I have a fair few names on my MSN messenger list and one of the more recent additions popped up to say hello and ask me why I had “Halol 3” as a suffix to my username. I responded to his query explaining that, after last week’s outburst I regard the game and it’s vocal fans as a joke.
I then went on to explain my complete apathy towards Halo and my overall distate at how such a generally underwhelming game (and its sequel) should be elevated to such lofty and, god help me, untouchable status in gaming circles.
What followed was a pretty intense brick-wall style conversation. The particular low-lights being the dismissal of pretty much any point I had about the game due to the fact that I worked for a company that made games this person didn’t particularly rate and, as such, meant that I really had no place criticising a game he did like. This, of course, coming from someone who has made precisely ZERO games and, by extension, has never made a game that anybody liked at all.
A few things became apparent throughout the conversation:
The person I was speaking with seemed to feel the best way of making any point about Halo was to compare it to a game he didn’t like. Certainly, it reinforces why you like one thing over another, I’m not arguing with that. However, making comparisons (particularly in such a one-sided way) is the laziest form of criticism available. If you want to convince me of the qualities or failings of a game then go ahead – but talk about the game and its content, don’t keep telling me how it’s not as good as brand X because you’re not actually telling me anything specific about your favoured brand. You’re not convincing me that you even understand what it is you like or dislike about one or the other – just that you have an opinion. I have an opinion too – if you want me to notice yours you need to learn to articulate your point of view in a far more relevent fashion.
Once things got heated a familar ploy reared it’s ugly head. This takes the form of knowing who I work for and then saying “Well, Halo is far better and sold far better than any of that rubbish you guys produced” or words to that effect. What does this achieve? In what way does this substantiate what you are saying? All it does is show that you felt, at that time, you felt the best and most reasonable response to the way the conversation was going was to direct a cheap shot at someone. It also damages the credibility of whoever said it. Credibility is pretty important if all you have to present an argument with is your personal opinion. That this little tactic got used a few times over the conversation really doesn’t impress me.
Here’s the thing though – the only people who ever use such a woeful ploy are the ones who don’t create and are directed at those who do. I’ve witnessed countless gamers tell me how developers don’t know how to make games. But I’ve never seen such people put any substance behind such claims. Gamers, it seems, have more right to criticise developers and industry than anyone else because (and here’s the most pathetic tactic of all) they pay our wages. It’s a knee-jerk reaction when you argue someone into a corner and it’s laughably desperate behaviour. It’s also rude and ignorant and always, always backfires. I know who pays my wages and it’s not gamers. Gamers pay my royalty bonuses – and I’m more than happy to top up my earnings by taking cash of arrogant shits who think $50 every couple of years means they own me or my right to an opinion.
The final, shameful tactic I wanted to mention in this post was the classic one of superiority-through-sales-figures. First of all, unless you’re a shareholder of the associated company then what the hell does it have to do with you as an individual. You’re using hi-score mentality to prove a point? Maybe it’s to be expected of gamers – hi scores mean something in those circles but, really, quoting how much money something made for someone else as a pillar of what a product means to you is hysterically misguided. Quoting sales-figures is just quoting a statistic. I have never seen any good come from quoting a statistic at another gamer. They’re open to interpretation and spin and, as some people have shown at this site, some will flat out deny the figures are real. The assumption that popularity equates to quality is simply broken logic. “This game sold loads – that proves how good it is!”. Arnold Schwarzenegger made movies that sold loads and were very popular. I wouldn’t call him a good actor. A popular actor? Yes. A good one? No – I’d say he’s pretty low on the scale of acting quality. Likewise, a game sells well so that must mean it’s good? No. Not automatically – that’s broken logic. That’s why loads of idealistic gamers cry “WHY??? HOW IS THIS HAPPENING??” when they see EA games dominating the all format top 10. That’s why the same cry is let loose when a great game doesn’t get the sales it “deserves”. In other words, for every example you show me that substantiates the argument that you can tell a game’s great by looking at it’s sales figures I will show you the same number of examples that proves that not to be the case.
Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’ve got someone on MSN that keep interrupting the composition of this post.
If you feel like chatting with me, be my guest, add comments below, find me on Xbox Live, use the discussion area. If you feel like employing some of the tactics outlined above then, please, don’t bother.