As much as I like to talk about games, and sometimes even myself in relation to the games that I play, I generally try to avoid Gaming Discourse. Gaming discourse is full of a whole bunch of anonymous folks on the internet who want to tell me that my opinion isn’t valid because I’m (a) female, (b) old – well, middle-aged at least, and (c) Not A Real Gamer for some reason or another (see points a and b). Heck, the last time I commented about someone else’s gaming opinion, I wasn’t even trying to start an argument, and I got jumped on and told how incredibly, terribly wrong I was. Really, it hardly seems worth it most days.
I actually starting writing this post shortly after that, but I let it linger in drafts because I wondering if perhaps it was too confrontational. I don’t like picking fights, I don’t even really care much for a spirited debate anymore. People – especially people on the internet – seem to want to die on the tiniest of anthills these days, and I can only assume being right – even if it’s just in their own mind – gives them some sort of satisfaction in an increasingly unsatisfying world.
… but we all do something in the name of escapism.
Which is kind of a perfect time to loop back to talking about gaming, because I would guess that escapism is precisely what most people get out of video games. Most folks who played games as a child, and are still gaming in their forties or fifties, and maybe a whole lot folks younger than that, probably remember a time when your gaming choices were limited to a handful of titles, and maybe you liked them a lot. Maybe you didn’t like them much at all, but you played them anyway because they were what was available to you at the time.
But if you’re playing video games right now, in 2022, even if you’re on a budget, that’s really just not the case anymore. Each game on Steam has a unique number in its URL, and those numbers are currently seven digits long for new games being released. That’s over a million games right there! Obviously, games have disappeared from the platform over the years, but once you start adding in other PC platforms, console games, and mobile games, I feel pretty safe in saying that there are – quite literally – millions of games you could be playing right now instead of reading this post.
I also think it’d be fair to say that your average person probably won’t play a million games in their lifetime, never mind every single video game ever made. It’s not a rational prospect. Time, energy, and attention are all finite resources. So maybe, you think, maybe it wouldn’t be awful if there were a whole lot less choice out there.
But here’s the thing – there are almost 8 billion people on this planet. Now, I’m not trying to say that every single one of them plays video games regularly. I won’t even try to say every single one has at least tried (or will try) a video game at some point in time. But there’s a lot of people out there, and a lot of that lot might play something every now and then, and guess what? A lot of them are going to like some things, and hate other things, and the things they like and hate won’t be the 100% the same as everyone else’s preferences.
I feel like I’m getting reductive now, but the increased availability of technology at a reasonable price point means more people have access to video games. More types of games are being made, catering to niche markets and are attracting new people to the hobby. While I’m sure there are some people who obsessively decorate their island in Animal Crossing one day, and wreck noobs in Call of Duty (is that still even a thing?) the next, you’re likely to find more people who play one or the other, but not both.
It was the release of Elden Ring – a game I will likely never play – that brought me back around to this topic. My interests don’t align with the vision of FromSoftware Inc, but I would argue that they have every right to make an extremely challenging game without difficulty options, as well as that I have every right to not buy or play that game. I’ve decided it’s Not For Me. That’s not a value judgement in any way; it’s just a statement of fact.
When I say something is Not For Me, I mean precisely that. When for one reason or another, a game doesn’t work for me, I move on. There’s someone, or a hundred someones, or a million someones who would say that same game is everything they want it to be. I’m happy for those people, but it isn’t going to change who I am, or what I do (or don’t) enjoy.
It took me quite awhile to get to the point where I understood that there’s a big difference between something being bad and something not being to my taste. It took even longer for me to realize that absolutely no one cares why I don’t like the thing they love. This blog is my playground, and I still try to be conscientious of noting the difference between something that’s technically flawed and something I just didn’t personally enjoy.
And this is why – at least I think it’s why – I keep defending games that are niche, unpopular, or just poorly marketed. I may not like them all. I may not even like most of them. But the vast majority of them aren’t bad games. If all the truly bad games disappeared tomorrow – the games that don’t work right for anyone, or that absolutely no one has ever enjoyed – I don’t think the overall number of available video games would decrease significantly.
Whether or not you personally like a thing has no bearing on whether or not that thing should be allowed to exist. It has no bearing on whether that thing should be available. And it has no bearing on whether or not the creator should have spent their time and energy making the product they wanted to make. It’s just not up to you.
Here’s another story for you: someone I played World of Warcraft with for many years has stopped playing that and moved over to Final Fantasy XIV as his main game. He still hangs out in our guild Discord, as do many other friends who have stopped playing for one reason or another. Heck, we even have dedicated channels for other MMOs because we all do a dabble from time to time.
Why is this relevant? Because despite me saying over and over that FFXIV is Not For Me, he continues to try to persuade me by telling me how great it is, and I politely (but with increasing frustration) remind him that I’ve tried it more than once, and it just doesn’t work for me. It’s not that I think everyone I know who loves the game is wrong, or lying, or lacks taste. I’m glad it exists, and I’m glad it’s successful and people are enjoying it. That doesn’t mean I want to play it myself.
In fact, I love when people tell me about games they’ve enjoyed. I love it even more when they take my specific tastes into account when making recommendations. Heck, I even love when people are excited about things that I have less than zero interest in. But sometimes, pushing the point over and over feels more like being told that I’m wrong or stupid, and that I don’t love so much.
So, um, believe people when they tell you what they like or don’t like, ok? I promise you, they know better than you do.
I’m not sure why this disconnect exists for so many people who are invested in this hobby. Why there are so many people who feel they have the sole right to be the arbiter of what is good and what should or should not be available to other people? For the most part, people who are screaming about the things they don’t personally like aren’t even trying to come at it from a place of valid criticism, but rather, a need to feel their choice of leisure activity is better, and therefore superior, to someone else’s choice so they can feel good about themselves at someone else’s expense. It could be about difficulty, or genre, development budget, or platform, but it happens over and over and over again.
It’s okay not to like something that’s popular.
It’s okay to love something that other people hate.
It’s okay to look at something and know it’s Not For You.
Not everything is supposed to be.