Time and time again when a negative review is posted about a much-beloved game, the gaming community rears its ugly head, as we’ve seen with the latest review score drama circling around the Washington Post review for Uncharted 4. People go online with their Twitter account to personally attack the author, as shown in a recent Kotaku article about the subject here, create petitions to censor things, and so on. However, and I’ve pointed out the hypocrisy of sites like Kotaku before, this isn’t just a problem with review scores, it’s an issue with the lack of moderation.

The gaming community can be wonderful if you’re in the right place, surrounded by the right people. There’s tons of people out there looking to have thoughtful discussions about video games in a mature and respectful manner. Unfortunately, there are those who want to create turmoil as well. But that’s normal, that happens whether your online or not. People are, however, more careful about what they say in person because there’s no veil of anonymity to hide behind, whereas online we have that luxury (mostly).

As you all know, online anonymity allows toxic conversations to sprout all over the internet, with people saying things online they’d most likely never actually say to someone’s face. Part of the reason this has become such a problem is because some of the online outlets don’t moderate comment sections enough. People aren’t afraid of the consequences for the actions they take online because there aren’t any, or so it seems like that. I guess you can be banned from a comments section, but to most that’s an “oh well” moment.

Review scores are part of the problem, sure. We’re all very well aware of that. People tend to focus on the score rather than the actual writing on the wall, though and that’s in part due to how most outlets treat review scores: 8-10 is good. 1-7 is trash.

That may be slightly exaggerated, but it’s probably not too far from the truth. However, I’m not really writing this editorial to discuss review scores. I’m more here to discuss journalists treating review scores as the problem for creating toxic gaming communities, when it’s more of a case of these outlets not doing their job to help fostering thoughtful gaming discussion.

Let me be frank. OnlySP doesn’t get a whole lot of comments in our comments section. That’s partly because fostering a community is hard work, and moderating one is even harder and more time consuming. The other reason for this is simply because we really don’t post a whole lot of controversial content, as we prefer to focus on the positivity in the gaming community and games rather than drama. But even so, when we do have a heavy-hitting article, we do our best to make sure the comments section are holding discussions and not posting junk like “OnlySP gave X GAME a 6 out of 10! WTF! Dis game is totally a 10. F THESE GUYS, they have no idea how to review games. F THIS WEBSITE, now I’m going to track down AUTHOR on TWITTER and threaten him with POOP EMOJIS.”

Not once have I visited IGN or Gamespot and not seen comments sections with stuff like that. When I see a trending topic on Twitter that’s about something controversial, I, again, see those sorts of comments. Once one comment is posted like that, other people start replying to it, and soon, you have a chain of 50+ comments that drive absolutely no discussion and usually devolves to people calling each other names or whatever other derogatory things come to mind.

IGN Comments

The sites that have the biggest influence on our industry just don’t take the time to moderate these discussions and provide avenues for people to actually discuss games. Just look at the Games sub on Reddit. I’m not exactly the biggest proponent for how they run things there, I’ll admit, but their comments sections are heavily moderated and only allow comments that add discussion. The kicker though? The moderators there do it for free. Another shining example? PSXExtreme (which unfortunately may not be around much longer) has always had good discussions in their comments sections because they didn’t allow toxic discussion to flourish which allowed the community to mature and respect one another.

We can have different opinions about games without being targeted for it. But only when we take responsibility and actually have standards for our discussions. Youtubers don’t moderate their comments section, and if they do, they usually just turn off comments. Major websites like IGN or Gamespot will occasionally chime in on a comments section if their writers are being heavily harassed, as was the case with Lucy O’Brien review of Uncharted 4. Now we have people basically saying that if we don’t give a game the score the community is expecting, you should expect to see backlash. That’s honestly bullshit and akin to blackmail.

Most of the time, I believe websites let these comments sections flourish because it boosts their comment numbers and increases return traffic from people returning to the fight. I bet if IGN actually heavily moderated their comments section, their Uncharted review would have about 2-5000 comments and not the 29,000 it has now. I completely understand that it’s impossible to curb all the toxic comments and knuckleheads on the internet, especially when you have an article containing over 25,000 comments, but we have to do a better job of moderating ourselves and our content platforms. We have to work on setting a standard for discussion that isn’t based around arguments or we’re going to keep coming back to this problem of the toxic few giving the rest of us a bad name.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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Nick Calandra
OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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