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Elmo's Rants: Over-hated

6/15/12 6:35pm
tl;dr

A little hate makes for a topic of conversation and an entertaining blog. But what happens when you go overboard against something that's not that bad?

Yes, you read that right. No typo, this isn’t about overrated things, just the over-hated ones. Everything attracts some hate. Some people hate Ocarina of Time, some people hate Scott Pilgrim VS The World, some people even hate Joseph Gordon-Levitt... nah, just kidding on that last one. Those people are just lying to themselves.

But sometimes, something gets such a big amount of hate that some of it spills over into stupidity. Let’s say for argument’s sake that you didn’t like Ocarina of Time. If your reasons for hating it were that you personally found the plot predictable and the dungeons repetitive, then there you go, you have a set of reasons for disliking the game (for the record, I love Ocarina of Time,) and although some people will dismiss your arguments or proclaim that you ‘just don’t get it’, then people who have learnt to respect your opinion will be satisfied with your answers.

On the other hand, if you hate Ocarina of Time because... you think the horse looks stupid, then you’re over-hating it. You’re criticising every last bit of something just because you want to. If anything, this makes it look less like you hate the game, because if you really did, you’d be able to come up with some reasons for hating it that weren’t utterly stupid. Personally, it annoys me because if you hate something bad, but for silly reasons, then you’re disregarding all the perfectly valid reasons for hate!

That might not be a great example, since Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as the best game of all-time, but it’s surprisingly common to see these complaints aimed at unpopular features, and worse, these complaints go unchallenged because nobody wants to defend something they don’t like, even if they really think ‘Wow, that complaint is really biased and unfair.’ If I wrote a balanced critique of Chrono Trigger, people would be more likely to disagree, whereas I could write a generic and inaccurate rant about Sonic 2006, and it would be less likely to provoke any complaints.

The best example I can think of is (Please don’t kill me) the Irate Gamer. I don’t want to make this a blog about him, so I’ll keep this brief and flamebait to a minimum – some people think he’s funny, some people really don’t, either way, he raises genuine complaints about games he plays, and he’s also notably failed to do the research on several occasions. There are many reasons to like or dislike him. I watch his reviews, but I also watch the Third Rate Gamer, a hilarious parody of some of the mistakes he makes, who’s responsible for such quotes as:

On ‘Cool Spot’: This game reminds me of Diablo, because in both games, you control a character!

On ‘Super Mario Bros 2’: I can’t believe it – there’s nudity in a Nintendo game. So parents of this game might not be appropriate for kids.

So without saying anything too opinionated, The Irate Gamer does get quite a few things wrong in his reviews. Getting names wrong, going back on his own complaints, and contradicting himself a few times. Then again, he still has almost 150,000 subscribers (Although, ‘The Amazing Atheist’ has almost double that, and he spends his spare time viciously, and I mean really viciously insulting rape victims, so clearly subscribers aren’t always a sign of quality.)

So you might be wondering where the ‘Over-hated’ bit comes in. Well, the Irate Gamer has a number of hate sites, filled with people dedicated to ripping apart his work. It’s a bit unnecessary to have an actual hate site, but it’s not like they can’t have a few genuine complaints about his reviews. So, when I read their review of his review of Marvel VS Capcom 3, you can bet that I read some hard-hitting but valid complaints, right? Well, about that...

The first complaint was about how Chris says Marvel VS Capcom 3 is the long-awaited third game in the series. They criticise him for stating the obvious, then also criticise him for being wrong, as he failed to mention X-Men VS Street Fighter. He sucks because MvC3 being the third instalment is so obvious that it goes without saying, but also because it’s wrong. Think about that. They go on to complain because Irate Gamer mentions how cool the assist-characters are. Apparently, since they were in previous Marvel VS Capcom instalments, they shouldn’t be mentioned. Great logic right there. Next time you want to review a game, make sure you abide by these guidelines – don’t mention ANYTHING that was in previous games. Use that for your next Zelda review.

