The Black Ops 2 Patch Backlash: Is it Really Surprising?

By: - 24th Jul 2013
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Dan Amrich, Activision’s Community Manager, posted a strongly worded entry on his blog yesterday regarding the response by some gamers to the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 patches detailed by David Vonderhaar, Studio Design Director for Treyarch.  Such responses included death threats, and while any level-headed person would call them unwarranted and disgusting, is this ultimately representative of a culture where this is the norm?

David Vonderhaar has been called many things that cannot be repeated here.  He has also been told that he will be physically harmed.  Why such hostile words?  What awful thing did he do?  Vonderhaar received these ‘colorful’ responses thanks to tweets he posted saying that he was working on a patch to reduce the damage of the AN94 as well as the rate of fire of the Ballista and the  DSR 50.  Holy cow, that’s awful!  Actually, it really doesn’t sound that bad, and it certainly doesn’t seem to warrant Vonderhaar being banished from the face of the Earth.

Thus, as a response, Dan Amrich made sure to address this situation, stating that such backlash is the reason “why gamers are assumed to be immature”.  He also goes on, asking those very people to put themselves in Vonderhaar’s shoes.  In essence, he asks them to take an honest look at themselves and ponder whether they would respond to someone who threatens them.  Ultimately, he attempts to drive the point that people who conduct themselves in such a fashion will not be taken seriously.

I’d have to say that his assessment of such gamers makes sense.  Threatening to do physical harm to someone because you don’t agree with his or her tactics in balancing a game or striving to make a game better is simply ridiculous.

I couldn’t help but shake my head in shame.  People are physically threatening someone and telling him to kill himself because he is working to patch three guns in a game?  Is this real?  What has happened to the gaming community?  I remember first playing Gears of War back in 2007, and people who conducted themselves in this fashion were the exception instead of the rule.  Yes, people poked fun at other people, but it was all in good spirit.

Sadly, while such behavior is disturbing, it also isn’t surprising.  Though my early experiences with Xbox Live were largely pleasant, there has been a transition in the gaming community, and it has not been a positive one.  The threats lobbed at Vonderhaar are about what I would expect given the various experiences I’ve had with gamers in a typical multiplayer lobby today.  It seems to come with the territory and doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon.  Between the relentless onslaught of various homophobic, misogynistic and racist slurs to the literal eardrum-bursting screams that will make anyone want to rip off their headset, a typical Call of Duty match is hostile territory.  For those of you that have not experienced such circumstances yet, I would strongly advise you to either not use a headset, or if you want to hear enemy footsteps, be sure to enter party chat to save your eardrums from some colorful language and downright unpleasant sounds.  Don’t expect to make many friends in Call of Duty.

Of course, I must add the obligatory disclaimer that not all Call of Duty players conduct themselves in this manner.  There are many players who are simply looking to engage in fair competition and might even utter the rare phrase “good game” after a match.  Don’t expect these players to be in the majority, however.

Now, in no way am I defending a game that leaves much to be desired.  There are many criticisms I can lob at Treyarch and Activision.  Now, you can call me a bad gamer, but more often than not, I feel that many of the deaths that I experience in a match are unfair.  Hey Treyarch, can you stop campers?  Also, could you address the unfair advantages that some of the perks provide?  There, did you see that?  I didn’t need to resort to cursing or threatening someone’s life to state my concerns.  Yes, it’s possible, believe it or not.

Do I believe that Amrich’s blog entry will have an impact?  Probably not.  In fact, I am almost certain that there will be some harsh and disturbing responses aimed at Amrich as well.  He shouldn’t expect the community to change thanks to his blog entry, though many of us would hope that would turn out to be the case.  I do, however, respect the fact that he said it.

It is essentially a situation where the post needed to be said but not much might result ultimately.  Though a promising aspect for gamers sick of the bad behavior is presented in the form of a revamped reputation system expected to be part of the Xbox One experience, it obviously will not stop obnoxious people from harassing game developers on social media sites such as Twitter.  This ultimately becomes a question of the etiquette of the gaming and Twitter community as a whole.  We need to ask ourselves why we have gotten to the point where certain people engage in such behavior, and more importantly, why it appears to have become the norm.  The most difficult question of all is whether there is anything that can be done to change the standards of the community so that such behavior becomes the exception once again.

What are your thoughts regarding Amrich’s response as well as the Call of Duty community as a whole?

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