Life, The Universe, And Gaming — Having Mixed Feelings Is Okay
Foreword: Yes, I’m totally doing this. So in the most recent podcast if you’ve given it a listen by now, Dean asked that I apologise for what he alleges was false information in my last column where I purported that the header image I used portrayed my ‘entire’ gaming backlog. I’m here today to clear up any misconceptions: That bundle of games forms the entirety of what I plan on playing, either again or for the first time, in future. I left out quite a few other games which I have no plans on replaying (such as Dragon Age II, sadly), but I left in all games I either play now or want to play in future. Cool?
A short while ago I released my belated Lollipop Chainsaw review, which was received in all sorts of manners, but for the most part it was agreed that while not badly done, my review was nonetheless overly positive. Of those who claimed such, I believe only one actually played the game. And no, this isn’t some knee-jerk reaction. I’m simply setting the stage.
That very week we saw the reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2′s multiplayer component, a very important aspect of the next Call of Duty title that was always going to be held under a microscope of scrutinisation (I made it a word, bite me) upon revelation. I for one quite liked the accompanying trailer. Others, not so much.
Let’s do one more example. Mass Effect 3′s ending. Done.
The point to all of this is that of late it seems we gamers have become entirely incapable of treading a middle ground between liking and disliking something. This should not be confused with indifference, just like apathy should not be confused with ignorance. You do get indifferent gamers who simply don’t care about something, but you very rarely get gamers who both like and dislike something. At least, recently.
I’ll use more examples in a moment but put quite simply, I believe that when a game is revealed, released or just consumed by gamers today, the result is either uber-hatred or uber-fanboyism with no real middle ground wherein gamers say, “You know what, ‘this’ kinda sucks but the game is enjoyable for ‘that’ reason.”
When did we become so fervent about our passion? Perhaps that’s a bit of a tautological statement, but it serves for conveying the point. I think it’s time we calmed down and allowed ourselves to be a bit more grounded.
Now. I am currently playing through Rage, a game that I cannot play in prolonged sessions because quite honestly it saps the very energy from my being like a whore sucks… never mind. It’s not a bad game so much as it’s just plain mediocre in many ways. I like the character animations, the design of the world and the hub town populace. I also like the feeling of desolation which is just about there, but not quite in that Fallout 3 way. It’s just that having played said Bethesda marvel as well as Borderlands and a slew of other post-apocalyptic titles (speaking of, Darksiders II releases this week. Yay!), I’m pretty much over the genre right now. Either that or Rage doesn’t really do anything different or special enough that I could hold it alongside either of the aforementioned games and go, “Yes, I would definitely spend hundreds of hours here.” I just can’t.
But does that mean I hate it? Of course not. I’m simply in the middle. To put that into words: “Eh.”
I neither like nor dislike Rage. But at the same time, I both like and dislike Rage. Equal parts, really.
The same logic could be applied to another game I recently got a chance to play through (thank you Adam) called The Darkness 2. It’s got flaws all over the place. It’s a clumsy shooter that asks you to use both your triggers, shoulder buttons and face buttons in combat in order to be effective, and it’s got a story that I finished in quite literally a single sitting. But it’s got charm by the truckload (and not just because Jenny is hot as fuck) and I found myself restarting the game on New Game Plus mode just as quickly as I finished it because I was simply having that much fun. And this game just has the most epic collectibles ever. The foreskin of Jesus and an unholy thumbscrew are but two of these beauties.
You could say I liked it a bit more than I disliked it but again, I was comfortably striding that middle ground which I could call a fence but for my size… you see, I’d break that fence.
These days it seems too commonplace that a game claims to be a first person shooter and gets compared to Call of Duty at which point everyone frowns in disappointment that yet another modern day CoD clone shooter thing lol has made its way to the world and we’re all doomed to live an eternity playing inferior products. Instead of, you know, actually judging the game by its merits.
And that works both ways. The joy you all feel for Dishonored upon seeing each trailer? I felt that before with two of Arkane’s previous titles. Arx Fatalis looked good initially. So too did Dark Messiah Might And Magic. They both looked amazing prior to release and generated a right proper amount of hype amongst the masses. And then they released to the world and suddenly all the lukewarm responses came, and the low sales for each game showed that the world wasn’t ready for what Arkane had ready for them. Either that or Arkane weren’t ready to wow the world. I don’t know about that, because I adored both those titles and I still hold Dark Messiah as the single greatest portrayal of true first-person fantasy warfare, yes even better than Skyrim. I meant to do a column on this a while ago but it’s just as easy to add this in here: I think that Dishonored is getting a world of the benefit of the doubt thrown its way, based purely on what the developers are showing. You all should know better.
You could almost call it the Anti-CoD. Like the Anti-Christ, except Call of Duty has a bigger fanbase.
It’s okay to have mixed feelings about a game. Recognise and appreciate the good parts, recognise and accept the bad parts as well.
This might also be why many claim that review scales are broken. Just last week, a friend on a forum said that recently it’s as if the review scale has shifted to between 50 and 100 where a bad game is simply a 70-scorer whereas most games get 85 or above. And he is very right about that. Thankfully we don’t have review scales here.
Cliffy B himself took shots at EuroGamer last year when they gave Gears of War 3 an 8 out of 10. Hate out of ten, anyone?
It’s okay for there to be a middle ground. In fact I’d almost encourage it. Stop looking only at the good or the bad aspects of the game and allow yourselves to see everything about a game. Look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. Perhaps you might appreciate games more that way. And please don’t dismiss someone who claims to like or dislike a game, because you don’t agree with them. Imagine if we dismissed all games people said were bad, how many experiences can you think of that you’d have missed out on?
Only a sith deals in absolutes.