Video gamers are finding the experience of playing less enjoyable than ever, with more than half saying the inclusion of social or political stories was the biggest reason for this, new research suggests.
A survey of more than 2,000 gamers found that just over a fifth (21%) said they felt games were now less enjoyable, with 54% naming the increased integration of political or social narratives as the thing they disliked most.
Microtransactions and loot boxes were also named by more than half of those asked as a key reason they enjoyed gaming less.
The research, carried out by UK online marketplace OnBuy.com, showed that when asked if games had become more enjoyable over the past 10 years, less than half (47%) agreed.
Technological advances such as better graphics and increased scale in games were named as positive improvements on 10 years ago, but many also said they felt social issues were being overly pushed in storylines or narratives.
While the majority of critics and fans have praised high-profile video game releases for increases in diversity and representation in stories in recent years to better reflect society, some have claimed the move interferes with the idea of games being a form of escapism.
Following the release of PlayStation exclusive The Last Of Us Part II in June – a game which featured two female protagonists, a same-sex relationship and a trans character among a diverse central cast – a number of the team involved in making the game received death threats and other abuse online.
Developer Naughty Dog released a statement after actors and members of its development team published some of the threats they had received.
“Although we welcome critical discussion, we condemn any form of harassment or threats directed towards our team and cast,” the studio said.
“Their safety is our top priority, but we must all work together to root out this type of behaviour and maintain a constructive and compassionate discourse.”
In OnBuy’s research, The Last Of Us Part II was the second most-mentioned example of a game where players felt a social or political narrative had been added, behind 2019’s Borderlands 3, which some also claimed was overly political because it featured a diverse range of characters, including non-binary figures.
OnBuy founder and chief executive Cas Paton said that as video games became a bigger part of popular culture, it was vital diversity and representation increased.
“The majority of gamers don’t seem to be thrilled about the inclusion of social and political narratives, which could be due to gaming historically being used as a form of escapism,” he said.
“However, it is great to see the increased diversity in games and I hope this is a trend that continues, because as the industry gets bigger and bigger, so will its cultural impact.”
Female representation was also named among the best five changes in games by those who took part in the survey.
Elsewhere, the research highlighted the dislike many gamers had for microtransactions and loot boxes – additional purchases within games required to unlock certain items or characters.
A total of 52% of those surveyed said they were among the worst changes in gaming in the last 10 years.
A number of games have been heavily criticised for their use of loot boxes, and campaigners have warned they could spark gambling habits among children.
In June, the Government announced it was to launch a new consultation into video game loot boxes and whether they are linked to gambling-like behaviours.
Last year, a parliamentary report called for loot boxes to be regulated under gambling laws, a ban on loot boxes being sold to children, and an industry levy to fund independent research on the long-term effects of gaming.