It’s Okay to Not Like A Great Game

I’m someone who pays attention to the reviews of video games, movies, and even kitchen appliances. In our modern, data-driven society practically every product asks buyers to voice their criticism. I feel I’m not unique in letting the wave of reviews determine what I ingest and digest. I buy items online only based on good reviews. The movies and TV I watch are sorted by the freshness of a tomato. I even decide where to eat based on the opinions of thousands of people I do not know. Feel free to call me a sheep. But ask yourself this: when you’re looking on Amazon for a toaster to replace your recently deceased “bread tanner” who do you consult? Friends? Family? Maybe. But most of us will undoubtedly say reviewers play some part in what we buy.

Video games are no exception. For the most part, this purchasing philosophy has served me well. I resonate with critics’ “must play” assessment of great games. But there are times when I simply do not agree with critical acclaim. I call it “the wrong side of Metacritic”. It’s a lonely and dark place, full of self-doubt and fear of missing out. When residing there, questions arise such as: Am I crazy for feeling the opposite way about this critical darling? What am I missing? What is there to celebrate? Though the answers are informative I can’t seem to answer the big question—why do I not like every great game?   

You Better Love It or Hate It

In mid June, Sony Playstation released the long anticipated The Last of Us 2. Sorting through the mound of 10/10 reviews would take an eternity. Practically, the entire gaming industry shouts its praises. But there happens to be a few whose brave opinions land them on the other side of the fence. Obviously, these reviewers’ opinions do not reach the glowing impressions of the majority. In most circumstances for the gaming community negative opinions are an easy pill to swallow. But this particular pill was impressively polarizing.

These middling reviews were considered to some people as bad reviews conducted by bad reviewers. To them this game was inescapably great and feeling the opposite was unexceptable. Seeing this carnage made me feel sorry for those that had given their honest opinion and were now being told how they should feel about this game. But I was also reminded of my own experiences of being on the “wrong” side of the Metacritic divide.

Diablo, more like Diab-lost

Diablo III is the only game I have ever played where I was checking my phone as I was playing it. It was so boring that I had to consult my other electronic device to remain awake. I mowed through horde after horde without needing to press a different button—essentially, autopiloting the entire game. I even turned up the difficulty and I still wasn’t engaged. Interestingly enough, Diablo III is one of the most addictive and rewarding games ever made according to reviewers. It currently sits at 90% on Metacritic. I’m completely bewildered by this. In an attempt to understand, I’ve tried to play this game five times and have quit five times. I constantly ask my friends questions on why they enjoy this title. But their answers are unhelpful.

Some people count sheep. I play Diablo III.

Because of this, I’ve felt left out and a little dense. I’ve wanted to downplay the validity of glowing reviews because I just don’t agree. I want to glean the enjoyment of Diablo III that others rave about, but to this day, I have not. But I have learned a valuable lesson about excellent games in general: I do not have to like them, and that’s okay. People enjoy games that I don’t. That doesn’t make anyone inferior or superior. It solidifies that popular opinion, though telling, is not always correct for me. 

Dark Souls, The Dark Souls of Recommendations

Simply put, gaming is never as dire as I’m making it out to be. The need to enjoy a great title is in many ways fleeting. Mutual appreciation is not going to happen with every game and that’s okay. This was made clear to me by recommending to a friend one of the most engaging games of our time: Dark Souls. The combat is frustrating, but fair. The world is mysterious and deadly. The bosses are powerful and entertaining to solve. It’s on the short list of Greatest Games of All Time. But despite critical acclaim, Dark Souls is a tough game to recommend. I have suggested to several of my friends to try it out.

They inevitably report back with concerns. Some of the concern is for me, for recommending it, but most of the issues are targeted at the game itself. To them the frustrating-but-fair combat is overly punishing and masochistic. The mysterious and deadly world is vague and difficult. And the bosses are a major test of patience. This criticism cuts to the core of my taste, but it’s valid. And if I’m opened-minded, I can see what they’re saying. We witnessed the exact same elements of the game and feel differently about them. The reality is this: opinions on games are not a right or wrong assessment. They’re points of view. Reviews have the right to be as unique and varied as the people who write them.      

In Interest of Moving On

 As for “why do I not like every great game?”—I’ve resolved that this question doesn’t need to be answered. I play video games to enjoy them and take a break from reality. It’s a chance to breathe and have some relief from a stressful day. My enjoyment is only muddled by assigning too much power to the importance of reviews. It doesn’t make much sense to burden my diversion with the thoughts of critics. I can be satisfied with my opinion being the greatest deciding factor in what games I should play. There is never a need to feel threatened for not enjoying a critically great game. In thinking this way I don’t have to fruitlessly poke a game, asking for it to show me the goods. Instead, I can pay attention to the games I love—”great game” or not.

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  1. There’s nothing immediately wrong with liking a bad game, there is something very wrong with lying about the quality of a game. Especially out of ignorance. Then you have to try and measure the impossible, the outright wrong opinions of casual gamers have sold most core gamers down the river. Worse? A lot of casual gamers over the years have become convinced they’re “hardcore” gamers thanks to ease of access to information. Games can, without a doubt, be factually bad. You look at what they’re marketing, you look at games in a similar genre, you look at costs, development time, experience of staff. This isn’t rocket science, it isn’t complicated in the slightest. Sadly, gaming journalism has devolved into lying 24/7 being entirely beholden to publishers with the occasional fluff piece for themselves. Oddly enough, this article wasn’t a bad read.

    Gaming as a whole has a BS problem that gamergate attempted to point out before it was hijacked. Ethics in gaming journalism has died and with it, the opinions of those who consume it. Development costs are skyrocketing, games are selling more copies whole turning over less profit. Developers in general are going out of business left and right while those that remain cling to publisher/platform/launcher/timed deals in a desperate attempt to stay alive.

    Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room. The gaming crash has been here since 2010 and nobody is saying a word in mainstream gaming journalism. They get free stuff from the publishers and near everything that comes out is a 8-10/10. You couldn’t have said it better than Diablo 3. It actually was a snooze fest with minimal depth, far less than Diablo 2. A game made more than a decade earlier. Casual consumers suck back the hyped up battle Royales and the pretty graphics while legitimately timeless games are being made less and less. The PS4/Xbox One had some of the most forgettable games I’ve ever played. From first party to third.

    Can we admit this industry has a serious quality control problem? Can we do that now? Please? It isn’t helping anyone to maintain the facade. It just puts more developers out of business.

  2. There is just one huge problem with this take. The vast majority who “dislikes” the game has neither played it nor finished it.

    I had several friends who disliked what was happening mid-game, but all came around deeply impressed and loving the game after finishing it. Many just tale a few things out of context because it suits their narrative, yet forget about the whole picture.

    The game is an absolute masterpiece and more than the sum of its parts.

    The same people concern trolling about the story are the same complaining that COD or AC is the same every year.

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