Feeling bad about liking flawed games


#1

Have you ever played a game that you really liked only to feel bad about it later when you find out what people think about it. I’m not talking about liking a “bad” game, in the sense of a game with flawed design or lack of polish. Rather where the messages and views expressed by the game or its creators go against what you believe in.

When playing a game that has something objectionable in its content, or controversial about its creators. Reading arguments against and all the “hot takes” about the game, can really sour me on the experience. For some reason or another the game resonated with me, but at the same time I find myself unable to defend its criticized aspects.

I begin to feel ashamed for liking the game. Especially when I agree with the criticisms against it at large. Sometimes I just feel exhausted about the whole thing. Like I would rather not think about it at all. There are also times where the supposed objectionable content stems from a connection I simply didn’t experience. Along the lines of “Obviously this is a metaphor for X because the developer believes in Y. And if you like this game that means you believe in Y as well”.

Surely I’m not alone in feeling like this sometimes. What do you do when something you like contains offensive content? Do you think that a game can depict a negative point of view without necessarily advocating for it outside its own world? And of course the age old question, can you separate the art from the artist?


#2

I have come to accept it. Because I cannot see any other way of engaging with the current world that’s productive. I don’t ignore it, but I don’t feel bad about it because otherwise everything would be built to make me feel bad and push a spiral of anxiety and depression.

Most action and cape genre work (so probably the majority of all money spent on creating English-language film, considering blockbuster budgets and typical genres of those movies) is written to say that might equals right. Cape stories in particular often lean on a broken linking of real-life oppression (being at the mercy of power vectors) with fictional strength - sometimes it’s far less clear if they’re written knowingly as escapism or just the genre conventions have broken the association (and so replicate problematic messages about why oppressed people deserve to be oppressed as they’re more dangerous - see justifications for the murder of men of colour, discussion around the danger of people with mental health conditions, trans people blocked from accessing any public spaces). And that’s just one (huge) genre, similar cases can be made about most stories and how they absorbed societal bigotry in their formation.

As to creators, again I cannot find a way of continuing to engage with society while isolating myself from people who hate me, my friends, and other marginalised people. I cannot see how I will gain from limiting myself from engaging with the canon because the people who created it are always imperfect and often outright hateful. Katherine Cross wrote, about engaging with the academic canon:

If you are a woman, or a person of color, or a trans person with intellectual aspirations, your road will be lit by many a spiteful lantern. You must engage with texts written by people that hate you, whose ideas may even have been used to proactively harm people like you. […] Indeed, to be a trans woman who proposes to become an academic feminist is to consciously walk across shards of glass

I like lots of media with offensive or problematic elements, with bad elements, with hateful creators. And I try to remember that people writing about their negative experiences with that aren’t writing at me - it’s not about you and the media, it’s about the writer and the media as it relates their their life.

Things resonate with us, that’s normal. If we are aware of how certain elements of stories can replicate and reinforce real world power vectors then we can be aware of how it could form or reinforce biases. Being aware of these things and honestly evaluating how they influence our thinking is a major step towards being much less likely to replicate them, especially without thinking about it. If we’re thinking about it, that’s important. Simply ignoring media with tropes in - not so much.


#3

I think it’s very important to hold on the idea, that just because you like something that is in any way flawed, it isn’t analogous to your character being flawed (unless what you enjoy is the exact thing that is the hypothetical flaw, of course). It’s not a matter of seperating art from artist, but moreso a matter of accepting that your own experience is a valuable one. Accepting that a game has flaws is all well and good, but so is being able to accept that it didn’t ruin your experience. No one should ever feel bad for enjoying whatever art they like, flawed or otherwise.


#4

Yeah I get that. I really enjoyed L.A. Noire for example. And that game got ripped to shreds by critics. And in a lot of cases for good reason. It does have a set of problematic aspects. But also IT’S SO PRETTY, ha. I’m a sucker for anything historical and games where atmosphere and setting is really well crafted and detailed. Especially articles that took a bit of an ironic or sarcastic tone to dice the game’s problems were really stingy, but I do think it’s important to critically analyse things so it’s something I had to teach myself too; enjoying a game but not be immune or defensive to criticism.


#5

It’s ok to like stuff with bad content as long as you’re not excusing the bad content just because you like it. I like the hell out of Tintin books even though some of them got just MAD racist, and I would never try to defend those indefensible aspects. Like what you like and just be aware of the Implications.


#6

There’s nothing wrong with liking aspects of something while not liking, or even despising, other aspects. My wife is a fan of Gwen Stefani even though her Harajuku girl period was fucking atrocious. I’m an unabashed “leftist SJW snowflake”, yet I love '80s action movies even thought the vast majority of those promote a Reaganist, Neo-Conservative agenda with a white savior (although I love RoboCop the most because it is so anti-Reagan, and one of the fewest examples of a “progressive” action movie).

I think the most important thing is that, when people talk about why they have issues with something, that you listen. Even when the person is saying “Don’t play this game”, what they really mean is “I have a voice that isn’t being heard.”