I thought I might have picked a bad review of theirs, so I had a look at a more recent one. Apparently, Irate Gamer sucks because he admitted that he wasn’t a big fan of the Ninja Gaiden series, but enjoyed the third one even though it was simpler to play. This isn’t even a research issue, this is just him having an opinion that people disagree with. On his hate site, they treat this as if he’d said ‘Ryu is the main character in Mortal Kombat!’ or ‘In Marvel VS Capcom 3, grab a Smash Ball and Zangief will perform a fatality!’ It’s exactly what over-hating is – they’re hating everything he says for the sake of hating it, which greatly weakens their genuine complaints.

ANYWAY...

Let’s get into the main reason for this blog – there are several features in games these days that I think get too much hate. Maybe they’re not as annoying as people say, or maybe they are really annoying, but people still find a way to exaggerate them. These choices are my ‘Spider-Man 3’s and ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s when it comes to something getting a ridiculous amount of hate. Here are my Top 5 most Over-Hated things in gaming.

Quick honourable mention – this is mainly a blog about gameplay settings or mechanics and stuff. So to chuck in something non-serious, the Lavender Town music in Pokemon Gold/Silver is overhated. People don’t like it because it’s not disjointed and creepy like the original. It’s now a sombre melody, but not depressing – the kind of thing that would be played at a memorial. Considering that no ghosts block your way this time, it’s more appropriate, and also a really good tune.

On with the main blog!

5) Quick Time Events

Since when was pressing buttons a part of video games anyway?

This is something that honestly confuses me. I understand why some people don’t like Quick Time Events – they’re can be fast and difficult, or slow, unchallenging, and repetitive. But since they’ve only turned up for me in games like Resident Evil 4, Tomb Raider Legend, and the latter two games in the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy. The reason I don’t understand some of the hate is the result of people trying to insult quick time events on a technical level.

“It’s so annoying! I mean, I’m trying to play a game, and suddenly I have to press a selection of buttons in a specific order, or I can’t get past!”

“Yes, that couldn’t be more different to what you were doing before – PLAYING A VIDEO GAME.”

Seriously, it is the exact same thing, just in a slightly different way. Why do people object to having to push a combination of buttons to move on when it’s exactly what they HAVE been doing hours beforehand? That’s how video games work! If your character is about to be punched and you have to press X to block, why is it apparently more annoying when it happens in an interactive cut-scene as opposed to normal gameplay? Aside from the fact that you might not be expecting it the very first time, then there’s little reason to hate them so much.

I don’t think everyone despises Quick Time Events, I just can’t remember many people praising them when they’re done right, even though they get criticised a lot if they’re done wrong. They can be overused, or even just have the same pattern, ruining the challenge, but I never hear praise for the games that use them well. The closest I’ve heard (aside from memetic love for Chris Redfield punching a boulder,) is when people praise Shenmue for bringing new concepts to gaming, fans will sometimes mention that it was one of the first games to use Quick Time Events.

The reason this is only number 5 is because... well, like I said, they’re not generally hated too much. Plus, when a game is overly dependent on them, it can be a bit of a drag trying over and over to memorize the pattern. Still, they’ve been used in a number of successful series, from Dragon’s Lair to God of War, so it’s safe to say they won’t be leaving any time soon. Overall, Quick Time Events, even when slightly above moderation, will always be welcome in games of mine.

4) Water Levels

It's actually a regular level, plus the tears of Sonic players

Okay, so I’ll admit that a lot of water levels are utterly terrible...

Okay, so I actually have a blog in the works about really bad water levels at the moment, but still...

I think water levels are a bit unlucky. Games have been criticised for being too boringly realistic, and criticised for taking too much creative license. Water levels in particular are almost destined to be terrible – being in water slows you down, makes it tougher to move, and there’s always drowning. It’s annoying when this is transitioned into gaming, but anything else would be a large deviation from normality.

I know that normality and games don’t exactly go hand in hand, but there’s a basic level of realism in games that goes unchanged a lot. In Super Mario Bros, when you jump, you come back down again. Gravity exists in this universe. Obviously, some laws of physics apply. So why wouldn’t water slow you down and make your moves sluggish? If it didn’t, what would be the point in having a water level in the first place?

