Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors.
-John F. Kennedy
A little controversy never hurt anyone. I’ve never shied away from it, though I’ve earned it more than once for my firmly-held opinions or (more frequently) for saying something incredibly stupid or awkward. Some people deserve the backlash; I certainly have, now and again.
Anyway, I’m not taking this opportunity to gripe about the past or fish for sympathy. These are simply the 7 most controversial posts I’ve personally written on The Well-Red Mage, for better or worse!
Remember the time I said I was quitting, rebranded the entire blog, and then gave out the Black Humor Mage’s email (he’s a personal friend irl) in a post on April Fool’s Day and said I’d give out a gift card to whoever sent him his favorite meme? Turns out he didn’t get too many memes but the stuff he did get was extremely crass. Thanks internet for being both disappointing and predictable all at the same time! Anyway, this was the most… exorbitant prank I’ve ever played on this blog. It wasn’t all that well-seen to even be controversial but it was pretty controversial for at least one dude I know!
Even after penning a long-form critique, the likes of which some self-appointed quality control Reddit member called “egregious”, I still thought Spider-Man was recommendable (if not more than that). It nails the character of Peter Parker and the Doctor Octopus stuff was great, and its interpretation and utilization of Spidey’s powers are beyond exceptional, as you’ll know if you read my “ill-informed” and “contrarian” review hahaha!
Critique involves criticism and criticism invites controversy. My observation has been the longer the review and the bigger and more recent the game, the higher chance there is for controversy; people will delightedly read as many as 9k words for the opportunity to express their counter-opinion afterward. It’s prime motivation. But the best part about being a critic is being criticized ourselves. Really! Criticism helps us improve! So at this rate, I should be an immortal next year.
I’ve found that discussing the nature and state of games criticism itself is highly controversial. We’re used to games being critiqued but the current status of critique itself being critiqued? Yet, that was the point of the Anatomy series. I expect to continue it eventually but one of the most widely seen and most widely discussed segments came about when talking on the potential utility of points-based grading systems. Turns out, a lot of people have very passionate feelings about such numerical systems and their value, or lack thereof, and the conversation (and occasional debate) was fanned even higher thanks to an oversimplifying graph I found online regarding score inflation. This was a wild ride and it made me happy to be a games writer!
I love the Asking Big Questions series, especially because it involves inviting others to share their thoughts! However, I discovered early on that some questions can frustrate merely by being asked. This was just one example which seemed to infuriate a few internet inhabitants who insisted it had already been answered and the question was pointless. That sounded to me like they were protecting some secret so I asked the question anyway. Does that make me a troll or a seeker of truth?
Ladies and gentlemen, the conversation is worth having, in and of itself.
This post takes us way back. Admittedly, not everything I wrote then was up to snuff and I was still getting my sea legs. This is an example of an awkwardly phrased article which took too long to get to its real point, which relied on clickbait, and therefore created misconceptions about its nature. Never again, unless in parody.
Basically, I polled for feedback regarding complaints anyone had about retro or modern gaming, and I collected the data I found. My point was “What’s most important is being critical even about what you love and laughing at it once in a while.” There were flaws on both sides. However, it’s evident I’d failed my readers when there was a lot of defensive comments on the blog, in PMs, and on Twitter. People came to defend their chosen camp rather than think about both sides having issues, or just having a laugh at it all. Sure a few people got it, but those that didn’t did not because I rushed this out before it was cool. Or maybe some points don’t really need to be made…
This may take the cake for the worst article I’ve ever written (and THAT is saying something). It appeared as a guest blog on another site and received terrible ratings on their built-in five-star reader-rating system, deservedly. I started off by inviting hatred in saying “The N64 may have been Nintendo’s first step toward irrelevance.” I then went on to describe how Nintendo could learn to handle third-party developers in a new and different way for the Switch based on their failures with the N64… but I made that point by listing some terrible third-party games and saying the N64 didn’t have many great third-party titles (I still believe that because I don’t think wrestling games are all that great). Immediately, people rushed to respond that the N64 had better games than that. It did, sure. I didn’t clarify that, really.
What did I learn? Be careful about ranking entries in lists. They can be immediately perceived as worst to best situations.
Provocative! Far and above the most controversial article I’ve ever written, I spent almost a month responding to comments the size of novellas because of my criticism of a masterpiece. Heck, I still get comments on it now and then with the usual “it’s art” or “that’s just how people are”.
It didn’t matter that I gave this game extremely high marks for its technical achievements, gameplay, music, performances, setting, and so on. Never underestimate the reader’s ability to home in on something they find disagreeable out of nearly ten-thousand words. I heavily criticized the game’s handling of Joel’s character arc, its gratuitous graphic content, and stuff about that ending, and it earned me the slings and arrows: they said I didn’t have a heart, I was emotionally dead inside, I didn’t know how to critique games, I was inventing hypothetical situations out of nowhere, I was just saying it to be edgy and going against what was popular for the sake of it. I find it curious that so many arguments against a position can be boiled down to character assassination. Not all comments I received did this, though, and some were mixed.
When it was all said and done, I think I’d confronted every possible argument against my position (and myself?) imaginable, but look… I cherished the civil debates I had with many individuals and I tried to recognize that people had their own positions on the game not because they were “just fans” or “on the bandwagon” or “sheeple” but because they were passionate about a game that’s obviously great in many ways. I still believe that masterpieces aren’t above reproach on the simple basis of being masterpieces, but I have tried to take care since then when criticizing extremely popular landmark titles.
And if you’re thinking about going there to leave me a comment… at least let me take a nap first hahaha! No, actually, I’ll probably just direct you to read the comments themselves and see if I answered your rebuttal already, thanks.
Geez, that sounded snarky. I guess that’s why I’ve seen my fair share of controversy!
GUESS TOMORROW’S #1
All that’s left is to prompt you to guess tomorrow’s #1 pick! Tomorrow’s Top 7 list will be… my 7 honorable mentions! These are my top 7 games that didn’t appear on my top 111 favorite games list. This is going to be the very last chance to guess, unless we go into over-time! Considering that, you can ask me if I’ve played a game BEFORE you drop it as your guess!
Let me know what you think my #1 honorable mention is in the comments below TODAY! Remember to leave your name or username so I know who you are! Link to your Twitter or blog if you want to. Follow the event on Twitter with #TWRM7top7.
I’ll reveal my Top 7 honorable mentions in a post on this site tomorrow at 8am Pacific (Tuesday), so come back and discover the truth! OR you can poke around and see if you can pick up any clues… or review the rules.
Good luck and happy almost-the-end-of-this-event!
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