When it comes to video games, there is no shortage of people out there telling you that there is a “right way and a “wrong way” to play them. Especially now that watching people or streaming video games yourself has become a common passtime, faceless individuals in chat enforcing their will upon the streamer because they’re not playing “correctly” has become commonplace.
Of course, this the wrong way to go about things. One of the best thing about video games are moments of emergent narrative or gameplay that come about from a player trying to work out the mechanics, especially those that are more open ended in their approach to tutorialisation and gameplay.
This seems like a pretty open and shut issue to me: don’t be a dick and let people play video games how they want to play them.
However, an aspect of this argument has cropped up recently that I’m not so sure feels as cut and dry to me. It’s one of where people aren’t just dictating to streamers or Youtubers about them playing the game wrong, but dictating to the game’s creators now as well, that they’re apparently making the game wrong.
That seems a little judgemental, sorry, it just felt like a more dramatic statement to kick this discussion off.
The first time I personally saw this issue come up and I had a strong opinion about it was with the advent of Souls-like games. FromSoftware practically invented a new genre of video game with their Souls series, with Bloodborne and Sekrio following hot on their heels. These games all become hugely popular, thanks to this new desire for their brand of punishingly difficult gameplay from the community.
Despite becoming known for making this very particular brand of video game, I saw sentiment from some people on social media, including major news blogs put forward a plea. I’ll be honest and say I can’t remember the particular game that put this issue into my head, it might have been Sekiro: Shadows Die twice. But I read an article on a major video game blog that said these, difficult by design, video games needed to include a story or casual mode.
There was backlash, because of course, you could get backlash for stating the sky is blue on the internet. But this time, I found myself agreeing with the people biting back against this desire for removing what is one of the most defining aspects of this entire sub-genre of video game.
There’s an old comedy bit by Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain from years ago in which he pokes fun at video games being the only medium of entertainment that denies you access to the content for not being good enough at them. Saying it’s akin to a book questioning you about its major themes and then snapping shut when you can’t answer it.
He’s poking fun of course, but the difference is that most people are only half paying attention to other forms of media when they consume them, ones that don’t actively require your attention at all times. I get the impression that some people want to bring that aspect of only kind of paying attention to their media into all of their video games, which is contrary to the whole point of the video games in the first place. (most of them at least anyway)
I don’t know if this is going to come off as a “gatekeeping”y statement, but I don’t believe that everyone has the right to enjoy every piece of media they come in contact with. It’s all that diversity that makes video games as huge and as compelling a medium as it is. Smoothing down all those edges makes media inherently less interesting and of less value in my opinion.
It’s a route that movies are already on, and much further down at this point. It’s the whole crux of Martin Scorsese’s rant about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in that cinema has become risk adverse, nice, safe and predictable ventures. As much as I love the love the MCU, I agree with his sentiment.
If you wanted to make me look like a real asshole, you could throw the argument at me about accessibility to people with disabilities. That no amount of “getting gud” is going to allow them to play a game they might love, but are unable to play because of some physical disability. But at which point, where is the line between that and creative integrity?
I’m still on the fence of whether we can start regarding video games as art just yet, rather than just simple product. But as products, there is some expectation that they be open to as many consumers as possible. Taking into account something as basic as colour blind options that a lack of could make a game nigh unplayable to some people depending on the content.
At the same time though, the people making the games have some creative vision. As much as the games are product, the people making them are doing it as artists, and have some integrity when it comes to that vision. So at what point is it fair to them to, say, cannibalise their video game by removing its very defining feature, like it’s incredible difficulty for example.
It’s a debate with no right or wrong answer I don’t think. You can frame either side of the argument to make the other sound like some monster. But at the end of the day, I feel like we should respect creator’s intent and allow them to make the kind of game they want to make.
We’re at the point now where there are more video games to play than anyone could ever conceive of getting around to. There might as well be an infinite number of alternatives for people to play if they can’t play Bloodborne. Rather than stomping all over the creators and what they’re trying to do just because the game isn’t inclusive enough for you. I’m very aware that this might come across as callous, but I feel like I need to stand up for creators in this instance when they’re the ones who suffer more for having to compromise than the players do.
I get that’s I’m speaking from a position of privilege, with nothing stopping from playing these games aside from time and personal taste, but most of these impassioned pleas for the developers to make these games, like soulsborne game I read about were pretty much in the same boat. Their only real motivation seeming to not liking being left out.
I had a whole other rant/talking point about the rift between the different sides of the Animal Crossing community when it comes to “time travel”. I find it especially hilarious how wound up people get about the “right” and “wrong” way to play a game that is is intended to wind you down.
I think I’ll write a follow up piece talking about how Nintendo manage both sides of this debate and allow both to play how they want to play. And also how both sides of the debate seemingly take this as a sign of validation of how they chose to play the game.
We live in a time where everyone acts like every issue is black and white, that there is a right and a wrong. Which is rarely the case. In terms of debate on creator’s intent, I feel like they should be allowed to make the thing they want to make. It inherently makes for more interesting media in the world, and this is me talking about a franchise and sub-genre I have no reverence for whatsoever.
It’s a point you might have seen make before on here. But if you don’t like something, there is a huge wealth of alternatives out there. Your energy would be better spent just finding something you can enjoy than spending that same energy getting upset about something that’s just going to embroil you in one more pointless, toxic internet debate.