But that’s not why I think water levels are over-hated. I think that because there are so many good ones out there. Donkey Kong Country had some fun ones. Almost every Mario game has one – Super Mario Sunshine had loads! Devil May Cry wasn’t bad underwater; the needlegun was fun in a repetitive way. Every Wario Land game had some fun ones. Skies of Arcadia had Mount Kazai, and that WAS fun – increased enemy encounter rate my pompous British ass, you don’t encounter enemies underwater, so that point’s nullified. Plus, water levels have been the setting of some of the best music in gaming I’ve ever heard. Dire Dire Docks, anyone? (I find it weird that the tune is named after that stage, even though it plays earlier in Jolly Roger Bay. Although Jolly Roger Bay isn’t mandatory, so I suppose – never mind.)

But none can compete with my two favourite old platform PC games – Commander Keen 4 and Jazz Jackrabbit 2. Commander Keen 4’s water level introduced the Dopefish. That alone is reason for water levels to be named the best kind of level in gaming. If that doesn’t do it, how about... it was a genuinely good level? Let’s not forget that it’s also the only water level in the game, so the designers had to come up with an entirely different control scheme and a cast of new enemies, all for this one level. That takes effort.

As for Jazz Jackrabbit, well, back when he was more famous, his games were pretty funny too, even though all the humour had to come from rare signposts which about halfway through the game stopped providing you with tips and instead confessed concise secrets about what I assume are the development team. The humour came from that, and the names of the levels. One was set in a castle, and named ‘Jazz Belmont’ after the Castlevania series. Another took place in a fiery, hellish setting. It was named ‘Bad Pitt’. So what did they name the generic water level?

Oh yes.

That aside, the water level was also pretty fun. Most of your weapons still worked underwater (except the flamethrower, which I’m disappointed to admit took me a while to figure out) and the controls work well. There are still secrets, enemies, bonuses, and a pretty fun boss at the end (albeit above ground by that point.) Overall, it was a very fun level, no less than I would expect from one of the most fun PC games I’ve ever played.

So even though water levels have earned their terrible reputation moreso than fire levels or ice levels, there’s still absolutely no reason to make a negative assumption about one. Far too many games to list have proved that they can be done right.

And keep an eye out for that upcoming blog on some lesser-known really bad ones too.

Kind of feel like I’m defeating my point here, but I’m okay with it.

3) Add-Nothing Sequels

I loved the first game so much that I want all the others to be completely different!

This is NOT something that should be applied to all games, nor is it something the industry wants or needs to hear. But let’s be blunt – change doesn’t always work.

Change is a beautiful thing. New advancements, new ideas, and new chances, set into motion, each resulting in an entirely different experience. But change obviously can’t work all the time, and if something is changed and not for the better, the results would’ve been better if they’d just stuck with a tried and true formula. I am obviously not saying that games should not change – if they hadn’t, we’d still all be playing games with Atari graphics and controllers that had one button. But when a game doesn’t change this formula, why is it criticised so much?

One of the reasons I hate this is that add-nothing sequels don’t actually add nothing. That’s not a double negative. I saw people call Twilight Princess a sequel that didn’t add anything because it was traditional Zelda, and they had a point – I mean, aside from the graphics, gameplay, music, plot, characters, design, layout, items, bosses and sidequests, it WAS exactly the same as all previous Zelda games! It really pisses me off when people say a sequel didn’t add anything – unless it was the exact same game, then you’re wrong, it added stuff. Maybe it used the same formula, but for a game to get a sequel, the first one has to be pretty successful, so clearly people LIKED the original formula.

I hear Prince of Persia get a lot of flak for this reason, since apparently the ‘Sands of Time’ trilogy didn’t change much between games. Honestly, no, it didn’t change very much, but why should it when it was unique to play in the first place? Why would you take a game that was vastly different to others of the time, and then change everything about it for the sequel? I know I’m all for progress and discovery and stuff, but to be frank, give me the same thing with different levels and I’m satisfied – and what’s more, I won’t go whining about how it’s ‘all the same’ because the levels will be different. That makes it pretty damn... different.

It’s not that the complaints can’t be valid, it’s that they’re amazingly unimportant and petty. I heard Pokémon Black and White get criticised for not adding things as a sequel. Well, that’s probably why they tanked so bad – no wait, they were the fastest-selling DS games in Japan to break the ‘1 million’ mark on pre-orders alone. They went on to become the fastest-selling DS games to reach 5 million copies sold, sell more than a million copies on its first day on sale in the US, and was the third highest-selling game in Nintendo’s financial year from 2010-11. You guys sure showed your disapproval of that no-addition sequel, eh?

