A criticism of originality, part 1.

Warning; the writer of this blog may or may not be so pretentious, insane, and needlessly up his own ass that he may begin to resemble a Silent Hill monster. You have been warned.
Warning; the writer of this blog may or may not be so pretentious, insane, and needlessly up his own ass that he may begin to resemble a Silent Hill monster. You have been warned.

(Wait, what the hell is this?) There aren't any games in that banner; what the hell's going on? Well, I thought I'd try something different, for a change. Namely, I'm gonna tell you guys about a few things that, over my illustrious gaming career, I have found out about evaluating games. Now this isn't so much a step by step method on how I blog about games or anything (that might come in the very far off future, though); merely a set of rules I've stumbled across over time. That out of the way, let's get into exactly what the hell I'm talking about. Up first:

Don't form opinions about games until you've actually played them.

(Now this seems a rather obvious and inoffensive statement, but that's only because it is.) Still, I've seen gamers do this a lot, both positive ("THIS IS GONNA BE SO FUCKING AWESOME, YOU GUYS") and negative ("THIS GAME IS GONNA FUCKING SUCK, URGH!"). Now I'd explain to you exactly why this is so important to looking at games, but I don't want to waste your time yet. So I'll let Sherlock Holmes do it, instead.

No Caption Provided

OK, we good? Now then, let us move onto the real reason I'm posting this in the first place:

A game must only be evaluated in terms of the game itself; do not drag outside factors into it.

(So what the fuck does that mean?) Well, it means what it means. I know that sounds just as confusing as before, so to alleviate this, I'll show you the problem that I have attempted to solve with this very statement:

It's the same, now it sucks.

Oh, how illogical a way to evaluate games. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at what it says through the magical power of mathematics: It's the same, so x=y. Fair enough. But now it sucks. That word "now" implies that it did not suck before, so x>y. Or x<y. It doesn't matter, because either would mean x≠x. Wouldn't that also mean we've told logic to go fuck itself?

OK, I'll admit that was a bit pretentious as all hell. Worry not, for I've equally pretentious arguments coming later slightly less head-up-my-own-ass ways of tearing apart this logic. For example, to say that a game is bad because it is unoriginal implies that being unoriginal causes it to be bad. (Remember that for later.) Now does this not imply that originality relate to goodness? Let's see if that holds up. First, let's start with individual games, since that's what I'm primarily concerned with:

No Caption Provided

Nope. No goddamn connection. Turns out a game can be good without being original, and it can be original without being good. Well, maybe it holds true for series that remain original? After all, I see people insulting game series for staying exactly the same over time, so maybe that's where it becomes valid:

No Caption Provided

Again, no such luck. If there's no correlation to speak of between quality and originality, how can we even begin to say that one causes the other?

Which leads nicely into my next argument: I've seen this "sameness is bad" argument used endlessly against Capcom's stuff, so let's start with an example from them. "God, Mega Man 6 fucking sucks; it's exactly the same as Mega Man 5." Tell me: what is this hypothetical gamer saying? "The experience of Mega Man 6 sucks; it's exactly the same as Mega Man 5." (Trust me, I have a reason for adding that clause. However, I don't want to type that out all the time, so just keep it in the back of your mind throughout all this.) So Mega Man 6 is bad specifically because it is the same as Mega Man 5? What an interesting word: because. Because because because because......Cause! That's it! This statement is saying that Mega Man 5 causes Mega Man 6 to be bad; if Mega Man 5 weren't in the picture, then, presumably, Mega Man 6 would be good. So we have a causal relationship between Mega Man 5 and Mega Man 6, meaning that Mega Man 6 is dependent on Mega Man 5. But wait, that makes no sense. Mega Man 6 doesn't need Mega Man 5 to exist; I can play Mega Man 6 on its own just fine. (Remember that "experience" thing I mentioned long ago? That's where it comes into play. I don't want any financial fuckery here.)

As strange as it sounds, this has nothing to do with Persona 4. Only Persona 4 is relevant to Persona 4.
As strange as it sounds, this has nothing to do with Persona 4. Only Persona 4 is relevant to Persona 4.

