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It is inevitable that this topic is going to come up so I will tackle it now. Today’s secret word is a fun one: elitist. When I hear that word, my initial response is a simple, “Yes. I. Am.”

Every genre of media has its upper echelon of assholes who insist that their opinion on the topic is really, truly the only one that matters. I consider myself to be above that upper echelon. I have titled myself a “post-gamer”. I have basically played so many video games for so long that I really don’t like them anymore. In fact, talking about video games usually bores the living daylights out of me and watching people play video games is akin to making small cuts with a dull knife on the fleshy, inner part of my thigh. So why on God’s green and flat earth do I work in a video game store? Because while I may not play too many games anymore, I know more about them than most people and feel I am most qualified to help people make educated and well thought out decisions about the disc or cartridge they are about to bring into their homes and lives. I do this job because I care.

Too often have I heard people rave about Final Fantasy 7 and dis the first six games of the series. For too long have I stood idly by while pale-skinned fools spew filthy praise for a game called World of Warcraft, yet they have never heard of Fallout. Too many times have I witnessed people falling to their knees in worship of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, while having never played Arena, Daggerfall, or Morrowind and thus do not know how much the latest installment truly sucks. And the next time I see a little kid turn down a Super Nintendo in favor of a Playstation 3, I am going to break him. It is my duty to insure that these poor hopeless fools don’t make the mistake of bringing games like Lair into their homes; you may as well have invited Jeffery Dahmer over for dinner. I am here to help you.

On a normal day, the video game store seems to run in a manner that I would guess most closely resembles Germany in 1941; a bunch of clueless people walking nonchalantly by horrendous misdeads and cruelty. Disaster is so close to them, yet they have no clue what is going on. As each person comes through the door, I ask them if there is anything I can help them with and 90% of them say no. Ten minutes later they walk up to me with a copy of Perfect Dark Zero for the 360 or Superman for the Nintendo 64 and I can’t help but to shake my head and take their money. People that stupid should be poor. I tried to stop them but they just wouldn’t listen.

Now that you are sick of hearing me rant, you are probably wondering what qualifies me to act so high and mighty. First, I have played video games for the better part of 25 years; rare is the system that hasn’t been turned on by my elegant and nimble fingers. I like most genres of games – there are even sports titles that I enjoy playing in short and infrequent doses. I have owned pretty much every mainstream system out there and a couple of the weirdo ones too; do you have a GP2X? I didn’t think so. Also, what elitist prick would be complete without his stash of obscure gems of which to lecture on and on about? For me, those would be Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the SNES and the original Japanese version of Super Mario Brothers 2 for the Nintendo. I am also a big fan of Toilet Kids for the TurboGrafx-16. Impressive, no? The last big reason that I know I am qualified to make decisions as to what is good and horrible in the world of video games is simple, I am really better and smarter than you are. I mean, after all you are just the peon customer coming into my store and buying shitty games from me and I am the brainiac nerd lording over my realm from behind the counter.

24 Comments

  1. golden jew said on April 18, 2008:

    If you speak ill of Bonk’s Adventure on the TG16– any of the first three, I will crush–no, head butt (more fitting) your face.

  2. Christian said on April 18, 2008:

    I have a quote from a gamer I highly respect that would be the perfect response to this, but I feel it is half joking, so I’ll just smile and say something silly, like I enjoy WOW sometimes.

  3. fnc said on April 18, 2008:

    I’m kind of with you on the “post gamer” thing. I still spend plenty of time playing, but if a game has even the tiniest HINT of tedium, it is summarily ejected from whatever machine it’s currently residing in. I’m getting older, every day, and I don’t have an infinite number of years to stand in front of a motionless orc pressing the A key a million times just to get a more impressively named sword with a higher number after its name just so I can stand in front of a different orc pressing the A key repeatedly. Works for some people, but most definitely not my idea of fun.

  4. Dave said on April 18, 2008:

    Playing the ‘Videogames are art’ card When you take into consideration the relative youth of the games industry, ours is the one where the presence of Snobs seems resonable and justified – A lot of us have been here from practically year zero or thereabouts; For example I regularly subject my (not really all that interested but we’ll hear him out) friends to refresher courses on the FPS beginning all the way back from 1992’s Ultima Underworld. There are a *lot* of twenty somethings out there who, if asked would probably surprise themselves by the depth of opinion they possess. It’s then up to the individual how much of an ‘Ass’ they want to be about it.
    Love the series by the way – Keep ’em coming fella!

  5. chris said on April 18, 2008:

    I fear I’m getting closer to the “post gamer” bit. Sorta like fnc, I’ll give a game what I consider a fair chance – usually a couple to a few hours, depending on the game. Two years ago even if it were a pretty bad game I might still try and complete it. Now I’d just give up on it.

