Thursday, 18 August 2016

Why is being a massive cynic about everything "on trend?" - A ReadItTorial

Once upon a time when I spent (read: wasted) a lot of my time and money on videogames, I used to love putting cursor to screen and writing about them.

I've played videogames since the dawn of time (alright, since Pong and all those crazy home 'sports games' that you used to plug into the black and white telly and blip-bloop your way through mindlessly) and every year I swear I'm going to pack it all in. I don't keep up with them as much as I used to but now and again I can't help dipping back in.

Despite my best efforts, I've also failed to put Charlotte off videogames. We're extremely strict (perhaps a bit too strict) about screen time but now and again, in fleeting moments, we'll sit down together and check out something new.

Finding kid-friendly games for modern consoles isn't that easy. Most are insultingly basic while others seem to rely heavily on cartoon violence or are branded heavily towards whatever 'flavour of the month movie or tv show' is hitting the back of the net. So it's always refreshing when something comes along that engages and stimulates in the same way a good book does.

Current flavour of the month is "No Man's Sky" which some have dubbed as "An action-exploration simulator". The game has certainly polarised opinion, though now it's out there and being played, most people seem to be really positive about it - which is good. But then there's the usual flurry of annoying coverage that seems to want nothing more than to put you off playing this game.

In all the years since I gave up regularly writing about games, one thing has remained pretty consistent (and it's not really something that's limited to games either, spreading to movies and books and just about anything else net-based journalists regularly cover). Everyone loves a good moan and it really does grate on my nerves as much now, as it did when I was far more into videogames and could stomach the negativity that seemed to haunt each and every release.

There's still this seemingly 'trendy' air of huge cynicism before we (the general public) get our hands on a new game, movie or book. Early released copies naturally find their way out to bigger websites or news outlets way ahead of release (well, in some cases anyway) so a privileged few get to enjoy these items in exchange for an early opinion. It feels like lately, that opinion is nearly always hugely negative and nitpicky, or misses the entire point of being into videogames in the first place. To enjoy yourself playing.

In the case of "No Man's Sky" - the game picture above and one I've had my eye on ever since an image from the game graced the box of my Playstation 4, the tiny team responsible for this amazing looking space exploration game (Hello Games) have had to weather a lot of adverse comments and negative opinions. "It's going to be a huge bomb" says one site. "It's not what I wanted, what I expected" said another, and with the team going back and reworking the game and producing a huge day one patch for it that practically reinvents the whole thing (a gigantic effort for such a tiny team), you'll hope those news outlets will be quick to follow up with a review or an opinion on the 'final' product, right?

(only, most won't bother)

Most news articles seem to obsess over two aspects of the game that don't interest me in the slightest. On the one hand you've got people claiming that the game's 'multiplayer' is deeply flawed. People can't meet up, and shoot each other. Even two people who somehow managed to end up on the same planet early on in the game's release couldn't meet up and have a pow-wow. To be honest, that's the sort of news that gladdens my heart because this is the sort of game where I'd like the opportunity to explore on my own, name new things, and find my own path without the pressure of having someone else flash their butt in your face shouting "FIRST!" at every opportunity. So the game's netcode might not be all that, but hooray! For once I'm not complaining.

Secondly there's the endlessly tedious willy-measuring (if you'll pardon my patois) that we have to endure every single time a new game is released on consoles and PC. PC owners aren't happy unless the game is blasting their eyeballs out of their sockets, running at stupidly high resolutions and framerates on a home gaming rig that cost more than my car. "It's crap, it underperforms, it's a broken mess" is probably what you'll read since the game was available for PC download. And of course all that and the usual multiplayer mumblings. It reminds me why I no longer bother with PC gaming, the whole thing went beyond actually enjoying games and turned into an endless braggardly arms race years ago and it hasn't changed one iota.

More bad news for the game is the current backlash about features that were alluded to prior to release that didn't make it into the final product. While the majority of folk are quite happily doing what we're doing, exploring and enjoying themselves, it seems there's a hard core of 'propah' gamers who want to try and rally support for some sort of lawsuit over the features they (and I quote NeoGaf here so expect the usual internet stupidity) "have a right to see in the game".

Sorry? You have a right to what exactly? You either buy the game or you don't. Why does a development team suddenly owe you something purely because you think that a comment in an interview is some sort of binding contract between you and the developer?

I think I know why I gave up trying to reason with folk like this or offer critique on games. Videogames do seem to bring out the worst in certain folk.

Anyhow, as ironic as it sounds to sit here talking about journalistic cynicism being the norm on a site that reviews books, and journalistic opinion even mattering when it comes to what the public want to spend their hard earned on, it really is depressing when you see how saturated online reporting is with this whole idea of being cynical to be "on-trend".

I get that people love moaning. Boy do people ever love moaning but I've picked up No Mans Sky (and it's very nice to actually find a game that I can play alongside my daughter, taking it in turns to hand over the pad and control the game with loads of awesome non-threatening action to enjoy).

Back to beloved books from now on though and if you still wonder why we're largely positive about the books we write about here on the blog, it's mostly because someone has to shine a light of positivity onto the net and we really couldn't give two hoots if that means we're not on trend, sorry.