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.

7 thoughts on “Talk to the hand”
  1. I’ve said this before, but I think it’s a stupid position to take that if you’ve not made a game then you can’t criticize any game. I’ve never directed a million-dollar movie or participated in a TV show, but I’ll complain if I think the directing, photography or acting sucks.

    If people are capable of recognising good games, why is it then so unreasonable to suggest that they might be able to see flaws?

    I’ve never played a game that was wholly bad, but if there’s elements of bad design or whatever, I don’t believe for a second that I shouldn’t complain just because I’ve never created a game.

  2. Oddly enough Aniki, I was re-reading an old Society post where you raised the same criticism and I went to pretty big lengths to explain that’s not what I was getting at. Irrespective of the amount of effort and clarification on my part the insistence that I had somehow mortally offended a gamer was a notion that cut so deep that there could be no possible other way of seeing it than the way the gamer decided to interpret it.

    This stamping of feet and flat-out refusing to appreciate a topic or the delivery of a topic from a perspective other than their own is not only limiting and pretty childish but perfectly proves the point about lack of understanding that I was getting at in the first place.

    Gamers need to stop throwing a strop at the first whiff of criticism of themselves and calm the fuck down, shut up and listen. When they can act like reasonable grown ups then they’ll get treated like them. That they throw their rattles out the pram as soon as someone suggests they’re not the Masters of the Universe they believe themselves to be constantly damns them.

    Perhaps you should go back and re-read that post on The Society again. Pay particular attention to where I (repeatedly) explain the difference between product and process.

  3. But to the end consumer, there is no difference between product and process. We don’t see the process; all we’ve got is the product to go on, unless there’s Bungie-esque masturbation disguised as “making-of” videos. If the end product is flawed, an assumption is made, however inaccurate, that there was a flaw in the process that created it.

    Like I said above, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to point out percieved flaws in an actor’s performance in a film or TV show, or even in the method they used to bring out the character. If it fells like a sloppy rush-job of a show or movie, why shouldn’t I say that’s how I feel? Why shouldn’t I express a similar opinion on a game?

    I’m by no means disagreeing with the idea that gamers (and fans of any media, in fact) can be petulant and misguided in the force and direction of their criticisms, but it seems to me that you’re taking issue with how they argue their point, and are using that as a way to dismiss any opinion they might have, regardless of its validity.

  4. You can do all of that Aniki. But if you admit to not knowing, say, the difference between product and process and end up speaking to someone who does, expect to have your assumptions corrected repeatedly. If you then whine like a baby because, even though you’ve admitted your own ignorance you insist that your view is the only one that has any value then expect me to put you in your place.

    I say this regularly: ignorance is NOT a trump card to play to win an argument. Don’t wear it like a badge of honour or a get-out-of-jail free card. Understand what it means and the position it puts you in.

  5. Regardless of how often you say how important the difference between process and product is, you’ve rarely (if ever) actually pointed out how to tell the difference when you’re an end user.

    It’s all well and good for you to sit there in your Industry Job and preach about how none of us understand how these things are made, but you won’t actually take the time to explain any of it; you’re too busy throwing your hands up in exasperation.

    It’s fair enough to point out the ignorance of the gaming public, but if you won’t do anything to actually change that – even though you could illumante the issue – I can’t see how you’re not partially to blame.

    Of course there’s plenty of fanboys out there that wouldn’t listen to a word, but some of us are interested in finding this stuff out, and to be constantly met with a wall of text insisiting that we just shut up is frustrating in the extreme.

  6. Note: The term “you” in the text that follows is a generalism, not specifically directed at aniki.

    Regardless of how often you say how important the difference between process and product is, you’ve rarely (if ever) actually pointed out how to tell the difference when you’re an end user.

    You’ll see I have, and do frequently. The only proper way to tell the difference is to have a go yourself. This differs VASTLY from claiming you’re too busy/lazy/cheap to have a go and just waffle on as if you actually know the difference between the two.

    Reading a book isn’t the same as writing one. You may read lots of books and know what sort of story and prose you like. When you try to write one yourself you’ll find your appreciation and understanding of the craft is vastly different to the one you assumed you knew.

    You may see lots of websites and decide which ones you feel are well designed or not. Does this make you a web designer? No. Does it make you qualified to instruct others on how to go about sculpting code? No – and any web designer will tell you that you’re uninformed and that your view is overly simplistic. When you have a go yourself you will start to understand the topic as other people who know the process do.

    Until then, no amount of gesticulating and waffle will convince someone familiar with the process that you (someone only familiar with the product) has the breadth of understanding to talk competently on such matters.

    If you insist on stamping your feet, insisting your point of view, though limited and pretty ignorant, must carry as much weight on matters of process as those who actually *do* something – whilst all the time you make excuses as to why you can’t possibly get your hands dirty with the process yourself – well, if you insist that then you’re a fool and will have the credibility of one.

    Only when you surround yourself by other equally lazy and uninformed ‘experts’ on process will you be given any attention and, by then, it’s just the blind leading the blind.

    So, aniki, please don’t mope and say “It’s not good enough for you to criticise without helping us out” – you can help yourself. There are totally free tools out there for you to start using. All it takes is motivation and a little effort.

    Sure, that’s a lot harder than moping around saying how important and significant your views are and how unfair it is that I won’t treat them as credible and generally acting like a moping teenager.

    I illuminate plenty of issues. However, in my lengthy experience of sharing what I know to a completely closed and ungrateful mindset I’ve stopped bothering to take the time to pander to the whims of interested gamers. If you genuinely want to know, Google, some time and some effort will help you. Ungrateful, selfish and petty gamers have used up pretty much all the good will I have towards them because I dare to criticise them..

    ..and before you know it, they’re preaching at me about how important they are, how they pay my wages and how (for example), because they played Fifa 98 once they are TOTALLY clued up on how EA make games.

    All it takes is time and effort on your part. If you claim to be so interested in these topics then you’d take the time to understand them properly – not just lash out at the bits that criticise your favourite game. That’ll just have you regarded as a short-sighted, knee-jerk reacionary – not some informed, caring, understanding gamer.

    It’s such a fucking shame that people are so astoundingly insular and expect handout of EVERYTHING that such obvious cause-and-effect scenarios have to spelled out to them.

  7. And, aniki, if you ever want to have a chat with me directly about game stuff then just ask me directly. You can find a variety of contact methods on this site. You can use my discussion area too.

    I’m not being deliberately obtuse with my responses. But you’re not asking specific questions (and, in many cases, there is no specific answer anyway). If you are really interested then ASK.

    You claim to be frustrated at me not answering your questions but, from what I’ve read, you’ve not asked anything specific. (And if you want generalisations then this site is full of them).

    I’m not a mind-reader!

    Once again, I’m reminded of a topic on The Society where I specifically invited questions people had so that I could answer them for people.

    The olive branch has been extended on more than one instance from me, Aniki, and I can’t say I’ve been too impressed with the response – yet I’m reading a lot of self indulgent text that suggests I’m a bad man for not answering non-existent questions or for not offering to help interested parties when, actually, I’ve a history of doing precisely that but having it thrown back in my face by certain people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.