And that's exactly what I'm getting at: there is no causal relation between games. They are all independent of each other and should be treated as such. Again, I shall elaborate through example. If you're reading this through my background, you'll note that I'm a big fan of Persona 4. (And Katawa Shoujo, but more on that later.) I've done quite a bit of reading on it, and spoken at great length about it, and both of these have revealed to me something rather interesting: nearly everybody played Persona 3 before this. I've had a conversation go from "I'm playing Persona 4" to "What did you think about Persona 3?" (they assumed it was a given); the FAQ I'd use for the game had an entire section dedicated to changes between the games; and not only does the box art assume that I've played Persona 3, but my blog saying just that spawned a mini-discussion pretty much on just that. So we should rate Persona 4 in terms of its predecessor, right? Not so fast. You did read that box art blog, right? I think I made it clear that I have not played Persona 3. I know next to nothing about it (there are some cool battle themes and that's about it). How can I evaluate Persona 4 in terms of a game I've never played? It makes no sense. I must evaluate it in terms of Persona 4, as that is the only thing I can be sure of about Persona 4.

"You're beings selfish!", I can hear you cry through your computer screens. (You're lucky that your microphone was on, because computers don't work that way.) "You just gamed the system for this weird little experiment of yours! There's no way that this shit happens naturally." Really, now? I'll leave you with this word: Pokémon. And just like that, a slightly manlier version of Michael Jackson has tapped into a rich vein of nostalgia deep within you. You're probably remembering that time when you were seven years old and your friend told you all these rumors about a Green version of Pokémon that totally had a Pikablu in it that evolved into Mewthree or whatever your stupid rumors were. I suspect that, being a gamer of wide tastes, you have continued playing Pokémon over the years, and, because you have previously yelled at me for poor arguments, I'm going to assume that you're not liking the recent Pokémon games because they're the same as the previous ones. (I have precedent.) So the games are the same, meaning they're appealing to the same audience. You know what that means: right now, there's a seven year old playing Pokémon Black and hearing some crazy rumors about Blerdier in the super secret Japan only Pokémon Grey. Now where the fuck am I going with this?

You know what? This might as well be the super child I was mentioning.
You know what? This might as well be the super child I was mentioning.

Well, let's say you were to get into a discussion with this chi-you know what? Let's make this a super child with all the reasoning capacities of an adult, just so you can't attack him on the grounds of being a child. Manly knowledge in the body of a child. Anyway, discussion with child. You want to tell this kid how bad the new Pokémon games are. Now how the fuck do you go about doing it? Comparing them to Red and Blue? What would that achieve? The kid's fucking seven; he's not likely to have even seen a Game Boy, much less played games on it. Your argument would make about as much sense as me saying that Bastion is bad because it's a Fragile Dreams rip-off. You've never played Fragile Dreams; why the fuck should you care if it's a rip-off? In fact, if we go back to the child, do we even know what the hell he's played? Well, there's Pokémon Black, and....uh....Pokémon Wh-but that's just Black....hmmm....We only know that he has played Pokémon Black; we know nothing else about him. Therefore, we can only frame our discussion in terms of Pokémon Black. So it must be for all games.

However, I must point out that I have heard a rebuttal to this very argument: "Play some more games, you little brat!" Is that how we really wish to address the situation? Tell the child that their opinion is of no worth because of those factors completely outside it? Oh, how that reeks of ad hominem. However, I do not like the counterargument I have presented, since it reeks too much of strawman for my tastes. So let us construct a stronger attack by, yet again, identifying what is at the heart of what this person is truly saying. Now why would somebody use that reply in such a situation? Well, because they believe that if they were to play more games, their opinion would be more informed (even though they're already damn well informed enough for having played through the game in question) by comparing to its peers. You know what this means, right? The gamer in question is asserting that because other video games exist before Black and White (not that Black & White, although it doesn't really matter for what I'm trying to say), they determine the game's quality in exactly that way. Also important to this is that it doesn't matter if the gamer actually knows about these games; if such were true, then we could not use it as a counterargument. So, to sum things up about what it's saying: games exist beforehand, they determine quality as such, and our own personal knowledge holds no weight in this regard. What we have here the key to Pandora's Box, and I shall demonstrate as such....next time, because this is getting pretty long.

50 Comments