Every game is someone’s favorite

I made a disparaging remark about Mega Man 4 in my most recent post. This was, of course, a bad idea, because it led to a partial derailment which involved several MM4 fans standing and angrily shaking their text-based fists at me. Someone suggested I pick on Mega Man 5 instead, which would be a sensible choice but for the fact that I’ve already done that — last year, in a paean to Mega Man 9. Turns out that particular chapter of the series has even more staunch defenders than its predecessor, and most of the discussions about that article around the web ended up degenerating into silly arguments about why the whole piece was invalidated by my criticism of MM5. Who would have imagined?

Left: MM4, purportedly the best game ever; right: MM5, also purportedly the best game ever.
I suppose I could take the time to enumerate in detail my dislikes of each one — how MM4 ruined the need for subweapons (the series’ central mechanic!) by adding the charge shot, how MM5 felt uninspired and by-the-numbers — but what’s the point? They’re not terrible games by any means, just lackluster entries in a great series… at least, in my opinion. But other people clearly feel differently. Maybe they have fond childhood memories of MM4 or 5 from having been introduced to the series or the NES or gaming in general with those entries. Maybe they have sentimental attachments to events or people that they associate with the games. Or maybe they simply see something in either (or both) that eludes me. Whatever the case, I’m way past the point of telling people their tastes are wrong.

The single greatest thing about the Internet is the way that it offers an outlet for people to explore and share their interests with the like-minded. I’m endlessly jealous of kids who are growing up in a world where the Internet is simply a fact of life; I’d have killed for a place to discuss the music and games I loved when I was in school. I had a couple of schoolmates whose taste in music occasionally overlapped mine, and a few friends who enjoyed some of the same games as me, sure, but I always felt like my interests were a bit aberrant. It certainly didn’t help that my favorite bands tended to be old and British and generally too esoteric to find with ease at the record stores in Lubbock, so it was always a struggle to find more of their work. On one hand, the extra effort I had to invest in tracking down albums I wanted to own and the trial-and-error nature of purchasing music by bands I’d heard recommended but never actually heard helped cement my tastes and gave me a far more personal connection to that music than I suspect most people experience. On the other hand, it would have been nice to have been able to download a sample of, say, a particularly tepid Camel album before sinking $25 into an import copy only to discover it was terrible. It would have been nice, too, if I could have actually discussed the songs and albums and bands I was into with other fans rather than spend my high school years forcing my tastes on everyone around me in a desperate bid to make a connection and have someone to discuss things with. There’s something to be said for that intensive, focused search for the new and the sense of exploration and revelation it engenders, and in fact I suspect that’s the root of my growing interest in import games and slightly-outside-the-mainstream systems: I cherish the feeling of discovery I have when I come across something new and wonderful that had slipped beneath the radar.

While the intensity of a private crusade is appealing, though, I definitely prefer the sense of accessibility and community that the Internet fosters. Back in the mid-’90s, I used the Internet a bit as an information resource; then I came across the old RPGamer.com forums — possibly back when it was called the Unofficial Squaresoft Homepage, I don’t remember exactly — and discovered a group of people who shared my budding interest in console RPGs. More importantly, they were friendly about it (unlike the people who shared my tastes in music, who were a bunch of pompous twits). After years of eking what little conversation I could about my specific obsessions with partially-disinterested friends, the forums were a revelation. And they started me on the path that, ultimately, led to the establishment of this site.

“GameSpite” might actually be the most ironic name on the whole freaking web, because far from being spiteful our site here has gradually turned into a place where people can come to have (usually) civil discussions about the things they enjoy, whether or not those interests fit into the mainstream. I worry I’m becoming mellow and boring in my old age, because it’s much more interesting to me these days to earnestly explore why a game (or film or album or book) does or doesn’t work than it is to antagonize people for liking something I don’t — or even more stupidly, for liking something I do. The Final Fantasy VII review I wrote three years ago just embarrasses me now, to be honest, because while I think it contains some incisive and insightful commentary on the game’s failings, most of that is obscured in a morass of distracting, childish name-calling. So, yeah, sorry about that, everyone. I’m a jerk sometimes. But maybe I’m outgrowing it, slowly. And that’s a good thing.

