Complacency is Bad
I complain about video games a lot on this blog, or should I rather say that I attempt to identify and point out mistakes? Either way, I tend to list more negatives here than positives and that’s not something that has worried me before. Now Syp writes about how we take too much in our games for granted and about how great they really are when seen from the past. You know what, it’s called progress. The future pretty much always looks brilliant from the past.
If I get food with too much salt in it at a restaurant, I complain and send it back. The chef will then toss it and get me a new dish – if I’m in a halfway decent restaurant that is. My Grandma (may she rest in piece) would have scowled at this and told me how, back in the day, during the war, they would have been happy about every bit of food they could get their hands on, salty or not. Sure, I am happy that food is abundant these days and that I can actually choose what to eat pretty much at will – but that doesn’t mean that I have to put up with bad food just because it is still better than what was available “back in the day”. Eating the salty food would not only make me unhappy because I’m oh-so-spoiled, but it would also send a signal to the restaurant that it is OK to serve me bad food. Why should I put up with either result?
Video games go exactly the same way. Just because modern games are, on an absolute scale, by and large better than what we got fifteen, twenty, or even thirty years ago doesn’t mean they can’t suck. Progress has given us the ability to make better games and we should make use of that ability. Furthermore, progress only works if there is a desire to improve upon the status quo. If we would be all happy and complacent about the current state of gaming, there would be no reason to ever make better games even though that is absolutely possible. Why should we ever settle for good enough when better is absolutely attainable?
Assuming for a moment that I had a huge audience (which I don’t) and that game developers actually cared about what I say (which they don’t), it would almost be a crime to simply praise games as they are. In that hypothetical situation I would simply have praised Mass Effect 2, for example, and Mass Effect 3 would have the same exact flaws that its predecessor had. By pointing out the issues (read: complaining) we help improving future generations of games. Surely that must be something to shoot for if you enjoy gaming.
Now, praise has its place. Praise rewards developers for doing things right and points the recipients of said praise towards a good product. At no point though should people get the impression that everything about a game is perfect – because it never is. That’s also something game reviewers should take to their hearts. God of War III might be a great game, but it definitely isn’t worth the 10/10 or 100/100 ratings it’s been getting. Are you seriously telling me that there is no way the game could be improved? I could list a few already and have only played it for a couple of hours.
Constructive criticism is vital to improving anything and “back in my day we had to walk uphill, in the snow, both ways!” certainly isn’t a good argument to be complacent.