How the gaming industry made gamers toxic

Are gamers toxic? Maybe. But it’s not the players who are to blame for this, but the gaming industry, which makes money without giving a damn about the interests of the players. Let’s figure out how this happened.

How the gaming industry made gamers toxic

How did we get to this life?

First, some background information. In economics there are such concepts as a buyer’s market and a seller’s market.

A buyer’s market is formed when supply exceeds demand for various reasons. In a buyer’s market, the consumer dictates terms to suppliers in terms of both price and quality. In these conditions, the supplier either meets these requirements or loses the competition to flexible competitors.

The situation in the gaming industry market in the 80s, 90s and early 00s is a typical example of a buyer’s market. The continuous growth of the audience for computer games in these years was accompanied by an increase in the number of development companies and publishing houses. The demand for games was met by an ever-increasing supply.

The development, despite imperfect tools, was carried out by enthusiasts around the world. First, single programmers, and then already formed development teams, offered gamers games of varying quality, and most importantly, in large quantities. By the mid-90s, game development was finally emerging as a separate industry.

Companies in this market have entered into a fierce confrontation with each other. Surpassing the “muddy stream” of projects by little-known lone programmers was relatively easy. But developers and publishers had to meet the demands of buyers so as not to be left behind and not lose the audience to competitors.

Thanks to competition, by the early 00s, gamers received such cult series as Doom (Quake), Might and Magic (HoMM), Diablo, Final Fantasy, Half-Life, WarCraft (StarCraft), Fallout. These and other still popular game series were born in the 90s.

After 2000, the situation began to gradually change. Firstly, demand has increased. The number of gaming devices in the world has increased. If in the 80s and 90s NES consoles (known to us as Dendy) sold just over 60 million, now the total circulation of Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch exceeds 230 million, the number of PCs has also increased exponentially, and the number of smartphones in the world – 5 billion.

Secondly, supply began to decrease. A series of mergers and acquisitions has reduced the number of significant players in the industry. At the moment, publishers producing large game projects (AAA titles) can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft (Xbox), EA, Activision-Blizzard. If you wish, you can add Ubisoft, Square Enix, Epic Games, and possibly CD Projekt RED to them. But even in this case, fingers will suffice.

Thanks to their financial power, the oligopoly of game publishers cannibalize small independent developers as soon as they become successful. Or, if the merger is rejected, it lures employees to itself, killing such companies.

In the face of huge demand, AAA publishers are reducing the number of games they release, raising prices and introducing additional monetization schemes without paying much attention to quality. “People are eating.” They eat not because they like it, but because there is nothing else to eat.

The only factor that allows players to get quality single-player games from time to time is system sellers that provide sales for specific platforms. But they have practically no influence on the overall situation, remaining in their ecosystem.

Toxic players

Given the current situation, there is no reason to expect that companies receiving multibillion-dollar revenues will listen to the players. Companies don’t need this. And in order to look “fluffier” in the eyes of ordinary players, topics about “increasingly expensive development” and, as a result, calls to “support developers with rubles” are thrown into the information space; obvious shortcomings are hidden under bashful phrases such as “everyone will find something of their own here.” ”

Refusing to buy a game with shortcomings no longer helps – they simply don’t make others. All that remains is to choose only from the varieties of mediocrity, setting priorities. It’s no surprise that gamers who grew up playing games in the ’90s are increasingly looking for a different way to communicate their displeasure to companies. Not because they suddenly became “toxic,” but because companies created conditions where it was impossible to be heard otherwise.

The phenomenon of review bombing, when users lower ratings for games on Steam and Metacritic, appeared relatively recently, when the market finally formed in its current form in the 2010s. Public opinion leaders (POMs) and journalists from the “top Internet,” who depend on the budgets of publishing houses, more often than not find themselves on the side of the players, trying to smooth out rough edges, simultaneously condemning “toxicity.”