There’s something sort of comforting knowing that regardless of how obscure (or awful) your tastes are, someone out there has equally esoteric (or terrible) tastes. I was amused a few weeks ago while browsing HG101’s forums when I stumbled across a thread about how the legendarily wretched “racing” game Big Rigs has a devoted fanbase that relentlessly rails against anyone who criticizes the game. I can’t tell whether or not these Big Rigs fans are being ironic, but in any case it’s an amazing spectacle: a group of people who have banded together to defend their common love (“love”?) of what is widely regarded as one of the worst commercially-released videogames ever created. Before the Internet, they would have been isolated and alone, wondering if their affection for something that’s only a game in the loosest sense of the word was some sort of sickness; now they can at least take comfort in knowing that their disease is a tiny epidemic.

Every game is someone’s favorite. No matter how terrible or unheard-of a game is, someone loves it. And while that’s not going to keep me from excoriating something I detest, I’ve become ever more mindful of the fact that there really is no accounting for taste and that people can like something wretched without necessarily being wretches. It’s the kinder, gentler side of the Internet, I suppose.

Well, I guess I’m done navel-gazing now, but I think the original point was supposed to be: I think Mega Man 4 and 5 are pretty lame and don’t have any remorse about saying so. But we can still be pals even if you disagree. Now, if you like Rockman & Forte for WonderSwan, on the other hand….

41 thoughts on “Every game is someone’s favorite

  1. Insightful post. It’s always hard to talk about personal preferences in games/movies/music etc. when tastes differ… To this day I worry that I’m being insulting when I talk about Final Fantasy with fans of VII, especially on the internet. Some of the games that hold a dear place in my heart are ones that tons of people can’t understand, flawed ones such as Astyanax or Link’s Awakening and even Mega Man V, but I really think it’s just the impersonal nature of the Internet that makes things come across a lot harsher than what they’re met. In most cases, anyway.

  2. Not having any idea what Club Drive is, I decided to google it and — hey, your write-up is the third result. I guess it’s still possible to be completely isolated in your tastes, even online!

  3. It’s interesting how tastes change over time. When MM4 and MM5 came out I thought they were fantastic, but now not so much. I enjoy relating to how folks here have grown up alongside the games they’ve played, and how it tempers their opinions on older and newer games.

  4. Surprisingly positive write up Parish. You’re a better man than I. I’d probably just spend three pages explaining why Megaman 4 and 5 really aren’t that great.

  5. I find it endearing that some people continue to defend games like Mega Man 4 when Rat Attack is clearly gaming’s greatest achievement to date.

  6. (I apologize if this ends up getting posted twice, your comment system confuses me.)

    This was a thought-provoking post. I used to share your same optimism about the internet, and how it’s useful for people with less popular tastes to discover that they’re not alone in the world. I’m not so optimistic anymore.

    If I’ve learned anything from my own personal time on the internet, it’s that it’s one of the biggest sources of the psychological phenomenon known as “groupthink”: namely, the idea that if enough people of similar idealogies get together, they throw away rational thinking in favor of more ardently supporting whatever stance it is they already agree on, they discourage individuality, and they begin to stereotype and ostracize people who are outside that specific group. I have never seen any gathering on the internet that wasn’t guilty of this to some extent; even the Talking Time forums, which don’t revolve around any specific topic, have members who proclaim that forum to be better than all other forums (which is probably not true, no offense guys).

    Although it’s sad that people have to feel lonely because some of their tastes or opinions don’t match those of the people around them, I think it still serves a useful purpose in making people realize that everyone has a few unpopular tastes like that, and although we may not be able to bond on that topic, we can bond based on the fact that we all have something that makes us different from other people. The internet doesn’t encourage that, though. The internet has a tendency to take what makes a few individuals special and turn that into the thing that’s the normal, correct thing to be, and anybody else who isn’t like that is an idiot. This line of thinking does a disservice to the individual by taking away their individuality, and it does a disservice to everyone else by acting like they should be ashamed for not having what is really a fairly rare (and inconsequential) trait.