I know this is an odd complaint, but you know what happens when you deviate too much from something traditional that works? The horrendous item-system in Baten Kaitos (‘Instead of picking up the item, Kalas trapped its essence in a blank card, of which he has very few! Would you like to keep this item without knowing if it’s useless or not until halfway through the game?’) and the equally horrendous time limit in Pikmin (30 ship parts, 30 days. Didn’t get one today? You’re behind schedule!)

This is what happens when you take a formula and decide to change it for the sake of changing it. You get unneeded change and unnecessary complications and Version Fi – wait, forget that last one. Anyway, the reason why lack of change is overhated is that the love, lust, and general demand for change overlooks the importance of keeping your roots. Big changes can ruin franchises, or at the very least, make them feel unfamiliar to the fans. Change is both inevitable and necessary if the gaming industry wants to survive, but that doesn’t mean it always works all of the time.

2) FarmVille

Harvest Moon? Yeah, that's a fun - wait, it's FarmVille! BOO!!!!

This is FINALLY something I can personally talk about on ScrewAttack. I live a dull, tedious life, and rarely when I talk about an issue in gaming do I get to put a personal spin on things. But now, prepare yourself, for my rare and mighty anecdote!

...

Back when I was a little Elmo, maybe five years old, my Mum had an allotment. Not a big one, just a row in a field. She used to live on an actual farm when she was younger, so it was nice. Plus, it was before she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so she was still able to be up and about. I don’t remember too much about the allotment to be honest. I was always too fussy with food to care about what was grown there. It always annoys me when people look down on me for being fussy with food – as if I woke up one day and friggin’ DECIDED that I wouldn’t like the taste of many things. I make an effort. But anyway, off-topicness.

I remember eating some peas. At the allotment, not just in general. That would be a pretty crap anecdote. Just me talking about things I ate. I had some chicken today, but I’m not bringing that up... wait, I just – never mind. I liked the peas, which is weird because I don’t like peas. Maybe it was because I knew they were fresh, home-grown peas. It was nice, and looking back, I had no idea what it must’ve meant to Mum. I was always more interested in the park next to it. Had a big slide.

Then the allotment burnt down.

I can’t remember the specifics, but I think it was vandalism. It didn’t mean much to me at the time, and since I was only 6 at this point, I didn’t think it meant much to anyone else. Mum didn’t seem too upset, although looking back, a few tears were probably shed. Skating over the next decade, we’ve moved, I’ve gotten a job, and a lot’s changed. The aforementioned MS makes it harder for Mum to get around, but she still manages to look on the bright side a lot, which is truly inspiring. She has two electric buggies, and once when I went on a walk with her, she let me borrow one. We had a race. I feel bad now because I actually started feeling competitive and won, then did a victory lap in reverse.

Now, she has a Facebook account, thankfully doesn’t make her presence too known on my wall (‘Mum’ has posted a photo on your wall ‘MY LITTLE BABY IN THE TUB’) and finds herself playing a large amount of these silly little games. I call them silly, but I would call the games I play silly too. They’re just games. But she plays them more than she used to play Caesar III and Rollercoaster Tycoon (She dabbled in old PC gaming – bought me a Gameboy for my birthday when I was 7 too) and a lot of these games follow the same sort of rules.

Whether it’s FrontierVille or Pioneer Trail or... man, I should really pay more attention to what she plays. Well, whether or not it’s one of those two, most of the games follow the premise of having a little farm and raising it up, harvesting crops, making a profit, and expanding, sort of like an ongoing Harvest Moon. So, finally getting to the gaming, what makes gamers think that Animal Crossing, The Sims, and Harvest Moon are fine to play, but little Facebook games? Oh no, they’re stupid and boring and dumb.

I can vaguely see the viewpoint, given that Facebook games generally aren’t aimed at us, so it’s just like the hardcore gamers complaining about Wii Sports and Wii Fit (Which I NEVER did... *whistles*) because they felt like this new direction meant a lack of interest in their old audience, but really, you want to get upset over FACEBOOK games? That’s totally reasonable. I mean, Facebook games are primarily known for their hardcore qualities. I fondly remember playing a variety of platformers, RPGs and FPS games on FACEBOOK. I mean, where do they get off, taking this brand of casual gaming and offering it to everyone – for free at that? What a sheet-load of fork!

