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ODE TO TYRANT GAMERS

10 November 2004

Imagine the following.

You're living in a happy little world that doesn't seem too totalitarian and where the people are not at first sight perceptibly fascistic. You go about your business, and play lots of games, along with many other people who appear to like games just as you do. You respect each other's choices, and although you may not always agree on which games are good and which are most surely not, you don't go into a fight over it. So far, so happy.

But now imagine there being this one game that eeeeeeverybody seems to like. Did I say 'like'? I meant obsessed with. Did that seem a bit willy-nilly? Alright then: it's their new Messiah. And imagine that you have, for whatever reason, never played this game. It's already a bit old, say, some seven years or so, but people maintain their idyllic infatuations with it even to this date. Should you care? Of course not! Why, you're even a bit excited over it and want to play it too, to see what everybody is yelling about and devoting their lives to! Hurray for you, hurray for games!

So, with maybe a little bit too much bold anticipation, you borrow the game from a friend and start playing it. But then you discover that the game isn't all that good. Mind you, it's certainly not horrible, and you can see why some things were revolutionary for its time, but... it's been surpassed. It's barely playable. And you know that's not because it's old; because you've played many archaic games that were perfectly playable even now. But this game... it just falls apart, slipping through your fingers as you play. You trudge along, giving the game so much as twenty hours of play, before you finally realise that it's not going to get any better. Bored and disappointed, you put down the controller, and after weeks of steady play, you return the game to your friend. He asks you what you thought of it, and then it begins.

All of a sudden, you find yourself in a hostile world. These people will not be messed with, and they won't accept the slightest critique on their precious baby. You try to be reasonable, you try to find the right arguments and reasons why you didn't like the game. But it all falls on deaf ears. Resistance is futile. And all of a sudden, you find that the whole world is turning against you. Teenage ladies slap you when you say the game is slightly overrated. Debate on the internet results in failure and angry comments. And, I kid you not, grown men all of a sudden pop up in the train from a nearby bench to staunchly defend their game from the call to reason of the treacherous miscreant that is you.

Comments are numerous, but fall mostly in categories such as 'if you don't like our game, you can't possibly be a gamer!', or 'the things you didn't like, they're inherent to the genre', or 'Millions of people like this game', or 'you didn't understand the game' -with the added prejudice that you should just return to Doom 3, where you must have been coming from if you thought our game wasn't grrrrreat. Valid reasons are scarce, and even though many will get angry at you when you utter your suspicion that a large percentage of the devotees like the game because it was their first in the genre, or the first game they played that featured somewhat of a narrative; they won't so easily be persuaded to give actual arguments that it doesn't just fall down to nostalgia. Being a reviewer and having seen tons of games, you are able to put the game in the right perspective, looking at it from an objective stance. But in the face of this horde of acolytes that is willing to neither accept nor admit any of the reasonable flaws that you point out, you feel alone and afraid. When complete strangers start breaking into your conversation when discussing the flaws of this game, you know that there's something wrong. Something terribly, brainwashy wrong.

This game is called Final Fantasy VII.

Roderick.