    I’ve seriously given thought to just giving up on all new games for a year – I have enough games I’ve been meaning to replay or even been meaning to *start* and I know they’re all good. Why waste time on a game that might be crappy?

    The disillusionment fnc describes is what happened with me when I tried WoW. I thought about how long it would take before I reached a level where I had more freedom to try stuff out… then how many times I’d have to hit the exact same number of keys or click on the exact same type of monster over and over to do so. Then I thought how many games I could beat, how many books I could read and how many extra hours I could sleep instead (and still have time to write occasionally to boot!).

  6. Stefan said on April 19, 2008:

    I like the “post gamer” term as well. At this point, I play games with at least a decent knowledge of their internal structures and implementation, and a lot of experience in the types of gameplay patterns that are going to unfold in front of me. To continue sounding elitist, I play games on a fairly meta level a lot of the time, and it takes something that is really well crafted to keep me immersed in gameplay and not considering the bounds and limitations of the engine and levels within which I’m operating. I think that’s part of why I finish fewer games than I once did…I’m better at extrapolating and figuring out what kids of experiences I have to look forward to. When I know what’s going to happen, the labor involved in actually making it occur on-screen isn’t often worth it, particularly in an isolated game world.

    Also Dave, not to nitpick, but FPSs can go back a good ways before Ultima Underworld. (Although don’t get me wrong – I lost a summer to that game) Spasim and Maze War were FPSs which both came out in 1973, featuring online multiplayer as well. Of course, the only computers on networks were university mainframes, but that’s okay, because those were the only computers which could run those kind of games. :)

  7. Dave said on April 19, 2008:

    I knew somebody would haul me up on that!
    I was attempting to show how surprised I was at being able to rattle off the various names of games using the arbitary year of 1992 when Ultima Underworld and Wolfenstein kicked the industry up a notch. It’s when I do the math and realise that’s ~16 years of FPS history knocking round my head – and I prefer RPGs. I believe this capacity for gaming lore is something shared by a lot of gamers out there and so goes some way to justifying the presence of Know-it-alls. In short, as Stefan showed, we know our stuff!

  8. Mentally Unstable said on April 19, 2008:

    My computer has been being a dick, therefore, I only just now able to express how much I love these tales from behind the counter. Also, you have my dream job. Anyhoo, anyone who has never played(and appreciated) Morrowind is an idiot, and I’m super jealous of you–ORIGINAL JAPANESE SMB2?! You are officially on my list…of people to rob(You’re number 2, right before my cousin’s friend who has all the Naruto episodes downloaded on his computer and behind George Lucas…yeah, I said it.) Anyway, seriously, I’ll keep paying for my lousy internet just so I can read this…it’s so freaking hilarious.

  9. jay said on April 20, 2008:

    I entirely understand the stuff being said in this thread but despite being a game snob in many ways do not want to hop on board. Cynicism and bitterness are staples of my life but when it comes to games I am very forgiving IF i think a game is legitimate. Meaning WW2 FPS #39620 will not get a free pass with me when it becomes apparent it sucks. Disaster Report (to use a frequently cited game on this site) can slide because even though it sucks it seems legitimate to me, not designed by a boardroom. Any time I sense people are trying something new or especially creative I can’t help but have 100 times more patience.

  10. christian said on April 20, 2008:

    didn’t initially plan on commenting on this one, but what the hell.

    If anyone here wants to know why my reviews always seem so cynical and negative, the reasons have been touched upon here. My tolerance for bullshit is small, and I will let you know about it when I find it. Also, unlike Jay I wouldn’t give Disaster Report a free pass for any reason, just like I have no qualms calling Call of Duty 4 one of 2007’s best.

    This is a great way to stick with what you enjoy and can even save you money. I found myself playing COD4 almost exclusively for a month. That has changed, but as soon as I told myself that this wasn’t a bad thing, the better I felt.

    Also, I won’t call myself any sort of elitist because my game collection is paltry compared to others, and I will play shit all the way through in order to give people a good review and assessment, mainly because (and I don’t want to sound cocky) if I know I can beat it handily, I will, and most games I end up disliking fall into that category.

  11. jay said on April 20, 2008:

    I don’t think I give games free passes as much as play them despite their flaws. Had I immediately dismissed Disaster Report as a disaster (ha…ha…ha?) I wouldn’t have realized that under a deeply flawed game is something very interesting and unlike any other game I’ve played, nor would I have dedicated much time thinking about how graphical presentation is actually very crucial to games trying to impress a very visceral experience upon the player. Being a jaded gamer makes it very easy to miss little nuggets of gold within mountains of shit.

