This week on Extra Punctuation, Yahtzee has a response for everyone that says he hates video games.
Extra Punctuation Transcript
People always say about me “Oh, that Yahtzee, he’s that guy who hates games. Christ, why does he even play games if he’s just going to hate on them all the time. He hasn’t liked a single game besides Portal and Silent Hill 2. And Dark Souls. And Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. And Psychonauts. But that’s it. Just those and Thief 2, Bioshock, Painkiller, Infamous, Prototype, Batman Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed 4, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Minecraft, Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Deus Ex, Driver San Francisco, Spec Ops: The Line, Saints Row 4, XCOM, Paper Mario, Papers Please, Zelda Wind Waker, Titanfall 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Earthbound, Shadow of Mordor, Alien Isolation, Grim Fandango, Bloodborne, Subnautica, Cave Story, Stardew Valley, Doom 2016, Metroid Prime, Persona 4, Persona 5, Resident Evil 4, Secret of Monkey Island, Resident Evil 7, killer7, Far Cry 3, Return of the Obra Dinn, Spiritfarer, BPM: Bullets Per Minute, It Takes Two, The Artful Escape, Neon White, Metal Hellsinger, Tunic, Hi Fi Rush and all the other ones. Oh and he’s probably artificially speeding his voice up as well.”
I do always find it slightly annoying when I see comments on my videos getting me completely wrong, always written with such astonishing confidence, and sometimes it’s hard to resist chipping in to set them straight, but oh no, I’ve been on the internet long enough to know where that leads. You’ll never convince anyone because most commenters don’t actually care that much, and you just come across as a hypersensitive psycho. Plus, you respond to one, you gotta respond to them all. I don’t know where Nick the editor gets the energy from.
So I’ve found that on the whole it’s best to let my videos do the talking and not worry too much about bending over backwards for the people who’ve decided they don’t like me when I could focus my energy on making content for the people I haven’t alienated yet. But having said that, there are a couple of recurring arguments I see in my ZP comment sections, and I thought, if I did a video broadly addressing those arguments, then in future we could just mutely point all those commenters here and just look like a rude psycho instead of a hypersensitive one.
So let’s go back to the abovementioned point: “He just hates all games.”
This seems to be an indelible part of my image. I come down harshly on a game, they say “Oh he hates all games.” I praise something, they say “Oh how surprising that he praised it considering that he hates all games.” I can’t win. And it makes me sad to think that people have this impression. I assume you must think me very sad. Playing, designing and writing about something you hate for over thirty years would make anyone a terribly unhappy person. So for the record, I love video games and I love my job. I got into them at an early age, they were my respite in an unhappy childhood, and as a creative, making games is the form of expression I find the most fulfilling. The most challenging.
I know how the impression that I hate everything comes about. It comes from the more casual viewer, the ones who only buy new games a few times a year, and when they do it’s more likely to be something mainstream and triple-A that’s got the big marketing bucks, and if they had fun a lot of them will come online to watch reviews and see what other people thought, and inevitably I’ll be there pissing all over it for being more hacked out triple-A drivel. And they feel wounded and invalidated, because THEY had fun, since they haven’t had to play fifteen games like it this quarter alone.
I guess the point is, I have high standards. But as any pushy parent will tell you, you don’t have high standards for something that you hate. I’ve never identified with a fictional character more than the food critic from Ratatouille. I don’t *like* video games. I *LOVE* video games. If I’m not in heaven, I don’t play past the tutorial. I have high standards because I love video games so much and I want them to live up to the image I have for them inside my own head.
Another very common response I see in my comments is that the viewer couldn’t tell if I recommended or didn’t recommend a game. And frankly, I take that as a point of pride. To split all games along a binary of recommend versus don’t recommend, dividing them into the ones I love and the ones I hate, is something I feel iffy about, which is one of the reasons I’ve never given scores on my reviews. My feelings for most games tend to be complicated. Even the games I love have things I can pick on and I try to find things to like in the games I hate. Silent Hill 2 has some really stupid inventory puzzles. The Callisto Protocol… er… well at least it wasn’t very long. Sorry I feel like I can’t summarise all of this in a five point star rating.
There’s a distinction between reviewing something as art and reviewing it as function. With art, you can only offer your own perspective, analyse the emotions that it brings out and the artist’s intention. Reviewing for function is a lot easier. You mow the lawn, and then you give the lawnmower a score based on how short the grass is now, so the reader knows what’s the best lawnmower to buy. And the sticking point of video games is that they have both an artistic and a functional aspect. So some people will come to me to engage with the artistry conversation but some people are just looking for a linear thumb up or thumb down to know if a game’s requisite twenty hours of mindless gear grinding will do an adequate job of blocking out their existential dread, and those people I fear I’m going to have to disappoint. Then of course there’s the people who are just here for the knob gags, but that’s their business.
Although that does bring me to the third very common recurring statement I see in Zero Punctuation comments I want to address: “He’s not a real critic, he’s a comedian.”
I’ve lost count of how often I’ve seen that one over the years. It’s usually used to offer consolation to viewers who find themselves in bottom pain from my failure to affirm their feelings about something they’re attached to. I note that this argument is never raised when I give a positive review. I’ve never seen anyone say “Well, he said he liked my favourite game, but sadly he’s not a real critic, and thus I must look elsewhere for my validation.” That aside, there’s a lot to unpack, here.
Firstly, what’s a real critic in your view? We know one thing: that it apparently precludes being funny. You’ll have to break that to Roger Ebert’s widow because some of his more negative reviews were some hilarious shit. Let me make something clear: I do like to take a facetious tone and exaggerate certain things for laughs. But I have never once lied about my opinion. I’ve never said I hated something I secretly really liked because I thought hating it would be funnier.
It’s true I have no formal qualifications that one might acquire to pursue a career in entertainment journalism, but I didn’t realise I had to apply for a fucking permit from the government. Here’s the wonderful thing about the internet, kids: it’s really easy to be a critic. You just start criticising stuff. Then if people come along and listen to you criticise stuff, hooray, you’re a critic. That’s the only qualification. “Everyone’s a critic” isn’t just a world-weary metaphorical truism in the age of social media, it’s literal truth. Reminds me of all those people who keep asking me how one gets into making games or writing books. You make games and you write books, twatface, why’re you still talking to me?
If it makes you feel better I am, by all metrics, a PROFESSIONAL critic. In that being a video game critic is my day job from which I earn the majority of my living. And that’s been the case for over fifteen years so I’ve got plenty of on-the-job experience.
The real question for me is, if I were a real critic by your mysterious definition, how would that change anything? If you liked a game and a real critic didn’t, would you throw up your hands and say “Welp, can’t argue with the expert,” and surgically remove your own opinion? It’s people like you who respond to my negative reviews by saying I was playing it wrong. Well I think you’re watching my reviews wrong. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. We’re all coming to these things with our own subjective viewpoints, it doesn’t bother me that other people have different opinions. Just as it shouldn’t bother you if my opinion differs from yours.
Unless it’s not that our opinions differ that’s bothering you, but that our opinions might be closer than you’re willing to admit. And while your lizard brain is assuring you that the twenty hours you just spent grinding up rare fish in the Elder Scrolls Online wasn’t a complete waste of time, there’s still that inconvenient sensible voice in your head that I’m inadvertently amplifying, and you’re having trouble handling the cognitive dissonance. Well, I wouldn’t place a whole lot of stock in your lizard brain’s opinion on these things. Maybe just relegate it to the important decisions relating to eating chocolate or having a sneaky wank.