The Entitlement Generation is Killing Games

In the past decade or so, there’s no question that games have gotten easier. Is it because today’s kids view losing as unfair, rather than as a natural consequence of sucking?

Most of the little snot-nosed kids I’m talking about won’t get this reference, but years ago comedian George Carlin introduced a comedy routine about the “pussification of the American male.” It’s funny because it’s true. Carlin goes on about all these iconic images of manhood becoming so commercialized, so accessible, that they begin to lose their meaning. Things like doctors and lawyers, general guppies of all types, were beginning to roll around the streets of Sturgis, South Dakota, where once only the hardest of bikers dared ride. Friends and fellow geeks, there is a similar plague descending on our beloved community and it promises to turn that once noble pastime into a socialist suburbia.

For years, “experts” have been slowly taking competition out of schools and promoting lameness instead. You can’t play dodge-ball because it’s too aggressive, and more passive kids are disadvantaged. You can’t really play T-ball anymore, or at least you can’t keep score, because we don’t want the kids who lose to feel bad. Failing the kids who goof around in class and don’t do their homework? Oh no, can’t have that. It might scar their poor little spoiled psyches. What’s the result of this everybody-wins mentality? Kids who don’t know how to win with class, lose with grace, or put any effort into anything even resembling achievement. The Entitlement Generation is killing our games and we need to wake up!

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If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball, but you can’t dodge the lesson of getting knocked on your butt by life.

Winning is everything, losing is unfair

I’m aware that some folks are out there starting to feel a slight twitch in their lip when they read this. Well, if your feelings are hurt, I’m probably talking about you or your kids. The eventual result of this ridiculous desire to protect kids from feeling bad has resulted in a whole generation of little pricks who say the most disgusting things they can anytime someone else wins. It’s so common that it’s even become a running joke.

There’s not a person reading this who isn’t thinking of the last time they were on Xbox LIVE having to endure a squeaky tirade from some kid who didn’t know the meaning or history behind three-quarters of the words he was using. Raw lack of respect for one’s fellow man has a part to play in it, but so does the inability to handle a loss. Anyone else winning is bad because someone loses, and that’s just not acceptable to kids who never learned how to deal with losing.

I don’t speak German, but I’ve heard this rant online plenty of times in English.

It’s not enough that we endure the spoiled kids in the games we play, we also get to read their whiney diatribe on gaming forums and social media channels. Visit the forums for any game and you’ll see the same thing--post after post where someone claims something else is over-powered, unfair, broken, or that their opponent hacks. Another thing all these posts will have in common is that none of them are well thought out or in any way intelligently written. You won’t find specific examples or testing results, just a badly written bitch session of epic proportions.

There seems to be an unreasonable expectation that everything should be precisely the same, and that any advantage another player can gain over you is patently unfair. If you can’t run right at the other guy shooting and kill him more often than he kills you, then the weapons are unbalanced and need to be fixed. One more example of what happens when you fail to teach kids how to lose well when they’re young.

Those who are older, and were lucky enough to have played sports and games where there were winners and losers, back when winning was actually a good thing, have learned the skills needed to actually enjoy games. We realize that losing isn’t bad, it just happens sometimes no matter how hard you play. We see losing as an opportunity to get better. We respect those who have beaten us. To have been beaten by a worthy opponent really just means you were that much better yourself for having been competitive. But with the Entitlement Generation, the winner gets accused of hacking, followed swiftly by an inappropriate term that most of the time really doesn’t even make sense in context.

Wait...consequences? What?

It’s not just being able to handle loss that sets the new generation of gamers apart, though. There’s also this sense that if someone else has something you don’t, then there’s something unfair about the situation. It’s not just a problem in games. Hordes of little twits burned down London shops because they couldn’t get jobs. Never mind that they weren’t looking for work to begin with or that the shops they burned down represented places where they would have gone to get those jobs… it’s a question of fairness!

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One of these characters may not live to see the next sequel. Which? Oh it doesn’t matter, it won’t have any significant impact on the game.

Those in the gaming industry know kids cry when they don’t get what they want, so Mass Effect 3 basically lets you walk through a game where choices really don’t make any difference. How much better would that game have been if you’d fought all the way to the last battle only to realize that ‘!@#$, I need Mordin to save Earth?’ Bet that little act of altruism would feel a little different then, wouldn’t it? But no, you can’t do that. You can’t do it because it’s not fair to expect consequences for our actions. After all, that’s what we teach in schools. Kids get bad grades and it’s the teacher’s fault. Or they can’t be bothered to go to class and, well, you see, that school is just under-funded. My grandmother learned to read with a bit of charcoal and a wooden plank, but yeah, we’ll blame it on lack of funding.

In Soviet Russia, games play selves…

With RIFT, Trion worlds introduced us to a system where you’re not even limited to a single class. That’s too restrictive and unfair. Instead, they let you pretty much pick as many as you want and switch on the fly. It’s probably not fair that everyone doesn’t have equal access to all the spells and abilities. Why shouldn’t an undead-wielding necromancer have the chance to call upon the benevolence of his own soul to heal allies?

I’m a big PlanetSide fan, so it hurts to say this, but in PlanetSide 2 SOE decided that you didn’t need to be limited by class or vehicle, either, and that everyone needed to have access to everything. No longer are you required to choose between driving an awesome Vanguard or being the best Reaver pilot on the server; you can do both. In the first PlanetSide, there were certifications like in the new one, but those certifications were how you accessed everything, now they just provide tweaks. In the first game, you had to make choices about what you wanted to do, and I think the results were a lot better.

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This line of tanks probably stretches back to the warp gate. Eventually they coalesce into a single unrenderable team-killing mass.

In the new PS2, you sometimes run into whole fields packed with so many tanks that some of them are not even rendering on the screen. Because everyone can have a tank, tanks aren’t really all that special anymore. Neither is any other aircraft or vehicle, and that’s a shame. Being really good at what you’d chosen to do used to really make you stand out. Now there’s really no point because anyone can pull a tank and get lucky for a few minutes. But then I guess if you were good enough to stand out, you’d be accused of cheating and playing unfairly anyway, so maybe it’s not so big a loss.

End of Days

I’d like to end with some upbeat comment about how things will get better, but won’t. We’ve started a whole new generation of kids who don’t understand that reward comes from effort. Where fairness once meant having equal opportunity, it now means ease of access. The chivalrous days of saluting the honored victors have passed and been replaced by forum rants and cries of ‘OP!’ Senator Lieberman says videos games are bad for our children. Maybe he’s right, but not in the sense that violence in video games translates to real world violence. Instead, modern games are promoting stupid, lazy, and graceless children. I don’t think it’s the violence I’d be worried about, Senator.

The truth is, I’m ranting about what entitlement has done to games, and I’m definitely mad about it, but it’s not just games. This issue is something we should all care about. Business owners are finding it harder to find people for entry-level jobs because kids come in expecting to get more than they’re really qualified for. Used to the rapid pace of advancement they learned in games, they get frustrated with their employment when they don’t see the same in their careers. A lot of very intelligent people get crushed by failure because they never learned how to manage it emotionally.

Games are fun. Games are also a critical part of learning about life as well, though. Games teach us how to take defeat without being crushed by it and how to learn from failure. The successful man is just one who’s taken more opportunities to fail than those around him. Let’s teach our children that competition is good, that winning is fun, and that fairness does not mean that no one loses. Let’s teach them to respect their opponents, and most of all, that losing is a step in the process of learning how to win.

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