I’m not saying that you have to play Facebook games yourself and love them, but at least respect them. My Mum is once again overseeing farms, raising crops, reliving her experience, and frankly, maintaining one of the most impressive online farms there is. I may be scrawny, but if you try to take those games from her, I will attempt to punch you in the face. Then, provided I haven’t shattered my poorly-constructed fist on your handsome, chiselled jaw, I will continue to punch you again, and again, and again, until you see the error of your ways and realise that as a fellow gamer with a hobby that’s unfairly made a scapegoat all-too-often in the news, it would be condescending and hypocritical for you to so widely dismiss another kind of game just because it’s making people happy who aren’t you.

Alternatively, stfu.

1) Graphics

The better it looks, the worse it is. Somehow.

Graphics are not as important as gameplay.

That’s not a message that needs to be vitally piped to the mind of every gamer, it’s just a statement like ‘The sky is blue’, or ‘Piers Morgan is a dick’, undeniably true. Graphics are no value of how good a game is. People need to stop treating this like a dramatic statement. It just so happens that the graphics are also the first thing people can judge a game on, considering that unless you’re Matt Murdock, you tend to, you know, SEE the game you’re playing before you play it.

In some games, it can take hours to get a good feel of the gameplay. Graphics? Takes a second. Your opinion on gameplay can always come under debate from the people who don’t want to accept it, and either decide that you’re lying or that you just ‘don’t get it’. Graphics? Well... have you seen the game? Yes? Then you can judge them. Hard to disprove that someone else hasn’t taken the time to Google a screenshot.

So why oh why, when someone comments on the graphics of a game, does everyone assume the same offensive stance of ‘Oh, so clearly graphics are all that matters to you? You’re just some whore of the game industry who accepts any old pile of garbage, as long as it’s packaged prettily?’ What? No! I was just commenting on the way that the graphics could be better and – ‘Oh, so graphics are that important to you? More important than anything else? The deciding factor in whether or not you’ll play a game?’ Again, no, I was just saying, it’s really enjoyable to play a game with good graphics, and it – ‘So you’ll only play games with good graphics? So you won’t play games with mediocre graphics, or old games cause they’re all bad when compared the standards of graphics today?

SHUT UP, FICTIONAL VOICE I PUT IN MY OWN BLOG AND THEREFORE HAVE NO PLACE TELLING TO SHUT UP! GOD, YOU’RE SO ANNOYING!

It’s gotten to the point when saying ‘The graphics of this game are really good!’ is a code to some people, and that code translates as ‘This game is utter shit.’ It must be, because the graphics are the first thing they talked about. So despite graphics being the first thing it’s possible for someone to notice, and the first thing they’ll likely discuss, doing this clearly means that whoever is talking about them is a cheap whore with no real appreciation for games. Even when the game in question HASN’T BEEN RELEASED YET, people criticise those who talk about the graphics. I mean, shame on them for not magically being able to play the game yet and judge it on a more meritable level!

Separate newsflash: Good graphics are good, bad graphics are bad. Yes, a game can still be good although it has bad graphics, but you know what’s better? When a good game has good graphics too! Stop acting like a good game with bad graphics doesn’t have bad graphics, and that it doesn’t make any difference. It might not make a BIG difference, but there’s a difference nonetheless. If you really like a game, you’re probably going to be playing it for a cumulative amount of maybe 12 hours or so. It would be nice if you were impressed for those 12 hours, no?

Graphics aren't that important to me - I like Earthbound more than Chrono Trigger, despite the results of that 'Game Wars' debut, and I'm currently playing Legend of Legaia, despite the characters looking so blocky that the game could've been animated in Lego form. But when graphics are good, it's not something a game should be attacked for, and some people are so misguided, foolish, or just downright stupid that they'll attack anything.

So overall, erm... I like good graphics and I cannot lie. You other gamers can't deny.

So there you have some of my picks for over-hated things in gaming. But whether you would've liked to see a game or setting or mechanic mentioned, be sure to let me know in the comments what you think attracts too much hate in the industry these days. And, as always,

Thanks for reading!

-Elmo 3000

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