The Cycle of Cynicism

The following is a response I wrote to a thread in the forums discussing cynicism in the video games industry, whether it be by fans, journalists, or developers.


I think this is the natural course of a developing medium. When video games first emerged as a viable form of entertainment, they just needed to be fun to be good (perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, but I think it is a generally true statement). As with any young technology, the path towards achieving that goal was significantly limited by the hardware available. It is difficult, after all, to complain about controls when you have only one button available or graphics when you're working with 8 colors and a handful of pixels. If it was fun, it was worth playing, that was really the bottom line. Now, with the immense technology, endless information, and multiple channels of distribution available to every one of us, the boundaries of what can be done are not so clear. The potential to do something great is at our fingertips, but it's not as simple as it used to be. The fun factor is not the only factor any more, there are just too many moving parts. To be clear, I am not claiming that designers no longer set out to make fun games (Frog Fractions), they certainly do. There are plenty of passionate people out there who just want to make others happy. Unfortunately, making people happy is not a great back-of-the-box bullet point.

Coupled with this exponential increase in design complexity, we must also remember that the video games industry is growing at an unbelievable pace and that means there is a stead influx of cash. People gravitate to what they love and what they can get paid for; video games can now fulfill both of those roles. And the connectivity of the internet gives every person posting on a message board the feeling that he/she is just one revelatory post away from being the next reviewer on Giant Bomb. I mean, how cool would it be to go to work with Jeff, Ryan, Drew, and the rest of the crew every day, play videogames, become internet famous, and get paid? To do that, you can't just be the guy or girl who says a game is fun. It's not enough. Successful critics are half entertainer, half informer (okay, maybe ninety percent entertainer, ten percent informer, but that's not the point). No matter how you break it down, the people who run these sites are influential and they are good at what they do. Cynicism sells. They produce it because we buy it. We are swayed by what we see and hear, so we parrot that back in our blogs and on these forums. It's a vicious cycle.

Now, I don't want this entire post to come off as pessimistic and cynical in itself, so let me remind you that there are a few holdouts left in this world. For instance, one, Caravella. I don't know him personally, but every time he talks about games, he wears his heart on his sleeve. I can't help but think, "That is a man who loves games because they are fun." I really believe he is genuinely happy to be playing them. He's not afraid to express an unpopular opinion, even when he stands alone. In just the last couple of weeks, this has been painfully obvious with Castlevania: LOS. So I implore you all, try to avoid being swept up in the tidal wave of cynicism. It may be the natural evolution of journalism and criticism, but it doesn't have to be your point of view.

Now, with all that being said, I'm a laid-back kind of guy, and I just want to have fun with my games, so let's all go play and be happy. :-)