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[Featurama] Over-emphasizing the Negative

I think that today’s gaming community has a tendency to be overly negative toward games. Many gamers would disagree with me- and I admit, the unbelievably high scores assigned to imperfect games on game sites suggest, in fact, that the opposite may be true, at least when it comes to game review websites (the community grabs their pitchforks when a site doesn’t like their pet game- but we’ll save that conversation for another day). I’m talking about the average, involved video-game fan on Reddit, Destructoid, and other online gaming communities. They are constantly exposed to amazingly fun and innovative games, to the point that an otherwise phenomenal game with a deficiency in any of a number of aspects will be lambasted with overly harsh criticism.

For instance, online gamers banded together to give Skyrim mass one-star reviews on Amazon because it was somewhat buggy, and therefore “an unfinished game”. Many of these people were engrossed in the game for days or even weeks before they got bored, as many of us did, and decided that they didn’t like it anymore, for any of a number of reasons- “all the missions are the same!”, “the combat system is mediocre!”, “it’s glitchy!”. A reasonable person would have said “Oh, well, the scope of the game is enormous, a lot of this was procedurally generated, and it’s impossible for them to test every possible collision or AI scenario, but they certainly could have done better. At least the game is so overwhelmingly fun and beautiful that I can overlook this deficiency and the lackluster combat mechanics and still enjoy myself.” But instead they gave it one star, literally the worst possible review, in an attempt to hurt the company by artificially reducing the game’s average score. I had to convince my father to ignore the negative Amazon reviews and purchase the game for my brother anyway. Even guys at reputable sites like Giant Bomb tend to overfocus on the negative (probably an effect of working in the game industry so long). 


In recent podcasts / articles, I have been overly dismissive of the Playstation Vita, and very harsh on Star Wars: The Old Republic. For the Playstation Vita, I was simply echoing sentiments I’ve heard elsewhere- “I don’t get that excited about portable gaming anymore”, “why is all this unnecessary hardware included?”, “it’s too expensive”.


But then I actually thought about it, and you know what? I’m damn excited about the Vita. Sure, I don’t get quite as excited about mobile games as I do console games, as I just assume that they will be a lesser experience. However, once I pick them up, I often have more fun with certain portable games than I do with many console games. For PSP- the God of War games, Persona, Katamari, Kingdom Hearts- I enjoyed all of these immensely, and many more. My brother loved Fifa, Lumines, and Patapon. The real only deficiency, in my opinion, was the lineup of games for it, which is, in many ways, not Sony’s fault. 


Will people pay for the new system? I don’t know. Are some of the features / hardware necessary? Probably not. Is it expensive for a mobile device? Actually, I don’t think so- I was pleasantly surprised by the price. And FOR the price, you are getting some really amazing hardware. Uncharted looks great, LittleBigPlanet looks great, there’s Resistance, Lumines, Katamari, Persona, Final Fantasy X HD, Blazblue, Dynasty Warriors, Metal Gear Solid- and the sheer amount of PS2 games they will port over to this system alone might be reason enough for me to buy it. What I’m saying is that I AM, in fact, excited about the Playstation Vita, and I feel bad about only focusing on the negative parts of the system in the podcast.


And even SWTOR- I was disappointed with its similarity to WoW. I was disappointed with Origin’s customer service. I wished that the story meshed a little better with the multiplayer elements in some areas. There were a few other things, but I think that I really would have had fun with the game had I not played so much WoW back in the day, and had I been able to run SWTOR well. Although I stand by my criticisms, I think that my disappointment was primarily due to hoping for a balanced, next-gen Star Wars Galaxies, and instead receiving a WoW clone (albeit a fairly fun one). I think that I should have recognized that others may have had a totally different experience than I, and given a more balanced preview, rather than being overwhelmingly negative.

I think that I (and many others) have a tendency to overemphasize the negative aspects of a game or device- even one that they may love. I totally stand by any of the criticisms that I made of SWTOR or the Vita (except for the price point), but I really should have tempered my assessment by highlighting their positive aspects as well. 

I do think that gamers tend to focus more on their disappointments about a game rather than the massive amount of fun that the game may otherwise provide, and I am part of that community. Overall, I regret my negativity. As I purport to write relatively fair reviews / previews of games and systems, I am going to try to take this into consideration more in the future, and acknowledge the positive aspects of a game / system when necessary. I hope that the rest of the gaming community will, too.


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