Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This Website is Overrated

There are two terms I see all too often whenever people have a differing opinion about a game. When it's a popular title, it's labeled as “overrated,” and if it's a largely unknown game, then it becomes “underrated.” At first glance, these words appear harmless, simply statements that reflect how one's own rating of a game differs from its median score. However, there's a certain elitist undertone to these terms, one that implies the general opinion of a game is wrong.

Not surprisingly, I see these descriptors applied to Wii games more than anything else. It seems like every worthwhile title on the system is billed as overrated by its detractors, and every decent game on the system that gets ignored is labeled underrated by its supporters.

As much as Nintendo tries, their games are not for everyone, and so not everyone is going to enjoy them. Yet it would seem too many people who prefer the Xbox 360 and/or PS3 label any popular Wii title as overrated, considering them poor titles that no one should like and holding condescending views of those who do. This also goes beyond Nintendo's own titles, stating that even the third-party and lesser-known titles get overrated because Wii owners are desperate for any decent game to play. I can accept if there are a relatively large number of people who don't like the Wii library, because it is decidedly different than that of the Xbox 360 and PS3. However, to not accept that other people have different taste in games than one's own, and to hold contempt for such individuals, is very close-minded, ignorant, and, to be blunt, asinine.

On the flip side of the coin are the underrated titles. There are two types of games this gets applied to: ones that are decently popular but have a low median score, and ones that are nearly unheard of. In the case of the former, if that many people consider the game no good, then the game is no good to a majority of people. Does that mean no one could enjoy it? Of course not, but a select few who love it aren't going to change the fact that most people don't want to play it. This should especially be recognized if one such game is being recommended to another person, as it makes for a possibility that the person will not like it.

The second case, where unknown titles are underrated, is more of a misuse. If few people have played a game and therefore it has received few ratings, it can't be underrated because so little have applied a score. In this sense, a more appropriate term is “underappreciated.” This term means that few people gave such games proper attention, and they go ignored either because people didn't put in the effort to learn about them, or plain haven't heard of them at all.

Having said this, I do believe there have been a couple of cases where a game was legitimately overrated by the media. Now, before it appears that I'm contradicting myself, I'm not arguing against these people's opinions. To give an example, Super Smash Brothers Brawl is overrated. So is Scribblenauts. These titles have some merits and I can understand how one could enjoy them, but they also have a number of undeniable flaws that anyone with a critical mind would point out. Not one single review that I read during each game's release mentioned any flaws. It would seem that reviews never saw past the “wow” factor that these two games have, and I am disappointed that no one applied any sort of critical thinking when playing and reviewing these games.

On the other hand, I can think of no game that is legitimately underrated. In my experience, if a game has received mid or low scores by the majority, it really is a mediocre or poor game ripe with technical issues or other problems. It is perhaps interesting how one can become blind to a game's faults if they enjoy it, but no one misses a game's possible merits if they hate it. This makes a degree of sense; people play videogames for entertainment, so they look for the fun in them instead of picking them apart for their flaws.

Out of a show of respect for others, I tend to avoid using both overrated and underrated when describing games. There are certainly some majority scores I disagree with, but everyone is different, and I try my best to not bemoan those with dissenting views. Likewise, the next time someone considers using either word, I hope they take a minute to contemplate what it is they are actually saying.


Supa said...

It seems the cool thing to do these days is to be original.

What I mean by that is, people will indeed skip out on something they enjoy, just because a vast majority of people start liking it. They start referring to it as "overrated" even if deep inside themselves, they know it's a great game. And once they find a different game, (maybe one that no one has really heard of) they might call it "underrated." Only to retract their claim if it happens to get popular.

I just wish that people would stop worrying about what games they're playing, and how cool they're supposed to be. Gaming should be fun for you. If you aren't having fun, then you're missing the entire point of the art.

NinSage said...

Great post, Mop_it_up.

Very insightful and true.
... not sure about that title, but... =P

I think to some extent a lot of it does come down to an elitist attitude, like Supa was getting at in his comment.

I also agree that a good bottom line is to merely think about what you're really trying to say when using those assessments.