How fair are the players’ reproaches to publishers and developers? Judge for yourself:

  • Spore  (2008, EA). Players were outraged by the DRM protection, which did not allow the game to be installed more than 3 times (more precisely, on more than 3 computers). The publisher partially ignored the complaints, but through technical support it was possible to install a licensed copy of the game more than 3 times.
  • Mass Effect 3  (2012, EA). The players were outraged by the frankly sloppy ending of the legendary series. The problem was partially solved with the release of Extended Cut.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2015, Bethesda). Valve and Bethesda have attempted to introduce paid mods for the game. After review bombing, Valve abandoned this. Paid mods for Skyrim and Fallout 4 appeared only on Bethesda’s own service.
  • Nier: Automata (2017, Square Enix). Chinese users were outraged by the game’s high price and lack of Chinese translation. The publisher did not accommodate the players, but the repeated “raids” of Chinese users on other games have led to the fact that now the presence of the Chinese language is almost mandatory when releasing games.
  • Grand Theft Auto V (2017, Take-Two Interactive). The publisher tried to “close” OpenIV, a popular mod for GTA games. After a few months, the author of the mod and the publishing house came to some agreement.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017, EA). The introduction of loot boxes into the game, the post justifying which became the most downvoted in the history of the Reddit forum. EA has made changes to the game.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019, Activision). Russian players were outraged by the presentation of Russian soldiers as war criminals. The game was banned from the Russian segment of the PlayStation Store. Judging by the first trailers, Call of Duty: Vanguard, coming out in 2021, despite some “cranberry-ness,” does not show the Russians as outright scoundrels.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged (2020, Blizzard). Players were outraged by the disgusting quality of the reissue. Blizzard representatives were forced to apologize and make excuses. Judging by first impressions, this was taken into account when Diablo 2 was re-released.
  • The Last of Us Part II (2020, Sony). The players were outraged by the plot and the clearly high ratings of the “game journalists.” Sony put pressure on the ratings aggregator Metacritic so that the game’s rating was adjusted, and changes were also made to the voting system.
  • Psychonauts 2 (2021, Xbox Game Studios). Russian-speaking players were outraged by the lack of Russian language in the story game. The developers released a statement saying that translations into other languages ​​may appear in the game in the future.

These are just the loudest facts of review bombing. It’s difficult to call the players’ complaints against publishers unfair.

At the same time, facts that outrage the players are less and less often covered and assessed in the specialized press. Metacritic rating gap. All of  the games on the list received generally positive reviews from gaming journalists. Even Warcraft III: Reforged, which users downgraded to 0.6 out of 10, received 69 points out of 100 in the press.

Publishers don’t like the freestyle. They are forced to listen to the wishes of users – review bombing works and deprives them of income. In most cases, the players won the confrontations. Therefore, corporations are increasingly trying to silence unwanted players.

“Thanks” to Sony and the explosion of negative emotions around The Last of Us Part II, ratings aggregator Metacritic changed the voting system, worsening the ability of players to rate games negatively. The “good corporation” Google in its Google Play store quietly removes negative ratings of popular projects left for the first time; only the second attempt is taken into account. Some platforms that sell games simply do not allow players to rate them. Even Steam, the only bastion of free gaming speech, has over time introduced restrictions on user reviews, although the valve has not been completely closed.

“Explanatory” work is being actively carried out through LOMov. Players are advised that such behavior is unacceptable and offends artists. After all, anyone can offend an artist. How fair is this?

I’m an artist, that’s how I see it

If you look at projects that have been subjected to massive review bombing, you will not find small games created by independent developers, those who are called artists. The mass player is at least indifferent to such games or is even more willing to forgive some shortcomings if the game is inexpensive or interesting. The artist’s vision can be anything as long as he remains the creator of his project.

While leading large teams and releasing a mass product, administrators from the gaming industry are not artists in many ways. Such “artists” are responsible not only for themselves, but also for their charges. Often these “artists” work with someone else’s intellectual property, already shaped by the public’s view of the product (The Last of Us Part II). Or, as in the case of Cyberpunk 2077, they form a false impression of future players about their product.

situation, everything is exactly the opposite. These “artists” can offend anyone.

Games created by large teams, when they go on sale, become available to the public, who form their own view of this product. Attempts to impose your vision in such matters, attempts to deceive the audience, forget or “forget” their interests, and try to openly squeeze more money out of them always receive a negative reaction. And this reaction is greater, the larger the audience of the project.

So, if an artist spits at the collective, the collective, of course, will wipe it off. But as soon as a group of gamers spits back, it will drown. And he will look for another job (if you don’t like it, don’t buy it).


Considering the realities of the seller’s market, with an increase in the number of players and a reduction in the supply of quality games, unfortunately, there is no reason to expect that the situation will improve. Therefore, it is important that gamers have the opportunity to express their opinions openly, without labels and cancel culture. Whether this will help reverse existing trends, time will tell.

But if the players are completely silenced, it will only get worse.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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