If you’ve ever spent any amount of time around the gaming community, you’ve surely heard the phrase “Get good” before. While the inevitable decay of meme-hood has warped the phrase into something more farcical, just like most things on the internet, the sentiment behind it is still prevalent. How important is relative skill in the lives of everyday gamers? How important is it to actually get good?
Self-Improvement, Masochism and “Dark Souls”
The most pure motivation to get better comes from within, and nowhere is there a better example in gaming than in the souls genre. These games ushered in a new era and a new hackneyed comparison to make any time a game doesn’t baby its players. Calling a new game the “Dark Souls” of its genre has become so laughably trite that it too, has become a meme.
Lazy comparisons aside, the souls genre is comprised of some of the most difficult yet rewarding games around. The process of playing one for the first time is an exercise in discipline. They teach the player more about themselves than they do the game that’s actually being played. They give players the lightest of tutorials and say “Figure it out, we don’t care.”
In order to make it to the end of one, the player must improve their skills immensely, sure, but the need for self-improvement goes beyond that. Players must also overcome the limitations imposed upon them by their own minds. Fear and self-doubt are the real bosses. Yeah, sometimes the truth sounds that corny.
While it’s completely valid to not want to spend your leisure time repeatedly banging your head up against a wall, you may find that once you do break through to the other side, you’ll have learned a tremendous amount about yourself, and you’ll only be mildly concussed.
Do Games Need An Easy Mode?
Upon its release in 2019, “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” reignited the debate about whether or not games should be obliged to provide an easier setting for players. While game developers shouldn’t necessarily be required to compromise their artistic vision to cater to a wider audience, the fact remains that no game has ever been ruined by an easy mode. Simply put, you could just not play on that difficulty setting, and the problem ends right there. Including it in the game would, however, allow more people of varying skill levels to enjoy the experience.
While this may seem contrary to the preceding reverential words about the process of self-improvement, it illustrates a crucial point, that one person’s experience of a single-player game doesn’t affect another’s, contrary to what various chats and comment sections might have you believe. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy a game by yourself, and conceited, insecure gamers need to stop making others feel like they’re doing it wrong.
While single-player experiences are one thing, the situation gets far more malicious when you consider online competitive games. The horrible slurs that get tossed around in game chat any time you play a game like “Call of Duty” are repugnant in a way that warrant their own separate discussion. Instead, our focus lies on the “Get good” sentiment.
Unless you are somehow the undisputed best player on your team in every match you’ve ever played, chances are you’ve gotten roasted for being a scrub. Insecure players will take any opportunity to belittle others for their perceived lack of skill, whether they’re on your team or not.
It’s the sad reality of these games that their competitive nature brings out the worst in players that can conveniently hide behind the shield of online anonymity. Even if you never engaged in chat in any way, you’re still probably going to get harassed.
What makes things even worse is that people tend to defend this kind of behavior, saying that anyone who doesn’t like it is just soft. It’s this hyper-macho, tough-guy drivel that permeates the entire gaming community, rendering it a far less inviting place than it ought to be. People of all skill levels should be able to enjoy a match of “Overwatch” without having their teammates tell them to kill themselves just for playing as Hanzo.
The word casual has somehow turned into a pejorative for anyone lacking the skill or knowledge necessary for their opinions to matter, apparently. If you don’t seemingly dedicate your entire life to one game, then you’re a casual, and you don’t get to have feelings anymore.
Casual gaming is great, and casual gamers are probably happier people. There are so many wonderful experiences out there that don’t require the player to get good at all. Look no further than a game like “It Takes Two.”
The newest cooperative experience from Hazelight Studios is one of the most creative and joyous platformers in years (despite being about divorce). I’ve been playing it with my partner. There is a significant skill gap between us, and the beauty of a casual game like this is that it doesn’t matter at all. We lift each other up and have an absolute blast doing it. This is what the gaming community should feel like — a commonwealth of like-minded individuals supporting each other, not the turbulent vortex of insecurity and exclusion that it tends to be.
What Is A “Real” Gamer?
It’s so bizarre that gamers tend to gatekeep the title of gamer as if it’s inherently something to be envied. “You wish you could be a gamer like me.”
They’ll have you believe that you’re not really a gamer unless you play the correct games, a distinction that varies from petulant baby to petulant baby. Let’s be perfectly clear. You’re a gamer if you play games. That’s it.
Barriers For Entry
Getting into gaming can already be a daunting task without a community of mouth-breathing bridge trolls fueled by hatred and G Fuel telling you you’ll never be one of them. It’s difficult to know where to start. What console do you get? Which games do you play first?
The barriers for entry run deeper than the obvious, though. Games are generally designed with a base-level of gaming literacy in mind. By now, most titles assume you’ve played similar games before. They require inputs that may seem trivial for an experienced player, but for newcomers they are anything but.
Watching my partner try to play “Cyberpunk 2077” on PS5 was simultaneously hilarious and eye-opening. She had never played a first-person shooter before. Something that’s become second nature for an experienced player, such as using both sticks to move and aim at the same time, can be a bit of s struggle for someone who is simply not used to doing it, and that is the most basic of actions.
I often wonder why games don’t get recognized by mainstream society and academia as one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements, and I have to conclude that gamers themselves are at least partially to blame. They create an ecosystem of hostility that views new players as an invasive species.