Fun Fun Fun

I’ve been known to criticize nostalgic gamers who believe retro titles were superior to modern offerings, despite most old games being rubbish, but I almost can’t fault them for it. I look at the gamers of today and I often wonder if we’ve forgotten how to have fun, and whether retro gamers don their rose-tinted specs not because the games were better back then, but because they were better gamers back then.

There’s an air of dry misery that surrounds gamers these days, at least online, and it seems that when I converse with others of my ilk, the prime concerns get less about gaming, and more about the periphery garbage surrounding it — various publisher shenanigans, controversies concerning homosexuality as represented in the medium, whether or not we’re driving the industry forward artistically. I have these conversations almost every day as part of my job, and sometimes I wonder, after I debate the actions of Bobby Kotick or the potential social damage of Duke Nukem Forever — when are we going to talk about videogames? Not talk around them , but actually talk about them.

Don’t get me wrong — there are many interesting discussions to be had about the business practices of Activision and the apparent sexism in Capture the Babe, but I’m starting to worry that such discussion is becoming disproportionate to what I feel is the only truly important topic — how awesome videogames are.

Just take a look at Portal 2. Most gamers and critics agree, it’s one of the best games to be released this generation. However, as with so many titles lately, the actual topic of the game‘s merits has been completely overshadowed by sour controversy — namely the band of jilted PC gamers who are whining about Portal 2 being “too short” and having “day one DLC.” In truth, most of them were just butthurt because Valve’s publicity stunt didn’t unlock the game early, despite nobody promising it would. Whatever their reason for going on Metacritic and trying to bomb the game’s user review score, the effect it had was that attention was taken away from the game’s merits and placed squarely on the activities of these miserable, spoiled gamers.

I’m not innocent of this. I wrote an article on Destructoid where I tore these bastards to shreds, and it felt cathartic to do so. But at the same time, it’s sad that rampant negativity gets more attention than any form of positivity. It seems that, for some people, getting pissed off over every little detail is more enjoyable than actually playing games. Just take a look at communities such as N4G, and you’ll see how popular the bitch fests are in comparison to any form of celebration.

I used to write an article series for another website in which I’d look at older games and either praise them or critically maul them. The plan was, one month I’d pick a game I hated, and the next month I’d pick a game I loved. The article on the game I hated was a huge success. It reaped major traffic from N4G, generated a lot of links on social networks, and exploded in the comment section. The next month, I picked a game I really loved and wrote what I thought was a lovely article discussing its merits. It got one or two comments. It was linked nowhere. From then on, the site only wanted me to write about the games I hated. Positivity just wasn’t a good business decision.

People accuse me of hating games, and I’ve earned a reputation for my critical, negative reviews. Again, however, this is simply the problem of people having a prejudice against the positive. In truth, I have written far more positive reviews than negative. I have posted more celebrations of gaming than complaints. Nobody ever talks about them though, because it’s far more intriguing  to talk about that 4.5 I gave Assassin’s Creed 2. On the one hand, I get it — we as humans have a natural inclination to focus on negativity and drown out the positive. On the other, however — we’re fucking gamers. We got into this pastime because we like to have fun. It’s not fun to get upset over a bad review score or a game’s first-day DLC. At least not to the point where we focus on such things over and above the actual enjoyment we get from interactive entertainment.

I love videogames so much. I live for this shit. The sheer thought of living in a world where videogames exist makes me giddy. It’s a ridiculous privilege to live in such a world, when you get down to it. I think about some of the games coming up — Saints Row: The Third, L.A. Noire, Space Marine — and I almost cannot contain myself. Sure, if I later find that any of those games are sub-par, I will criticize them harshly, but I won’t forget how much I love games, and how much fun they give me.

This must be why retro gamers liked it better back then. We played utter shit and we loved it, because we didn’t know any better. Sure, I may have been an idiot child for somehow thinking Altered Beast was a great videogame, but there’s no denying I was all the happier for it. I had fun, and that’s what mattered.  What retro gamers must miss isn’t so much the quality of games, but the mindset of gamers. The ability to not give a shit about reviews, industry controversies, and the pathetic need for games to be “taken seriously.” What mattered back then was whether or not you could punch something hard, and whether or not that punch would be awesome.

