Retrograding 09.27.03

You know, the last two weeks have reminded me exactly why although I’m considered the most ‘hardcore’ game on this team, that I’m in fact the least. Yes, I’m crazy enough to own a Neo Geo and to plunk down a few hundred dollars for a game. Yes, I own a crapload of games and am pretty knowledgeable about obscure and weird games the average gamer hasn’t. But I lack a few qualities that make the stereotypical hardcore video gamer stand out from the pack and get wedges from the jocks in their high school.

The first is that I’m smart enough to respect other people’s opinions. If someone on the team writes a glowing review of a game I hate, then I say I disagree, but I never, EVER, flame, insult or swear at the person. What’s the point? Attacking a person isn’t going to change their opinions or attitudes. It’s just going to make them defensive and then everyone’s going to be pissed off. What is it about gamers these days? Why do they have to be so bloody immature that their first reaction to a differing opinion is “That stupid f*cker” instead of “Hmm. Maybe we should see where they are coming from instead of reacting with verbal violence.” But yet, the majority of gamers are so insecure with the reality that someone might think differently of them, that they literally freak out if someone likes something they hate, and they feel, they FEEL, like they have to put someone down in order to convince themselves their opinion is FACT.

Let’s take a look at a few incidents that have occurred this week….

1. Someone put up a thread at Penny Arcade about our Gamecube feature and how much they enjoyed it. And instantly the thread became a full out attack on anyone that liked any of the consoles. Nintendo fans were called fanboys and stupid shits. Sony fans were called brainwashed idiots, and Xbox fans were bashed just as eagerly. People attacked fans, the companies, the writers of 411games, EVERYONE. A fight broke out about Pokemon being kiddie. A fight broke out about how Nintendo doesn’t relate to fans anymore. But most importantly, the original point of the posters thread was lost. Instead of it being a debate on whether the ten games we chose were system sellers, it became nothing more than a virtual battle royal. Viewing the thread made me sickened by the absolute lack of respect any of these people had for each other and their opinions. You gotta love that most of these people are most likely high school or college kids who have yet to see a woman naked, get picked on by the ‘cool’ kids in their school, and then get together and bit about the conformist sheep they despise so much. Yet then they get online and do the same thing to strangers on the Internet. They try and force conformity on their little clique and then mock those different from their thinking process. How hypocritical is that. Instead of embracing people with similar hobbies and people they might just be able to empathize with, they assault their fellow gamers simply because their preferred system is a PS2 instead of an Xbox or a GBA instead of a PS2 or whatever combination you want to make. It’s appalling and shameful and it’s why I’m glad I have hobbies and interests outside of growing pale in a basement playing yet another game of Mortal Kombat.

Thankfully, just because this is the norm, doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Someone started a similar thread at and there were no verbal attacks. There was no calling people stupid or crazy cuntsucking goatblowers. There was just discussion and enjoyment of the article, but more importantly, EACH OTHER’S OPINIONS. That warmed my heart to see some actual intelligent conversation and debate being sparked by our Gamecube feature instead of a lot of anger and misplaced resentment.

My personal theory? It’s because these aren’t people who live and breathe games. Because it’s a hobby or interest instead of a scary obsession, they can actually discuss the concept of people having thoughts that aren’t exactly in line with their own. It’s like the IWC. God forbid someone say they like HHH or HBK or any of the wrestlers who are supposedly ‘political masterminds’ behind the scenes. Yet comment that Ric Flair or Dusty Rhodes did the same thing and those same people freak. Because Flair is a legend. And HHH is virtually a McMahon. Verbal wars break out over someone stating they like a certain wrestler or god forbid enjoy Big Show over Benoit. It’s pathetic. But get away from the IWC, and talk wrestling with more casual fans instead of those that can name every WM match ever and the winners of said match, and people are willing to accept people that enjoy Scott Stiener or Kevin Nash. But the second a fan gets a little taste of insider knowledge, they begin to call guys by their real name, assume they actually know what’s going on backstage, and get into their heads that their opinions and third hand knowledge that weird stuff happens behind the curtain, that they are somehow superior to a fan who just doesn’t want to read spoilers or know the business on any level other than an two hours twice a week of entertainment. I like to think the 411 forums are free of that, but god knows, this sort of behavior creeps up from time to time.

