Down On The Upside – Is Being Contrarian Really That Bad?

My name is Joe, and I am a hipster and a contrarian. I don’t like Michael Jackson’s music, I think Led Zeppelin are over-rated, I find Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings boring and I reckon people are daft when they say Pulp Fiction is even close to one of Tarantino’s best films. I almost thrive off having unpopular opinions. It just runs through my veins, like when I start wildly ranting to people about how Batman sucks and Superman is the best DC hero (Supes isn’t the best-best but he’s the best of the ones that anyone actually knows). But when it comes to games, I seem to feel that bit guiltier for some reason when I don’t like a game that other people do or that is a supposed classic or masterpiece, or when I really enjoy a game that is not popular.

This occurred to me while I was playing the HD redo of Shadow of the Colossus on my PS3. This is a game that everyone is supposed to love, is supposed to be some kind of wonderful artistic masterpiece of gaming and of an interactive experience. Yet, here I was, sitting there, thinking “The controls are obtuse, the game mechanics are strange to grasp or awkward and the difficulty is crazy punishing”. I mean, I get why those things are as they are, I get the purpose of it all, but it just doesn’t fit me. And I found myself apologising on Twitter for not liking this game. What ground do I have for apologising for my opinion on something that doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to fit me?

Dark Souls was the same case for me. Dark Souls is this game that people hold up as one of the shining examples of brilliance in games during this last console generation, and I literally cannot get into it at all. I tried to for like an hour and a half, and I appreciated the atmosphere of it but the gameplay just threw me out so badly, and playing Shadow of the Colossus brought me right back to that. These are both incredibly atmospheric games about reasonable but brutal difficulty and a satisfying result when you take your opponent seriously and manage to finish the job. And I can’t get into that. At all.

Both of those games, when I think about it now, are games I’d be happy to watch someone play and experience in a secondary way, but they’re not games I would ever play and finish for myself. And I know that, and I’m personally fine with that on an internal level. But I feel like those two games just serve an example of how there’s this weird feeling of pressure and expectation as a gamer that you’ll appreciate all the games that other people consider classics or masterpieces and you’ll love them too. Which, in turn, leads me to this weird situation where I feel like I need to apologise for not enjoying games that are not my cup of tea or my style at all. I have never been into games that have such a focus on high difficulty or anything like that. Hell, I can barely deal with puzzle games; that’s why I’ve never played Braid and would only ever watch an LP of it.

All that being said, why do I end up bowing to this weird odd sense of peer pressure about not liking games when I know they’re my style? Is it because I’m still this person who seeks the approval of others when it comes to the validation of their tastes? Is it because the games community can get so tetchy on opinions and whether or not you enjoy a certain game? Is it because I know other people enjoyed the game so I think there’s always a chance I might know where they’re coming from if I just struggle through and get myself to have this acquired taste? I don’t know really by rights know. It’s just one of those things where I have this weird guilt attached to it and I allow it to make me feel bad for not persevering longer with games like Shadow of the Colossus.

The same kind of sense of needing to agree along the grain with general gaming opinion gives me the same weird feelings of guilt and such when I enjoy games that aren’t considered that good or cast-off too. Personally, I always try to keep a critically open mind, and find good points and bad points in everything; I mean, I realised that I actually did kind of like Afterfall InSanity in a genuine way because it has a good story at times and the presentation is interesting, and that takes real strength of will. In fact, I’d wager many people that know me from Youtube or Twitch know me as a man who will happily take on the challenge of playing a shit game and finding some weird perverse way of enjoying it through the fact that its shit, because on a personal level, I’d rather play a game that is dirt bad but funny in how bad it is than one that is boring but well-made.

But, when it comes to actually having an opinion on games that other people didn’t enjoy too much or cast off pretty quickly, I seem to temper it with how other people feel about a game. I’ll say with total honesty; I really sincerely enjoyed Arkham Origins. It may not have been the leap forward that Arkham City was after Asylum, but it kept the formula solid without ruining much, and introduced some neat little things that I hope Rocksteady keep on for Arkham Knight, like the detective work. That detective stuff actually drove me through the post-story clearing up quite nicely because I got really into going through the weird CSI-like discovery of it, and I don’t really get people’s issue that it was ‘too linear’ as if it was supposed to be this huge non-linear clue hunt game. That’s not how the world’s greatest detective would work, folks. But back on point, when I was talking about Origins after having finished it, I actually may have docked a point or two from where I maybe would have put it; part of that is probably to do with the fact that I was suffering major Joker-fatigue by the end (I genuinely dislike all Batman media’s insistent hard-on for the Joker as an antagonist) and there are some irritating boss sequences towards the back end of the game, but by the same merit, I may have docked it a bit for the sake of face.

Even when I said I thought Origins was good, rather than pretty damn great like I probably acknowledge it is now with some hindsight on the situation (Asylum and City are fantastical masterpieces to me, even as someone who’s not big on Batman), I still found myself having to explain myself to others. Whether those other people hadn’t played it and had bought into the reviews and internet mood toward it, or had played it and just didn’t find it much good, I don’t know. But they did really want to question why I’d feel that way. And I mean, that’s the nature of a discussion, I’m never going to begrudge people the chance to question my feelings and why I have them. It does feel, though, like I let some of that slip into my opinion, and let some of that slip into my expectations towards the game at the start anyway, and it bugs me that my opinion on games can be so susceptible.

So basically, I don’t really know what I’m saying here with this article. I don’t know if I can really stop myself from bowing down to weird pressures on my opinions on games and how I like or don’t like the games I do, and I don’t know if I’d want those things to go away even if I knew what caused them, but I just wanted to write about it, because it seems like an interesting thing to just consider and talk about. Also, I just wanted to say that Arkham Origins is actually great and definitely worth playing. Eff the h8rz, as the kids would say.

 


Joe Trail is the editor-in-chief of Don’t Be A Pixel. Mostly because he says he is, not because he has other writers to edit over. But such is the life of a busy editor-in-chief, obviously. He’s also an avid writer for the site. Of course.


 

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