An Open Letter to People Who Write Articles Picking Apart Beloved Gaming Classics

To whom it may concern,

As someone who writes for a two-person blog that puts up a new article every single weekday, week after week, I know how difficult it is constantly coming up with things to write about. There isn’t always anything especially newsworthy happening in a given day, and there is a relatively small amount of gaming history to draw material from for retro-focused pieces. And I realize that cynicism rules the gaming blogosphere and game-based social media discussions, so it is easy to resort to a “this thing sucks and here’s why” rant piece when you are stifled by writer’s block since that is what people seem to be most drawn to (look at how many bloggers and YouTube personalities have nicknames that contain adjectives like angry, jaded, bitter, and the like for proof of that). As anyone who has ever reviewed anything knows, it is far easier – and often more fun – to write a scathing review than a glowing one and still make it entertaining to read and feel more assured that people will read it. So I get all of that.

FF7memeWhile there are a number of trends that have sprang from this culture of cynicism that I feel, ironically enough, cynical about, one in particular bothers me a little more than most: articles about why [Insert title of game basically everyone loves here] isn’t actually as good as everyone thinks it is. The tone of these pieces ranges from thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis to “this game is garbage and everyone is stupid for liking it.” Honestly, even on the more intelligent and mature end of the spectrum, I tend to find these types of articles frustrating just because of what they are. One game that I have seen people take to task more than once is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game which is more or less universally agreed upon as being one of the greatest games of all time. Is it as mindblowing and revolutionary in 2015 as it was in 1998? Of course not. Is it a perfect game? Obviously not, because no game is. But what is the value in dissecting it 15+ years after its release? Again, no matter how intellectual and non-cynical the tone and points of your piece are, I simply can’t read it without hearing what I assume is your inner voice confessing your ulterior motive: “This’ll ruffle some feathers! People are really going to be upset about this! Ha!” And while I don’t necessarily claim to be above ever intentionally ruffling feathers myself, nor am I insinuating that it’s a bad thing to have contrary voices that go against popular opinion or to get people riled up in order to promote passionate discussion, there is just something about it that rubs me the wrong way when it’s specifically directed at a certain game, its quality, and ultimately, its fans.

I think one of the reasons it bothers me is that, so often, these articles are written in such a way where the author isn’t presenting his case as his or her own personal opinion. Rather, the articles tend to have this vibe of “These are the things wrong with the game, and these are the reasons why it simply isn’t as good as you think.” It just comes off as sounding so harsh, and more like a direct attack on a classic game (and the people that love it) rather than an examination of it. It doesn’t feel like the writer is asking us to just take a more objective look at the game; it feels more like the writer is calling us out for being so ignorant to all of these glaring problems that we’ve been naively ignoring with our rose-colored glasses. Again, I just don’t see the inherent value in that. If you are reviewing a re-release or remake of the game, and those old issues feel much more glaring compared to the modern games that the classic game is now asserting itself as a contemporary of, then fine. By all means, tell us that we should proceed with caution as the game’s flaws might be more apparent when we play the game now than they were when we played it 10, 15, 20 years ago. But just sitting around thinking about what games people hold in the highest regard and arbitrarily picking one to tear down just feels unnecessary to me.

Sgt-PepperVideo games, by their fast moving technology-driven nature, don’t have the luxury of being as timeless as classic movies or albums. A movie like The Godfather is still as watchable 43 years after its release as it was the day it came out. Sgt. Pepper’s and Pet Sounds still sound like they were just recorded a few months ago. But games that are even only 20 years old already look, feel, and play archaically. Sure, 2D games tend to age better than early 3D ones, but even so, a game like Super Mario Bros. doesn’t feel as comparably timeless to play today as The Godfather does to watch. Does that mean we should pick it apart, dissect all of the dated aspects of its visuals and gameplay, and unequivocally declare in “not as good as everyone thinks?” I don’t think we should. And the same should go for all classic games. If you legitimately have issues with a game, fine. Nobody is telling you that you can’t or shouldn’t express those issues. But unless someone is specifically asking what you think about Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 4, Half-Life, Symphony of the Night, Earthbound, Shadow of the Colossus or any of the other highly-respected classic games that are common fodder for “these aren’t as good as you think” articles, then why just randomly decide to sit down at your keyboard and tear down a beloved game – and by proxy, its millions of fans – for no other reason than you just felt like pissing off a whole bunch of people…and you couldn’t think of anything better or more productive to write about?

Sincerely,

A Gamer Who Would Rather Just Let Beloved Games Be Loved Because They Make People Happy

P.S., While we’re on the subject, I say we put a moratorium on the term “overrated” since most people just use it as a way to be dismissive of a game they happen to not like but most people do – which doesn’t make it overrated, it just means you don’t like it. Not exactly the same thing. If 90% of people rate something as excellent and 10% don’t, it’s hard to justify authoritatively calling it overrated. Just say what you actually mean: You know everyone likes it, but you don’t.

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5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to People Who Write Articles Picking Apart Beloved Gaming Classics

  1. Yes! I hate it when people do that. My theory is just that they hate what’s popular and want to be different and edgy. Also, what’s the point of reviewing a game like FFVII? It’s been out forever. Your review is of help to no one who wants to buy it.

    Let’s have this rule for classic books and movies too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So, I feel like if you’re going to do a proper “it was overrated” article there are some really deep research that would need to be done. Specifically, if you were going to pick apart a classic then you’d have to find relevant games from the same time period (1 year before or after it’s release), play all of them, and then make a case why one of them (not a combination of good features from all of them) is better than said classic. If you can make a convincing argument that a lesser known game is better than the popular classic, fine. But a lot of these articles can’t seem to look at these games from the perspective of that time period. Like you said, games age poorly, and that’s rarely taken into account. Of course Mario Sunshine plays better than Super Mario 64, but that’s like saying the 2016 Ferrari is faster than the model-T. Of course it is, but where would the Ferrari be without it’s predecessor. So again,show me cold hard facts that prove that some other game was doing what Ocarina was but better, and I’ll concede. Otherwise, like you said, don’t state your opinions as though they’re facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article. I’m a pretty angry and irritable person by nature, but I try not to let that reflect in my writing and my videos because I genuinely love video games and talking with people about them. I feel like by being genuine about something makes it a lot easier to have positive and interesting interactions with people than by forcing your negative opinion of a game on others.

    I’ve reviewed games that I didn’t like before, but I always do it from personal experience. I state why I didn’t like a particular aspect of a retro game, and I will usually acknowledge if my opinion is biased. For example, I reviewed Sonic the Hedgehog recently, and I’ve never been a huge fan of the series OR Sega in general. I presented my misgivings, why I had them, and then acknowledged the good aspects of the game and why I know people love it. It’s a bit more challenging to write this way than just saying “I hate this game because everyone else likes it and I want to get a rise out of people”, but it’s so much more rewarding in the end, especially when you start having conversations with people who actually love the games you don’t, and comparing experiences.

    I really don’t understand why people like to blast something for the sake of being mean spirited or riling others up. I just feel like being genuine, even about games you don’t like, is much more fun.

    Pardon my stream of consciousness barfing all over the comment section of your great article.

    Liked by 1 person

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