I picked up Mortal Kombat X this week. Yes I know I’m a little late to the party on this one but it was pretty cheap and I rather fancied giving it a go. Now I know what you might be thinking and don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of hamfisted attempt to establish my gamer cred (that went out of the window long ago) I’m not a game journalist or a game writer, it’s not really important whether people think I know anything about video games or not.
So why do I bring it up? Well I haven’t owned anything that can really be considered a fighting game in many years, not since Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii. Gaming wise I mainly stick to RPGs and shooters, I don’t really play fighting games. That is unless you count half an hour in an arcade messing about with some friends on Tekken 6. I fully expect to suck ass at Mortal Kombat X and to be mercilessly teased and mocked by whoever I play with until I can get a handle on the controls, after which will come having my ass handed to me numerous times playing online while I attempt to learn the game. Or, to put it another way, while I attempt to Git Gud.
The phrase “Git Gud” is a meme, a popular expression among modern gamers, it’s generally used in online play to heckle new or less experienced players. Recently it has come under some fire in the gaming press. It all started with a video posted by Polygon titled DOOM GAMEPLAY- The First Thirty Minutes The player featured in this video is clearly unskilled or unpracticed, they’re attempting to play a first person shooter but have difficulty running and shooting at the same time, many of their shots are wildly inaccurate and at one point they even attempt to shoot a stationary med-pack. I’d also say that the amount of the game they manage to complete in thirty minutes could probably have been knocked out in half the time by someone with a clearer idea of what they were doing.
The gaming community reacted to this video with mockery and scorn, holding it up as an example of gaming journalists lack of interest in actually playing the games they write about. The overall consensus within the community was that being this bad at the mechanical aspects of gaming, that is the actual button pressing bit of video games, was damaging to the credibility of the player as a games journalist, and to Polygon as a games publication. Polygon were told, in no uncertain terms, that they needed to Git Gud.
In the days that followed some writers jumped to Polygon’s defense, lamenting the reaction of the community and what they perceive as the exclusionary and toxic nature of the “Git Gud” attitude. John Walker of Rock, Paper, Shotgun emphasised the importance of players having fun while playing the game, rather than legitimising the bravado of “Git Gud”
A really unpleasant gaming trend is getting louder and louder of late, where it’s considered of vital importance to observe when other people are “bad” at games. And of course insinuating that one is “good” at them at the same time. Such an attitude reveals an extraordinarily narrow-minded view of gaming, and indeed of humanity. It’s really time for it to stop.
Garret Martin was equally unimpressed with the behaviour of gamers in his piece for Paste Magazine.
What is worth mentioning is the reaction to that video, and how it reinforces negative impressions about so-called “gamers.” People might sound like they’re trying out for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour when they say that somebody needs to “Git Gud” at a game, but what they’re really doing is trying to exclude players who don’t devote as much time to games as they do. Equal parts taunt and heckle, “Git Gud” is a joke directed at players doing poorly in online games, but a joke with a pointed edge: if you don’t get better at games, they’re saying, we’ll stop playing with you. That you don’t belong here.
So was the reaction to Polygon’s video that unfair?
And is “Git Gud” a significant example of everything supposedly wrong with the gaming community?
Well to be fair there may well have been legitimate reasons why the player in the Doom video suffered some, shall we say, performance issues. Maybe they were playing on a different platform then they were used to, maybe they felt unwell, maybe they don’t usually play first person shooter games or they only had a very short amount of time to get to grips with the controls before recording. I’d also agree that having fun while playing a game is generally more important than actually being good at it. However, as a defense of Polygon? This is all pretty poor. No, I don’t believe that game journalists have to be especially brilliant at playing video games to be able to write about them. There are simply too many game genres and platforms, to expect game journalists to master all or even most of them is impractical and unrealistic.