    Speaking as someone who has unfortunately been a part of this firsthand, sometimes these groups even end up ruining what they were initially established to protect. If you let yourself get lost in the flow of passion surround a certain subject, you can end up making yourself care about a subject a lot more than you actually do. And if you go to the irrational extremes with this passion, it eventually collapses under its own weight and you end up saying to yourself “Wow… this isn’t nearly as good as I’ve been pretending it is,” and you may even end up becoming disgusted with something you used to enjoy.

    I don’t know, I suppose you can still reap the benfits of having these groups as long as you allow yourself to remain rational about it. Unfortunately, human nature makes it extremely difficult to do that if you’re actively involved in these communities. Furthermore, you specifically refer to kids who are now growing up with the internet, and minors do not have that much self-control. And, just speaking from a personal perspective, learning to detach yourself from the specifically unreasonable aspects of these communities inevitably makes you detached from all of them; I don’t even go to forums anymore, because I don’t have the patience to deal with any the especially obsessive people, and there’s always a few, if they don’t make up 90% or more of the total discussion.

    I don’t mean to suggest that you’re guilty of this, because I don’t think you are. Your update just made me feel like ranting on this subject. I guess all I’m saying is, FOR GOD’S SAKE REMAIN HUMBLE PEOPLE.

  7. Nah, I hear ya. Like I said in the post, the RPGamer forums were a revelation back in 1997. I’d already been online and trying to participate in various music forums for three or four years by that point, only to discover people’s unfortunate tendency to cluster together into small-minded, dogmatic groups. I saw the same problem on USENET’s gaming’s groups, too, and in anime forums, and so on. It’s tough to find a group of people who can agree to disagree.

    I don’t think the community that has grown up around GameSpite is perfect, but it is a lot more open and considerate than most. There’s some groupthink and the occasional tendency to get overly hysterical in championing the honor of personal favorite topics, sure, but generally it seems anyone who voices a nonstandard opinion is pretty well-received as long as they’re not jerks about it.

  8. Just to elaborate, I didn’t really mean to single out the Talking Time forums; the main two reasons I used it as an example are

    1) it’s still guilty of some groupthink despite being better than most forums, and
    2) I’m assuming most people who visit this site are familiar with it. Maybe.

    And a little picking isn’t too bad, as long as it’s in good fun and/or everyone agrees that the levels involved are acceptable, which the Talking Time members seem to do. I’ve personally just reached the level of “Everyone should play whatever games they like,” and don’t want to deal with the more… involved discussions anymore.

  9. gawd damn, even I don’t like MM4 enough to go on a crusade against it. If anyone disrespects 3, though…

  10. Jeremy I was one of those annoying defenders of MM5 last year – but I must say you kind of cajoled me into your opinion of the game and the series in general.

    that said, I still like MM5, and think it’s the best of the latter NES trilogy. Yes, compared to MM1, 2 or 9 it’s like a stroll through kiddie playground, and the cracks in the series began to show at that point. But it seemed like the last one where heart went into it, despite the utter lack of originality.

  11. There are a number of arbitrary qualities that people use to justify their love of games. However, the rise of aggregate sites for gaming scores, from my point of view, has made video game arguments needlessly fervent and polarizing. Media outlets constantly get slandered as biased by these manic fans who feel like the percentages justify their enjoyment of a game. Sometimes, you just need to jump into a game, regardless of how it reviews or what the feedback has been, and decide for yourself.

    I love to look through “gaming confessions” threads on forums. They usually become a torrent of “I like/hate ________ and I don’t care!”. The stigmatization of games has been around since the NES/Genesis days, but the Internet seems to have amplified those sentiments. I feel like this environment wrecks havoc on people who are just getting into games or play them with less frequency than others. It has the potential to stunt the growth of video games as a form of entertainment if that kind of polarizing gamer culture has its way (See Also: comic books).

  12. There are 36 one-star reviews of the movie Wall*E on Amazon.com.


    If that doesn’t prove that arguing matters of taste with people on the internet isn’t the purest form of tilting at windmills since Quixote, then I don’t know what would.

