Following the release of Red Dead Redemption II a reader asks why gamers are so obsessed with lists and comparisons – and arguing.
Which is better, the prequels or the original trilogy? How about what sauce is better on a sausage roll, red or brown? What about the old thorny debate of Nintendo vs. Sega, what side of the fence do you plop down on? Theres a deep-seated desire for people to rate, rank, and file knowledge and experience into order.
Recognisable, practical and clean order. Theres a reason for that, it helps us to make sense of a world, it helps us to recognise when something is good and bad and gives us an idea of what to expect from any given experience. In gaming this can be contentious because gaming is so interactive and deeply personal the opinions held can be tied deep down into the bones of the holder. Opinions in gaming are strong and nothing can expose the strength of these more than when people try to rank games.
Every time a new all-time classic game is released the dormant Vesuvius of gamer opinion rumbles at the base, as people assert that finally gaming has is very own Citizen Kane and this is the case again with the release of Red Dead Redemption II. It happened in the past with the release of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and with the release of The Witcher 3 and again with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or GTA V. it will happen in the future and more and more I understand the tribalism less and less.
I get it as an intellectual exercise and its fun in my head to see whats duking it out with Shadow Of The Colossus, Sonic 2, Final Fantasy VII and the rest Ive just mentioned for title of best game of all time. But what I would never do is attack someone because their list is different from mine. The thing Ive come to recognise is that gaming, more than any other medium, has a sense of place and time in peoples lives.
For example, the game that got you over that bad break up, that game that helped you deal with a monotonous job, that game that took you away from death and grief. The reasons for people loving a game can be much more significant than a Metacritic rating or the buzz around the water cooler. And as a result I know that arguing about which game is better is probably a futile waste of energy, but still it will happen.
During Metros review they stepped on the landmine of invoking comparisons between Assassins Creed Odyssey and more critically Breath Of The Wild. It seems that this sparks the defensiveness of people understandably smitten and unwilling to see the title of greatest game ever wrested from its grasp and again as Ive already said earlier I dont get this tribalism. Is it not good for the gaming industry that the top of the pile is constantly churning with quality releases? Is it not a testament to the rapid rise of the industrys ability to tell a surprising story with interaction and pull on the heartstrings?
To harken back to that blunt tool of Metacritic, if you look at gamings sister medium film the top 100 films rarely change much. Not so with gaming, every year there will be a new challenger to topple the old order and that in my opinion is a good thing, its the thing that makes gaming a vibrant and dynamic medium. So why can we not have the comparison between something like Red Dead II and Breath Of The Wild and not have it become a playground throw down of my dad could beat your dad? Maybe because, as I said earlier, we get bound up in our favourite games much more than we should, but also maybe it is our nature to be so.
A while back this same comparison was done in a Readers Feature between Witcher 3 and Breath Of The Wild and I enjoyed it for what is was, one persons fun debate about how they would rank two equally impressive games. And in the style of these types of feature it was a ding dong, back and forth affair with The Witcher 3 coming out on top. It is fair to say afterwards there was a lively debate about the merits of the comparison and the result of the feature which got quite heated. I have to say that I would have come down on the side of Witcher 3 too but thats not to say I hate Breath Of The Wild, I just think that the world of The Witcher pulled me in more with its labyrinthine politics, interesting premise, and gorgeous environments.
Ranking things shouldnt be hard, talking about the pros and cons of various games shouldnt be a problem but more and more with the Internet debate its becoming difficult to have a friendly conversation about these things. I didnt mean this to become a why cant we all just get along? thing but, why can we not just get along?
Why does someone preferring a different excellent game impinge on our enjoyment of our own? Surely even if they have wrongheaded and entirely farcical reasons for hating a great game the correct reaction is pity? Pity that they wont experience the joy the game brings you? So, while youre trotting along inspecting other horses testicle sizes and shooting varmints, in your head plug Red Dead into your own top 10 and enjoy the ride. By the way the only correct answers to the opening questions are. Original trilogy, brown sauce, and Sega.
By reader Dieflemmy (gamertag/PSN ID/NN ID)
The readers feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.