Answering the Big Questions: Tagged by Red Metal of Extra Life

Initiated by AK of Everything is Bad for You as a celebration regarding a follower milestone, this Sunshine Blogger challenge has bloggers answer questions about entertainment media, which are then passed onto those who are a tagged at the end of the post. At the time I was not familiar with Everything is Bad for You, but he tagged someone I was familiar with – Red Metal of Extra Life – and he, in turn, tagged me (as well as several others) to answer his big questions.

  • Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the least consistently reliable?

Probably game critics because of how vague their ratings can be, and how their criticisms/praise for a game can starkly contrast to the final score they end up giving it. It is quite well documented how outlets like IGN or Metacritic can talk at length about how awful a game it, and then end up giving it a 7/10.

That said, a former IGN writer, Alanah Pearce, made a video in defence of rating systems that aptly explained that descriptions for why games get a particular rating can be found on the website itself, and after viewing it you should see that most ratings should align with what was in the review. The thing is, this information isn’t that easy to find on their website and although you can directly reach it by simply googling “IGN rating system”, the average gamer isn’t going to do that; They’re going straight to the source, and the source is the review of the game they want to play.

The second problem with this is that IGN classes a 9/10 as an “amazing” game and an 8/10 as a “great” game. Both of these are all synonyms for saying the game is “good”, but according to IGN a good game is only a 7/10. And while lengthier descriptions are given to differentiate the ratings, they too fall into the trap of repeating themselves quite often. There are distinctions made, but ones that are so minor and vague they may as well have just got rid of the rating system entirely. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it’s almost as though the rating system is designed to be intentionally vague…

Of course IGN isn’t the only outlet guilty of this. Most are, it’s just that IGN are the best and most recognisable example. I’ll link to their scoring system in case you’re interested: https://corp.ign.com/review-practices

  • Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the most consistently reliable?

It’s hard to say, but I’d like to say film reviewers (call me bias) simply because films seem to the be simplest of the bunch to review. Or at least they are in general terms; Reviewing Baby’s Day Out and I’m Thinking of Ending Things consecutively would be a jaunting one, for example. But if you’ll permit me to paint in broad strokes, then I stand by it because the simpler something is the easier it is to review, and thus the easier it is for someone on coherently and concisely voice their opinion. My dad always jokes that all my reviews should merely consist of either the words “it’s good” or “it’s bad”. They would be truly awful reviews, but they would still be honest and in that sense reliable.

In truth, I struggled with the word “reliable” a lot on both of these opening questions. Reviews are opinions and opinions are about as reliable as your willingness to agree or disagree. I may consistently agree with a reviewer’s opinion and deem them reliable, while you may consistently disagree and call them unreliable. Of course there has to be a level of maturity at play here because we can’t oust everyone we disagree with, since their opinion may be considered reliable by others, if not by yourself. Beyond that, honesty is at play; Even if you disagree with someone’s review you may still think them reliable because they have demonstrated honesty and integrity in their arguments. It’s truly a tough one because of how subjective these things can be.

  • What was your single worst theatregoing experience?

Guardians of the Galaxy.

Just because a film is a comedy does not mean EVERYTHING in it is inherently funny. I was in there with an audience who laughed not only at the jokes, but at the sentimental moments and the generic exposition. It was so bad that I vowed never to see another comedy in theatres again… That was until Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 released, at which point I subjected myself to it again.

Audience aside, I do have a second answer pertaining to the film itself:

Happy Feet. I was a kid and found it so boring I convinced my parents to leave early and take us all home. They happily obliged. I was too young to remember any specifics, I just remember resenting the film for a couple days afterwards, and it is the only film to make me exit the theatre early to date.

  • What was your single best theatregoing experience?

Godzilla 2014. If you’ve read this blog even in the slightest, you don’t need my to explain that it’s because I’m huge fan the radioactive lizard. But there was a little more to it than that: I was fourteen and had all but forgotten my past love for the franchise. Between the ages of 5-10 I’d grown up watching many of the Showa Era movies on VHS. One day, however, our VHS player spontaneously died at a point in time where DVD’s had overtaken and we thusly never got a new one. For the longest time I refused to let my dad throw the Godzilla tapes out, but eventually conceded when I realised I’d never be able to view them again. Over four years my love for the franchise was a bygone memory, which I suppose I would have fondly looked back upon once I was an old man in a retirement home… That was until Godzilla 2014 came out – a film made for cinemas and that was the perfect blend of Japanese and American Godzilla.

