Consensus and Dissension

I find comfort in consensus. It’s reassuring to know that you aren’t alone in your opinions. The internet, which is inextricably tied to video gaming, has allowed for the formation of an open forum in which over time certain historical gaming opinions have been codified into something easily mistaken for ‘truth’. Often I’ll find that I’m already in agreement with popular opinion.  For example I’ve known since 1994 that Super Metroid is a very special game.  Its aesthetics, game design, music, sound design; in any way it’s examined it’s tough to point out anything sub-par.  That game is one of many that was very meaningful to me, very meaningful at that point in my life.  But I admired its excellence alone.  The game was popular and sold well, but most of my peers had moved on from video games.  Little did I know that over time this game’s reputation would grow to the point of it practically being considered an essential play in its genre.

Finding out that you hold the same opinions as the majority somehow makes me feel, I don’t know, justified?  Validated?  But of course the polar opposite is true too.  Some games, genres, or mechanics I don’t like or appreciate as much as others.  Even allowing for personal preferences and tastes, I have to question myself.  Why do I dislike it?  What experiences am I missing out on?  What value am I not seeing in this that they are?  And by extension, what piece of myself is missing?  Ultimately I’m left at odds with myself.  I can’t simply start liking something on principle, but I would like to agree with the opinions of people whom I respect.

I think there are a multiple spectra of reasons that we play and we each have specific ranges that games satisfy.   In a future post I’ll try to explain what motivates my play.  I’m learning to accept that a game that checks your boxes misses some of mine and that’s okay.  But at the same time, I don’t want to close myself off of the possibility of learning to love something new.

This brings me to what motivated me to write this post in the first place.  My “unpopular gaming opinions.”  I’ll only touch on a couple here, but over the last few days I keep finding myself at odds with some of what I’m seeing on YouTube and reading on Twitter.

I cut my teeth on console gaming.  There’s an entire would of computer experiences that I missed out on and subsequently don’t have a taste for.  I don’t quite get rougelikes.  Mark Brown posted a video this week in which he ultimately concluded that a pure rougelike is preferable to a rougelite.  But so far in my examination of the genre, progression through persistent upgrades is the only thing making the gameplay palatable for me!

I’ve seen a lot of love lately for Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.  I keep seeing people  express their love for it on Twitter and today Norm the Gaming Historian featured the series.

In the video and in many Twitter responses folks are relishing the chance to praise Super Mario Land 2 in particular.  But when I look back on my time with the game I don’t find nostalgic jubilation, but rather disappointment in the ways it missed the mark.

I’ll state upfront that it is a very good game and I like a lot about it.  I excitedly got it at launch.  After completing it I was just frustrated in the ways in which it didn’t live up to its full potential.

It is a clear upgrade from Super Mario Land, but a noticeable down grade from the year old Super Mario World or even Super Mario 3.  I never unreasonably expected a 16 bit game on the Game Boy, but little things matter.  Pressing up while jumping to get a higher leap is clunky and was never necessary in any previous Mario game.  When carrying a shell, they didn’t bother to change Mario’s standing sprite.  The shell just sits there on Mario’s head while his hands are still at his sides.  Almost every stage has a unique and usually well conceived aesthetic, which sounds like a positive.  But I felt like if they had reused some of the backgrounds, they could have had room for more stages.  Wario Land fixed this.

They didn’t design the game with any sort of difficulty curve.  This accommodates the open map design, but it chooses not to give an ever increasing challenge.  I blew through the game too easily except for the final level in which the difficulty spikes to an unfair degree.  Certain portions of the endgame are nearly unsurmountable with the controls of this game.

When something gets close to perfect and just barely misses, that frustrates me more than if they didn’t try at all.  I don’t know if that is unreasonable or if others feel similarly.  I am not now, and have never been, an snob with a dismissive attitude towards under performance, but even then I wished the game had just addressed these design flaws.  Then I would have found satisfaction instead of disappointment.

Sorry for the long read, I hope you didn’t find it to be pointless.  If I write about my other unpopular gaming opinions in the future, I probably just make a numbered list.

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