Realizing that we are playing someone else’s story is not always the easiest thing to accept.
Somehow we think that when we pay our money for the game, we are entitled to an experience we think is best. Never mind the fact that developers have spent years if not decades and untold amounts of cash to produce what we now have in front of us. We paid our hard earned money on this game, so it damn well better be everything we want it to be.
I have been running into this problem with friends and strangers alike for as long as I can remember. Whether it was a classmate in elementary school who decided that all the Metroid games suddenly sucked when he found out that Samus is a woman, or the family member who thought that Star Wars The Old Republic is bad because it isn’t a sandbox game, there is always someone who will gripe about how a game didn’t meet their expectations. Now, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion and sometimes they actually back up their claims with solid argument. But let’s be frank, most do not. (And to the family member: Did you even read about the game before you bought it?)
The issue at hand is a simple one. Everyone has a story to tell. I will never be the guy who tells you that if you have such a great idea for a game that you should go make it yourself. But only because I have been told that before and making games is really, really hard! The solution may not even be attainable. Sometimes you are advertised a certain product and it meets all of your criteria for being a “good” game. You purchase it, sit down with your friends and family and spend hours on end delving into this magical world only to realize when you are finished that you have this empty feeling in the bottom of your stomach.
“That should have been better,” is something I find myself saying all the time. Not because I didn’t enjoy the game, but because I felt like it wasn’t complete. In the age of DLC and expansions this problem arises all the time in every genre. I think we all can agree that we miss the days when games were actually finished before they went gold. This problem is only exacerbated with the ever going prevalence of early access to games. Beta testing has been around for awhile now, but some companies are going as far as letting people pay for Alpha access as well. At what point do you just hire the people onto your staff and let them become the creative directors for you game? I understand needing the extra money to simply finish the game if you are a fledgling indie developer, but when it turns into essentially free labor to test your game build, it has gone too far. Most of us gamers aren’t qualified to actually test games the way they need to be. Yet we have no problem whining when something is launched and there is a bug that “has been there since Beta!”
Kickstarter can mantle some of the blame, but I think more of it has to be thrown onto the shoulders of the gaming community at large. With everyone having their own opinion, even when they are given the chance to express that to the game developers, not all of their ideas can make it into the final version. Remember, at the end of the day, the game you are testing isn’t yours, it’s someone else’s. And before I get harangued by the mob for throwing crowd sourcing under the proverbial bus, let me state that I am a complete supporter of the process. I have backed my share of projects and marvel at how some of the ideas have to resort to such a device to be made at all. Clearly the whole development end of the gaming business is borked when Double Fine has to turn to the fans in order to make a game. Even if they wanted to do so, it still feels dirty.
Yet here I am, rambling about how people should stop complaining about games missing what they believe to be “crucial” aspects of the experience when I still am guilty of this myself. I have to admit even I wished at times that there were more customization options with your homesteads in Skyrim. Oh wait…there was a DLC for that…However, I have never complained that I felt there was anything missing in Final Fantasy VII. Why is that? I think that the gamer of today is lazy and most of the PR driven drivel spoon fed to us by the monopolistic publishers *cough EA cough cough* only makes matters worse. The whole process is so backwards that when an actual quality game like The Last of Us does come out, people still complain that the game play is only 20 hours long and that parts of it are unrealistic. A new Call of Duty comes out every year and we have the balls to complain that there aren’t enough new features or that the games visually look the same.
When does it end? When do we as a community stop being so elitist and privileged to think that every game we buy needs to cater to every single fantasy that enters into our brains? If a game is broken, that is one thing and I will be right alongside you flaming away to the developers to fix the issues. If a game ends in a way that I don’t approve of, well tough titty. I’m looking at you, Mass Effect 3 haters. Sure the ending left a lot of us wondering what happened to the rest of the Normandy crew, but that doesn’t take away from the compelling story throughout the rest of the game (and series for that matter), or the improved multi-player and game engine mechanics.
“But that’s not what I wanted my Shepard to do!” you cry.
Get over it. Seriously. EA finally takes a day off from ruining countless other projects and developers into the ground and gives us a game that we were all dying for and all we can do in order to review it is complain that it didn’t end the way we wanted it to? That is their choice, not ours. It’s their story to tell. Maybe I am alone in feeling this way and perhaps none of you agree with me. That is all right, like I said earlier, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
My hope is simple. That we will take our collective opinions and label them as such. Nothing more. Nothing less. We don’t have to like or agree with every little detail a game has. But we also don’t have to condemn the game and those whose disagree with us because of those differences in opinion. If the game sucks because it is unplayable then fine, the game sucks. If the game plays and looks beautiful but the story isn’t what we want it to be, then it is a bad story; not necessarily a bad game.
So, I offer the chance for you to review me now, as we are all part of the same community. This is my opinion. Agree, disagree or be ambivalent.