I don’t want games taken “seriously” by some arbitrary social judge if it means gaming itself has to be serious business. Some may consider me an uncivilized troglodyte for this, but like I said last week, I want fun games more than any other type of game. I love and respect that games can be deeper, and I am excited about the potential for interactive entertainment as a narrative medium. Again, however, I fear that discussion about the “Citizen Kane” of gaming often outweighs the discussion about whether or not Bulletstorm is awesome because you can shoot a guy in the dick. It may not be the most culturally significant thing in the world, but it’s a damn good laugh, and I think that’s the most important thing in the world.

There are so many angsty writers out there, complaining about gaming is being “held back” by less artistic titles. They only want to complain about Call of Duty being popular, or how uncivilized games like Duke Nukem are. They live to complain about the “state of the industry” and apparent need for games to be more adult. This po-faced pontificating usually raises little more than a sneer from myself, as they typically come from people who I can’t even imagine holding a controller and enjoying a game. Typically, these people are the type who pretentiously consider themselves “journalists.” Maybe their primary concern is the medium being taken seriously so that their parents will believe they have a real job. Whatever the reason, this quest for validation comes at the expense of enjoying games for what they are, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Games have grown up, and so have we. We’ve gotten to the point where games can do more than punching and dick-shooting, and that’s terrific. Never lose sight, however, of what games are all about, at heart. Whether you’re complaining about Portal 2, accusing a reviewer of bias, demanding that games be given more respect as an art form, or calling Gearbox misogynistic scumbags, don’t forget to fucking enjoy games.

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22 Comments on Fun Fun Fun

Paul Langdon

On April 25, 2011 at 7:27 am

Great article, I couldn’t agree more! I swear, sometimes I think we share the same way of thinking…

LBD "Nytetrayn"

On April 25, 2011 at 8:02 am

*applauds*

Bravo, good sir. I am very happy to see you have also come to this realization.

I’ve been trying to steer my own, for lack of a better term, “journalistic endeavors” more towards the games themselves, and less about all the politics and gossip around them. You get into all of that, and it all becomes like a big tabloid, with people quoting “X developer said this about Y publisher,” and all that tripe.

I do have fonder memories of the older days of gaming, and you pretty much hit the nail on the head. I try to do my part to steer things back in that direction, to remember what it was about video game magazines which made them so much fun to read back then as gaming media, versus what we see today.

I just want gaming to be fun again, same as you.

Adam

On April 25, 2011 at 8:20 am

So true, so true. I’ve often wondered what the critical difference was that meant that older games were just more fun, even if they sucked, but I could never quite put my finger on it… Well, consider my finger placed!

So often now when I’m sitting there playing a game, I find myself sitting there thinking “Why am I doing this to myself? It’s not fun, it’s just ing depressing”, because we’ve forgotten how to enjoy basic, retarded fun. Sad times :(

Danzflor

On April 25, 2011 at 8:25 am

To begin with, this article should have thousand of comments and readed by everyone. I hate that Gaming Journalism is not taken seriously, but it was never intended to. Games, Videogames and all his medium surround him are all about fun, art, music, journalism, just playing the games, all of that should be supposed to involve fun on them.

That’s why I love your work, respect you and know that your OPINION is indeed, relevant.

Thanks for the reminder about videogames should be about.

T. Kelly

On April 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

Couldn’t agree more. I was once at a point where I’d play a game and enjoy it…but after reading negative reviews (whether professional or from fellow gamers), I’d find myself hating the game because I’d see the faults they were pointing out. I wouldn’t think that my experience was totally different than theirs, or maybe that the game just wasn’t the reviewer’s cup of tea. I’d get mad that I was playing a so-called inferior product, just because others thought it was.

Now I just remind myself that while reviews are helpful, the person writing it may not have the same tastes as I do. They may have burned through the game at a record pace to finish it for a deadline, or only played an hour and gave up. If I think a game looks fun, I should give it a try (re: download the demo). If I like it, I’ll buy it…no matter what others may say.

