Favorites are a strange thing. It’s a bit of childhood naivety shining through a veil of cynicism and adulthood where you take your favorite thing and watch/play/verb it over and over again. When I was a kid, my vice was the Power Rangers movie. Every. Day. My mom got pretty fucking sick of it by day three, and by day 20, well, let’s just say tensions were high.
Though tempered now, the desire to throttle as much of your favorite [whatever] down your throat as often and as quickly as possible is still there. One of my recent failings in being a non-obsessive human being has been Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. It’s been out for a while, but since it’s been on Netflix, its abundant availability has been an issue for my productivity.
Eventually, the faults begin to poke through the veneer of superficial love. The quirks of the movie stand out above the fog: Whendon colloquialisms are in heavy supply (someone is always “meaning to” do something) and the very obvious shift of narrative import from several heroes to just two heroes becomes too apparent.
The same occurs with video games. Let’s take Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for example. It is, without a doubt, one of my top five favorite games. I have played it all the way through eight times and some partial mission excursions thrown in there for good measure. For a while, I could play through certain parts of it without even looking at the screen.
But then, sure as the rising sun and partial government shutdown, the cracks begin to become apparent. Certain combat scenarios begin to throw themselves into the Problematic bucket, e.g. the busted down foyer and really anything involving the blue dudes. And narrative faults sprinkle themselves across the campaign like jimmies on a sundae.
Part of a game making it through the gauntlet of repetitive filtering is that once they pop out on the other side, it becomes much clearer if you still want them to be favorites. If, after all the flaws and inconsistencies poke you in the eyes and ask if you can see them, you still want to play or watch or read or listen to whatever it is you have been hooked on, then it’s obvious you’ve found something that connects with you on a fundamental level.
For me, that’s Uncharted 2‘s heavy and obvious reliance on scripted moments. It’s not giving a flip about the inherently but occasionally overly frustrating nature of Shadow of the Colossus‘ climbing system. It’s telling the haters that I just don’t care about the repetitive nature of Red Dead Redemption‘s mission structure and its mostly waffling combat mechanics (which also goes for every other Rockstar game as well).
Of course, this natural progression and filtering process instills a great fear in most people. For the longest time, I didn’t want to go back to Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando because I knew it wasn’t going to hold up against modern sensibilities. I don’t want to go through The Walking Dead again because I’m afraid understanding how the choices work will destroy my love for its story.
It’s paralyzing in that way. But in the same way you have to carefully analyze a feral affection to sift love from infatuation with the men and women you meet, it’s a necessary step to revisit your tentative favorites. You have to take the discerning eye that only a fanatic can apply to a game or a movie or a book. It’s then that you can find out what makes you the person that you are and what makes a severely rote and kind of boring RPG a tent-pole of your formative, spiky-haired upbringing.
You know which game I’m talking about.