This was a thought I had earlier this month when playing the as of this writing, 97 on Metacritic rated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Wii U. I had read multiple glowing ten out of then reviews, watched the similarly highly praised video review on the Easy Allies as well as Electric Playground YouTube channels and looked forward to picking it up among all the people excited to get their day one Switch consoles. After spending a week with one of the most critically acclaimed games of recent years, I wasn’t having that good a time and didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t thinking about it at work nor really rushing home to play it afterwards, instead I would play it off and on for an hour or two and either lose interest or get really frustrated. I could understand why the game could be so beloved from the opening moments, of which unlike a lot of people, were my favorite. I’ve come to dislike the Zelda franchise as of late because of how front loaded the games are with tutorials, and motion controls as well. I gave up pretty early in Skyward Sword not only because when I put my arm in the air Link would not respond in kind, but that the game spent hours before I was doing anything interesting. Within the opening moments of Breath of the Wild you’re thrown into a mysterious world and just told to get figure it out. Within minutes you’re completing mini-dungeons, fighting enemies, obtaining really fun to use physics based powers and more or less doing whatever it is you want.
After you leave the training area however, I was less compelled to keep moving forward. What was once a world full of mystery was really just another Zelda game: get the four things to beat the thing, business as usual, only this time your weapons break every fifteen seconds. Whereas most people on social media were sharing stories about how they circumvented entire puzzles by using their powers, discovering new recipes that provided new status buffs and gushing over how much freedom the game gave, I personally just wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t care about the world as there was nothing really of interest in it for me: no story to latch onto, no reason to climb what felt like the hundredth giant mountain with nothing on top other than another piece of junk in an endless bag of junk or a weapon that I never felt like using because I know that either 1) enemies were going to kill me or 2) it would break.
I decided that I would give until the first dungeon before I made my decision on whether or not to keep the game or not. Dungeons are always great in these games after all, right? Well, the first one I got to wasn’t really that interesting. The tipping point for me was when I made it to the boss of the dungeon (I’m keeping this vague to eliminated spoilers, and admittedly to avoid people saying stuff like “get gud”). I kept dying over and over, possibly because I was simply bad at the game or also because I was avoiding combat all together because I found it rather pointless and therefore didn’t have the proper practice with the fighting mechanics, and quickly came to the realization that this is what this game is, and it’s not for me. I took out the game from my Wii U, brought it to EB Games and swapped it for a brand new copy of Horizon: Zero Dawn. I stand firmly that I made the right decision.
One thing I absolutely love about video games is that if you look hard enough, there’s something for everyone. My dad for example, doesn’t like any form of technology really, but still plays solitaire on our home computer, the same with my mom though she knows her way around an iPad. There are those who enjoy the challenge of the Dark Souls games as well as those who enjoy the more relaxed pace of something like say, a Stardew Valley. I could go on with examples but the point is whether people realize it or not, is that if you look hard enough, there’s either entire genres of games or even just a game that someone will gravitate towards. I love to play, collect and talk about comic book games, which is a passion that’s probably not shared by many and it’s okay if someone else couldn’t care less about games about Spider-Man or The Avengers. We all love video games in some shape or form and not every game, even those that saturate social media platforms and enthusiast websites and video channels, is for everyone, and that’s completely okay. What’s not okay is bullying someone or telling them they’re wrong because you don’t like something you like.
I didn’t have the best early teen years in junior high. Living in a very, very small town, being the kid who loved obsessed over things like comic books and video games didn’t win me any friends and made me the target of more than a few bullies. I was ridiculed for liking Spider-Man, wearing my Spawn shirt that I loved in the eight grade and hilariously was asked once if I worshipped the devil because I had a t-shirt for the band Korn and listened to Rob Zombie. This question was asked while I was wearing a bright yellow Pokemon Pikachu step counter clipped to my belt I would like to add. If I was a devil worshipper, my love of Pokemon at the time probably didn’t make me very popular in their ranks as well (or maybe it would have!). Thankfully I had terrific parents who instilled within me the right morals and emotional strength to get me through those tough years and in high school when I changed schools, because of a shift in the local education system not because I had to because of bullies I should preface, things got much better as I met more like-minded people like myself who also loved to talk about video games.