A lot of my friends get super defensive when an article comes out that criticizes something they love that they forget to listen to the person at the other end of the argument. I remember when the Ghost in the Shell live-action movie came out and I knew a couple die-hard anime fans who actually enjoyed the movie. They shared articles about how the director of the anime liked the casting of Scarlett Johansson. They shared articles about how Japanese people (i.e. people who live in Japan) didn’t care about this issue. However, if you look at the people who were complaining about Johansson’s casting, it wasn’t Japanese people; it was Asian-American actors. The point wasn’t “how dare they cast a white woman instead of a real-life Japanese person!” The argument was “Asian-Americans don’t get any leading roles, and here’s another great example of how they could have hired one of us.”

Anyway, yeah. I think it’s important to listen to what people have to say. As a creator in my own right, I am constantly looking for inspiration, and I’m okay focusing on the things I like. Then, when I make something, I can be sure to not make the same mistakes for the things I don’t like.


#7

It really depends on why any particular thing is considered “bad”. Fundimentally, nobody likes something without reason, so I’ll often find myself defending things I like based on the stuff that’s actually good, or at least good enough that I can enjoy it. It’s usually small stuff that makes the rest of whatever game/movie/show worth putting up with to experience. But that’s just talking about “harmlessly bad” stuff like Super Mario Sunshine, as opposed to wider political issues Bad With a Capital B.

In those cases, it still applies, just, you know, with a bit more caution. You don’t want to be excusing whatever mistake was made. Breath of the Wild is a good recent example, what with it’s less than stellar forey into trans issues. In cases like that I generally try to become informed enough about the subject that I can at the very least see exactly what the problem is. Not just refusing to examine it. As a general rule for myself, if I see any actual malice behind something like Breath of the Wild’s unfortunate trans stuff, I’m not likely to get on with it in the first place. Which is why I do still like Breath of the Wild despite it’s mistakes in that area, because knowing what I do about differences between western and japanese tropes relating to crossdressing, and the lack of trans visibility in japan, I feel like it’s mistakes come from mostly from ignorance. I can understand that. I can expect better in the future, but I can understand that BotW’s mistakes are just that, mistakes.

That’s just one way of dealing with it though, it really does vary a lot from game to peice to peice. I see a lot of other gay folks that still enjoy Persona 5 despite it really not doing fantastic on that front, because they see the main cast as incredibly gay, which I find super interesting. I’ve never played it, but the idea of forgiving bad gay representation because of accidental good representation is facinating.

So I guess that’s my extremely disjointed random thaughts on that.


#8

Paul Verhoeven movies are amazing XD I love Starship Troopers; seemed so jingoistic and glorifying militarism at the surface but the underlying tone is deeply cynical about the US.


#9

in this world i don’t think there’s really any way to avoid consuming fiction that has problematic aspects. it’s a shame but that’s how things are right now. even people who are trying hard not to hurt people with their work can make mistakes, to say nothing of the people out there who don’t try out of ignorance or plain malice. it’s good to be aware of the the issues in a work but that doesn’t mean you have to stop liking it if other things about it really resonate with you.

i’m one of those Persona 5 Likers who was painfully aware while playing that the writers apparently think gay people are gross & a joke, and that as well as the bad fanservice and the forced heterosexuality made it hard to play through certain parts, but i loved the characters, overall themes, aesthetics, and story enough to come out of the game feeling positive about my experience overall despite these (glaring and terrible) faults. i wish there was a version of that game out there without the nastier aspects but unfortunately that is not the case.

as a longtime anime liker i’ve had to come to terms with the fact that shows and other media i can enjoy and recommend to others without caveats are very rare. i really love 2d animation though so i’m not likely to stop watching even though many aspects of anime and anime culture consistently disappoint me (this isn’t to say that anime is the only thing like this, just that the bad tropes common in it are well-known and very pervasive and it was the thing that first made me really aware of this predicament)


#10

I like to play LOL.but when i am always failing with the end.I feel very bad.


#11

There is for sure a limit on how flawed a thing can be before I will side eye someone about liking it. If someone tells me that Hatred or Monster Monpiece is their favorite game I am almost certainly going to do everything in my power to be no where near that person at all times. Something has to be pretty damn bad though before that’s an issue

The other thing is that I try to be aware of what my saying I like a game means in a greater context. For instance I really love Horizon: Zero Dawn but also that game has some super gross appropriation bullshit in it and the writer’s reaction to being called out on it is maybe even worse and I don’t need to be part of it’s marketing team by going around telling people how much I love it. And that’s fine! I am not defined by the media I like and while it’s one thing to like a game with some issues it’s another to canonize it


#12

I feel that a lot, especially when people have valid criticisms about stuff I like, such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Yes, I love both of those things and I’ll talk with fellow fans, but those shows don’t need me to sing their praises and sell them to the rest of the world.


#13

I always feel bad when people are even just lukewarm on games I like. one of the best things about Waypoint and discovering Danielle through it is that I will have somebody who shares my enthusiasm for Psychonauts 2 in a way that I don’t think I’ll get from Giant Bomb.