Tuesday, September 5, 2017

One man's opinion

I don't follow Twitter drama much. It happens at the edges of my peripheral internet senses and is usually a whole lot of talk about very little, especially in the games/game critics industry. But this is something special. It starts here:

The player is Dean Takahasi, a man who has been playing and reviewing games for 20 odd years, eating shit over and over in the tutorial. There is also a YouTube video in which he plays for around twenty minutes and never makes it out of the first level. I am embarrassed for the guy.

The question, and what the internet has been fighting about since then, is this: should the opinion of a person who is clearly terrible at a game matter? Should we listen to anything Dean has to say about Cuphead when he doesn't know how to play it? And was that shameful display his fault or caused by poor design?

First, the design. I don't see any problems with the tutorial. There is a small block, a taller one that is too high to reach and floating instructions that state that the dash can be used in the air. Simple, right? Jump off of the small block and dash at the apex. This is shared knowledge based on years of platform games.

And that is the problem: shared knowledge. Shared by who, exactly? I know what to do based on three plus decades of video game experience. I would have known what to do without the instructions. This does not mean that everyone knows this or that it will be as natural for everyone. If it were a child playing the game or my Mother I would run with this line of thought further, but it was not. Dean has been playing and writing about videogames for 20 years, or so he says. He should know what to do. He should know how to string two moves together, something that he fails again to accomplish in the 'counter slap' section.

It should be noted that I do not think the game is the problem but that I have not played it yet. I can promise you it will go better that it did for Dean.

So does Dean's opinion on this matter? Should we listen to anything he has to say about Cuphead? Before I say no, and I will get to that, take a quick peek at this article that calls him out for giving Mass Effect a bad score. He found it difficult because he forgot to assign skill points after leveling up. Dean did admit this later, and amended his review, but come on.

That article is nine years old. He has not learned much since then.

Dean, from these two examples, does not appear to be an enthusiast. He was not a person who plays games first, he was a writer who chose to write about games, games that he appears to be terrible at. So no, we should not listen to him. It galls me that this man is paid for his opinion. Games are different from most other forms of entertainment in that they are interactive. One does not need to be a director to give opinions about movies or an athlete to talk about sports. Consuming both of these is passive and intelligent opinions on them can be built on knowledge alone.

Game require interaction, some of which is based on skill, and some of those are going to be too difficult for some people, and that's okay. I have said in this very space that Souls game are too hard and fuck From Software forever and this feeling means that no one should come to me for an opinion on Dark Souls. The games aren't for me, for whatever reason (read that as that I am terrible at them) so my thoughts on their quality are not to be valued. I accept that, bitch a bit about them as humorously as possible, and then get back to games that I do know something about.

Dean is paid for his uninformed, unreliable, borderline ignorant opinions. I don't know this man, he could be the nicest guy in the world, but he should not be compensated for writing things that he lacks the requisite skills to appreciate.

If you want to espouse indefensible opinions start a blog. Wait a minute...

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