With that said the Polygon video was packaged and sold to us as the first thirty minutes of Doom, what I would expect from that label is an average FPS player showing us how we can expect the game to look for the first half hour. Not MLG level, not showing every hidden area or doing a speed run, just what an ordinary gamer should expect in that section of the game. Struggling to move and shoot at the same time? Missing two thirds of shots? That isn’t what the game is supposed to look like or how the game is supposed to play. If I made a video of myself playing Mortal Kombat X right now it wouldn’t look at all how the game is supposed to, it would probably look like the game was being played by a chimpanzee. Therefore I couldn’t realistically label it as “The First Thirty Minutes Of Mortal Kombat X” unless I added a proviso like “…As It Might Look Played By A Chimp” It just wouldn’t be fair or accurate to the game otherwise. What Polygon gave us in that video was not what it was sold as. If Polygon had labelled the video as “FPS Newbie Plays Thirty Minutes Of Doom” then I doubt there would have nearly as much of a reaction from the community, it might even have been positively received.
It should be feasible that a publication as large as Polygon would have at least one member of their writing staff that can play an FPS, why was this assignment given to someone so clearly unable to properly do it justice? Polygon were not honest about the video and to be honest? It seemed like a pretty blatant attempt to fake it, to do the bare minimum, slap on an inaccurate title and hope that no-one will notice.
As for “Git Gud”?
I think that games journalists are blowing it all out of proportion.
“Git Gud” as a phrase is not just used to heckle, like so many things it all comes down to context. As a phrase “Git Gud” can also be used to encourage. What “Git Gud” means in the most basic terms is simple, Keep Trying. Yes often it is used mockingly but that doesn’t mean it is toxic or exclusionary. Gaming is challenging, it is often competitive, and a huge part of the enjoyment for many gamers is the thrill and sense of achievement that comes from mastery of the game. “Git Gud” is a challenge, an attempt to motivate a gamer not to give up when a game is difficult. Even the very video games we play sometimes gently make fun of us for lack of skill or lack of bravery.
This is not an insult, it is a provocation, a dare. It is an invitation to test your might, as it were. When did it become such a problem to challenge gamers to get better? To not throw the game out of the window in disgust and demand an easy mode when there’s a difficulty spike? Games have become more complex, with more cinematic story-driven objectives. As such it has become more important than ever to be able to play a game until completion in order for the player to get the full experience of the game. This may mean players having to learn new tactics, recognise patterns and be adaptive with regard to strategy.
In my opinion “Git Gud” is an important life lesson. In these times participation is seen as just as important as victory, the cost of that can be that people give up when things get difficult under the guise of “Oh well at least I tried” When we invite someone to “Git Gud” we are asking them not to give up and just settle for how things are but to strive and adapt until that sweet feeling of having overcome your obstacles is yours. After all, life doesn’t exactly come with an easy mode.
No, you don’t have to be good at games to enjoy playing them. But if you’re a professional game journalist asked to cover a particular video game as an assignment? You should undertake the proper research and know your stuff. That is as true if you are playing the game for a video as it is if you are writing about it. This situation seems to have become yet another example of game journalists getting defensive when challenged by the community and immediately moving to distance themselves from their audience. The idea that the reason games are supposedly not taken seriously ( seriously as what and by whom?) because of a fairly innocuous current gamer phrase is ridiculous. That same phrase being blamed for people feeling insecure as gamers just comes off as whining. “Git Gud” is a meme, in time it will go the way of phrases such as “Pwned” falling out of fashion and being replaced by new slang. Game journalists need to accept that the challenging nature of gaming as a medium means that a degree of gentle mockery and smack talk is likely to always be a part of the gaming community. They could also do with learning not to take themselves so seriously. Video game journalism is supposed to be an enthusiast press, take the sticks out of your asses and show some enthusiasm for your work.
This would be an appropriate juncture for me to tell Polygon and those defending them to Git Gud but to be honest? I don’t really see the point. I’ll just do what many others have done and stop giving their site my clicks. Instead I will support smaller video game sites that hire journalists who actually have love for video games and for gamers. The game journalists that so easily disparage gamers for expecting quality have made their position clear. They do not consider themselves to be a part of the gamer community and they consider gamer culture to be something toxic that needs to be destroyed. That is more damaging to their credibility as game journalists then thirty minutes of crap playing could ever be.
Thanks For Reading
For those that are unaware I have joined Action A GoGo as a writer. Links for the pieces I have written for them so far. Enjoy!