Terry

On April 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

If we don’t take games seriously, then games won’t take themselves seriously. I’m all for fun, but I’m more concerned with the medium’s evolution and progress. So if fun is paramount and Bulletstorm is the epitome of fun, then we might as well just quit while we’re ahead and enjoy shooting dudes in the face forever more. Clearly there’s no point in exploring any new frontiers.

Your attitude is so puerile and antagonistic that I’d wager you’re doing more harm than good. But hey, at least you’re having “fun,” so I guess that’s all that matters.

Aids

On April 25, 2011 at 10:18 am

Don’t play online games and hang out with people who are douches. It’s not rocket science.

Esmeralda

On April 25, 2011 at 11:29 am

I agree whole-heatedly with your article, with a tiny exception. For those gamers out there that want to see games evolve beyond just shooting some random guy in the balls, they’re not the ones that will deter your “fun factor.” Sure, some gamers want a “Citizen Kane,” but they also want it to be fun. Take Enslaved for example, which I know you loved. It was a deep story with great character development, while still being fun. That’s what gamers really want, at least it seems that way to me. Video games offer something movies don’t and vice-versa, so there are those gamers out there that want the best of both worlds. I don’t want a game so deep in it’s own agenda that it forgets to make it fun for me. In fact, even with your example of Bulletstorm, there are people out there that saw past the -shooting and got involved in the deeper story (http://t.co/vqaIyZV). But still enjoyed the -shooting… so it’s possible to have both.

You touched on the real problem with gaming today, and that’s the constant complains and self-entitlement. There are people out there now that don’t enjoy what the gaming world provides, and are never satisfied. These type of attitudes are truly sad.

Xenomorph13

On April 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Seems as though your views on the ammount of comments based on a positive or negative topic holds true. For me i feel as though we read negative reviews (as a grade scale) to see whats the overall worse case scenario. Gone are the days of the cheap game with cool box art that could suck but it was ok because it was cheap. Today if you drop 60 big ones on a game that is short, uninspired, and predictable (and thats not to say it even falls into the “bad category” based on these merits) you feel cheated or a best disappointed by what you’ve gotten.

Now given, todays gamer usually requires a bit more mental stimulus than what yesterdays contra or super mario could offer us but at the same time look at the time vs investment here. Think about how long you played those terrible games versus what you paid for them in comparison to today. Now given, when your five, you have a bit more free time on your hands, but I feel as though what we have lost it more than just the fun factor, its faith in what we’re getting when we buy a game.

Jekk Vorrn

On April 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I completely agree with you Jim. I’m one of the few people who didn’t enjoy portal but found portal 2′s coop to be great fun. Every time I mention that I didn’t enjoy portal I get lambasted for it. I play games purely to have fun and I agree that most gamers now play for reasons other than having fun. It’s sad where things are going but I’m hoping that we will get back to what games are truly about…and that’s having fun playing them.

Jake

On April 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm

THANK YOU!!!
I may be a fourteen-year-old but even I think you hit the point dead on. We focus to much on the graphics and which company make it. Today there are fights over wich game is the best even though all you do is shoot people in different ways.
Don’t get me wrong, I love video games. I just think that people take video games WAY to seriously. and foget that they are made for entertainment not for critizism.

Zotek

On April 26, 2011 at 3:20 am

Here’s something i haven’t considered in a while. Gonna have to give this some thought :)

*Remembers himself playing Goldeneye religiously, but the new vastly superior AAA shooters can barely hold my attention for the singleplayer campaign*

Mugweed

On April 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I agree fully. I like fun games. Of course fun is a subjective concept, so there will always be disagreement. Me, I like a wide variety of games. I am one of those who lamented the loss of good puzzle games to the FPS. The Portal series is great because it’s a puzzle game, yet uses an FPS concept to cast a wider audience net. Half Life was like that, but less “puzzley”. I think there was an X-Play Soap Box about puzzles being thrust into action games that do nothing but break the continuity and ruin the fun. I had a Super Pong as a kid (bought from Sears), then an Atari 2600 when it came out…that can place my age range. I also like games that never stop, and you just have to see how far you can get. That was what a lot of older games were like. It wasn’t about seeing the end-game screen and following credits, it was about trying to play for a longer time than the program memory (see Pac Man and Donkey Kong).

