Overrated Is Overrated

There's a hot piece going around Twitter right now about Breath of the Wild. It's about 7,035 words long and has a header image that says "independent thought alarm" (edgy!) It is, for all intents, a Bad Take (tm), and reads more like an angry screed about why Breath of the Wild is bad because it's not like games that came out over a decade ago. Fun. I'm not going to link it because game journalism thrives on your clicks, and that's one take that doesn't deserve them. Go read some Waypoint or GamesCriticism.org. Go watch some hbomberguy, Joseph Anderson, or Matthewmatosis. Support something that's earned it. Support decent sites. Love yourself.

On the same token, it's bad form to be a contrarian jackass and tear apart someone's argument. I hate it when people do that, because it just seems so petty. Sure, I think the piece is pretty poor across the board, and I think the take is pretty bad, and I think evoking Strunk, White, and Chekov are very forced attempts at trying to look smart, but hey. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. At least, that's what I think. But the author of that piece can't just say he doesn't like something, defend it, and leave it at that. Instead, he adds in this choice passage.

I love Zelda as much as the next guy, but we need to collectively calm down with all the medals and awards we give this game. It did not innovate or do anything new. It used concepts from other games and no it did not reinvent or improve them just because it's Zelda. People speak with such gravitas about this game, describing the most mundane of actions with flowery prose, acting like its the only game to ever have weather systems, climbing, or different ways to approach battle. "Name one game where you climb anywhere," they say, as if being able to climb anywhere is inherently a good thing and as if you can't pose the same request from any game. 


While this bit is unsurprising in an article entitled, "Breaking Down Why Breath of the Wild Is Overrated," it is disheartening. Because while I'm known far and wide, among approximately four people at max, for being a bit of an opinionated dick, I take umbrage with the idea of telling people they're flatout wrong. Furthermore, I take a really, really big issue with shitting on someone for liking something. I think the piece I put up about Persona 5 yesterday should make that abundantly clear. Sure, I think that game's pretty bad, but if you think it's good, that's great. Do I think it's good to question why you like something? Yeah, of course. But am I going to shame you and make fun of you for liking it? Hell no. Like what you like. God knows I like some "bad" stuff. I mean, I've lost count of how many times I've played Duke Nukem Forever only half-ironically, and I'm a fucking Sonic fan. That should tell you everything you need to know, really.

But this Zelda article, which is really less an article and more of a rant that could've used some editorial TLC, seems to have active disdain for somebody liking something. That's a line that I don't think should be crossed. Shitting on somebody for what they like isn't an "independent thought," it's being needlessly confrontational. Shitting on something popular with an argument that amounts to "it isn't that good, you guys" isn't an independent thought, it's being contrarian for hate-clicks. Shitting on somebody for describing why they like something with "flowery prose" isn't an independent thought, it's policing their tone, and also the pot calling the kettle black considering the circumstances.

Which gets to the crux my brief point. Calling something "overrated" is, in and of itself, overrated. It's a lazy argument, one laced with needless venom that incenses people to the point where they immediately shout back with, "nuh-uh!" The person who instigated this bad discourse can then say "yeah-huh!," then the other party can shout "nuh-uh!" even louder. It turns to shitflinging interspersed with Le Rational Thinkers (tm) saying, "well, actually, I see your point." But what all three parties would be missing is that there very often isn't actually a point. The point is being contrarian. The point is picking a fight. That's all there is, at the very core. This Breath of the Wild piece is the perfect embodiment of this phenomenon, because the writer's restating of his thesis boils down to, "why do people like this think I don't like, they need to stop it, it's not that good!"

Compelling argument there, friend-o.

See, I often have lots of takes that go against popular opinion. I think Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 2, and Shadow of Mordor are bad games. Conversely, I think Final Fantasy XIII, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Deadly Premonition are good ones. This even goes to movies (disliked War for the Planet of the Apes, but loved Power Rangers,) anime (Psycho-Pass makes me cringe but I think Yurikuma Arashi is a masterpiece,) and music (Ed Sheeren's a hack imo but I'll jam out to some ICP.) The thing is? I'll never say you're wrong for liking the things I don't, or that the things you like are "overrated." Sure, I might rib you, but I don't mean anything by it. I'm not so convinced in my good taste that I'll shit all over yours to make myself feel better. Everyone's different, dude. Acting like something's bad just because it's popular and you don't like it makes you look bitter and unfun.

I know this from experience, because for a good portion of my life, people hated me for what an unfun prick I was. I was the first person to dump on a popular thing by calling it "overrated," and by consequence, the first person to dump on somebody who liked that popular thing. But the older I got, the more I realized that I was being kind of a dick. I was convinced that I had good tastes, that I knew what was bad, that I was right, dammit, that I didn't stop to take a look around and look at all the hurt feelings in my wake. What was the point in calling something overrated other than showing what an enlightened, holier-than-thou pseudo-intellectual I was? It burned bridges and started arguments over bullshit that didn't matter.

A hundred years from now, it won't really matter if we called something "overrated" or not. We'll be fucking dead. Things that are good and were more than just flashes in the pan will last, regardless of whether or not we were presenting contrarian takes in the moment. What's more productive is to present critiques that can be enjoyed retroactively without the inherent vitriol in calling something "overrated."

The thing is, I have my own issues with Breath of the Wild. I don't think the story is very good, despite some bright spots. I think the boss design is kind of lazy. I think the game's a lil homophobic. I wish there were more puzzle shrines and less fight-y ones. But do I think the game's "overrated"? Nah. Because that's a dumb argument. It's just "rated." There's no grand conspiracy to lavish praise on a game just because it's a Zelda title, as the writer seems to suggest. A lot of people just like it. And that's fine. And if you have issues with the game, your hot take's going to have been a whole lot hotter than it's "overrated," people are too nice, or you don't understand how the fuck showing and not telling works in storytelling.

Yeah, that was a cheap shot, but I had to get it off my chest. Anyway.

Stop calling things overrated. It makes you look like you lack any semblance of integrative complexity. Peace.

Oh, and maybe don't use "less memorable than my ex-girlfriends' birthdays" as a descriptor, because it's just... it's really tacky, alright, man?


Just chill.


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