The whole point of this is to show there are fanatics everywhere. Watch American Anime fans debate over Arucard vs Alucard for the main character of Hellsing and the ones siding with Alucard actually ignoring interviews with Hirano (creator of Hellsing) and all the Japanese made merchandise where the name is spelt with an R. People refuse to accept they might just be wrong or that someone disagrees with them. Stick Goth and Mansonite groups in a room together and watch how many times the phrase “Fucking Poser” gets used. Go up to a David Lee Roth fan and say ‘You know, I actually prefer Sammy Hagar’ and watch the insanity. So don’t think I’m not fully aware that the majority of fans of ANYTHING are usual totally clueless psychopaths who think they have some innate empathetic bond with their personal hobby or passion. They don’t. They’re just nutjobs who have invested WAY too much of themselves on tiny aspect of themselves until it becomes the majority of their being. And I dub those people idiots.

We make jokes here at 411 about me being an Atlus whore and hating Square to the point where I’ll never give them a good rating for everything. But when you look past the in-jokes you notice that Valkyrie Profile, a Square-Enix game, is one that I rate even higher than Persona 2 or Sakura Taisen, the games I’m best known for being fanatical over. It’s the closest thing to my personal ideas for a perfect RPG that I’ve ever encountered. I also love the Mana series and Threads of Fate and I mention those games a lot. Especially my love for the FIRST Final Fantasy. But one thing that really and truly sets apart VG fans is the fact they just don’t seem to have a sense of humour. And thus take everything literal. It’s well known in our secret Kliq Compound at 411games that Square asked me personally to review FFTA. Me. Alexander Lucard. Mr. ‘I’d rather have bees shoved up my nose and a badger down my pants than play FF7 or 8’ himself. And I agreed. And id my best to stay neutral. Even enclosed with the game was a joking note saying ‘Pretend it’s Dragon Warrior Tactics.’

The end result? The game got a 6.0 and the comment from me that it was a good game, and a great first effort by division 6 and that I’m sure the sequel will blow me away. And Square was VERY happy with my rating of the game. As I joked to an online correspondent, I’m sure they were expecting straight ones. So Square was happy, and I had a copy of game that has a horrible, HORRIBLE plot, but some pretty good gameplay and some innovative ideas I hope they implement better the second go around. It’s well known I am a hell of a lot harder on games than the rest of my contemporaries, and that a better than average rating means more from me than a 9.0 rating does from them. So there was no problem, right? We had the mutual respect thing going on. And it helped the Square-Enix/411games relationship.

But then the fans got involved. And suddenly my inbox was filled with letters ranging from, “Alex Lucard is God” emails to “u r a f*cking fagot. Aeris is my wife.” Creepy shit. People actually trying to verbally threaten me into admitting FFTA had the best graphics ever made for a GBA game and that they really identified with Mewt. And there were just as many thanking me for being the last reviewer on the planet not to sell out to the Squaresoft marketing machine and kissing my ass to the point where I was going to need lotion for my crack. God forbid I even bring up the thread my review caused on ‘official’ Final Fantasy boards. And the fact even some of the posters there went gonzo on the other posters, that big “Which FF game is the best” brouhahas occurred and even fans fighting over what is more important, gameplay or graphics or plot. And these are people that should have been united in hate against me! How drone-like to people have to become before exceptionally immature bitchfests are snuffed out? And people always wonder why I say, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

And again, there is thankfully the exception to the rule. I had a long debate with a person who loves FFTA. But never once was their name calling on either side. Just debating. And the agreeing to disagree. He understood I was coming from the view that as the game is a ROLE PLAYING one, that plot and story mattered most. He came from the opinion that gameplay is. He agreed the plot wasn’t that good. I agreed the gameplay was good. And that was the understanding. He walked away knowing that my criteria for a high score in a review is much harsher than the other guys and that I walked away knowing there’s an actually gamer who doesn’t blow his wad at the concept of someone disagreeing with him. And I’d rather have one rational person carrying on a civilized conversation with why he disagrees with me than a dozen scary Alex Lucard fanatics.

The same holds true with my WMXIX review. People either loved it or accused me of being a puro worshiper, simply because I had made Tokyo MAGNUM and The Great Muta. I know Big Daddy Cool and I laughed our butts off at that assumption. Especially as my nickname with the Kliq is ‘HBK’ Last I checked the Showstoppa was Caucasian. But that’s the thing about fanatics. They clutch at every little straw they can create to show why your opinion is not an opinion, but horribly wrong and skewed in every way. WMXIX was a vast improvement over WMXIII, but it still wasn’t a very good game.

