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Game On: It’s OK to like unpopular video games

Founded in 2014, The Game Awards recognize excellence in the video game industry. Nominees for 2022 were announced Monday. Winners will be announced Dec. 8.  (The Game Awards)
Founded in 2014, The Game Awards recognize excellence in the video game industry. Nominees for 2022 were announced Monday. Winners will be announced Dec. 8. (The Game Awards)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

Maybe it’s because Twitter is even more of a toxic cesspool than usual, or perhaps it’s because the nominees for the 2022 Game Awards were announced on Monday, Nov. 14 – whatever the case is, the keyboard warriors are out in droves lately, telling people what media they should or shouldn’t enjoy.

I’ve been gaming as long as I can remember and was sometimes bullied for my taste in games in elementary and middle school, so I’m no stranger to this nonsense. While grown adults aren’t as likely to confront you for your “inferior” taste, in my experience plenty of us will still make a thinly-veiled condescending remark here or there.

It’s an old cliché, but it rings true: one’s junk is another’s treasure. For instance, I don’t enjoy The Legend of Zelda at all. I’ve sunk my teeth into four different titles ranging from the 1986 original to 2017’s Breath of the Wild, and I found them all painfully boring. But the franchise has sold an estimated 117 million video games, so is it an objectively bad series? Hardly!

Meanwhile, I loved Sonic Shuffle, a bona fide Mario Party ripoff. I loved Warlock, a B-rated game based on a B-rated horror flick by the same name. I loved Worms 3D, which received such backlash that the series returned to two dimensions forever. What do these games all have in common? Critics hated them, and most consumers did too.

Even the worst games out there have fans, and that’s OK. It’s not unlike any other medium out there – box office flops like Donnie Darko and Office Space have cult followings today. The Princess Bride was hated by most movie critics on release, and now it’s a classic comedy. Is enjoying underrated media hurting anyone? Why be insecure about it?

Maybe it seems like I’m overstating this, but the sort of trouble you can get into – especially on social media – for stating a harmless opinion is almost unbelievable at times. Of course, a great first step to avoiding such petty discourse is to stay away from Twitter, which is far and away the worst of the bunch. I’ve been saying this for years to little avail, but recent events seem to be making this stance less and less controversial by the day. Thanks, Elon.

The latest drama in this vein occurred earlier this week when Jason “videogamedunkey” Gastrow released a YouTube video blasting Sonic Frontiers, which I reviewed last week. He obviously went out of his way to make the game look as bad as possible – an exercise in confirmation bias I’ve noticed him doing with increased frequency over the years – but who cares?

Well, the video accumulated millions of views in a matter of days, so I guess the better question is why do we care? He’s just another gamer, same as the rest of us, but with a bigger platform – and before anyone asks, yes, this line of logic applies to me too!

Sonic the Hedgehog diehards are accusing the YouTuber’s rabid fanbase of “review bombing” the title on Metacritic, and indeed, the timing seems suspicious. But does it even matter? I’ll be honest, those of us who read reviews before purchasing video games aren’t paying much mind to either the 0s or the 10s from user scores on Metacritic.

I suppose it feels empowering to have people of status agree with you on things, and that’s likely why some gamers have expressed frustration over The Game Awards having such a tight focus on a handful of AAA games and little else. Indeed, each year the presentation comes off as a bit smarmy and pompous, much the same as any other media awards ceremony.

But in the end, do The Game Awards or a video from some YouTube influencer really affect your enjoyment of a game? They shouldn’t, so like what you like and be unashamed. The internet has made it easier than ever to find people to argue with, but it’s also made it easier than ever to find like-minded friends too – friends who would be happy to play the alleged “worst game of all time” with you.

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