I was wandering around IGN’s site the other day, when I happened upon the review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The Wii/GameCube classic had struck a chord with the reviewer, who awarded the game a 9.5 back in 2006. Re-reading the piece, though, I couldn’t help but notice how, in reference to Super Mario 64, the reviewer described the title as “then-groundbreaking”. Considering a limited number of people are even reading this seven year old review on a regular basis, much less commenting on it, I decided to shout in the wind a bit and wrote the following:
“Lol, this is an old review, but seriously, who refers to Super Mario 64 as ‘then-groundbreaking’? It was, is, and will always be groundbreaking. No one goes around saying that the Model T isn’t groundbreaking anymore because a focus is so much more technologically advanced. Videogame journalists have no clue how to appreciate this medium’s history.”
Innocuous enough, I thought, but surprisingly, I was met with someone who didn’t appreciate my observation (who trolls the comments of a seven year old review?!). Their response to mine was:
“Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing? ‘then-groundbreaking’ is just as big of an impact as “groundbreaking”.
I swear it’s like you people are seeking things to argue about on purpose.”
Anyone who writes on a message board or in a comments section knows well enough that consensus isn’t normally common, so I wasn’t shocked to see dissent. I personally felt that adding the word “then” as the reviewer did suggested a diminished respect for Super Mario 64. As though a caveat was needed to help assert to the reader that the writer acknowledged Mario 64 as important, but that in hindsight it was perhaps not as impressive anymore. Maybe I was being picky, maybe not. What I cared most about in this particular instance was how the other commenter said I was “making such a big deal out of nothing”.
Nothing? I suppose it was, in the grander scheme of things, but as I sat and formulated my response, the words vexed me. Video games are something to me. They’re something to a lot of people, frankly. Who is this person to declare that I should or shouldn’t care about Mario 64 getting dissed, whether it was a month ago or a seven years? I can concede that it wasn’t the most horrible sleight, but I thought it was worth pointing out to people. Mario 64 isn’t going to stop being the landmark it was just because another game has come along and outdone it. That’s not the point.
The point is that video games are both pieces of entertainment and art. Period. I don’t care what the deceased or the vividly alive have to say about it. Video games touch people in as powerful a way as literature, cinema, or television. Anyone playing through The Walking Dead game by Telltale had as much of an emotional response to its events and ending as they would reading the comic book series. When I read comments like those from the IGN reviewer, it bothers me, because he and everyone else calling themselves video games journalists have a responsibility to maintain the legacy of the milestone games that came before.
There’s a reason that when a mass shooting happens, people like Vice President Biden can get in front of a camera and call out our video games as negative influences; the industry’s own developers and reporters don’t even know how to properly respect and defend them. Sure, they’re quick to point out the first amendment when defending video games, but that’s only half the story. Where were the complaints about violent television shows like Criminals Minds when Sandy Hook happened? Where were the protests against Ryan Gosling crushing a man’s head into bloody pieces in Drive after the Aurora shooting? Heck, half the cable shows that people worship these days are tantamount to softcore porn with a plot. Yet, video games are the bad guy. Video games are the root of all evil.
It’s a joke. A farce. I will freely and enthusiastically talk about how the obsession with violence in video games. As poignant as titles like The Last of Us and BioShock: Infinite are, there’s an unhealthy fixation on wielding guns and blowing heads off in this industry. Don’t even get me started on the lack of and, when they’re present, objectification of women. None of that, however, is justification to treat video games as a second-class form of art and entertainment.
So no, faceless IGN commentator, saying Mario 64 was “then-groundbreaking” isn’t “nothing”, it’s insulting. I write here and on Nintendojo because I love video games and the unique experiences they bring to people around the world. I’ve flown across the sky, saved kingdoms, staved off death, cooked, cleaned, and raced my heart out in over twenty years of video game playing. If I want to call for more thought and accountability from the representatives of the video game community, I think I have every right to do so; they’re all there is to defend us, the players. It might seem like I’m taking this pastime a little too seriously, but tell that to television, cinema, and literary historians and critics. Go tell a professor of art history that cave paintings were “then-groundbreaking” and see how they react. Video games are here to stay, and I’m always going to do the best I can to show them the respect that they deserve.