This week, I’ve been really enjoying the new PlayStation 5 game Horizon: Forbidden West. It’s a straightforward adventure game with roleplaying elements, with beautiful graphics and a great score.
It’s also a game that has been criticized for not having enough “new ideas” and “doesn’t rewrite the genre.” And I’ve seen plenty of conversations on Twitter about how it “doesn’t take risks” and “plays it safe.”
In my mind, these are fair but silly critiques that evaluate the game based on not simply how good it is, but what it “does” for the genre. It is not enough for a game to be fun to play, or emotional, or graphically interesting — it must also somehow push the boundaries of what gaming is and what it does. It’s a really fun game that looks good and plays well, with a good story. It makes me feel good when I play it because I enjoy it.
And I love that, because I’m tired of my entertainment products trying to create audience discussion rather than just being good. I am tired of people having to explain to me at length why something is good versus just enjoying it myself. I am tired of watching movies or TV shows that fuel arguments about what will happen next, and even more tired of the showrunners and writers that actively fuel these asinine, meaningless conversations.
Some of this grew from the post-Lost hype — the idea that instead of writing stories, you could leave big gaps for the viewer to interpret and then blame anyone who didn’t enjoy it for lacking in curiosity. Inception, an otherwise good movie, ends on a cliffhanger because Christopher Nolan knew that millions of people would use this as a reason to see the movie again and again, trying to work out what he “meant” versus actually being told a story.
Squid Game, a great show with an abysmal ending, had subtext that some people missed but didn’t require you to debate with friends what was “really” going on to enjoy it. The director did not do vague interviews to tease some sort of secret thing that may or may not happen, there were no official podcasts, and the ending was bad, but it at least made some sort of sense. I did not get left with a major question about what happened, nor did they pull any kind of annoying twist.
Part of the problem is that social media has changed the mode through which we enjoy entertainment. It isn’t enough to just have a show — there must be episode summaries on AV Club, podcasts, blogs, analyses — everything must have a…