It’s a new week and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: Are you a gaming snob? Interpret as you like.
Some people have very complex feelings about how games should be played, which platforms they should be played on, what you should be wearing while playing, and if you should be playing at all. That seems like a lot of work and stress. I have a lot of work and stress already.
You know what takes away some of that stress? Reading about people enjoying video games. Games on their computers. Games on their phones. Games on their watches. Puzzle games. Fighting games. Sports games. Free-to-play games with rampant microtransactions. Paid games with rampant microtransactions…wait, I already said sports games. I enjoy hearing about, reading about, or watching people have fun with the hobby that’s become my life over the past couple of decades. It makes me feel like I am a part of something important and meaningful.
For the most part, no. I play a lot of games across a wide variety of genres and platforms. However, I can be a snob when it comes to performance. I’m the person who can tell the difference between 60 and 30 fps, I’m the asshole who spent way too much money on a 120Hz TV, and I’m the buzzkill who rolls his eyes at nearly every Switch port that runs like crap.
You may hate me. I understand. I hate myself. But I’ll be hated while playing games at silky-smooth framerates, and that’s fine by me.
The question’s very open to interpretation, but in some sense I’d say yes. I’ve developed certain preferred ways of approaching games, and I sometimes feel—I don’t know, bothered, vaguely perturbed?—when I see folks making different choices. Judgy!
Here’s a good example. I find Bethesda RPGs largely mediocre, only saved by incredible modding communities. So when I hear someone played vanilla Fallout 3 on PlayStation 3 or something that feeling springs up, and I wish they could’ve had what I consider a more fulfilling experience enhanced by mods, 60 fps, etc. Of course, for whatever reason, not everyone cares about such, which is why I try to hold this “snob” thing in check.
Other examples that rankle: Jacked-up emulator graphical settings (perpetrating the above screenshot truly pained me), blithely playing games at incorrect aspect ratios, purposefully(!) playing games at incorrect aspect ratios because they like the stretching (!!) or hate black bars (!!!), skipping all text in story-driven games, enabling motion-smoothing on TVs...all pet peeves that give me little flashes of judginess. I may offer a suggestion if it seems it might be appreciated, but most often I’ll just keep it to myself. No one needs some nerd yuckin’ their yums.
There are two definitions of “snob” I’m going to work with here, and I don’t identify with either of them. The first definition covers what Alexandra touched on in her definition of a snob—playing games with the “correct” aspect ratio or at 60 fps or other optimized graphical or performance settings. I don’t care about any of that. Most of the time, I play games for the story. Things like refresh rate, vsync, ray tracing or whatever do not matter to me. Can my PC run it? Yes. Cool, let’s play.
The other definition deals with the “what is a gamer” conversation the community will have from time to time. Because of the somewhat non-traditional way I got into video games, I get very defensive whenever the “you’re not a real gamer unless you’ve played x” discourse pops up. Because those conversations dominated the discussion as recently as 5-10 years ago, I’ve always felt “lesser” than my friends and now my peers in the video game industry. I do not have what seems like the universal experience of playing the foundational games everyone talks about whenever it’s time to rank the top-10 video games of all time. I didn’t have the system, funds, inclination, or friends to play those games, and I know now a lot of people who call themselves gamers, including people making games in the industry right now didn’t either. I also can’t be bothered to care about how people choose to experience games. Games are expensive and time-consuming, and if you want to “play” a game by watching let’s play videos, more power to you. For example, I love Halo. I could tell you a million things about Halo lore. My favorite Halo level is Reach’s The Long Night of Solace. But all that knowledge and enthusiasm comes from let’s plays, lore videos, wiki dives, and my very worn copy of Halo: The Fall of Reach. I don’t consider myself any less of a Halo fan just because I’ve never played more than 20 minutes of the actual games, nor would I begrudge anyone else’s love of a game they’ve never actually played.
I’m pleased to say I’m not. I’ve been tempted a few times over the years as new channels of gaming open up the medium to new players. Facebook, especially, attracted a lot of people to the idea of looking down their noses at the millions wooed by FarmVille and its ilk. But in the end, each time I’ve just tried a couple of games by the new method, I’ve enjoyed myself and shrugged. Cool.
I don’t go far in the other direction either. I’m not one for exclaiming the joys that “more people are discovering gaming,” like it’s some essential form of entertainment without which someone’s life cannot be worth living. People are having fun? Good!
However, there is a point somewhere between those two where my snobbishness does kick in: I cannot bear it when people in large numbers are loving and enriching a mediocre game. Take Candy Crush. Now I’m a snob because it’s a mediocre Bejeweled! They’re all liking the wrong game! Even the Facebook/mobile free-to-play versions of Bejeweled were vastly better games, crafted by teams who really cared about the project, rather than how it could be best squeezed for microtransactions and ads. (Even though, clearly, it did those too.) I want to run around the internet, correcting everyone, pointing to where they could be having much more fun.
Although, of course, if I were really doing that, I’d be forcing them all to play Zoo Keeper on the DS, because that is, of course, the only truly perfect match-3 game, and…oh dear.
I make it a point not to be a game snob. I hate seeing gatekeeping in gaming, and it’s everywhere. Avoiding game snobbery is also so much more fun. I don’t worry about the intricacies of whether or not a game is “good” according to some inane standard or if I’m playing the “right” way.
I often think about an interview with a woman in gaming, who I can’t remember. But as I recall, she asks a group of students whether they are gamers only to find few girls identify as such. When she asks how many of them play games, including on their phone, just about everyone said they had. It revealed one of the most pervasive lies we tell ourselves, that playing games isn’t enough to be a gamer. I’m probably missing some details, but the point stands.
I hate it, and it leads to the “gaming community” being homogenous and boring.
Kotaku’s weighed in, but are you a gaming snob? Do you turn up your proverbial nose, or have a go at folks who do? Have your say! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!