My 10 Most Controversial Opinions

From The CRPG Addict

Counting down to my ten-year anniversary in February 2020, I offer this quick retrospective on my 10 most controversial opinions. I base this on the number of comments I’ve received arguing back at me when I’ve made certain statements, as well as what people have said about me on other web sites.

I was originally going to title this article “10 Reasons to Despise Me,” but I feel like we have enough invective slung back and forth about fairly trivial issues. Indeed, if you find yourself “despising” me for any of these opinions, I would suggest that you’re taking the entire subject too seriously.
10. I think there’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way to play even single-player games.
In my entry on “Cheats & Liars,” I used an analogy with crossword puzzles. The “point” of a crossword puzzle is not to fill in the blocks with letters; it’s to use your knowledge, intuition, and puzzle-solving skills to interpret the clues and derive the only possible answer. Thus, you are doing crossword puzzles wrong if you use a crossword puzzle dictionary or some other source to help you finish the puzzle. An unfinished puzzle is preferable to a puzzle that you finish by cheating, because at that point you’ve sacrificed the ability to ever finish it properly.
No one disputes that people should follow the rules when it comes to competitive sports. I can’t ride a bicycle along the route of the Boston Marathon and expect the same recognition–or any recognition at all–when I have the fastest time. Nor is there any other aspect of life where we say that it’s okay to break the rules if no one else is watching. A practitioner of a religion, an alcoholic in recovery, or someone on a diet does not get to argue “but I was alone!” when he (respectively) neglected his morning prayers, drank himself under the table, or ate an entire cheesecake. 
Playing single-player RPGs may be a solitary activity, but that doesn’t mean there are no rules. Sure, breaking them doesn’t harm anyone but you, but then neither does breaking your diet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t at least a little shameful when you do it.
9. I wouldn’t mind if modern RPGs still made us take notes and make maps.
The other night, I was playing GreedFall with Irene. Some NPC was giving instructions to a character about a potion, and she said something like “note the ingredients carefully.” Irene immediately reached for a piece of paper and a pen, and I laughed. I don’t care what the NPC said, I knew there was no way the game was going to make a player depend on an external note to properly finish the quest. I was right, of course.

But I wouldn’t have minded if the game had required us to write down the ingredients. I would have welcomed it. I miss the days of gaming with a notepad and graph paper by my side. Quest markers have ruined modern RPGs. Even “hardcore” modes generally don’t turn them off.

Playing Might and Magic involved a lot of real work.

8. I don’t like music playing during my games.

That’s not the same thing as saying “I don’t like game music.” I very often admire the compositions; I just don’t want them playing during the actual game. I think this is largely because I’m very music-oriented generally, and I see listening to music as an active experience. I only want it playing when my primary task is listening to music. To me, “background” music is like having someone constantly talking at you while you’re trying to focus on something else.

So I play my games with the music off. Sorry. I know–I miss so much.
7. I don’t like games about rape.

You wouldn’t think that one would be so controversial, but on at least one site it makes me a laughingstock.
6. I don’t like Japanese graphics.

I don’t know if it’s because I was born too early or because I never owned a Nintendo, but for whatever reason I missed out on the era where Japanese animation and tropes became normalized among American youth. I look at the result and I’m baffled. (There was a time when I would have said “disgusted,” so perhaps I’ve made a little progress.) Part of the issue is the artwork itself, perhaps more of it has to do with what the artist chooses to depict–and what players are apparently okay with. If I’m going to play a racing game, I want to race racecars, not goofy little go-karts piloted by mustachioed plumbers. If I’m going to pit monsters against each other in gladiatorial matches, I want them to look like monsters, not characters from the Island of Misfit Toys. And if I’m going to play an action-adventure, I want to play a classic hero, not an effete little elf with bare legs and a pointy hat.

I have a lot of readers that want me to play Chrono Trigger. I’ve watched videos of it. It looks like a bunch of children running around. If I was a fan of the game, I would not be clamoring for my review.

