Saturday, June 6, 2015

Splatoon: Fun Before Criticism

There's something about the gaming world that repeatedly absorbs me into the muddy aspects that I don't like about gaming, and yet no matter how much awareness I have towards these ailing areas I still find myself taking part in them, however temporarily, regardless. Some of them I've managed to conquer and leave behind, like preferential manias ("system wars," say) and blind statistics (do we really know how many copies the Metroid Prime series sold? Does it really matter?), but there are some corners that still stick out, pierce my ribs, and then swing me over into an all-too familiar shit hole that I immediately know I should get out of--- but still stick around, just for a while, because of some deranged, self-harming addictive element, like a fly swimming in dog crap.
In this blog, what I'm specifically referring to is skewed "criticism," or synthetic complaining, about games that you are having a terrific experience with and yet are compelled to be judgmental and negative about whenever you publicize your opinion concerning, which any thoughtful investigation of a forum discussion will prove true. I assume this phenomenon of judgment comes from the fact that the videogame Review, and the reactionary impulse to loudly applaud or loudly disagree with each one, remains the most impacting form of journalism for gaming, rather than varied discussion and personal interpretation.
This is a ridiculous environment. There is nothing that needs a bullet-point list so to be discussed, and this is especially true when you're discussing in a personal matter. The strive for objectivity in gaming journalism is important, but there needs to be drawn a line between journalistic writing, and personal. At least for me it does.
And so--- Splatoon.
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I have some complaints with Splatoon, and if I were writing a review of Splatoon I'd cast hard judgment for this new and inventive title from Nintendo. The literal couple of game-modes play too chaotically, Turf Wars being meaningless until the last 30 seconds, and the lack of player-communication support disables Splatoon from becoming a thoroughly competitive game, which it certainly could be. This is also another videogame that launched with promises of updates, and there is something greatly problematic with this trend because the game is full-price, and in no way does Splatoon feel like a full game. It promises to become one, but then why even bother with this thin, if not skeletal, form now? Updates are in no way guaranteed, and this should never be overlooked with games like Splatoon. Updates are a method to keep a game selling if it succeeds prior. But if the game were to fail or drop off the radar, then those updates, which are just promises and not contractual agreement with the consumer, will also fall through.
And I won't humor Splatoon's campaign; it's short, it's obscenely easy, and it's position is as something to do while the Internet is down in your home or when you've gone on a frustrating losing streak in multiplayer. It's significantly limited in what it offers, and grossly elementary with what it does. And so, when the multiplayer goes dead in Splatoon, whether that is five years or six months from now, Splatoon will become a rather useless game to own, multiplayer updates or not, and this isn't something that I would say is acceptable, or at least not yet (and hopefully ever), with full price games.
So I have some serious problems with Splatoon. I question the entire game-design, and the way Splatoon's multiplayer focus indifferently views the individual consumer while still charging full-price inspires some conservative philosophy that I feel is relevant in judging Splatoon. If this were a review, which I like to write with the intention of being a consumer report rather than artistic criticism, my final opinion would be that there is a serious lapse in the total realization of Splatoon as a game in its current form, and that the cons within Splatoon's total design far outweigh the positives of its ingenuity and smooth gameplay. This would be my objective opinion.
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All of that said, I'm not writing a review here. What I want to talk about here, and what I always mean to talk about on forums, is my own personal experiences with the game, which have been immensely satisfying. Splatoon has fast become a beloved addition to my Wii U library, and in the five days the game has been out I've put more than fifteen hours into it and not a one has been without excitement and enjoyment.
I've been excited for Splatoon for reasons that are indifferent to my Review criticisms. When Splatoon was revealed at E3 2014 I was eager to get my hands on it because it didn't look like it would be an intensively competitive shooter, which would be a great change of pace in my gaming world. It had this great art-style and original gameplay ideas and it looked like silly, simple, and easy-going fun. I never expected Splatoon to make me want to start a clan and start bickering with teammates about position and strategy; I expected it to be highly casual and accessible, and all of these desires and expectations came out to be true.
I really don't care that the Aerospray is easily the best weapon for Turf Wars, and I don't care that there are only six maps available now. I also don't care that I can't talk to my teammates (who are almost always Japanese it seems, and my 日本語 skills are rather poor anyway). None of this stuff, whether competitive play or ultra-balanced gameplay, matters to my personal expectations and desires from Splatoon. My big hope from Splatoon was that it would be a shooter that I could play without giving a damn about winning or losing, about being able to just have fun and explore this strange little world of boneless squid-kids, and that's exactly what Splatoon delivered. And it's awesome.
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There is a time and a place for criticism, or praise. The two are not always linked together; criticism has its obvious value, but so too does praise. There's more to be gained from socializing about gaming than just frustration and the investigation of error. There's fun in gaming discussion, and being able to explore that fun, to put into words what exactly made an experience so uniquely and positively your own, is as important a public display for others as criticism is.
The problems with a game do not necessarily outweigh its successes, and this is important to understand. With Splatoon, the only way to criticize it is as a multiplayer shooter, and the staples and consistencies within that genre do prevent Splatoon from earning anything other than a very lightly positive review. But that doesn't mean that the actual experience of Splatoon is lacking. The oddly colorful Japanese designs, the quirky construct of amalgamating squids, and even the single player story, which has charming collectibles that humorously tell the history of the war between inklings and octolings, is inspiring and delightfully creative, and I would say it's completely untrue if someone were to state that Splatoon is not worth experiencing because of its objective issues.
This blog is almost an apology, because the reason I'm writing this is because I made the error of resuming the character of the bitter gamer when Splatoon released. My review criticisms I portrayed as my personal opinion, and this was completely unfair and dishonest. Splatoon has been an excellent experience, and I am consistently surprised by the imaginative qualities that are the true structure of this game. It's a world of its own, from gameplay, art, sound, and really everything, and there's something that needs to be celebrated with this. The degree of individuality in Splatoon is what I'd argue most significantly in its favor: Splatoon is downright amazing and sensationally brilliant, and deserves to be experienced.