I was so blown away that the first words 14 year old me said to my father afterwards were: “That was way better than Avengers!” At the time this was the highest praise I was capable of giving. I’ll always have fond memories of how that movie reignited my love for Godzilla.

  • Do you think a lousy ending can completely ruin an otherwise great work?

It most certainly can. Case and point: Glass.

Now I hesitate to call Glass “great”, lousy ending aside, but it was at least “good” so far as the wildly inconsistent qualities of M. Night Shyamalan’s films tend to go. But the point where an entirely unmentioned, not at all foreshadowed or remotely hinted at organisation shows up to kill the main characters of two of his better films (Split and Unbreakable) really took the movie from an average 6/10 experience to a truly, jauntingly bad 3/10.

However, just because bad endings can ruin good work doesn’t mean that they always do. Case and point: Superman (1978).

Superman (1978) is a fun tongue-in-cheek flick about a man who can do anything and can’t be stopped by anyone, whose intentions are solely good, before it takes a very dark and gut wrenching turn in the finale wherein it is revealed that although he could save the world, Superman was not capable of saving the one person on it who he really ever cared about. And his rage and confusion in that moment serve to show us one thing: For all we’ve seen of him, he is not invincible… That is until he uses his super rage powers to use an entirely unmentioned, not at all foreshadowed or remotely hinted at ability to reverse the current of time, undo his mistakes and prove that he is actually just a flawless guy.

I think what saves Superman from ending up as bad as a film like Glass is that, while it’s ending does counter actively remove the most interesting flaw of the protagonist and undo the most hard-hitting scene of the film, it doesn’t bask in it. Glass makes a point to bask in it’s god awful finale as though it had achieved some higher level of storytelling, whereas Superman just hopped along and continued with its tongue-in-cheek tone as though nothing ever happened. And while that isn’t good, it’s also not actively dragging the movie further down that it’s already travelled. Plus, unlike Glass, you can turn Superman off after Louis Lane dies and the entire movie still makes sense (my proffered way of viewing), albeit the sequels will not.

  • Do you think an incredible payoff can redeem an otherwise middling or even bad work?

It sure can!

Call of Duty Black Ops, for instance, is for the most part a complete run of the mill CoD game that I wouldn’t blame you for putting down halfway through. However, the second to last mission is one without guns or action at all and only exists to recontextualise the entire rest of the game’s narrative: Nothing you did was out of your own choosing and your closest friend in the whole wide world not only turns out to be dead, but also to be an asshole who brainwashed you to fulfil his own selfish needs. It’s the type of story twist that completely changes how you perceive your past actions and indeed how you play the game on a second playthrough.

Again, this isn’t always the case. Ever seen The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug? Got a really good action set-piece ending, and a truly great exchange between Bilbo and Smaug just before it all kicks off. But the rest of the film is a boring slog to get through. Is it worth sitting through two hours of mediocrity to finally watch something you MIGHT like at the end of it? No.

  • Do you feel like the price increase of AAA games is justifiable or not?

Justifiable? Sure – It’s not just that games are getting bigger and more expensive to make that is making them cost so much, but also the fact that audience expectations for games are through the roof. Take one look at the Halo community and you’ll see what I mean. In the case of Halo, it is some fans inability to accept the changes made by new developers which, while certainly more than understandable, makes them put the older games of a god-like pedestal to which nothing the new developers will ever be able to match. But it’s not always a confused fandom that is the cause. Years of mediocre AAA releases like Destiny and Star Wars Battlefront have made modern gamers want more from their products, and rightfully so.

But just because the rising price is justifiable doesn’t mean that it’s fair. I remember when I could buy AAA games from the store for £40, and it wasn’t unreasonable for me to ask my parents to buy me two of them as a kid – provided there was an event like Christmas or my birthday coming up. As time went on that became no longer possible and they would often look at me in shock for asking about them getting me a single £60 game. At the time I didn’t understand, but now that I’m an adult I feel it in the same way they did whenever I see the daunting price of a game I might be interested in. When gaming of all things starts to become an unaffordable hobby for those interested in the experience provided by AAA titles, then I think there’s a problem.

It doesn’t help that many games are now, indeed, a service that are designed to last for years and years to come, each full of their own inside purchases. With multiple games of this type coming out a year it strangles the consumer – They buy one game they like at the sacrifice of another which might either be dead or have left them in the dust with how far it’s grown by the time they eventually get to play it. And what happens when they finally catch up in that game? They fall behind in another. It’s a vicious and unfair cycle that dampens the enjoyment of gaming and does nothing but pressure regular people into paying more for an experience they may well be retiring within the next week.

