Sunday, November 27, 2011

When did we stop just having fun?

About a week ago, I posted a quick little monologue on Facebook asking when we stopped just having fun and being entertained.  At the time, I was frustrated at a lot of different reviews I was seeing online of everything from games to books to movies.  I was reading article after article in which this thing or that was being nitpicked to death, only to never actually answer the big question ... "Is it any fun?"

I'll be honest, at the time, my post was just meant to be me venting a little bit of steam.  Well, I was surprised at the response that quick post got, so I've decided to expand on the thought a little bit here.

For those of you that might have missed it, here's what I had to say on Facebook that got this ball rolling:
I want to know when we seemed to stop just having fun and enjoying ourselves? Why are "guilty pleasures" considered guilty? Y'know, I've seen plenty of near perfect projects from a technical standpoint that were no fun whatsoever ... but more importantly, I've seen plenty of games that were buggy as hell, but I've had a blast playing. People seem to forget that the key component in "entertainment" is to ENTERTAIN!! And so goes my rant o' the day ...
Whenever I read a review that picks everything apart from a strictly technical standpoint, it bugs the hell out of me.  It's frustrating to me personally because, as you should know by now, one of the many hats I wear as a writer is that of an entertainment "critic".  See, my problem is that when you're talking about entertainment, at the end of the day what people want to know is whether or not they're going to enjoy themselves.  When a critic spends too much time focused on the technical aspect of things and forgets about the actual entertainment value, he's not doing his audience any real service.  I'm not too full of myself to say I haven't been guilty of this in some reviews I've written.  I'm sure I've fallen into that same pit from time to time.  But on the whole, I genuinely try to put myself into the mindset of the audience and to decide if they would ultimately leave the experience feeling entertained.

Y'know, for the past couple of weeks, the two video games I've played the most are Uncharted 3 on the PS3 and Kinect: Disneyland Adventures for the 360.  Yeah, I said it ... I've been having a blast playing "Dude Raider" and running around a virtual theme park.  In one game, I'm traipsing around the globe, hunting treasure and dodging bullets in an action-packed cinematic adventure that could hold its own stacked against any summer blockbuster Hollywood has to offer.  In the other game, I'm a little kid running around Disneyland, shaking hands with Mickey Mouse, dancing with Cinderella, and flying with Peter Pan. These two games are completely different, but their common thread is that they're both a HELL of a lot of fun to play.

Would either of these be considered "perfect" games from a technical standpoint? Absolutely not.  In Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, the controls can sometimes be ... umm, let's just call it "less than precise".  And once, my character's arm actually seemed to snap in half at the elbow.  Meanwhile over in Uncharted 3, poor Drake has been running into a few problems of his own.  There have been a couple of times I got stuck in the environment or couldn't get my AI cohorts to get out of my way.  Also, I love the multiplayer in Uncharted 3, but until very recently, I spent almost as much time trying to connect with the servers and sync data as I did actually playing.

So yes, both of these games have their "flaws", but to be perfectly honest, none of them were ever bad enough to take away from the overall entertainment value of the games.  Would I recommend these to others? Without a doubt.  In fact, Uncharted 3 is one of my personal top Game of the Year candidates.  You can pick away at it all you want, find a little bug here or a tiny nuisance there, but the fact remains that the game is an epic story and a great experience from start to finish.  And just so Kinect: Disneyland Adventures doesn't feel left out, keep in mind that even with its problems, I'm a guy in his thirties running around like I'm eight years old again, posing for pictures with Goofy and riding a bobsled down the Matterhorn.  If a game can bring out your inner kid like this, regardless of your actual age, well that truly is a special kind of magic.

I may have used these two specific games as examples of the point I was trying to make, but I'm sure you've got your own examples.  Maybe it's that copy of Spaceballs you watched over and over so often that you've got the script memorized.  Maybe you secretly think of yourself as a true Pokemon master because, yes, you really DID catch 'em all. Or maybe on your way to work, you're rockin' out to the new LMFAO CD and letting the world know that you ARE sexy and you DO know it.  My point is, while Spaceballs would never be considered Oscar caliber cinema, Pokemon hunting will never appear on the Outdoor Channel, and LMFAO still makes people think of dancing gerbils ... all of these things are still fun.  And there's no reason for these "guilty pleasures" to actually make you feel guilty.

I think it's well past time that some entertainment critics got their heads out of their collective asses, loosened up, and learned to have a little fun again.  Instead, they get so wrapped up in finding every little thing wrong and trying to outdo each other, they forget about their audience ... and what their audience wants.  People aren't always looking for the next Citizen Kane ... sometimes, Killer Klowns from Outer Space is just what the doctor ordered.

So ... what keeps YOU entertained?

1 comment:

bmunchausen said...

Oh, this seems to hearken back to our discussion of that month! I'm with you - so done with the game snobbery.