With the recent controversy over a couple of Uncharted 4 reviews, one writer looks at how the game brought out some of the best – and the worst – of the gaming community.
Ever since Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was announced at E3 2014, there was little doubt that Nathan Drake’s final adventure was going to be anything other than a bonafide success. Judging by the massive first week sales numbers and the waves of near-universal critical acclaim, it’s pretty safe to say that Uncharted 4 is, by all available quantifiable measures, a big win for Sony and Naughty Dog. Having said that, success wasn’t quite the guarantee for A Thief’s End as it initially seemed. With all the behind-the-scenes turmoil that had plagued Uncharted 4′s development, fans could’ve easily turned on the franchise at any given moment. But to the gaming community’s credit, the support shown for Naughty Dog and Uncharted – even as A Thief’s End continually slipped from its intended release dates – was admirable, and the messages of “don’t worry, we’ll wait” were enough to make even the likes of George R.R. Martin envious.
But, unfortunately, there is such thing as loving a video game and/or franchise just a bit too much. The reception to Uncharted 4 not only showed just how supportive the gaming community can be, it also exposed the ugly side of the community when things don’t go quite their way.
Regardless of what the Metacritic scores will tell you, any game that’s ever been made will have its share of fans and haters, and Uncharted 4 is no exception. But for some reason anyone who thought of Uncharted 4 as anything less than perfect was seen as having the intellectual capacity of a loaf of bread. This hive mind mentality over a video game’s perceived greatness isn’t a new thing, but two notable instances of reviewers getting criticized over Uncharted 4 brought this issue right to the forefront, both of which highlighted just how petty and offensively ridiculous the gaming community can get.
The first instance involves the Washington Post’s Michael Thomson, and the negative review he wrote for Uncharted 4. For those who are unaware, Thomson’s review was one of the very few negative critiques written about Uncharted 4, and this caused some fans to be so incensed and offended that they started a petition to remove the review from Metacritic altogether. Firstly, censoring a journalist’s opinion about a video game is downright ridiculous, as it kind of breaches the whole “freedom of speech” thing that people love to throw around whenever it is convenient. But beyond that, I just have to put this out there: sure Thomson’s 4/10 review for Uncharted 4 wasn’t the best critique ever written, but is the opinion of one person expressed over a few hundred words seriously going to hinder the enjoyment of the game so much that it needs to be scrubbed from existence? No, it absolutely is not.
The second, and more serious, instance was the overblown reaction to the Uncharted 4 review by IGN’s Lucy O’Brien. As opposed to Thomson’s somewhat flawed review, Lucy’s was in-depth, well-written, and done quite methodically, so much so that she assigned it a tentative score before delivering a final verdict. That tentative score was a fantastic 8.8/10 – and yet members of the gaming community completely flipped.
For merely doing her job of offering up an honest opinion on Uncharted 4, Lucy was inundated with countless online attacks that ranged from criticizing her work, to some seriously offensive sexist and personal insults. What kind of world do we live in where an 8.8/10 score is perceived as something negative? It was seriously disheartening to witness just the sheer amount of lunacy that unfolded over one person’s opinion of a video game, an honest and well-rounded opinion that ultimately yielded said game a near 9/10 score. At this point, I’ve probably fed quite a number of the trolls out there, but I just simply want to understand one thing: is it so difficult to ignore someone’s opinion if it doesn’t line up with your own? Going deeper, is it so difficult for people have a civil and meaningful discussion over a video game without everything descending into a series of 140-character (or less) insults?
All this gives rise to the question of why exactly do gamers over-react so dramatically when a game such as Uncharted 4 is seen as something less than perfect. I’m no expert in human behaviour by any means, and my best guess is that all of this irrational fuss over Uncharted 4 had something to do with the game’s console exclusivity. Certain gamers strongly associate themselves with a console and/or game franchise, and by having a game locked exclusively to one console, the stakes are higher for the title to score well. A bad review score for a console-exclusive game will not only anger fans of the title, it will also anger fans of the console. It is essentially perceived as an attack on their beliefs, which in turn causes people to irrationally act out. There is probably a much better explanation than that one, and it’ll take someone much smarter than I to figure it out, but that’s as good of an explanation as I have for why certain gamers eschew common decency for cheap insults.
Having finished the entire game, I’m just going to say something that may cause the pitchforks and torches to be aimed in my direction: Uncharted 4 isn’t a 10/10 game. Hell, as I fought through wave upon wave of enemies that could give The Division’s a run for the “bullet-sponge” title, I struggled to give Uncharted 4 anything higher than an 8/10. But that’s just my opinion, and everyone is free to take it or leave it how ever they wish. All I’m trying to say is, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and unless giving a perfect score to a game will result in the curing of cancer, no one – particularly Lucy O’Brien and Michael Thomson – should be slandered for simply giving their thoughts to what is ultimately a flawed-but-still-great game, in my opinion.
Everyone needs to realize that we’re all gamers for one simple reason: we love video games. At the end of the day, the conversation shouldn’t be over why this person or that person is dumb for not liking Uncharted 4; it should be all about having some fun before crying over the fact that we’ve just experienced what is quite possibly Nathan Drake’s final adventure.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is available now, exclusively for the PlayStation 4.