Something began to happen as the year drew to a close. Browsing through all of my favourite gaming news websites, and a few of the ones that I hate and visit purely to get angry, I began to notice a pattern.
People were beginning to list games released throughout the previous year. Each game had a number and was briefly discussed, then they’d move on the next game with a number and brief discussion.
For a while it perplexed me: Why were games now being listed? It didn’t make any sense. There were numbers, I was certain of that. These were numerical lists of games. As the numbers decreased, the discussion of each game would become slightly more glittered with praise. The numerical list descended, the jubilation increased; I was completely stumped.
And then it hit me. ‘It’ being the actual intention of these lists, and ‘Me’ being me. These were not benign lists of recently released games at all. These were not just a stale, unthinking and pointless compilation of some games on a page for no reason, oh no my friends, these came with an insidious driving force behind them. These lists were born out of opinions.
I couldn’t believe I’d been so easily duped. All this time I thought I’d been reading entirely objective accounts of video games. Accounts written by robots who, after having the game’s code parsed through their circuitry, are able to determine with an infinitesimal margin of error exactly how good said game is. There must be some margin of error, because how else do you explain any article that doesn’t fit with my own view? Robots very rarely get it wrong but, when they do get it wrong, you know they’ve got it wrong by virtue of them being wrong. What robots don’t do is say something wrong, put it in a list, and then fall back on that tired old argument that somehow they’re not wrong at all, because of opinions.
I’d exposed them. Clearly, this wasn’t the work of infallible, unemotional robots. This was the work of flesh and blood, subjective humans filled to the brim with opinions, damnable opinions.
I had to make my voice heard, lest others be duped by flagrant opinions floating about on the otherwise entirely sterile, dependably predictable games journalism scene. Thankfully, I wielded the greatest weapon known to mankind – the online comment.
With one great sweep I lifted my arm, fingers outstretched, and thunderously brought it down upon my fabled mechanical keyboard. Unfortunately this only typed out something to the effect of “vgf7kdj”, and somehow activated sticky keys. I tried once more with some finesse.
I don’t mind telling you, I absolutely nailed it. I mean, yeah, what I said could be construed as outright insulting, unnecessary, and a massive overreaction to something completely meaningless. One other way of looking at is “a noble, well-argued and irrefutable polemic against slipping standards of games critique”. The fact that I’ve got that very quote hanging on my wall should tell you where I stand on the issue.
It was a move that gave me the determination to call out subjective utterances in real life, too. A couple of cub scouts knocked at my door one time, claiming they had made “the best cookies in the city” and asking for a small donation. I surveyed them cautiously, took one bite, grabbed the box from their feeble grasp and stomped all over it, grinding the clearly sub-par confectionery into my welcome rug. “Are you kidding me?!” I shouted down the street as the screaming children fled, “I can get better cookies than that on this damn block! Best in the city indeed!”
I visited my grandmother later that week. Upon entering her home, I saw her sitting quietly on the armchair near the fireplace, looking at a photograph. I took a seat and asked who was in the photo. “Oh, it’s your grandfather. Times like this, around the festive season, it really sinks in how terribly I miss him. He’d get home around about now, sit down right where you are now.” I gently rubbed my hands against the weathered arms of the chair, reflecting on how little I knew of my grandfather. Too often we go through life too self-absorbed to realise what we’re missing out on, who we’re leaving behind. Maybe there’s more important things in life than aggressive pedantry over online lists.
My grandmother smiled sweetly. “I’ll always remember the first time we went to the cinema together.” She wiped a tear away with the hand not holding the photo, “It was 1943, and the film was Casablanca. We were silent all the way home. Best film of the year, that. I’ll always remember that walk home, it was a moment where nothing needed to be said. I knew from then on that this would be the man I’d spend my life with; I never considered that I’d end it without him.”
It was a heart-warming tale. Clearly, however, the best film of 1943 was actually For Whom The Bell Tolls. I took the photograph, ripped it up, threw it in the fire and slammed the door shut on the way out. My quest continues.