Professor Christopher Paul argues that video games promote “toxic meritocracy.” The professor, chair of the department of communication at Seattle University, and author of The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games, has a problem with modern day video games because they advance the notion that the most prepared of skilled players should win.
“All those things shape our expectation and focus and players on individuals, rather than the collective,” Paul noted. “As actualized meritocracies, video games quickly become really toxic spaces where players are focused on individual glory, rather than creating positive spaces for interaction.”
Paul argument is based on the “rags to riches” game plots and how the hardest working players propel the characters into key roles.
“A premise frequently underlying video game design is the belief that games should be balanced. Balance is actively sought by designers in an effort to develop games that provide a ‘fair’ playing field that can easily be translated into an appropriate test of gamer skills,” Paul continued. “The governing ideology of balance allows those with the most gaming capital to triumph over those with less, as developers seek to make games where success is shaped by skill, rather than chance. As the norms of gaming capital and balance have become increasingly ensconced within game design, one of the implications is that games become meritocratic, where the ‘best’ are the most successful.”