For the most part, I agree with Leigh Alexander’s monthly Kotaku editorial. Indeed, to say we are a wide community misses the point; we aren’t a community at all. We are many communities surrounding similar tastes. It’s like making a generalization about the “food” community. It just doesn’t make sense. There is no “gamer” community.
But how can we laud games like Duke Nukem Forever and Bulletstorm under the banner of creative expression and it-takes-all-kinds on one hand and then decry the immaturity of the so-called “gaming community” on the other? We teach each other to be and reward people for being hedonistic (If someone says they are having fun, it’s a good game! Feeeeel the dopamine!) and solipsists and then are shocked when gamers are not introspective, measured and considerate of others? Surprise!
The reason games are great is the same reason for this phenomenon: interactivity. No other medium allows for feedback loops. Listening to Nickleback is low art but does not reward you for being a douche*. Watching a Michael Bay movie is low art but does not reward you for being a douche. But playing a game on Xbox Live does. Even if it is not enforced by mechanics (which it is in the case of many million+ selling titles), it is enforced by community (there’s the word!) and milieu.
* Aside: I suppose going to a concert of any band that is listened to primarily by the douche-elite is a community that reinforces the behavior. Consider just listening to an album in isolation for that example.
Gears et al don’t create scumbags, they only reinforce their behavior. Stop reinforcing their behavior and they will still be scumbags; they just won’t congregate around your product and use it as a pillar of their community. But the immature and the scummy have cash and credit cards so there will always be a ready-made place for them in any passtime that will have them. If you are designer with that power, will you sleep better at night by reinforcing positive behaviors? After all, you can’t distance yourself from your community. You will always be measured by your community, just as CliffyB is tied to the Gears player stereotype forever. I’d sleep better as notch than as CliffyB. But that’s just my personal opinion.
If you aren’t a powerful designer, you can let it bother you that we share a pastime with them. Or not. We can let it bother us that they are also American, also male, also carbon-based life forms or any other trait that they are likely to share with us. Or we can just say “Their actions do not define me or what I choose to do with my entertainment time. I’m not in their community. I’m not a gamer. At least not one of them.”