Probably the scariest email I got was from a game who not only wondered why a ‘wrestling site’ took so long to put up a review of a wrestling game (And yes, I did explained to him politely that calling 411games a wrestling site is an easy way to piss off the entire team here. And even Widro.), but that he would go out of his way to create wrestling matches, like letting his character get beaten around for a bit to make it all the more REAL. Oooookay. That’s a bit out there for me. If a game can kick my ass, so much the better. I need a challenge. But to purposely let a video game get some hits on you to make it realistic? To make WRESTLING realistic? Bloody hell people. It’s a f*cking game. Maybe it’s just the fact I was weaned on Samurai Showdown and Street Fighter, but the concept of trying to make an electronic battle simulation real smacks of needing a social life. CREEPY. But you know what? If that what floats his boat, more power to him. It’s how he enjoys the game. And if that makes the game all the more fun for him, than I congratulate him in finding a way to enjoy I game I find forgettable. For me, WM19 is still a decent game that’s worth a rental, but only a purchase if you willingly want to spend hours making a carbon copy of Rugged Ronnie Garvin.

But what makes me saddest of all is how truly sick some gamers can be. Some totally psychotic Soul Calibur fan who was incensed that Chuck hated the game decided to infect his computer with a virus. What the hell does that say about a person who is truly that obsessed with a video game, that he would actually cause monetary damage to a person he has never met and over a reason so trivial that they don’t have the same taste in video games? Makes you wonder what the sociopath would do if some ever called his mother a naughty name or told him he dressed funny. There’s a Columbine kid waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. I’ve seen people get in actual physical fights over something as stupid as brand loyalty. And god knows that there’s a lot of people on the net that would actual punch someone for dissing a game or company.

Why people get so psychotic over a hobby is beyond me. It’s supposed to be fun. For amusement. For an escape. Not something taking seriously and something you’re willing to fight over. I will never understand why the Brits fight over Football matches. Or why someone is willing to totally shit on another person because they have a different religion or political belief. Or why someone would spend hours verbally berating someone for preferring Billy Hatcher to Metal Gear Solid. The only answer I can come up with, is that the majority of humanity are total and complete idiots and bring more strife than good to those of us that just want a nice simple happy existence.

To say I’m disappointed to be a part of the gaming subculture isn’t true. The games are great. The consoles are great. It’s just a large majority of the people and their inability to act older than 13 who worry me. If people get this pissed over entertainment, what are they like with things that really matter? It’s the same with being disappointed in what now passes for Goth nowadays. God knows I’m the last person you’ll find in a monochromatic wardrobe, sucking down cloves land orange flavored cappuccinos in a coffee house while write angst-ridden poetry about how tragic my life is that I grew up in a middle class family instead of living in Elizabethan England where they had leeches instead of anesthesia. But guess what, that’s the majority of the people who listen to Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy right there. And it’s why I shy the f*ck away from them. They’re welcome to being morbid and depressed. It’s just not my bag. Hell, even the guys on the staff forget on a regular basis that I belong to that particular subculture. Just like I forget Bebito’s taken time off for his Punisher movie role and not for the fake reason that he just doesn’t enjoy the Down-Lo. Of course I know Bebs hates it when I point out who he really is, don’t you Big Daddy Cool?

The end result of having to actually go out over the past two weeks and stop petty net fueds or deal with countless legions of immature freaks out there whose fanaticism would even scare Al-Quieda members with their frothing intensity has made me really not feel like Retrograding, as I really don’t want to stoop to their level of immaturity and have a column that says the equivalent of, “Eat shit and die you acne-ridden virginal loser factories.” So instead I’ve written this.

I urge, nay, beseech all of you to think before you speak or write. To remember that there are other people out there whose opinions and thoughts and feeling matter just as much as yours. That when you stoop to calling a CD-I fan a total f*ckhead, that it’s your immaturity that actual makes you look like a dumbass. Everytime you out a person for being different from you for the minutest reason, then you’re being nothing more than a prat. It’s that simple. Let people enjoy and hate what they want. Let someone totally trash a game. Let someone totally love it. Just remember both opinions are valid. And that a game is not worth stressing out or getting angry over if someone feels differently from you. It’s just a game. Try and listen and accept instead of flame for once, and notice the difference that it makes.

As Booker T used to say, “Don’t hate the player; hate the game.” And in the world of video game fandom, it’s certainly true.

Right. I’m off my high horse. I’m off to go play some Ikaruga and then Pokemon Pinball. Games I enjoy. But that I can totally understand if others hate them.