5. I think computer RPGs are superior to console RPGs.
The primary issue is the nature of the input. A controller naturally limits the possibilities of a game. You cannot offer the complexity of NetHack‘s or even Ultima‘s interface with a controller (at least, not without annoying nested menus), nor can you move, look, and click with the same precision as a keyboard and a mouse. Entire styles of gameplay, such as Ultima IV‘s keyword-based dialogue, or text-based inputs for adventure games, or even most point-and-click adventure games, become impossible on the console. Nowadays, because successful games must be offered on both computer and console platforms, these limitations functionally inhibit even computer RPGs.
Then again, I do occasionally like playing a game on the couch, with my wife, next to the fireplace. If a keyboard is better than a console controller, a console controller is better than any attempt I’ve ever seen to make a keyboard, mouse, and PC setup work from a comfortable position with a television. So there are situations in which the console is better than the computer. I just prefer action games in those situations.
Even I admit: time for a console RPG.
4. I don’t care about voiced dialogue–in fact, I wish it would go away.
I’m convinced that voiced dialogue, more than any other factor, is keeping modern games from greatness. The necessity of getting an actor into a studio to voice every possible line of dialogue is what prevents developers from creating more quest dependencies, creating alternate endings, fixing bugs, and including a lot more NPCs in games that feel very sparse without them. It also keeps the character’s chosen name from ever appearing meaningfully in the game.
The Infinity Engine games had the perfect balance. Key dialogues were recorded with voice actors, but most of the time the text was unvoiced. It shouldn’t have progressed beyond that.
3. I don’t mind about re-use of engines.
I mostly want new content, not an entirely new gameplay experience. I grant you that a few series have taken it too far–the Gold Box comes to mind–but in general I think developers should be getting a lot more use out of interfaces and mechanics already developed. It never bothered me for a second that Might and Magic VIII had basically the same interface as Might and Magic VI. I doubt any fan agrees that the “upgrade” in Might and Magic IX did the series any favors. I think it’s basically insane that developers only issue two or three expansions for titles like Fallout 4 or Dragon Age. I would pay as much as the original game for a new story set in the exact same world using the exact same locations. Surely, I can’t be the only one.
2. I don’t hate Bethesda–or, at least, I don’t hate them for the same reason you do.
I love nonlinear, open world games, and there’s no one that’s shown they can do them as well as Bethesda. I don’t mind if some of their other features are a little rough around the edges. Many, many years ago, in the midst of the most addictive period I spent with the game, I opined that Skyrim was “perhaps the best CRPG I have ever played.” That got quite a reaction from my own commenters and commenters on other sites.
I later had reason to regret the statement; I was basically high when I wrote it. It was the equivalent of telling some guy you practically just met, “you’re my best friend, and I love you, man” when it’s 3:00 AM in a bar and you’ve both been drinking gimlets all night. But having qualified the original statement somewhat, I have to admit that it’s still one of the best CRPGs I’ve ever played. If that upsets you, I’m sorry. It gives me what I’m looking for.
That said, I do hate Bethesda a little. Not because of what they produce, but because of what they don’t. Skyrim sold over 3 million copies in its first two days. It won “game of the year” from practically every magazine and site that offers that award. It ultimately made over a billion dollars. What the hell kind of management decision delays the next game in the series for over ten years?! I’ve rarely seen a company that financially irresponsible with its intellectual property. George Lucas before he sold Star Wars to Disney comes to mind, but even he allowed a generous Expanded Universe.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have my chibi hangup and I could be a fan of Pokémon or Zelda instead. Lovers of those franchises must lose track of all the main series games, expansions, off-shoots, and remakes. You know who knows how to run a brand? Marvel Studios. In a decade, they issued 23 films and 11 television shows, plus associated web series, comic books, and novels, and still none of its fans are complaining of “oversaturation.” Bethesda needs to sell to Disney, hire Brandon Sanderson, or otherwise do what it takes to get their heads out of their asses and start producing.
1. I not only think Fallout 4 is better than Fallout: New Vegas, I think it’s much better.

I say this believing that New Vegas is already an excellent game. But I listen to its fans describe how much better it is than Fallout 4 and I don’t know what they’re talking about. How can they argue that it has more factions, when 4 has essentially the same number? How can the argue about role-playing choices when all your choices in New Vegas collapse into the same battle at the same location? Do they honestly think that Boone and Cass and Gannon are more memorable than Nick and Cait and Deacon?
One of the 10 best NPCs ever.
Every time I get into an argument about this issue with someone, I offer basically the same list of why I think 4 is a better game:
  • No ridiculously low level cap–no level cap at all, in fact
  • The ability to keep playing after the end of the main quest, with bonus content depending on what factions you went with 
  • A much larger, more open world with more locations to find; the game really rewards unfettered exploration
  • Boston is a huge, dense city rather than Vegas’s three buildings
  • The Settlement/building/settlement defense system
  • A perks system that actually encourages different character builds
  • Better item crafting
  • Much cooler power armor (with jetpacks!)
  • No invisible walls
  • An excellent “survival” mode; I can’t imagine playing without it
  • Flying around in vertibirds
  • Along with the jetpacks and vertibirds, just a more “vertical” game in general; there’s a lot to find on building tops and elevated highways
  • Behemoths and mirelurk queens
  • A gun that shoots actual cannonballs
  • The ability to call artillery salvos on enemy fortifications
  • Can blow off enemies’ individual body parts, allowing for more interesting combat tactics overall
Against this, I accept the arguments that the dialogue system isn’t very good and that whoever nerfed the deathclaws ought to be fired. Beyond that, Fallout 4‘s superiority is so obvious to me that I feel like I must be living in another universe when I get into a discussion with most fans of the series.
So there we are: my 10 most controversial opinions. Everyone will probably be enraged at something. Even if you don’t agree with me, I hope you admire my honesty and the risk I’m taking with my Patreon account. 
Coming up: Ten years of upsetting people with more controversial opinions, starting with fans of the Arkania series.

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