Archive for February 4, 2013
Traveling down the rabbit hole that is my feed reader this afternoon, I stumbled upon a post at Polygon regarding Jonathan Blow’s Twitter Blow-out (score one for puns!). It was a drive-by read, and I don’t know the context or anything, but it seems Mr. Blow (a Tarantino moniker if ever there was one) is upset about the quality of titles being elevated in the public perception, or something to that effect. The Polygon post mentions that ”[Far Cry 3] came in as the #4 goty here at Polygon”, so I don’t think it’s too much of a limb-going to assume that this is all about popular versus artistic.
Blow (as you probably know) is the maker of Braid, a popular side-scrolling platform that has won numerous awards and has garnered bother critical and popular acclaim. Good for Blow, and good for Braid. I didn’t care for it, but I’m sure that doesn’t dent the self-satisfaction that Senor Blow feels at his lofty regard in the industry.
But I care. And I really don’t care about Braid, or Blow’s opinions of what is and isn’t popular. Far Cry 3 may not be Shakespeare. It may not even be Weird Al, but people seem to like it, as evidenced by it’s sales numbers and the fact that I saw a lot of people in my spheres talking about it when it launched.
Who’s right? Who matters more? Does it matter who matters more? I think to some people, and in some cases, yes it does. It apparently matters to Johnny, who spent many letters expressing himself in artistic fashion, tilting at a windmill that most people couldn’t see — and one they probably wouldn’t see as a problem in the first place.
Critics are paid to criticize. We the consumers empower them through the application of sheer decision to be “experts” on a topic, and in so doing we elevate those people from nut-scratching, beer-drinking rank-and-file gamers to high-minded taste-makers who’s thumbs-up or thumbs-down can drive sales, pitch Metacritic scores, and open new offices or send other branches into Chapter 11. But then we turn around and tell them to kiss our asses. We like doing crazy shit in Far Cry 3 because it makes us laugh, and we end up having a good time doing it. We put the “Play” in PlayStation, while folks like Jonathan Blow want to put the “X” square across the Xbox because certain titles aren’t high-brow enough for their tastes.
Why do we give critics such power in the first place? Maybe because we want to be them. People listen to them; they get to have fun and be seen as an “authority figure”. Geeks are all about the knowledge, and the geeks who exhibit the most knowledge that is acknowledged by other geeks are the alpha geeks, earning the respect in the community for their insight and their position. If we didn’t listen to them, then why have those positions at all? Without those positions, what would geeks aspire to? That maybe a little heavy handed, and certainly isn’t universal, but when it comes down to it, what matters isn’t what the Jonathan Blows of the world think we should care about. It only matters whether or not we have fun doing what we’re doing, whether it’s playing some pretentious platformer, or launching goats off cliffs in runaway jeeps. I don’t think critics can tell us which one is really better, so it’s up to us to decide.