Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Validation Obsession

Posted on November 16, 2011 at 1:25 AM


Validation Obsession

We all have our preferences in life. You like certain foods over others, certain types of clothes and certainly prefer certain music. As the old saying goes: it's all a matter of tastes. You can even like and enjoy things you know are bad, like Point Break or anything Keanu Reeves stars in that isn't the Matrix for that matter.

Yet, there's an element that creeps up from time to time. People want the things they like and love to be validated. They want the justification for choosing one over the other and spending the money to do so. What am I bringing up here? Reviews. Specifically, video game reviews. Last month I wrote about the lax in video game enthusiasts press and integrity amongst the supposed journalists, but this round we're taking a look at the players themselves though it won't be nearly as long.

It's one thing to read reviews and get a grasp on what a game might offer you to know if you want to purchase it or not. It's your money and time and you would like to know the best way to spend your entertainment dollar. However, it's another thing to already know you're going to be purchasing it, because by now you know the types of games you will like and won't like, and then demand that the reviews be good because of that. You're a fan, we get that, but is it so bad when some reviewers don't agree with your view?

I need outsiders to validate my lifestyle....and I need twinkies. Lots of twinkies.

Now we all know that the video game community has the maturity level of a twelve year old even when they're in their 30s, but the anger over review scores is ridiculous - especially seeing as how they're often upset over scores that, quite honestly, aren't that bad. Instead of getting an A+, a game might get a B+. Last I checked, a B+ is still pretty damn good.

Half of the problem might come how game reviewers review in the first place, especially if they use a broken point scale that is confusing, but the other half comes from gamers themselves. In other words: who cares?

Look, you know the games you like and don't like. The internet is a plethora of articles and previews and videos for you to get a handle on what elements are in the game before the game even comes out. This brings up an interesting debate on whether or not game reviews are necessary to begin with, but I'll leave that for another time.

The question here is why? Why do gamers demand justification for their game of choice? Cinema criticism doesn't have that problem. Most people will read reviews and take it as actual views to consider. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets in a fury simply because AO Scott didn't like the movie that they were looking forward to. In fact, they would take such a review seriously and say "well…I guess it didn't end up as good as I was hoping."

 I think it's a blend of a longer history mixed with the fact you don't shell out as much money for a movie either in a theater or on DVD to get so riled up over something as silly as a video game. Cinema criticism had decades to develop and become a part of our culture, therefore we look at it as something serious and even when we disagree, we still respect the reviewer as long as they're honest and do their job well. Throw in the element of money spent versus entertainment gained, and you're not spending nearly as much for a movie ticket as you are the next big AAA game title for the Xbox 360.

That, and people are probably just jerks.

Well, I take that back. There is one aspect that probably influences the desire for validation beyond those two things: maturity. As in: most gamers, despite being the average age of 35, aren't that mature when it comes to dealing with their chosen form of entertainment. I think it stems back to their years of growing up in the console war era of the 1990s into the early 2000s. Many haven't matured past their younger selves when it comes to games. Then again, many older gamers still have to deal with younger ones which haven't (and probably won't) go through the growing pains because acting like an idiot is all they've ever known.

There's this other element that I think of as well. In college, we learned about this thing called commodification. Basically, it's the phrase "the things we own end up owning us" only gone into more detail. We go out to buy things that are an extension of ourselves. In the case of video games, and perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with games being immersive and us being "a part" of them, I think gamers take criticism far, far more personally than reading a book or passively watching a movie. If we spend money and our time on a game that, in some way, is meant to represent us, then it's only natural that they take it all so personal.

A central theme in the book and film Fight Club is the idea that we buy more stuff to replace our lack of human interaction and build relationships with inanimate objects to achieve a shallow comfort.

That's not an excuse. It's merely an observation. To change such a personal thing is probably asking a lot, but I'd like to think that we can at some point even if the level of "adultness" isn't where it needs to be at the moment, there are many gamers who don't need to have their favorite game get a good review. It's a growing process that, I think, most gamers will go through if they haven't already. I know I did. I've played games that have been panned and I enjoyed thoroughly just as I've seen films that I love yet were wrecked in the review-o-sphere. 

Though I love reading reviews, those that are well-done at least, it's more to gather information than to really feel the desire to have a number be what I hope it will be. I couldn't care less if something received a high score and I'd be actually more interested in something that received a low score, but in either case I don't think gamers need to sit and cry from the highest mountaintops if there's a decimal point off on a some number a reviewer throws out. Either listen and think about what they have to say, take it in and consider the points being made to have a discussion (which rarely happens in this internet age), or just shut up and enjoy the game that you probably knew you would already enjoy in the first place.


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