The notion that media can't be criticized


#1

I was looking at the Waypoint facebook feed and say this comment on the Persoan 5 article about lack of queer characters

Not every story needs a checklist of sjw tropes in order to pander to close minded people. This article is is terrible and disrespectful to those who made it. If you only plan on playing games that allow homosexual relationships that is your prerogative. However you cannot claim a game failed simply because it doesn’t allow it as an option. Grow up. Not everything in this world was made to satiate your selfish desires.

Obviously he wrong since the article talks about how having queer characters can make the game stronger and we ourselves had a lengthy conversation about it. The point I’m making about this is that the person doesn’t want to be criticize which is odd since by not addressing issue in anything, whether the product is good or bad, leads to a lack of improvement in future projects. Where is this notion of zero criticism coming from?


#2

If we actually stop to criticize we have to admit there are problems. The loud minority of gamers who don’t want any change, prevent this from happening by trying to shut down any discussion.

That’s because there is no argument against this that doesn’t go “I don’t want more gay people in my games” which is an indefensible position. So it is easier to just shut down the topic from the start and pretend that there is no need to have the discussion.

So the argument becomes not “Here is why I disagree” but instead “You have underhand motives for even suggesting this.”

It spins into all sorts of fun conspiracy theories from there because where else can it go?


#3

It’s also very much about sacred cows and “team” mentality. The queerphobic person quoted in the original comment cannot be defended but we can look at how this is recreated in wider contexts that avoid an explicit oppressive framing. I give you the echoes of a 1990s corporate fight:

For example, “there are no good Sonic games”. People express this sort of view all the time around a series that defined speed for 2D platformers and had a mixed record in 3D (but probably having more enjoyable games than duds there, for a typical player). Rarely will you hear “oh, you can’t criticise any Sonic game” but you will hear that the dedicated fans of that series are “rabid” and other terms designed to imply that there’s something not right with people who defend that series. Professional critics who love the games will often play up how “irrational” this affection is to fit the wider view. It is a running joke that new Sonic games can never be good enough for the critical consensus to shift and any fans with hopes for a great game are necessarily disappointed (and not just by the actual bad games that sometimes come out). That the older games were actually never as good as their praise at the time and continued sales implied. So here the in-group mentality is that it’s only a few “weird” people who defend these games and you can even criticise the very peaks of the series without really bringing your rationale into it.

On the other hand, “there are no good Mario games”. I mean, the platformers go from 2D that don’t feel good to 3D that definitely don’t feel good, swing and miss for the various cartoon styles they aim for (always looking limited by the technical limitations other games eclipsed years earlier), and increasingly get filled with failed attempts at story. The other genres suffer similarly. The “innovation” is simply repackaging ideas that originated in other games and if Nintendo Power hadn’t raised a generation of critics to think Nintendo PR was part of the critics pool then Mario games would never have reached their position in the gaming canon. If your blood is boiling from reading that then welcome to the in-group mentality being that Mario games are definitely good and in some way criticism must be extremely carefully crafted. Beyond criticism? Maybe not but definitely you don’t want to just accept the italicised statements above at face value, “well actually…” may demand factual corrections.

I think, with this example, we hit on the idea that the contested point here isn’t actually that media can be beyond criticism but that how the validity (metacriticism is a thing we all do) of that criticism is evaluated is something that very much depends on our view of not just the ideas brought to the criticism (“SJW” is bad vs analysis within the framework of real power dynamics in society) but also even the media being criticised. An Atlus games and specifically a Persona game has a specific meaning for many people which amplifies any views on which critical ideas are being brought to discuss the title and how heavily they should play into a wider critical discussion.


#4

I think a lot of the blow back to criticism comes from people latching on to games (or other media) as part of their identity. A couple of weeks ago Rock Paper Shotgun linked an article about Anita Sarkeesian and a guy in the comments was all riled up about it. I straight up asked ‘Why do Anita’s videos make make you angry?’ The response was ‘Games are very important to me, she says bad things about games’.

Some people see criticism of something they love as criticism of themselves. It’s almost an empathy thing, ‘I can’t see the world from your view therefore you view is invalid’.

Personally I enjoy criticism, especially from angles I would never arrive at myself.


#5

Shivoa’s post is really excellent, but I also read an essay about parts of this a few weeks ago that I highly recommend:


#6

For starters, the quote in the OP is way off base. I’ve finally gotten into the thick of P5 (my struggles with this are well documented on this forum) and the boys in that game are clearly in love with you, so “SJW checklists aside” the fact that they you should be able to date them is completely valid criticism. Especially considering YOU CAN BANG YOUR TEACHER!

As for the main point I think idea of

people latching on to games (or other media) as part of their identity.

is more what’s at play in that kind of comment than media being beyond criticism, because the nasty vocal minority of “gamers” is also prone to harshly criticizing games and the people who make them – often including death threats – for simply not being what they imagined they would be or trying to promote LGBT or POC storylines.

No Man’s Sky comes to mind as a good example of this. While there were clearly some issues with the way that game was presented to the public, there are hordes of people who feel Hello Games and Sean Murray personally slighted them by making a game that wasn’t what they expected.

There’s also a competitive aspect at play, in which people who base large portions of their identity around the media they consume feel they most constantly prove that said media is the best to affirm their self worth.

This is something that can be commonly seen in the comments of most coverage of Dragon Ball FigtherZ, which dared to evoke some systems made most famous by the Marvel v. Capcom series and is now seen as destroying the livelihood of Marvel v. Capcom Infinite.

Instead of admitting that both games have their place, many feel the need to establish themselves on the side of the “winner” to superficially boost themselves above any fools willing to play an inferior game.


#7

It’s pretty much been said, but I think the Facebook critique-critic just had a problem with that particular criticism rather than criticism as a whole. The question in the OP is just too general; it’s like asking “Where are all the people going when I see them on the road?” Many places.

Recently I wrote a comment on a YouTube page where I complained about the instrument mix of a song. The first response I got was that the song was “golden”. I tried to give an amateur explaination of audio-clipping and bitrate, but the response I got was that I should relax because the song is “fun”.

I’ve been on the other side too. I play some games that are somewhat avant-garde and the criticisms on GameJolt can really miss the non-point. It can be frustrating to see criticism that mostly consists of what a piece of media does not do rather than a report of what it actually does. That may be how Facebooker is viewing the criticism of Persona 5.


#8

Yeah, I guess my question was a little too general. It coming from how every article I see that is doing a deep dive into a subject there always people out right angry about it and kinda pushing it to the side.


#9

I know what you mean.
The first time I ever played a drumset I explained to the owner of it that I didn’t know how to play. He said that it doesn’t matter how skilled you are, a thousand people are going to hate whatever you do and one person will really, really like it. Nothing demonstrates this better than comments on the internet.