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Why Have Some Popular Games Become So Cringey?

Why Have Some Popular Games Become So Cringey?

Kinda sus bro.



Words by: Catherine Lewis

Why is it that so many games can only get so popular before being disowned by a massive chunk of their player base? We've seen it time and time again with the likes of Minecraft and Undertale - both of which were (and are) phenomenal, eventually got labelled as childish, annoying and even toxic, only to come out of the other end a few years later with the same people admitting defeat and accepting the games were never bad to begin with. Gamers on the internet do tend to be very fickle souls, I suppose.

When you think about it, the very same thing is currently in motion with Among Us. Only a few months ago, you'd genuinely struggle to find anyone who wasn't playing it, but now, most of the traction it gets is in the form of ironic memes and general dunking on younger players who still enjoy it. So, what is it about certain games that provoke such a reaction? I think there's a few consistent ingredients that might be able to help us figure it out, so let's put together a cringe sandwich.

Undoubtedly, the main ingredient, the filling, if you will, any game needs to reach cringe status is popularity. We're talking about internet breaking levels of popularity. If your social media feeds aren't heaving with screenshots, fanart, and general discussion about a game for months on end, it's just not in that league. Cast your mind back to 2016, several months after the release of Undertale, when everyone had really picked up on it. I couldn't go anywhere online without seeing a funny skeleton, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing - or at least it wasn't until people tried to make them sexy. That still haunts me.

Peak popularity brings me nicely over to the next required cringe category - a very enthusiastic fanbase. You might think that those two things are basically the same, but there's a big difference between people posting cool secrets and sharing their favourite quests from Skyrim, and people composing fan songs for Five Nights at Freddy's (some of which slap, not gonna lie). The point is, certain fanbases enjoy their games with a lot more energy than others, which isn't a criticism of either, but the former make their activities a lot more present online, which may put them in the gaze of those who don't care about spooky animatronic lore quite as much. Their loss.

Finally, the last key component is for the game to be appealing to a younger audience. I don't necessarily mean that the game has to be made solely with children in mind, but there should be a significant amount of kids who actively play it and are involved with the fanbase. Aside from a game being bright and colourful, there's no greater reason for the mobs to point fingers and call something a kids game than it having a large number of younger players in its audience. We all know someone who's compared Minecraft to Mega Bloks. And it's very annoying, every time. Minecraft is a modern day masterpiece, Brad!

Minecraft /
Mojang Studios

So, how does this all come together, then? Well, a lot of a game's potential cringe points are brewed up straight from its popularity. For starters, there's always going to be people with a hipster attitude who don't want to be considered mainstream, so if a game does go mainstream to the point where everyone and their grandma is playing it, they won't want to be involved. Fair enough. Otherwise, there's also the fact that if a game goes super viral, you tend to see it out in the real world more. And generally, when it's out in the wild, it's being presented by people who might not necessarily completely know what they're talking about. Think school teachers, TV presenters, or even politicians, who might make some really forced references which don't quite land with anyone. Pokémon Go to the polls, anyone?

But, the main conclusion that draws together all the main "cringe categories" is actually a little bit sad - much of what tends to get mocked online generally centres around the way younger fans enjoy media. We've all seen cringe compilations centred around kids practicing Fortnite dances and shouting excitedly while they play certain games, and lately I've seen multiple Tweets laughing at kids drawing Among Us characters in their school books. Kids enjoy things in a different way to adults - certain media can be so important to younger fans, that their participation in the fandom feels like the most important thing in their life at that time. And that's okay!

Bermix Studio via Unsplash

At the end of the day, it's normal for games to fall out of fashion. It's expected, and like flared trousers and dungarees, they will eventually come back in, it's what they do. What's not okay though is for people to essentially bully children for enjoying things. Even if it's not to their faces, by blowing up a clip or picture of a kid engaging in "cringey" behaviour, you're immortalising that on the internet forever, and they have no choice in the matter. If you've been a gamer since you were young, I'm sure you'll agree that we all faced a certain level of bullying growing up regarding our hobby, and this is just another way of perpetuating that experience on to the next generation, which isn't fair.

One positive to keep in mind of all this though, is that the internet is incredibly predictable. Games almost always come out of the other end of that dark cringe tunnel with a newfound appreciation, because, let's face it, they had to be good to get so popular in the first place. And yes, that is me saying right here and right now that Fortnite is good, because give it a few years, and unless the creators get cancelled, I'm sure that won't be an unpopular opinion to have (I hope this doesn't age poorly).

And where would we be without our reclaimed love for these games? The incredible response to adding Sans as a Mii Fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the annual Twitter wars over which new biomes and creatures should be added to Minecraft each time Minecraft Live rolls around just wouldn't be the same without it (Moobloom was robbed, by the way). Regardless of the reasons why and wherefore, it's just a bit silly to actively try to make people feel bad for liking the things they do. Nobody's ever called chocolate ice cream cringey, have they? Just, let people enjoy things.

Featured Image Credit: Innersloth / Mojang Studios

Topics: Among Us, Minecraft