    I don’t love movies, music, and most other things enough to make the effort to swim through the shit – the newest pop cd or crappy garage band album doubtlessly has something new and interesting on it somewhere, even if it’s just a second or two long out of a total of 45 minutes but I can’t be bothered to find it. Similarly, the latest art house crock of shit and the latest Hollywood mind numbingly retarded movie both have a line of dialog, a camera shot, or a moment in the score worth experiencing, but who cares?

    Games are different for me and to some degree I think you all feel the same way, whether you admit it or not. How else can you explain playing so much of Breakdown, Christian?

    The specific flags that need to go off before we are willing to deal with annoying crap may vary but all of us will put up with unpleasantness is a game if it meets certain criteria. Perhaps Chris will put up with hassle for great music, Stefan for excellent physics, and Golden Jew for full frontal nudity. Whatever the case may be, we should reserve unadulterated cynicism for things we don’t care about, like life itself (there’s no god, no one cares that you’re going to die, etc).

  12. christian said on April 20, 2008:

    Jay – I never finished Breakdown. I stopped playing after two nights (which was enough to get almost halfway through)

  13. jay said on April 21, 2008:

    No More Heroes? What it comes down to is the joy a game brings can outweigh the misery. I personally derive pleasure from things that are new to me, other people may not, but ultimately I think everyone will put up with bullshit as long as the payoff is worth it. I wonder if a key design principle should be – if part of your game sucks, show the good part first in order to make the player want to deal with tapping X four thousand times in order to get to the fun part.

  14. Shota said on April 21, 2008:

    What Jay is talking about in post 11 is values. I entirely agree that life is mostly (about 99.5%) full of bullshit. Bullshit is rampant. It’s everywhere. Often in places where you are conditioned not not to expect it: church, universities, your parents. And our favorite medium is no exception. There is bullshit a plenty in videogames. But since it is also everywhere you’ll have to wade through a lot of it to get to anything worthwhile. Same in videogames (jays point.) What you will and will not wade through the shit for depends on your values. But NOT values that are internal to videogames. As in: “I have a set of videogame particular values” No. We apply our external values, whatever they may be to most things in life, including videogames. For example: I would be surprised if Jay valued innovation in videogames and not outside of them.

    But having different values from the mainstream does not an elitist make. It’s thinking that the mainstream is stupid and that your values have a bigger penis then their values.

    I have three systems and between the three of em I own about 30 games. Not because i’m elitist but because I only keep those games that i know I will replay. Thus I particularly value replayability. But that in no way speaks to my elitism or lack thereof. The fact that I think my taste in videogames should be codified into a universal standard does!

  15. zenstrabo said on April 22, 2008:

    I call bullshit. You did not sell a copy of Superman 64 to anyone. No one has so little respect for society, or such contempt for his fellow man, or is just that big of an asshole. You just wrote that to make me write an angry comment.

  16. TrueTallus said on April 23, 2008:

    Morbid curiosity wins over the desperate sometimes, Zenstrabo- maybe some disillusioned kid wanted to see just HOW BAD a video game could be.

    I’m with Jay that there’s a pleasure and a reward in giving interesting and heartfelt games like Disaster Report a chance, though (like Christian) I’m also appreciative that nowadays I can give myself permission to play Burnout for hours on end and not feel the need to put down the 360 controller immediately when something weird and creative like Baroque comes along. I still like games that have something unique and genuine to say, but I’ve played enough things now that I can comfortably enjoy experiences that I enjoy right away without the guilt that I could be broadening my mind.

    I wonder weather you’re entirely correct in your assertion that a persons values don’t change across different media, Shota. As Jay said, and I’m sure at least some of us here could assent (myself included), videogames are what we’re most willing to invest ourselves in. While I find seeing how exactly the physics in Mirror’s Edge will work or discussing all the crazy crap in the Metal Gear Solid series great fun, I can’t scrounge up much excitement over similarly detailed interest and analysis in other branches of media (to illustrate my point, I just racked my brain for five minutes trying to come up with non-videogame counter examples and came up with nothing). Perhaps it comes down to only having the energy to cope with a single instance of the epic bullshit sifting that Jay described, or maybe games are specifically valued because (like Dave mentioned) they’ve been a part of culture long enough to build a solid foundation of easy classification. Regardless, it seems pretty clear (to me at least) that it’s entirely possible, likely even, for people to find and cherish something in games that they don’t get elsewhere.

  17. Stefan said on April 23, 2008:

    I can attest to that TrueTallus. Morbid curiosity is the reason I purchased a copy of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial long after the 2600 was dead and buried.