Now for some negativity. What I hate about the gaming industry now is the fact that they spend more time on multiplayer function than a good one-person gaming experience. I thought that Left 4 Dead would have been cool as a one-person FPS. I don’t want to gather 4 friends every time I want to play certain a game, and the AI will ALWAYS suck when you play alone. And the MMOs, all the complaining whiners that you reference are the *-holes that make up the population of those fantasy worlds. Who the F wants to deal with them? That sucks the fun out of a game faster than Lindsay Lohan shotgunning a red bull and vodka. This is where the gaming industry has turned away from actual “games” to endless variations of capture-the-flag and other crap that requires socialization with people I never wanted to know even existed. I play video games to get away from the jackwads in real life, not to be forced to deal with more of them over a digital connection.

Punky

On April 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I love you. I was alpha about my video games for a while, then I liked it better just having fun.

T

On April 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Just don’t read reviews on games before you get them. Get them because they look fun. If they suck, then they suck, but at least they don’t suck because you’re idea of the game is altered by someone who may not hold the game to the same standards you do. After you play, THEN join the reviews by agreeing or disagreeing in the comments. That simple. :)

Nilerun

On April 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I agree that most of the blame for the current state of gaming falls squarely on the shoulders of us gamers and our demands (I willingly accept my portion of the blame) from game developers. I can, however, get hope from games like Minecraft. You can think of me as a fan boy and truthfully I really am, but the direction that game is headed is a direction I would like to see for more games. The creator, Notch, spends more time actually playing the game he’s building than probably any other developer spends playing their games. He has said many times that his only goal is to have fun with the game. There are glitches in the game (minecarts for example) that he refuses to remove because, although they are imperfections, they’re imperfections that make the game even more fun to play.

Nintendo DSi Center

On April 26, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Now for some negativity. What I hate about the gaming industry now is the fact that they spend more time on multiplayer function than a good one-person gaming experience. I thought that Left 4 Dead would have been cool as a one-person FPS. I don’t want to gather 4 friends every time I want to play certain a game, and the AI will ALWAYS suck when you play alone. And the MMOs, all the complaining whiners that you reference are the *-holes that make up the population of those fantasy worlds. Who the F wants to deal with them?

hornedrat

On April 27, 2011 at 6:52 am

I cant stand the whole review scene, some of the great games i enjoyed not because the reviewer said it was good but because it was fun include Wacky Wheels (good little driving game) and the baldurs gate games for the playstation because i could play them with the missus and didnt require amazing reflexes etc to be fun and were just the good level of difficult, now these games dont get made because of the desire to keep making FPS’s.

TotallyOutrageous

On April 28, 2011 at 1:56 am

“There are so many angsty writers out there, complaining about gaming is being “held back” by less artistic titles. They only want to complain about Call of Duty being popular, or how uncivilized games like Duke Nukem are. They live to complain about the “state of the industry” and apparent need for games to be more adult. This po-faced pontificating usually raises little more than a sneer from myself, as they typically come from people who I can’t even imagine holding a controller and enjoying a game. Typically, these people are the type who pretentiously consider themselves “journalists.” Maybe their primary concern is the medium being taken seriously so that their parents will believe they have a real job. Whatever the reason, this quest for validation comes at the expense of enjoying games for what they are, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.”

This ^1000. If it were possible to give you a burly man hug through the internet, I would.

Matron

On May 6, 2011 at 6:11 am

Are the people ing retarded? Things like this are destroying videogames. When the videogames will return to do their original funtion and eliminate stupid narrative and cinematics?

you, stupid retarded. I hate when they take people for idiots.

Casevil

On May 9, 2011 at 9:04 am

This is going to get comments and shares on social network sites since it consists of hatred towards accusators and flamers. Lawl.

lucas matheus

On May 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm

eu quero jogar