The Internet can be seen as one huge community, where all of those who happen to play games online can commune. I’m going to focus here on a select few places where the gaming general public tends to come together to exchange ideas and thoughts on games or otherwise.
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The first, most popular, and well known is a location I mentioned in a previous entry, NeoGAF. NeoGAF stands for Neo Gaming Age Forums, sometimes simply referred to as “The GAF”. Developers often frequent this site to see what gamers think of their latest work, and occasionally to respond to community concerns.
For a general nondescript type of gaming, NeoGAF is the undisputed champ. You can find a topic on anything from “Gaming as an Art form” to the dreaded “Why did X publication only give Y a score of Z?”.
As recent as last year developer Dennis Dyack spoke to NeoGAF users who were, he believed, prematurely judging his work. You see, inside the development side of the industry, it’s usually a given that there will those who are happy and unhappy, and to let people think what they will. Mr. Dyack though had had enough; he posted on NeoGAF in response to claims his work was shoddy, broken, and looked at best sub-par. He made a bet with some of the forum administrators that his game was going to be great, but as I recall it never panned out, and all parties lost interest and felt embarrassed for having an open fight on forums, for thousands to see.
NeoGAF is not only home to many developers and enthusiasts, but many resourceful people who usually uncover some hidden tidbit of information from a website, and post it for all to see. The blog-o-sphere usually picks up on this and cites the posted news as fact. Many times, it was true, and someone luckily found something on a web page or a video taken with a cell phone, but other times it was nothing but a hoax. NeoGAF may be large, sometimes intelligent, but often times it’s more of a mob mentality, with people complaining and ridiculing releases before they’re out, and just people being judgmental.
Most people inside the industry view NeoGAF as a collection of idiots banging their heads against their keyboards, complaining about inane minutiae. And most people inside NeoGAF see people inside the gaming industry as paid-off-fat-cats who take orders from their corporate overlords, too afraid to speak an original thought. Their relationship is not very friendly. Although there are exceptions, as with any mass of people this large, there are stupid people on NeoGAF. Just as I’m sure that Dennis Dyack is something of a blowhard.
NeoGAF is great for games as a whole, but when it comes to the more granular it’s very dependent on what your topic of choice is. For specific games, most publishers host individual forums that focus on a single release.
One place where there is guaranteed to be both granular and filled with variety though is the Steam Forums. Steam is a digital distribution service, and they host individual forums for a vast majority, if not all, of their releases where gamers can set up multiplayer games together, share stories, or complain.
I complain because few people realize that early adopters of most PC software, and not just games, are widely considered to be paid “beta testers”. A Beta is an early version of software that isn’t quite finished, and many developers release unfinished titles, and all of those who purchase it early on have to deal with bugs and issues that weren’t discovered, or sometimes even looked for, in the Quality Assurance (QA) phase of development.
Thankfully, via the Steam Forums the individual game’s developers can check that game’s message board and see if there is any trouble, they can see what the users think, and all the rest of the great things about forums.
One key point of using the Steam forums is a publisher/developer can find out of the Steam version of a game is seeing a specific set of issues, or if Steam users are especially pleased with the release. Secondly, and we’re moving into 1984-tinfoil-hat-they-can-read-my-thoughts territory here, I don’t believe that the publishers has any power over the forum. There at least one case when a publisher has simply silenced any complaints, and even threatened to revoke the user’s CD key, which allows them to play the game if complaints continued.
Not many people visit the Steam forums besides complaining to be honest. While there are instances of people having original discussion and intelligent conversation, most see it as a community of whiners and people who can’t keep their mouth shut. Then again, that’s because of the technical support nature of the forums. If something breaks, the first place someone goes is the forums to see if it’s a common problem, and if there is a fix.
Most internet websites that I’ve mentioned in the past, IGN, 1up, Gamespot, Gamespy all host their own internal forums, usually broken up into different sub-sections, dedication to specific things. There is almost always at least the following:
- Gaming Discussions
- Site Discussions
- Non-Game Discussions
Depending on which site you visit, you’ll find a very different kind of user with different ideas.
Kevin Pabst is an avid gamer and also a student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College