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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Acquiring the Taste.

“Give it a chance. If you can get past it, you’ll really enjoy yourself.”

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately. It is the argument that people who enjoy something use to persuade people with different tastes that those tastes are wrong. Most recently in reference to Final Fantasy XIII. I am frequently told that once I get past the hokey characters, or the fact that you have to read a novella buried in the options menu to know what’s going on, or the thirty-plus hour long tutorial, that the game is really awesome. All I have to do is really commit myself to liking it.

I heard it a lot with Bayonetta too. I was told that once I got past the misogyny, and the ‘shroom enhance storyline, and the borderline pr0n presentation of the magical stripper that is the protagonist, that the game was a lot of fun.

I am generally skeptical of this sort of argument. Usually it means “I don’t have a problem with (element X, Y or Z) and therefore nobody else should either.” Which is bunk. (Though I must admit I’m not wholly innocent of doing the same thing myself, but at least I admit that the things I like aren’t necessarily any good, they’re just things that I like)

Other times it means that the game caters to an acquired taste, or that it is an acquired taste all unto itself. Like Coffee. Nobody likes the taste of coffee. But they’re told by other people who drink coffee how awesome it is and so they force themselves to drink it until they like it. All you have to do is get over the bitterness (or mask it by adding things to it until it ceases to be coffee) and the fact that you won’t be able to face the morning without it after a while.

Which seems like a colossal waste of money to me. Putting aside the health issues attendant to caffeine dependency, a small coffee (sorry; “tall” coffee) at Starbucks is between two and four dollars? Let’s say I made myself like coffee enough to drink one of those per day. That’s up to $28 per week if I go on weekends. I could buy a new video game every other week of the year for any system on the money some people spend to drink something they didn’t like in the first place.

Oysters are the same thing as far as I’m concerned. They look like the product of what doctors call a “productive cough,” yet people spend a lot of money forcing themselves to eat them in spite of how they look. Oh I’m sure they’re delicious, if I could just get past the fact that they look and feel like refrigerated mucus from an 80 year old man with bronchitis.

Bringing it back to video games, consider MMORPGs. Everyone I’ve ever heard talk about one holds two opinions about them: 1) Grinding sucks and 2) MMORPGs are really fun and worth the time. Now, this is a gross oversimplification because there’s more to an MMORPG than just grinding. There are, for example, raids which are social grinds, which sounds really fun until you realize the only person playing WoW that looks like Felicia Day is Felicia Day, and she’s not in your guild, at which point it just sounds like you’re doing a Phreak dance with Peter Jackson.

And let that mental image be a lesson to all of you who had ungentlemanly thoughts about Felicia Day.

But forgetting that, there are two ways to reconcile the two opinions. Well, three if you allow me to dust off my Abnormal Psychology textbook from college, but let’s ignore that one. The first is that the game has some appeal to the fans that transcends the grind (which is to say, they can get over the grinding) or that they’ve acquired the taste for the game in spite of the grind. Either one is a perfectly valid reason to play and spend money on a WoW account, but they both involve work that I’m not willing to dump into my hobby.

As a husband and father with a new house to maintain, I don’t have time to waste forcing myself to like something I don’t like. Of course, I realize that nobody is telling me I have to. Still, it’s frustrating when one voices an opinion about a given thing only to be told that if only I could get past the thing I don’t like, I would really like the thing.

It’s kind of like telling a die-hard Star Wars fan that if only he could get past the writing and direction of George Lucas, Episodes One, Two and Three are really quite fun. You can say it. You might even believe it. But you’re not going to convince the Star Wars fan.

And why would you try?