“I will never play Halo.”
“I will never play games with yearly editions.” (Like Madden or Call of Duty.)
“I will never play the PS3.”
How many times have gamers said these things? Judging by how many “I will never” comments are on the internet, lots of people swear off particular games for this or that reason. What bugs me is that it usually boils down to a game’s popularity. Disliking something because it’s popular only makes you sound childish, insecure, and sometimes jealous. If you can’t think of a better reason to dislike something, you obviously have more problems than the popular things you hate.
When I was younger, I didn’t like Abercrombie & Fitch because it was the popular and cool brand. Some kids need to be trendy to feel cool, and some need to rebel against trends. I was in the latter group. Since high school, however, I stopped caring about whether or not something was popular or trendy. Somewhere along the way I realized that I don’t need to shun trends to be an individual. And thank God I quit wearing ten necklaces at a time. Yes, ten. On my neck. All day, every day, for months. In fact, ten might be a conservative estimate.
I still don’t like Abercrombie, but now I dislike the brand because it’s stupidly expensive. (Also: racist. Also: dickishly exclusionary. Also: you could shoot a porno in their creepy stores and not be out of place.) I’m perfectly happy with cheapo department store or thrift shop clothes, thank you very much. I wear what I want and that’s that.
As for video games, I play what I want, no matter how trendy it is (or isn’t). Some AAA games are really good – Borderlands 2, anyone? How about some Dragon Age: Origins? If they interest you, why should you let their popularity keep you from enjoying them? If your reason for avoiding popular stuff is something like “I hate it because everyone else loves it,” you sound just as vapid and shallow as someone who tries to be trendy for the sake of being trendy.
Of course you shouldn’t shun Indie games, either. Games don’t require a AAA salary or a massive marketing campaign to be great. Journey, Fez, Super Meat Boy, Minecraft, and Braid all make that quite obvious. Personally, I can’t wait for Mew-Genics, the upcoming game from Super Meat Boy developer Team Meat. I mean, come on. It’s cats! Cats!
Now, if you want to expand your horizons by focusing on Indie games for awhile, or games from smaller companies, that’s totally cool. It shows that you want to give something different a chance and try something new. A few months ago, I got tired of eating Mexican food for dinner all the time. So, Hubbles and I quit Mexican for a few weeks and tried some new stuff. In the process, we expanded our culinary horizon. We still love Mexican food and we still fix it for dinner occasionally, but now we have a great alfredo sauce recipe, too. The principal can also be applied to games. If you want to focus on less popular games in order to try something different, go for it.
Besides the shunners of all things popular, there are the really annoying console purists. They straight up refuse to play anything but their special “chosen one.” I’ve already covered this in “Console Wars: Seriously?” But, here’s the gist of it: some people prefer a particular game console (or PC) over the others. That is fine. The problems occur when enthusiasts are dicks to people who dare to play another game console.
We have an Xbox 360 because that’s what life handed us. It was cheaper and more convenient to buy a 360 from a friend who needed some quick cash than it was to buy a 360 (or a PS3) from GameStop. Four years later, we have a ton of Xbox 360 games and Xbox Live friends. We don’t hate the PS3. We just didn’t end up with one. You can drool over the PS3’s graphical superiority or its free online service all you want. You’re happy with it, and that’s fantastic. The issue is when you start putting me down for playing a 360 instead of a PS3. This is one of those times when “it’s just a game” is a relevant statement. Video games are entertainment. They are a hobby, not the meaning of life.
However, if you swear off particular games (or a console) because you dislike the company who develops or publishes them, that’s a completely different story. There’s a game publisher Hubbles and I don’t like, and we don’t like buying their games. The thought of giving our money to a terrible company does not jive well with us. We do a thing called “voting with your dollar.” Besides, we can pretty much get around the publisher by buying used copies of the games we want. (The downside is that we can’t really support developers that way. Boycotting a crappy developer is easier and less complicated than boycotting a publisher.)
Don’t swear off games because of superficial reasons. If popularity bothers you, consider this: some things are popular because they deserve to be. Why do you think blue jeans are so popular? It’s because they’re comfortable, durable, and easy to coordinate. What’s wrong with that? I know that some popular things are vapid and stupid – watch MTV or read a romance novel for proof – but that’s not always the case. Valid counterpoint for the existence of shallow entertainment: sometimes you need to turn off your mind and de-stress by, say, reading Twilight or watching Fushigi Yuugi. To quote my wise big sister, “Sometimes you need a little fluff.”
If you have a legitimate reason for not playing a particular game, do your thing. But, if you’re only boycotting a game because it’s popular, you should probably reconsider your reasoning.