Rocket Arena isn’t a dead game. It’s had a turbulent start, but it’s on the right track. Here’s my take on how narratives on social media are too influential when it comes to games, why it’s a problem, and why we should be mindful about how they influence our decisions.
Just a heads up, this is a piece of long-form journalism written in a stream of consciousness style. If you’re interested in my breakdown of narratives on social media and why it’s a problem, please read on. However, if you’re only interested in my opinion on Rocket Arena, please click here.
Narratives on social media are too influential on people’s opinions when it comes to games
I’m still relatively new to the freelance writing world. But I’ve been doing it long enough now to understand how it works, and how it can be improved.
Something I’ve realised is how influential social media can be on the news we consume, especially in the gaming and esports industry.
Generally, news surfaces either directly or indirectly from various sources on social media, and a discussion ensues. People upvote the comments they agree with and downvote those they disagree with.
However, people who post and comment only make up a small portion of actual users on any given platform.
Similarly, those who upvote and downvote make up a more significant portion, but it’s still a fraction compared to the number of people who read and move on.
What ends up happening is the creation and curation of a narrative, one that conforms to the values and intentions held by what has come to be known as the ‘hive mind’.
In other words, uncritical conformity runs rampant to the point where a single all-encompassing and often over-simplified opinion prevails.
A good example is when people are discussing whether or not a game is good. All it takes for the ‘hive mind’ phenomenon to kick in is a vocal minority mass upvoting anything that supports the desired view, while mass downvoting anything that doesn’t.
Ironically, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since dissenting views often get drowned out by what seems to be an overwhelming majority.
But is that really what most people think, or is it what a particularly vocal portion of people think, which then snowballs into something bigger? I’d say sometimes it’s the former, while other time’s it’s the latter.
Naturally, criticism is warranted and always welcome. People are entitled to their views, and sometimes a trending narrative is fair and accurate. But sometimes it’s not, and it’s easy to see how it can get blown out of proportion.
A neural reader might glaze over a thread to get what they assume is an informed and universal opinion.
They’ll base it on what they see, which ultimately is whatever has been upvoted the most. In turn, this influences their perspective, while also reinforcing the narrative, and the cycle continues.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But it’s an imperfect system that gives a lot of power to people on social media, regardless of their agenda.
That’s probably why we’ve seen an increase in the amounts of bots, shills, and trolls, which take advantage of this system to sway and influence others.
To make matters worse, narratives and trends on social media often influence the views and opinion of writers too. How many times have you read an article that simply rehashes the same points that are already prevalent on social media?
Unfortunately, too many writers angle their content in a way that accommodates to what they consider to be the majority view.
It’s not always a big deal, but it can be problematic when they aren’t thinking for themselves.
They’ll write a piece that panders to the masses, whether intentionally or otherwise, and send it back to them in a kind of feedback loop.
Then, it’ll re-circulate on social media, and instead of offering something new, it will solidify and reinforce the same opinions and perspectives.
It’s fine if a writer wholeheartedly agrees with what seems to be a widespread opinion. But they shouldn’t falter or hesitate to express themselves when they don’t, or when they only agree with some aspects.
After all, if writers are too afraid to go against the grain, then what’s the point of writing at all? It goes against what it means, or what it’s supposed to mean, to be a journalist.
That might not mean much in a world where journalistic integrity is at an all-time low. But just like how we are supposed to be ethically obligated to report hard news factually and objectively, we are also supposed to cultivate and articulate our opinions organically.
Of course, if it’s a real-world issue, and an opinion is not only contrarian, but also offensive, irrational, biased, foolish, or downright incorrect, then please keep it to yourself.
But if it’s about something harmless like enjoying a game that people love to hate, then, by all means, write about it however you want, regardless of what people say.
For that reason, I’ve decided to write a little follow-up piece on Rocket Arena. Because now that I’ve played it, I throughly enjoyed it. But I find myself at odds with what seems to be the majority view, so I wanted to share mine.
Rocket Arena is now on sale, and regardless of what you might have heard, it isn’t dead
In the past two weeks, I’ve seen many posts and articles telling me that Rocket Arena is a total failure. They’re all based on the same points that have been circulating on social media; the game is too expensive, and as a result, the game is dead. But neither of these points are true, at least not anymore.
Rocket Arena’s initial price was indeed a bit too high. I decided not to buy it for that very reason. Now it’s on sale for six dollars, which is very odd since it’s only been out for a few weeks.
Sure, it probably happened in a desperate attempt to boost the player count, but it could also be because the developers acknowledged their error and are trying to fix it. Either way, it’s not too expensive anymore, at least not at the moment.
That wasn’t enough to appease the masses though. Since the price isn’t an issue, people on social media have turned their attention elsewhere, and now the narrative has changed. The early sale means the game is completely dead, apparently, and not worth getting, even for a measly six dollars.
Not being one to conform, I decided to take the six-dollar game and bought the game on sale. It didn’t take long to realize that the game isn’t dead at all. I’ve had no problem finding games with crossplay enabled.
What’s more, I’m based in Australia, which it’s common to have player base issues on local servers in non-mainstream games. Admittedly, most games have been on South-East Asian servers. But it’s no different to what I’m already used to, and it hasn’t been laggy at all.
So, with the main two criticisms debunked, I found myself enjoying a game that people loved to hate. I can’t help but wonder if the criticism has something to do with the fact the game’s developer, Final Strike Games, is backed by much-maligned Electronic Arts.
I say that because Rocket League also has a fixed price despite having a battle pass, but nobody seems to mind. To nitpick even further, it still costs only a little less than Rocket Arena’s launch price even though it came out more than five years ago.
I don’t see any difference between the two business models. But, for some reason, one game has been subject to flagrant criticism about its price, while the other hasn’t. Please tell me how that didn’t result from a narrative that trended on social media.
Either way, the important thing to take away is that Rocket Arena has actually received mostly positive feedback. It’s currently rated 73 on MetaCritic and 72 on OpenCritic, and that score even includes reviews complaining about the initial price and player base, which isn’t an issue anymore.
Personally, I’d probably rate it a little higher. The game is incredibly polished and detailed, and the gameplay is fluid, fast-paced, action-packed, and exhilarating. It’s also very addictive, which is probably because each game is a quick adrenaline fix that leaves me wanting more.
So, in spite of the bad press, Rocket Arena is thoroughly enjoyable, and it’s certainly not dead. I probably wouldn’t have bought it at full price, but it’s definitely worth the six dollars I spent buying it on sale.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here. If you’re interested in a game, it’s okay to do a bit of research and let other people’s opinions inform and influence your own, but please be mindful about narratives that develop on social media. Sometimes they get it right, but not always.
Alex is a freelance writer based in Adelaide, Australia. He finished a law degree but realised it wasn't the career for him and decided to follow his dream of becoming a writer. Since then, he has finished two postgraduate writing degrees at Swinburne University of Technology. Now he writes about his other passion; esports and gaming.