So this is a post that’s been lurking in my mind for quite some time. The essence of it falls back to confusing taste with quality, and quality with taste. It also has to do with popular opinion which plays a massive part in how games are perceived and received.
Hear me out. Just because you don’t like something it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Conversely, just because you like something, it doesn’t mean that it’s good.
I’ve had this conversation with countless gamers and, surprisingly, with countless game designers, especially during the rise of Facebook games such as FarmVille.
There’s an unfortunate tendency within this profession to turn to elitism when it comes to game quality. As a culture and as developers, there seems to be an unspoken agreement around why a game is considered good. Most of the time, “good” is conflated with “popular” as in “from the right games company”. I’m pretty sure you know what I mean. Some companies, like Blizzard or Rockstar, simply can’t do anything wrong, because opinion is with them. Other companies, like Riot, Ubisoft and various others have margins. And then there are companies like EA that have to work very hard to get on the gamers’ good side and even harder to stay there. In addition, there are the games companies that are incredibly successful and yet virtually invisible, like King or Rovio, who keep going without much notice at all.
In other words, it’s very rare that a game from the “right” company is ever put through much scrutiny, certainly not enough to hurt sales. But what we do when we allow the court of public opinion to control what is considered “good” is that we’re essentially eliminating diversity. If you think game developers are not aware of how popularity works, you would be wrong.
With respect to games from Rockstar, I would say this. GTA V had massive issues with racist and sexist content, and still it was lauded. Red Dead Redemption 2 had massive issues with UX but they were overlooked.
My intent is not to harp on Rockstar, but I think it’s important that we all are aware of our biases.
I would argue that a game like Candy Crush is very high quality. It has to be, because it’s live and it’s a live service and it handles transactions. But a game like Candy Crush is still considered a lesser game.
We are ruled by public opinion to the extent that we shame those who don’t agree with us. But when we do that, we lose sight of what’s most important. Just as with movies, books and pretty much any form of entertainment, quality is less important than experience.
A lot of people read Dan Brown. That doesn’t mean that his books are high quality, just that a lot of people find them enjoyable.
I can critique Dan Brown’s writing style and prefer to read other books. That makes no difference to someone who enjoys his books, and it shouldn’t be the deciding factor for anyone, except the person reading the book.