I’m sure we’ve all seen the following scenario at least once; you hear/read/see somebody’s opinion on a game, whether it be a review or otherwise, and eventually you become flabbergasted that the person condemns the game for what seems like the most trivial and insignificant reasons. After continuously seeing this happen, and witnessing the reactions of those involved, I’ve started to realize something; none of us view flaws the same way.
It’s no secret that most gamers have high standards these days. In a way, it’s a good thing, since it keeps the constructive criticism flowing, forcing developers to make better, more polished games. At the same time, those high standards are not universal. People expect different things when going into a game, and many people are more attached to a certain game than others when they start it up. This means that even seemingly objective flaws can vary widely in terms of negative value from player to player.
Let’s talk about Duke Nukem Forever, a game that the majority of earth’s population would happily incinerate if given the chance. Reviewers and gamers alike blasted the game for its muddy visuals, dated design, and occasionally offensive humor. Me, however? I enjoyed the game. So did quite a few other Duke Nukem Fans, who I often see on comments sections of reviews for the game. “It wasn’t bad at all! What are you people smoking?” or something along those lines, is what’s usually muttered in these scenarios. I too couldn’t understand the hate, as I was able to enjoy the experience and ignore the various flaws that the game possessed. The lengthy loading screens didn’t bother me too much, and neither did the subpar visuals or the occasionally tasteless joke. I was able to focus on the game’s strengths, like the high levels of interactivity, creative level designs, outrageous weapons, and Duke’s macho one-liners.
However, one day I sat down and thought for a minute about those aforementioned flaws. If they were present in any other game, especially one in a different genre, chances are I wouldn’t be so generous. I’d probably be in the same camp as the ‘haters’ for that particular game. So, why was it that I approached DNF with a ‘glass half full’ philosophy? The answer is simple: I put my faith into the game.
Now, before you start thinking I’ve gone crazy and made a religion around the game, take a look at the trailer above. It was a trailer released for the game back in 2001. I remember first seeing it long after that date, but the impact it had on me was timeless. I saw what I could only describe as the most epic and adventurous game that I had ever lay eyes on. For some reason, everything clicked, and I vowed to myself that I would one day play that game, no matter how many delays it went through. The final product was, of course, quite different from what I’d seen in the trailer, but I didn’t care. I was looking with all my might for any elements that were present in the that trailer, and the fact that I found some at all made the game a decent one in my eyes, even with all the problems. In other words, I was simply too interested in the game to let the flaws hinder my enjoyment. I switched to a lenient mode of criticism.
Let’s look at another FPS, Crysis 2, which I borrowed from a friend one day. From an objective standpoint, it was certainly better than Duke Nukem Forever. The graphics were miles better, that’s for sure. The controls were also smoother, and much of the game’s design was clearly more well thought out. Despite all this, however, I disliked the game. I felt it was boring due to the unfocused narrative, lack of color and personality, and the overall realism of the weapons and environments. Unlike DNF, I didn’t have any personal feelings for the game. Instead, I simply popped the game in and demanded a perfect game due to the hype. When the game wasn’t perfect, the flaws were a lot more hurtful.
That’s not all, though. Maple Story is a sort of 2D sidescroller MMO that I hated simply because the environment themes weren’t consistent. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has one of the best stories ever told in a game, but the PS3 version’s framerate and other technical issues ruined the experience for me. Timeshift provided a fun and unique concept to compliment it’s gunplay, but I hated the game simply because the protagonist couldn’t take many bullets and the health regeneration took too long. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, however, was another game that I was captivated by from the very first trailer. So when the final product had pacing issues, story problems, and some weird design choices, I overlooked those flaws easily.
As you can see, I disliked the games above due to not having a personal stake in them. This isn’t just something that happens to me, though; I see it all the time. Just recently, I saw someone call Syndicate a bad game simply based on the fact that you couldn’t skip the intro cutscene. That person obviously didn’t care for the game from the outset. Then I read a user review of Resistance: Fall of Man that labelled the game as visually dull and occasionally boring due to repetition. The user still rewarded the game 9/10. Clearly, this person was on board the Resistance train before he/she even knew where it was headed.
At the end of the day, no two people criticize the same way, simply due to bias. Like a court case, some people are just more attached to a certain person, which allows them to overlook their mishaps and problems to see the good in them. The more I wrote this article, the more I felt this was obvious, but I also reminded myself that it’s something a lot of gamers still need to learn. I ask you, single-players: what kind of flaws make for a bad game in your eyes? Are those the same flaws that other people seem to look out for? You never can tell, can you?