effect 3 ending changes, it can also produce more mixed results, as seen in the recent outrage on various message boards over the character of Lucky Chloe from the upcoming Tekken 7. A blond girl who is obsessed with Japanese culture, Chloe enters the fighting ring in an outfit one may expect an otaku raver to wear, sporting oversized cat paws and ears, a bustier-like top, and garish pink leggings and shoes. Many fans, as quoted in this op-ed on the matter from Shoryuken, felt that the overtly bubbly Chloe clashed with the overall aesthetic that the Tekken series has crafted for itself over the years and felt out-of-place among the game’s many martial artists, warriors, and other combat-worthy creations. The backlash on social media eventually became so strong that, according to an IGN article, the game’s director Katsuhiro Harada released the following statement in jest on the topic:
“Calm down and don’t worry. That character [is] East Asia and Europe ‘Exclusive.’ And I’ll say it again, we have more new characters in [Tekken 7]. She is JUST one of them, and she will be country exclusive (or region exclusive). We [won’t] include her for your region. That’s why I said ‘calm down and don’t worry.”
Harada would also go on to add:
“Because you don’t need that character right? It’s simple thing. And I’ll say ‘Don’t worry’ again. I’ll release another character for you guys. I said we’ve more new characters. Example: Looks well-muscled, Skin-head, Very powerful attack (I don’t like this idea but if you need).”
While Lucky Chloe is by no means an incredibly creative character, and might represent an idealized view of a Japan-obsessed foreign girl, there is nothing particularly offensive or crude about her design or personality. The whole situation represents another kind of fan entitlement entirely; a reaction to a product that, at that point of Chloe’s reveal, would not even see the light of day for many months to come. The question remains: why did Chloe attract such a backlash? Many similarly goofy characters already exist within the Tekken canon such as Kuma, a bear that knows martial arts; or Jack, a literal robot, show that the series has always having had a goofy edge to it. So what in the end made people react so powerfully to this anime-loving catgirl?
It could be a similar entitlement we’ve seen in the prior examples, though pushing in a different direction. While fans of Mass Effect desired a more satisfying ending, and the controversy regarding Assassin’s Creed Unity resulted in a call for more female characters in games, the Lucky Chloe situation only bred a negative response to rid the game of a bubbly catgirl. People invested in the series might not enjoy this particular character due to how blatantly silly or over-the-top she may be, but that hardly seems reason for an outcry to remove her from the game entirely, as director Harada joked about in his comments on the subject. It would be a shame for Tekken 7, or any game for that matter, to be missing a character from a game entirely due to some people complaining on the Internet. Adding to the gaming whole, and working entitlement and a passion for gaming in a positive direction that builds towards bigger and better things, be it a new ending or lively discussion. But complaining that you don’t like a character to the point that the director of the game in question makes a joke of it? That doesn’t accomplish a darn thing.
There is a difference between positive and negative entitlement. One is born from just how much people can love games and how invested they become in their stories, plots, and characters. These feelings can give rise to companies that notice the wishes of their fans and work with them to fix issues in their products. This sense can also lead to intense debate as in the case of Assassin’s Creed Unity, that is important to drive forward progress in the gaming community and raise issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. On the other end of the scale, we also have situations where initial reactions result in disputes that only serve to make the gaming community look a bit worse. Our investments and entitlement can be powerful forces and we as a collective gaming community have to be careful how we use them.