Why it is OK to negatively criticize a free game

You’ve probably read it a couple of times. There’s a free game, say, on Steam, and people complain about stuff and then others talk down to them, claiming since it’s a free game, they are bad people.

So let me widen the perceptual horizon here.

Justified critique is totally fine, especially considering that a freely published game, especially on a highly-frequented platform like Steam, is often a promotion instrument, a skill demo, so it’s not exactly for the pure love of the world. You’de be surprised how many people are way more egoistically motivated than they pretend to be. But you’d only be surprised when you find out, and you only find out when you can manage to put them to the test. (I’m digressing slightly here.)
Furthermore, critique is free consulting, so they’re actually getting a good deal. I mean, there are game devs who are totally inept design-wise, publish a piece of crap of a game, then collect the tons of critique and get to work implementing the suggestions and thus don’t need to be anything but a hacker monkey who is being force-fed with game design training. That business scheme seems especially popular with early access. People will even pay for crap and on top of that give you free consulting services, all fueled by the hope that the game becomes great one day.
In the most extreme case, an early access game is little more than: “OK, I made an empty world space. Pay up, then I’ll allow you to tell me what you want in it and I’ll put it there. (Unless I don’t want to.) Isn’t that great? Your own personal ideas implemented in a totally not generic game. Your ego must be so st(r)oked right now. Buy your own little piece of immortality today!
And the next day there’s an empty space with a pickaxe and a zombie.

I was inspired to write this when I learned about a free Steam game (Serena) that had some issues related to Steam being crap and Valve not caring (the usual), and I read up about the game, and it’s advertised as “…the result of a massive collaborative effort between dozens of fans and designers of adventure games.” while when you press ESC that story-progression-type game immediately quits, without so much as a confirmation dialogue. Unbelievable? Well, I’ve seen some wacky things. Totally justified to go “Dude! What the hell?!

Speaking of incompetence: Is there any major internet business that hasn’t made it its mission to destroy any usability? As I am writing this, I have to switch between Visual and HTML view, because HTML view doesn’t have quick formatting, but requires me to add code manually, while Visual doesn’t know what a line break is (!), yet in HTML view it doesn’t even need/show the code for it.
I’m not even gonna explain how to do it more elegantly. They need to figure such basics out themselves. My consulting services aren’t for free, since my expertise is apparently scarce.

Alliance of convenience vs. working together for the result

Apparently there is a common confusion, sometimes self-deception, about this difference. When people are working together, look at what it is that made them do it. Explore their motivations. They can vary a lot.

For example, when you look at a game like World of Warcraft, it’s one of the best examples for the worst kind of cooperation: Coerced by a ruleset, coercing loot-crazed egoists to participate in group activities because that’s the way to achieve their personal goals.
This kind of thing masks the real character of a person, and only when put to the test will it reveal itself.
Another type is like the above, but people putting up an act of altruism because they were subject to certain healthy social norms and don’t feel comfortable with themselves being an egoist unless they tell a better story of themselves.
This could lead to another phase where this self-lying is believed by the person themselves. (There’s a nice hint to that in Far Cry 2, or it’s literary source Heart of Darkness.) It’s like NLP, or self-indoctrination.
Then there are people who are not kidding themselves about their true egoistical motives and are OK with them. This is actually a step in the right direction. (Explaining why would require a lot more time. I’ll leave it for you to meditate on.)

All this will be very alienating to someone who is capable of real altruism, is doing sincere introspection habitually, is not just caring for themselves or for others only when it fits into their agenda, and is actually looking forward to enjoy seeing something accomplished, regardless of what’s in it for themselves.
Because it is a bit like this:

There is a game of everybody lying to themselves. It works as long as they all agree to keep playing by the rules. Only if someone introduces actual altruism into the game and the others realize it’s for real, they will fear that their game of deception might have to end. It’s like an insult to them, sometimes even the mere presence, because someone ‘thinks they’re better’ (They actually don’t, but the players ‘know’ (=believe) they’re worse and don’t like to be reminded of that). It’s an insecurity issue. Even if the altruist is understanding enough to not try and ruin their silly little game, it’s the nature of fear to always try to preserve itself.

That’s why it’s so important to sincerely hunt your fears, identify them, and then overcome them. One step at a time. Baby steps is much better than actively giving in to them out of convenience. The more people allow themselves that convenience, the more this burden will fall onto the very few who are too well-spirited to just stop caring and succumb. But, everybody has their breaking point, and they might eventually get majorly pissed and start gunning people down. And then, more than ever, having realized what the world has become, nobody wants to take responsibility, but instead revels in the dramatic rhetorical question “WHY?!” and their self-imposed convenient powerlessness. And those who do understand, but are naive enough to judge those people based on themselves and take it as a sincere question, will get demonized, making everything even worse.
And sometimes it seems things aren’t getting worse quick enough for people to get their shit together.

Someone whose personal aims are beneficial to yours is an ally.
A friend is someone who cares about you regardless of that.
Profound difference.