    Regarding values changing across media, having thought about it a bit, my own values shift in some ways, but there are some really strong underlying ones that usually lead me to good things, but occasionally get me suckered into owning some fairly bad media.

    Aesthetics are paramount in most things, although I’ve long since realized the distinction between cutting-edge graphics or audio processing and aesthetics. In music, movies, literature, games, industrial design, and still art I’m easily suckered in by retro styling, particularly the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

    I weight novelty really highly, and am usually looking for something new and different. That ends up being self-correcting in most cases, however, since novelty wears off and the only things I keep returning to have to either stand up when no longer novel or continually provide novelty. The up-side is that it gives me a pretty broad range of experience, and The down side is that it leaves me with dirty (to an elitist mind) secrets like large collections of mashup mp3s, games like Rise of the Robots and Armada, and when combined with the above point about retro styling it’s also why I own the cinematic flop that was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    I’m also very patient with fable-type storylines being told in a ritualistic way (and their musical equivalent), and will enjoy spending several hours in a somewhat detached manner patiently waiting for them to deliver exactly what I knew was going to happen. This holds true whether it’s Manuel Gottsching’s E2-E4, The Seven Samurai, Shenmue, a performance of Swan Lake, or the Harry Potter books, and stands in stark contrast to my lack of patience with most media.

    Actually, upon examination, I’m far more conservative in my video game habits than I am with any other entertainment medium…and while they cost more than a book or mp3 download they’re certainly less than a new ballet or opera, in both of which I’m far more likely to risk disappointment for the sake of finding something new and enjoyable. My game purchases still tend away from the mainstream, I’m just much more careful nowadays.

  18. Shota said on April 23, 2008:

    Précisément!

    The specifics can very from one form of media to another but I think our preferences generally fit our external values.

    For example I might like movies with a clearly extrapolated narrative over “a room with a view of the pond” films. Films where the narrative ‘moves’ if you will.

    Well, the manner in which the narrative CAN move in a film will be in several ways different from the way it can ‘move,’ oh lets say, in painting. obviously. And yet I can find the idea of ‘movement’/narrative in painting as well. And indeed the paintings that appeal to me the most are the ones that capture this idea, weather it’s the Landscape with the Fall of Icarus or Goya’s Execution.

    The same value can be expressed in different ways. For me its merely a question of identification and a lack of excessive itemization/classification.

  19. TrueTallus said on April 24, 2008:

    Good points. I guess I don’t often pair down the specifics of how I evaluate things enough to recognize the qualities that are shared across different forms of expression. If I approach the problem the right way, I can see how the elements I look for in games still guide my intake of other media, but as an admittedly casual consumer of most everything BUT videogames my appreciation and sophistication in other areas are blunted enough to make doing so difficult.

  20. jay said on April 24, 2008:

    Yes, TT, this is exactly my point and I think it may make Shota’s premise irrelevant. In general it can be said I like creativity but as I already mentioned I am so numb to creativity in other mediums this deep seated respected for innovation doesn’t show itself in any noticeable way.

  21. Tyson said on April 24, 2008:

    Wow, you guys put a lot more thought into these comments than I did when I wrote this piece. 😛

    For me, I can tolerate bad movies much better than I can tolerate bad games. I have no patience for mediocre or bad games and I think I know why.

    Growing up, I was raised to see video games as a pretty big waste of time. I have never really been able to shrug that off. While I still think movies, television, and music can be time sinks, I can sit through them because (hopefully) I will be able to take something away from the movie or album that is applicable to my life in some way. I view video games as having very little redeeming value other than stress relief and dosages of escapism. I place a high value on stress relief but get about as much out of most video games as I would a good half hour of shiatsu.

  22. Stefan said on April 25, 2008:

    Tyson, I think that’s the exact same reason why I’m so cautious in my video game choices. If I blow $50 on a terrible play, then that’s culture, but if I blow it on a terrible game, then there’s no redeeming feature, and I imagine society judging me from on high because I’m just wasting both money and hours of my life. :)

  23. jay said on April 25, 2008:

    Sounds like you guys have psychological issues you need to get over before you have children and spread the same crap to them.

    “Put down that holo-comic and read your laser books!”

  24. Cunzy1 1 said on August 19, 2009:

    “For me, those would be Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the SNES and the original Japanese version of Super Mario Brothers 2 for the Nintendo. I am also a big fan of Toilet Kids for the TurboGrafx-16. Impressive, no?”

    No. You couldn’t be anymore Hollywood with your selection. Okay so the ‘obscure’ games aren’t Halo but they certainly aren’t Mr Wobbly Leg Vs. the space invaders. Lame.

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