With the blockbuster release of L.A. Noire, Rockstar’s superb game about being a lawman in the seedy 1940’s-era Los Angeles, gamers have been flocking to game review sits and Youtube to see what the critics are saying about this title and to discuss the pros and cons of the game with fellow gamers. Popular review sites like Gamespot and IGN regularly post video reviews on Youtube and scrolling through the comments section is always a colorful experience to put it mildly. Intelligent and insightful comments are to be found, but sadly they are often swimming in an ocean of ignorant prattle put out by functional illiterates who should probably be picking up a book rather than a game controller. In this capacity, the comments that greeted my aching eyes in the Gamespot review of L.A. Noire particularly bothered me, and it affirmed that the gaming community, for all the great people out there, is still infested with trolls and lowlifes.
The comments I speak of are not the garden-variety “your review sucks” type, since those exist in every video and should be expected, but rather vicious and prejudicial barbs aimed squarely at the reviewer of the game. The reviewer in question is Carolyn Petit, who you will know within a few seconds of watching her review that she is a transsexual. Not that this should matter to me, since I clicked on the video to actually watch the review and have it aid in my decision to buy or not to buy the game. The personality of the reviewer does help to build a connection with the viewer, and I found Carolyn’s review to be very well thought out and well presented. Valid points were made on the games strengths and shortcomings, and I felt it was one of the better reviews I had seen thus far. However, I was acutely aware while watching the review that the comments section, just a scroll of the mouse wheel away, was likely to have exploded with barrage of rude and hateful comments. To be fair, people picking on the reviewer has rarely offended me because it shows the pure idiocy of the trolls, since they have no valid points to offer and must resort to childish ad homonym attacks. However, to attack someone on the basis of them being transgendered is no different than calling someone out for being gay, black or having a disability. Even in cyberspace, where people can say whatever they want with impunity, this should not be tolerated.
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about the specific struggles that transgendered people face, but I imagine it’s the same that the gay community has had to deal with for years. We live in the year 2011, however there still exists people who are either outdated in their thinking or completely ignorant as to let prejudice guide their views. Sadly, there are plenty of those people playing video games and they have swarmed the LA Noire video and made Carolyn the focus rather than the game. I won’t quote specific comments as doing so would dignify them, but comments like “what the hell is he/she doing reviewing games” and “who or what is that?” are generally what you can expect to find. Whatever intelligent comments existed quickly got buried under a landslide of idiocy and ignorance. Some did try to fire back or shift the focus back to the game, while some were even bold enough to blame Gamespot for the trolling, arguing that putting a transsexual in front of the camera is troll bait and they should have known better. By this logic, anyone with even a remote imperfection that others can pick out and make fun of should be banned from presenting videos and doing reviews. It’s completely absurd and little more than prejudice masquerading as informed opinion.
I’m not an easily offended person and I know to expect the worst of some people online, but something about this situation bothers me more than it probably should. To Carolyn’s credit, she is taking it in stride and she even explained her struggles with gender identity in her blog, which thankfully led to the more sensible people coming out of the woodwork and offering support. What is at the core of this issue for me is the fact that trolling has hit an all-time low and my mind is blown at the sheer ignorance and utter stupidity of some people who call themselves gamers. The personal life of the reviewer, while perhaps being unusual to some people, should not be the prime topic of discussion let alone an incentive for people to troll. This is a game review and the focus should be on the game, as should the discussion, and people leaving rude comments about Carolyn really need to locate their moral compass and smarten up.
For Gamespots part, I think it’s good that they provide an equal opportunity for talented reviewers and will not shy away from putting someone on camera just because they may not fit the GQ mold of what people think an internet personality should be. Carolyn provided a quality review that has unfortunately been overshadowed by the ignorance of others, but hopefully this will become less of an issue once she becomes more of a presence in Gamespot reviews and the gaming public accepts her. As angry as trolling makes me sometimes, the reality is that we’re on the internet and putting yourself out there means that you are opening yourself to a world of abuse. That being said, I think the comments I’ve seen in said review represent the rock bottom of trolling and I think these people should be called out for their conduct. However, to do this would be crediting them with the ability to learn and think reasonably, something the clearly lack by their displays of ignorance and complete dearth of education. Haters are going to hate, I guess, but hopefully that will change.