I’ve been writing on this blog now for weeeooo seven years and it sticks out to me every time I go back and review writing, even recent writing, just how often I’m willing to drop the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in discussions of games. It’s a reasonable impulse, because those are useful handle words.
It also comes from a defensive space, and I’m kind of embarrassed about it.
I teach about games. I teach students and ask them to stop using the word ‘good’ when they want to talk critically about games, or ‘bad’ because those words are big baskets with a lot of possible meanings and it’s not clear. Now, obviously on my blog I can have a jocular and funloving tone, whackyhee, but I still realise that I reach for that basket myself not because I don’t have a better way to describe the games I’m talking about, but because I’m often left needing it as a sort of waving stick to throw for an approaching dog.
I feel a lot of the time I need to be careful not about calling games good or bad, but failing to call them good or bad. I’m honestly a little more comfortable with ‘I hated it’ than with ‘this game is bad,’ or ‘this game fucks up this part’ because there at least I’m talking about a detail, I’m divining an intention and trying to explain it (which is, itself, funnier, but at least Roland Barthes has my back there). I am left, still, now, feeling really bad if I criticise a game if I don’t at least put something out there to signal to some arbitary, imagined reader, that hey, if you like it, I don’t mind, that’s okay, this game has Likeable Qualities, which
Like, yeah, there have been people who shouted at me over not being adequately courteous to a videogame, and a few of those are still in my circle of friends, but most of them aren’t. And the people who aren’t, they’re expressing something legitimate in terms of feelings but the idea my opinions aren’t acceptable isn’t the legitimate outcome of that. When I get those reactions, I need to recognise what I’m actually being yelled at about.
I don’t think I’m going to drop the word ‘good’ on its own? It’s a solid little word, and if I want to give you a general, leading-paragraph impression, like ‘oh hey, it’s fine, it’s good’ then you should be able to parse that out. But it’s a word of moods and tones, a basket word.
Really, what I want to fight with myself over is that impulse to be defensive and afraid about the idea of stating my opinion when here, seven years from start I know that there are people paying to read this.