Nvidia's study linking hardware to competitiveness is peak PC gamer elitism

Nvidia has published a study in which it links the quality of a PC gamer’s hardware to his or her performance in battle royale games, like Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Using a series of graphs to display data sourced anonymously through its GeForce Experience app, Nvidia posits that, unless you’re using one of its latest GeForce RTX graphics cards and a 144Hz Nvidia G-Sync monitor, you’re playing these games at a disadvantage.

So much so, in fact, that Nvidia directly links higher kill-death ratios – a figure measuring how many times you kill players versus how many times you’re killed – to more powerful (and considerably more expensive) gaming hardware.

What's the worst thing about this?

Nvidia's claims are grounded in reality. To avoid the obvious conclusion that better gamers generally buy better hardware, Nvidia provided a look at gamer performance over time across various Nvidia graphics cards (seen below) to show the impact on PC gamers of all levels of commitment. 

Image Credit: Nvidia

The problem with Nvidia’s negative advertising

But, whether Nvidia is right is not the point. The point is that this kind of study, which we would more accurately call “negative advertising,” is exactly the kind of exclusivity that causes would-be newcomers to the incredibly diverse world of PC gaming to do a 180 and never come back.

Negative advertising was the gaming industry’s primary mode of communicating with would-be customers throughout the ‘90s, with companies publicly attacking one another and even their target audiences’ dissenting choices. (Remember “Sega does what Nintendon’t?”)

There’s a reason the industry moved on from this kind of dialog with fans and customers: because negative reinforcement is not a good motivator for pretty much anything.

In the same breath that Nvidia is telling readers who can afford its RTX hardware that it will give them a competitive edge, the company is (hopefully inadvertently) telling readers who cannot afford it that they will never be as good as those players more flush with cash.

The whole study reeks of pandering to the toxic, elitist subculture of PC gaming. At best, this study is a bad idea, and at worst it fosters a gaming culture that judges you based on what hardware you can afford.

This isn’t a great look for a company that, days ago at the time of writing, launched a line of more affordable, 16 series GTX graphics cards. Granted, Nvidia mentions these cards within the study as ideal for this competitive edge, they’re still clearly dwarfed in performance by the astronomically-priced RTX cards.

Considering that these games draw hundreds of millions of players, it’s safe to assume that a large number of them – if not a majority – cannot afford one of these new Nvidia graphics cards. Should those less fortunate masses just pack up and move on, then?

Regardless of what the answer is, the fact that this study even raises the question is why PC gaming is often generalized as elitist. With all of the hard work that’s been done to democratize access to PC gaming over the past 10 years, communications like this are just deflating.

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