I bring this up because for the past decade or more, I’ve felt at times envious of teens who’ve got to grow up in the last decade or so. In the 90’s, things like comic books, video games, and sci-fi were for the nerds, but now nearly everyone has an Xbox or PlayStation and have made comic books and genre films one of the most dominant form of entertainment. This envy however didn’t last very long when I see how modern gamers treat others and can do so while hiding under an alias on message boards, comment sections or things like Twitter. As a point I only ever use my real name when commenting on articles, I don’t do so very often, because I like to think that I wouldn’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say in real life. This is not a sentiment shared by a lot of people who tear people down for not liking what they like, or do things like ask female video game fans to prove themselves worthy of calling themself a gamer. What it feels like, at least to me, is that those who were bullied because of their love of things such as video games get to hold power over others in the same way that others once did to them, or simply feel that they’re being attacked by those who don’t feel the same way as them which is absolutely ridiculous. For one, I would have loved to know a female gamer back in junior high and second, you should never ever lash out at someone for not liking something you like, which brings me back to Breath of the Wild.
The event that inspired me to write this piece was the attack on Jim Sterling over his review of The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild where after providing a very well constructed argument as to why they did so, gave the game a respectable score of a seven out of ten. That wasn’t good enough according to the most devout Zelda fans. How dare you give the masterpiece that is Breath of the Wild any less than the ten out ten it deserves?! This led to attacks on Sterling’s website and some not nice comments of which one was for him to drink bleach. This was all because he liked, but didn’t LOVE a video game that a lot of people have sunk hours of their life into. What I’ll never understand is why people go to these extremes over things like this. Not everyone is going to like everything and those who don’t feel the way you do doesn’t take away from how much you enjoy something; If I had to go after every critic for a bad review of a Spider-Man or comic book game, I would’ve died of exhaustion long ago. Instead of saying something like, “oh I totally get where you’re coming from, I can see why it might not be your type of thing” it’s normally a call to start sharpening pitch forks and lighting torches.
I don’t mean to pick on Nintendo fans, as not every one of them is going to go to such extremes, but I recall a time when I made a comment on a Facebook post about how much I don’t really care for Super Smash Bros. This is an opinion that I normally tend to keep to myself or around a trusted circle of few, because how dare you speak ill of Smash. In this post, in where I explained why I didn’t care for the game, there was not one person who said “cool, I see where you’re coming from” it was things like “oh you just don’t like multiplayer games” and “well if you played with these people instead of these people you would understand”. Little did they know was that it was statements such as those that will keep me from ever giving that franchise a second look, even as it adds characters I love like Mega Man, Solid Snake and Bayonetta. I’ll never say “oh you’ve just been playing Spider-Man and the X-Men wrong all these years” because you know, you don’t have to like that game just because I think it’s okay. If I inspire someone to give a game like that a second look and it changes their mind, that’s awesome, but at the same time, if you don’t share my opinion, the very least I can ask is that you be civil and just be happy that I’m passionate to talk about it in the same way that while I don’t care for Breath of the Wild, it’s okay for you to like it and my not liking it shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of it either.
We live in an society where under the guise of anonymity, we can say whatever we want be damned of the consequences or the feelings of those on the other end of a posted comment. Whether you’ve been playing games for years, only play on one console, PC exclusively or just dabble with a few casual mobile games, we’re all fans of video games. Just because someone doesn’t like your favorite game or genre of game is not an attack on yourself or your chosen hobby, it’s just a sign about how great video games have become. Once upon a time I had no one to share my thoughts and opinions of games with and wouldn’t do so for fear of the ridicule I would get from other people, and that’s one thing I’ll thankfully leave in the past. We all have our favorite games, films, shows, etc., and instead of wasting precious energy trying to tell people how wrong they are for not liking what we like, we should start embracing our differences and celebrating them.
What that, I’m going to get back to playing Men in Black and Spider-Man games and to quote the Easy Allies:
Love and respect.