Friday, March 17, 2017

System-Exclusive Game Reviews Bring Out the Worst in Gamers Take #7603: Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Gaming is a hobby and industry that should be celebrated, especially now as we're in the middle of an absolutely stellar first quarter of 2017, packed with stupendous games such as For Honor, Nioh, NieR: Automata, Gravity Rush 2, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and yes, Switch launch title and final major Wii U game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

However, despite the embarrassment of riches for gamers, some in this particular sect aren't happy to leave it at that. No, they have to continue their tribal-like console warrior attitudes and pissing contests, pitting exclusives against one another to try to make the other side feel bad (but mostly to make themselves feel good for buying one expensive electronic toy over another). I'm looking at you, Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (shock and awe at both being major first-party exclusives). 

If you've been following The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Metacritic (and if you have routinely, then perhaps you should come up with a better hobby), then you may have noticed that it changed from one astronomically impressive score (98) to a lower yet still astronomically impressive score (97). This was because one reviewer, Jim Sterling, thought that the game was enjoyable but didn't find it to be the amazing game that many members of the press agreed upon. No harm no foul, as Mr. Sterling is entitled to his opinion, and more importantly, he more than backed up his points and opinions well with suitable evidence. As someone who hasn't dived deep into Breath of the Wild yet, but has dealt with the weapon system a little, I can see how weapon degradation and having to constantly switch between weapons would be annoying.

But that's not really the issue here. The issue stems from the reactions to the review. This isn't any new thing, but social media has allowed whiny manchildren to have an even greater audience that isn't just limited to message board forums and comment sections to spew their console warrior bile and disgust. A sect of Zelda fans took the 7/10  review score (which is a score that is still positive, as was what was the important part of the review-- the actual text) from Jim Sterling personally, erupting with high furor. Sterling's site was temporary down due to a DDoS attack. The anger was palpable-- how dare Jim Sterling go against the grain and lower what a highly impressive (and overall pointless) Metacritic score to a slightly (like, REALLY slightly) less impressive (and still overall pointless) Metacritic score?!

This isn't just limited to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We've seen portions of gamers get angered in the past when games they've been anticipating (usually console-exclusives) don't get the high review scores they demand. Whether it's Twilight Princess's infamous 8.8, Uncharted 3's 7.0 from Eurogamer, or an Uncharted 4 petition that pleaded with Metacritic to take down a low score (one that was extra embarrassing when a voice actor involved with the game retweeted it), it doesn't really matter the rationale of reviewers towards giving the games a given score, all the matters is the score itself. After all, it's much easier and quicker to say "my game that I'm disturbingly emotionally attached to got a 95, while your game that you're disturbingly emotionally attached to got a 93" than saying "This game was praised for its stirring narrative, high quality voice acting, and combat system, but was criticized for its repetitive level design." I mean, who uses the latter when numbers are so much easier to compare?!

Some gamers, like Link, just want to watch the world burn.
It's baffling, really, because Metacritic scores are merely to be used to get a general feel for how a game is. It's in no way anything objective, as the opinions that are reviews from critics are subjective by their very nature. So when a swath of gamers get all hot and bothered when a game's score by a reviewer doesn't match what they envisioned (and bonus embarrassment points if the gamers in question haven't even played the game likewise in question), it's just pitiful to watch.

That's but one side of the equation, however. There's a portion of people who have been waiting for the supposed "honeymoon" to be over with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As if the currently 89 critics listed on Metacritic who gave the game universal acclaim were either so obviously bought and paid for by Nintendo or had so much nostalgia for Zelda that it twisted their opinion of the game (despite this Zelda being totally unlike any other in the series). These particularly salty people get bonus points too if they believe that any negative review written and published by a site is a "true" review and not one by the bought and paid for press. What's so wrong with a game being heralded by critics? Isn't a good thing that Switch owners have a fantastic game for launch? Why should we think people are being paid off? Instead, why don't we read the reviews (and not just eye the scores) and see why the game is so well regarded?

If you find yourself relishing in the fact that Horizon: Zero Dawn doesn't have a higher
Metascore as Breath of the Wild, your priorities need changing (as does your bulb).
The point here aside from that both sides are varying degrees of ridiculous is that allegiances to consoles and particular games is disturbing behavior. Thankfully, there are a good portion of gamers in the middle. They neither raged at their computer screen at a lower-than-perfect (but still good) review and score, nor did they don tinfoil hats at the supposed massive conspiracy to give the new Zelda one of the highest Metacritic scores of all time. 

I have to remind myself that for all of the people who spew garbage on message boards, comment sections, and social media because yet another first-party exclusive has gotten the review treatment, that there are sane gamers in this hobby we share. Because if I don't, then I will go as completely unhinged and as mentally, developmentally stunted as the gamers that embarrass this hobby whenever their particular console of choice exclusive game doesn't get the review score they wanted.

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