In my last article
, I brought up the subject of making a bad decision based on press. I opted to declare my iPhone a handheld gaming device superior to that of the Nintendo 3DS, an opinion I shared with a lot of gaming analysts on a variety of popular sites. I like my iPhone, and I like my 3DS, but after I bought my 3DS and reminding myself of the sheer intellect put into the design of the system, I realized that the comparison is like apples and oranges.
The apple, or rather, my iPhone, is a good system largely for marketing and distribution purposes: it has a lot of games produced by a lot of people who are kept out of the debatably outdated publishing system. The games are creator driven, satisfying to a wide market, and they’re cheap, which is what is most important to the consumer. The way this works as a model is hit-and-miss. You can’t always vouch for the quality of games that are released when virtually everybody and their mother programs for IOS.
The orange, my 3DS, is a good system because of the overall experience it possesses. Nintendo was the patron saint of touch-based gaming, and its console, now in its 4th generation, has it down to a science. Nintendo came into the console gaming market back in 1985 with overall quality as their mission statement. (Poor downloadable game components and markets flooded with shovelware notwithstanding.) Games you play on the DS always seem tailor made to the system, even though they often use the same kinds of mechanics you’ll see in iPhone games.
The two systems do two entirely different things very well, but if you were to listen to things like consumer reports, sales statistics, and even editorials like the one you’re reading now, you might believe that the iPhone is the throw-a-blanket-over-it-be-all-end-all victor of portable gaming when in reality it simply has a better online store. Once I realized this, though, I had to look very far back into my past experiences with gaming press and wonder just how many times I might have let this sort of thing happen to me, and what kind of mistakes I might have made in my judgment based on the opinions put out by the endless continuum of online game criticism.
We live in an internet driven information society. Everyone’s opinions everywhere get written down and shared, including my own, a fact which I still regard with a small amount of amazement. But human beings are animals and despite what we’re capable of doing as an ongoing collaborative web entity, our brains still have a tendency to filter information based on our own biases, our own opinions, and our own experiences. For example, I’ve never played a Metal Gear title because I could never find a copy of “The Twin Snakes” for my Gamecube, and I never was a fan of the Genesis X-Men game because when I was 12, some kid named Juan pushed me out of my chair while I was in the middle of playing it. It hurt.
The question is: As a marginal gamer, how do we most effectively filter this sort of information to best serve us? We only spend a certain amount of the week playing games, so we want to make sure we don’t miss out on something wonderful simply because, oh….Angry Joe hated it so much he skeet-shot the game disc on his last episode.
My answer to that question is an answer I got when I first decided to take an interest in online journalism: be objective.
Some unwanted opinions are easy to disregard. You’re not going to buy the latest Final Fantasy because someone in a message board comment said “BAI FINAL FANTASI BCUZ FINAL FANTASI LOLZERZ!!!” On the opposite side of the coin, if you’re a person who spends a lot of time on Metacritic, you are officially performing the video game equivalent of looking at the Dow Jones, at least as far as your average run-of-the-mill person doesn’t understand why it’s so important to you.
Other opinions are harder to write-off, as they’re made by people who clearly do have expert opinions. We all have our list of gaming journalism sages, mine being Bob Chipman
, Daniel Floyd and James Portnow of “Extra Credits,”
and the Penny Arcade
guys. The experience of these people range from being individuals who actually work hand-in-hand with the game industry to people who simply “made it,” turning their online blogging hobby into a platform that permits them to be seen as an expert.
I look up to and admire these people but one thing I always keep in mind is that I don’t always have to agree with them. Like so. “I’m sorry Bob, I liked your first seventy episodes, but I really don’t think Sony is failing in the console market. You can’t convince me of that. Also I still shop at Gamestop. Mostly because my friend Kenny works there and I’d like him to keep his job.” See? It’s that easy.
Also, it’s important to remember that no matter how much of the “gamer culture” you identify with there are elements of it that don’t apply to you, and therefore don’t require your attention. Just last week I was momentarily nerd-raged and heavily considered writing an article about the infamous fan-rally to change the ending to Mass Effect 3. That is, until I realized that I never really played ANY Mass Effect game, and whatever alterations were made to the continuity of the story, the “choose your ending” function of the final screen and the general betrayal of that community of fans didn’t really apply to me personally, so whatever I had to say about that incident will be henceforth contained in this little paragraph.
This is an exciting time to be alive. The fact that any person who is out there looking to become informed about any subject, including gaming, can get on a computer and web surf until they can be both fully informed and understanding of a variety of perspectives is simply wonderful. However, history has taught us that every boom has a bust, and for the web it is the fact that not every opinion that you inform yourself with is, well, “informed.” So as you navigate the vast amount of information that’s out there always remember that you are an individual with an opinion of your own, and as much as you agree or disagree with others, you are always in control of how you feel.
And while I hope you agree with what I just said, it’s perfectly okay if you don’t.