  13. Levi-I’m guessing quite a few of those negative reviews consisted of people picking a Kit Kat from under one of their flapping man breasts…small homage to Seanbaby: This film has offended my massive quivering frame! MORE BUTTER! SPLORK!

    concerned citizen-humility, yes. Citizen, I completely agree with you on the perils of group think, especially in gamer culture (yes it exists levi and this site wouldn’t live without it.) There are sooo many opinions out there, but they’re all rendered moot if you’re too afraid to disagree. Lively discussions aren’t built by sucking off the speaker everytime they post something. Tilting at windmills…no argument is unwinnable if you’re not trying to win anything. No door prize for being right on a blog.

    parish-Big Rigs/Club Drive:Ironic love of crap is usually based on getting lit and watching The Room, but I can’t really understand how it extends to games. Also, mealy-mouthed/wounded nobility? You’re reeeally getting into pot/kettle territory. Being concise isn’t a strong suit of most bloggers and that’s fine. I may have nonstandard opinions, but I’m making them as goddamned clear as they need to be. If you’re only cordial to those who agree with you, that’s a nice way to build a cadre of yes-men. I think Star Wars is pretty lame and don’t have any remorse in saying so. Anyway, keep up the good work. This is a FINE post.

    Mealy-mouthed….jesus christ…

  14. On an entirely unrelated note: how long does it take to get an account validated here? I recently registered a forum account here and submitted a validation code (more than 24 hours ago), yet while I can technically log in, I can’t actually even look at anything once I do. I also can’t see my username in the member list… should I start over?

  15. I never felt that the Mega Buster really negated the special weapons, given that charging and firing the Buster felt slower and clumsier to me than just timing a special weapon correctly against a boss.

    I did, however, feel that it really negated a lot of the use of the regular Buster shots, since it seemed enemies were more often more powerful to compensate. Seemed like the days of hammering a weaker foe with regular blasts were more or less over, until 9.

  16. samba, you’ve gotta drop this martyr complex thing you’re wrapping around yourself. Your comments, the ones that sparked this annoyingly persistent little gripe thread, weren’t “cordial disagreement,” they were ill-mannered, and when people defended Levi’s right to write whatever he likes you became even ruder. The whole point of this post (you know, the one you’ve just praised) is that polite discussion about dissenting opinions is great. Politeness is a two-way road, though. For some reason you seem to think you deserve an exception, but you really don’t. So either learn to express yourself with a little of that “cordiality” you find so important, or thicken up your skin for when people respond to your attacks in kind.

    Consider this little thread, now days beyond its sell-by date, closed. If you want to keep bitching about it, my email address is right above. I’m sick of this nonsense stinking up the site.

  17. “Can we leave the Megaman series alone for once?”

    I pick because I love. But I can start griping about Rockman games instead, if that would make you feel better.

  18. i just finished 4 and 5 in a row yesterday ( didnt see this thread, honest) and i can say the megabuster beats all the other weapons for 2 reasons, usually is wider than a regular shot ( even special weapons ) and it dosnt require special energy like the special weapons… and also the bosses get a LOT of damage with a single charge shot… so there is really no reason to use the lackluster special weapons, at least for me

  19. Game design and “optimal efficiency” considerations aside, the way to have fun with Mega Man is to go crazy with the special weapons. If all you use is the Mega Buster, you’re missing out. You can be pretty creative if you try, even in the latter-day ones.

    This is incidentally why Rockman and Forte gets a pass from me. Because the Ice Wall weapon is just so much fun to kill stuff and ride around on!

  20. The internet allows people to entertain the fantasy that someone is interested in what they have to say, and then goes ahead and fulfills that fantasy by providing said people.

    Intelligent opinions like Parish’s are always welcome in my book. They further the dialectic admirably, even when saying that MM4 and 5 are bad games. There’s nothing that says you have to hate bad games: some of my favorite games have more flaws than good points, and there’s a huge nostalgia culture that’s popped up around loving flawed games past.

    A game’s poor quality offers lessons for future games, but that doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to love the mechanics and what they let us do.

  21. Hooray for positivity! I was in the middle of playing through the NES Rockman games when I began reading through the majority of game reviews on this site, and at first was was inclined to stop, just having finished number two. After a while I’ve changed my mind, but I’m torn between progressing through the classic series or using my time more productively towards something like Mega Man Extreme for GBC.

  22. Your FFVII review still elicit a few chuckles from me. Insightful post, dude.

    @wumpwoast: I totally remembered the power of Coldman’s weapon, even if it had limited energy.

