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Everyone likes to spout their takes on the gaming world these days, and I can’t say I’m any different. One thing that has to happen, though, is for people to gain some perspective when these various hot takes come in.
We need to start filtering out the opinions of those who either just picked up gaming for the first time or those who only play 1-3 games every year. It might be a bit harsh, but these opinions can taint the perception of what is good and isn’t good in the gaming world today. Sure, there’s room for all in the world of gaming, but I don’t think it’s ludicrous to say that fairweather gamers should refrain from trying to play the role of tastemaker.
While every opinion is to be taken with a grain of salt, those with little to no point of reference shouldn’t get the same “Expert” opinion tag that others have earned. A person who has never left their home would think that a park is the most beautiful sight in the world, and likewise, a gamer who only consumes Call of Duty, Madden, and Assassin’s Creed on a yearly basis doesn’t deserve to voice their opinion the same way someone who consumes 10-20 games per year do.
Feel angry? Feel like I’m gatekeeping gaming? Well, maybe I am a little, but here’s why I feel this way.
Where do We Draw the Line?
This is the most complicated part of the equation for certain. How many games do you need to play to have an opinion on what’s a good game, what’s groundbreaking, and what should be copied for future games? I mean, a player who plays Cyberpunk 2077 but not Witcher 3 or Skyrim might claim it’s the greatest open-world RPG of all time. They might have a point these days, but that still doesn’t qualify their claim. They didn’t experience the competition; they didn’t see the highs and the lows.
Every year, it seems like an Assassin’s Creed game drops. In a vacuum, Ubisoft’s last massive Assassin’s Creed release, AC Mirage, is a good game. With the graphics, scope of the story, side quests, and combat system, what more can you possibly want from a game? That’s only answerable if you’ve played contemporaries in the genre. Because we know there have been far better stories told, way more interesting and in-depth combat systems, and immeasurably better side quests in the gaming world. AC Mirage was a tame and safe outing by all accounts, but it takes an AC veteran to know this for certain.
To further this point, let’s talk about 2023. What a year for gaming. Practically every genre experienced a boom of sorts, and there were Game of the Year contenders blasting out of every corner of the gaming universe. Unfortunately, certain companies were blind to this, and things like Sony awarding Spider-Man 2 their Game of the Year award still happened despite everyone knowing there were far better choices out there.
Spider-Man 2 is a great game for sure, but it doesn’t approach what Baldur’s Gate 3 or Alan Wake 2 did. Without that experience, your opinion lessens. I don’t care if you don’t play CRPGs. I didn’t play CRPGs until Larian bludgeoned me over the head with Game of the Year-winning Divinity: Original Sin 2 in 2019. But if you come to me and say that Baldur’s Gate 3 has nothing on a straightforward action-adventure game, it is then that I can put your experience into question.
Sometimes, you need to experience excellence outside of your usual gaming intake just to inform your opinion better. It’s like watching a movie and declaring the performance by the actor the greatest of all time. People will discredit you because you haven’t seen The Godfather or you haven’t seen Daniel Day-Lewis in action. It should be no different in the gaming world.
Then, as for the braindead extremes within this argument, If you claim Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III is the greatest game of all time, you need to have a long lie down because you’re clearly sick, and probably delirious. But, if you have the good sense to qualify that it’s the best game you’ve ever played, fine, that makes sense because it’s you who is claiming is talking about that opinion, not thrusting it onto the world as fact. It’s when you drop ‘you’ out of the equation and start presenting it as a collective declaration that things start to take a turn.
How Much do I Need to Play to Be an Expert?
I believe this itself comes down to genre alone. A player who plays one open-world RPG per year will not have an informed opinion on the genre as a whole. If you barely play any JRPGs but jump into one and have a great time, that’s wonderful, but you don’t get to claim expertise after one romp in an anime-inspired world.
You need to experience multiple games in your preferred genre per year. In 2023, the RPG was king, and Remnant 2, Lords of the Fallen, Baldur’s Gate 3, Final Fantasy 16, and Hogwarts Legacy all had their time in the sun. If you played 3 of these great games, you will have a pretty good idea of where the genre is at the moment and what its triumphs and shortcomings are.
Malcolm Gladwell once said that in order to become an expert at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. I’m not asking you to play 10,000 hours of video games, but it’s certainly something to consider when talking about who is an expert in a field or not.
Video games are now just as much a sport as basketball, baseball, or football, so it’s worth considering that the same level of mastery may be required to become an expert. Do you need to play one genre specifically for that long? I don’t think so, as many genres tend to blend together these days. There are first-person action-adventure games that share a lot in common with RPGs, and the line between different genres thins by the year.
If you’re spouting from the mountain tops (Twitter, Reddit) that certain games are the best, the GOAT or anything in between, you should be ready for a battle as there is nothing like a good proclamation such as that to get the internet warriors armed for battle.
It’s an amazing thing when a game changes your view on gaming. That happened for me with Elden Ring, as it completely shattered the open-world trappings like checkpoint markers and points of interest and everything of that ilk. I wouldn’t say it’s the best soul-like of all time, but it’s certainly one of the top innovators in the genre, and I can say that because I’ve played every mainstream soul-like in existence.
In short, you can probably be an expert on your preferred pocket of gaming, but having an opinion of everything and anything is a recipe for disaster, and really only adds to the problem that toxifies comments sections and subreddits.
Why am I Like This?
Every form of media needs gatekeepers, and it needs many of them. We aren’t particularly liked when it comes to correcting someone’s claims, but we are needed. Never a day will pass when someone claims such and such is the greatest open-world RPG of all time where I won’t respond with, “Have you played The Witcher 3?”. It’s almost second nature at this stage.
Gamers everywhere should take pride in their gaming opinions and claims, but only when they’re informed. When they’re misinformed, or rather when big-time outlets like The Rolling Stone, who don’t really specialize in game reviews, say things like “It’s the perfect video game,” I take issue with it. Not because the game they’re reviewing isn’t great but because, quite simply, they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re trying to get some clicks from people who wouldn’t typically read their publication.
Without this level of gatekeeping, we’re allowing dangerous narratives to run rampant. While you may laugh at that, developers take notice and can be strongly influenced by things like Reddit posts, TikTok, and Twitter wars.
If all of a sudden, the idea that Ubisoft’s open-world formula is the greatest thing ever made goes viral, developers will suddenly start making more and more Ubisoft-style open worlds, and slowly, our heads will cave in on themselves. You don’t want that, do you? Neither do I, so if someone needs to be annoying to keep things like that from happening, I’m happily willing to be the martyr to stop thoughts like that from ever seeing the light of day.
Now, let me check the comment section because I’m sure gaming’s weekend warriors have something to say.
Question: What won Game of the Year in 2023?
Answer: Baldur’s Gate 3 won Game of the Year and deservedly so.
Question: What’s the best souls-like of 2023?
Answer: There are a bunch of contenders, but Remnant 2, Lies of P, and Lords of the Fallen stand above the rest.
Question: Is 2024 going to be as good for gaming as 2023?
Answer: It might be even better; with several massive releases on the way and a complete reinvigoration of the JRPG genre, we could be in for quite the ride.