  23. “can we leave the Mega Man series alone for once”

    Sure, once Capcom leaves it alone….100+ games, isn’t that enough yet? :(

  24. You’re named after a Jon Anderson’s fruitiest album? Please tell me that’s just your nom de guerre.

    Anyway, I would never want someone to avoid playing a game on my say-so. I see reviews as a way to mitigate expectations or to analyze why something didn’t live up to them. But the best way to know if a game is good or bad is to try it yourself. “I didn’t like it” is a much stronger perspective than “Well, I heard it wasn’t good.”

  25. Reading this reminds me a lot of Kane & Lynch. The only reason I remember K&L at all is because Jeff Gerstmann allegedly got fired from Gamespot for saying it sucked. K&L isn’t very good. This isn’t opinion, K&L’s obvious slipshod sloppiness establishes this as fact. After playing it myself (>$15 at gamestop… don’t waste your money) I later referenced the Gerstmann review and found him hitting on all the obviously broken aspects of the game stating, quite correctly, it is substandard compared to others in the same genre. The video review is on youtube, of course, and looking at the remarks left by viewers, the internet has got to connect to some sort of Superman’s Bizarro world. There’s a difference between what you’re saying dealing with intolerant dummies on the internet who get upset with opinions that differ from theirs vs. paranoid sociopaths who have this insane urge to refute anything and everything no matter how correct you are labeling you as biased and having an agenda.

    If anything, the internet provides a sobering view of the human race at large. While not all bad, there are certainly pockets that are nothing but all kinds of messed up.

  26. Megaman 4 isn’t my favorite, but it’s one of my favorite MM games. I played it recently, and I didn’t use much of the charge shot at all, but the normal peashooter instead. But aside from the somewhat trivial charge shot, it’s a very enjoyable Megaman game and I think the special weapon selection is actually better than Megaman 3. Ring Boomerang has a really nice feel to it, charging up Pharaoh Shot is just awesome and I prefer Time Stopper to Flash Stopper. Sure, Skull Shield isn’t all that hot, but hey, Top Spin.

  27. The one for WonderSwan!? That’s a completely different (and completely worse) game than the Super NES/Game Boy one, and if you like it you’re a sick, sick person. Sorry, but that’s how it goes.

  28. I remember the AOL chat rooms back in the mid 90s were early internet outlet for discussion of obscure games and what not for me. Ah the days of 28.8k dialup…

  29. Come on people! Everyone knows that any game after Mega Man 2 is weaksauce! Unless it’s MM9…

  30. After reading a primarily negative review of things, I am alot less excited and motivated about the game compared to before. Most of the time to point where I feel like I should sooner play something I know I will enjoy. Also I’m new to Rockman as a whole and I don’t want to be turned off, because I know that the series has plenty of worth.
    As far as my name goes- yes, that is my legal name. Heheh. I haven’t met too many people that have any idea of its origin, so I’m glad to hear someone else’s opinion on the album aside from my dad. (I haven’t looked very hard though, to be honest.) The name was his idea, and he hasn’t heard the album in years. I listened to it a few times, it certainly was jolly. I like the name itself especially more than the music. Composition wise I’d say comparatively its merely OK, hence I have only listened to it two or three times all the way through.

  31. Yeah, the rpgamer forums were a revelation for me too, actually. And that’s not even to mention the various points of comedy, Mr. The Rose Bride.

  32. I wouldn’t call myself a hero, exactly, just a man trying to do what he thinks is right.

  33. That whole megaman thing is no different then any series, each entry in a game will have its fans based entirely on which game they played first. It’s why FF7 has such a huge fanbase- that’s what the majority of gamers played first like or not. With megaman there are a large number of old school fans that played either megaman 2 or megaman 3 first and then you have smaller and smaller groups of fans for each successive instalment up to megaman X. Some people also have favorite megmans based on what bosses where in it, and you look at megaman 5 and there’s a NAPALM MAN with friggin missile arms and tank treads for feet. How can a lowly heat man that looks like a bic lighter or a gay top man compete? To hell with the mediocre music and stage design if you fight a missile spewing death tank at the end. Just my 2 cents.

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