  • What work did you like as a kid only for you to realize it doesn’t hold up at all?

Is it cheating if I mention something I’ve already recently reviewed?

Well my obvious choice is Godzilla vs Megalon. As a kid it was the best thing I had ever seen; An epic kaiju movie of grand proportions and excellent action. In reality it’s probably one of the best examples of a “so bad it’s good” movie out there. Alas, I’ll refrain from speaking too much on it or else there will be paragraphs upon paragraphs about this film I’ve already talked at length about.

  • What work did you not like as a kid only for you to later realize it’s amazingly good?

Red Dead Redemption. As a kid my attention span was quite short, and I hated the long-ass intro, all the cutscenes interrupting gameplay and the fact the characters wouldn’t shut up as you rode from one destination to the next. But around the time I started getting into more methodical strategy games like Total War and Civilisation that often play slower and require a lot more engagement to be good at, I found myself wanting to watch the cutscenes in Red Dead and wanting to hear what the characters had to say to each other. And I’m so glad I did because I began to recognise Red Dead as one of my favourite games at the time of its release, and it prompted me to buy the Undead Nightmare DLC, which was just excellent.

It’s so odd how I’ve progressed as a gamer: I used to be so into the instant gratification of Call of Duty and Halo, and now days I can’t get enough of reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of unvoiced dialogue in grandpa games like Morrowind and Fallout.

  • Are there any podcasts you regularly listen to?

Most frequently I listen to the Jar Media Podcast – a podcast about literally nothing and with the strangest sense of humour I’ve come across. It’s just four British blokes having a laugh. It is genuinely hard to explain why I like it because of how little happens on it, but what at first seems like grade-a background noise material turns out to be quite a funny and entertaining listen that always ends up putting a smile on my face.

Empty Inside is a self help podcast hosted by Jennette McCurdy who’s most commonly known for her role as Sam in iCarly, and Sam and Cat, but also as a director of a couple of short films, a brief one-woman tour before Covid-19 happened and for some writing. Not only is she a fascinating person because of her honesty about both her personal history and career, but also because she’s so open to making herself vulnerable in front of everyone who listens to her. Nine times out of ten I’m going to turn off a self help podcast, but this one gets it just right – always relatable, and never forced.

Then there’s probably the better known Unqualified, hosted by Anna Faris, who you may know from films like House Bunny and Scary Movie, who has a celebrity guest on each episode. Sometimes they do interviews, other times they’re just having a laugh, and the variation keeps it feeling fresh. But even if you don’t know a guest or aren’t into that sort of thing, you can always skip to the end where listeners phone in and ask her for life advice and she’s happy to try and relate and give back what she can.

  • Taking cues from AK’s last question, what is the most bizarre combination of ingredients you enjoy?

When I hit the grand old age of 18 and was finally allowed to drink alcohol, I used to get my orders mixed up at the pub: What it was supposed to be was malibu and coke, but I would always order gin and coke. Apparently you’re not supposed to do that as every time it arrived, the waitress would give me the look of “are you sure?” But regardless of whether I was too drunk to care, or simply ignorant to drinking etiquette, I enjoyed my Gin and coke and think coke is a perfectly fine mixer to add in with a gin! Sue me!

The Tagged

I suppose it’s now my responsibility to tag some people. Truth is, Red Metal and AK covered most the people I read here, so my list might be rather short.

Cameron’s Considerations

Ace Asunder

Later Levels

The Questions I have for you:

  1. Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the least consistently reliable?
  2. Between music, film/television, and game critics, which do you find the most consistently reliable?
  3. Do you think a lousy ending can completely ruin an otherwise great work?
  4. Do you think an incredible payoff can redeem an otherwise middling (or even bad) work?
  5. Do you feel the price increase of AAA games was justifiable or not?
  6. What work did you like as a kid only for you to realize it doesn’t hold up at all?
  7. What work did you not like as a kid only for you to later realize it’s amazingly good?
  8. What are some of the most enjoyable “so bad it’s good” media, to your mind?
  9. Do you think some media can try too hard to be good, and thus inadvertently end up being bad?
  10. What are some works you consider to be underrated and worth people’s attention?
  11. Is there a particular genre you feel has not been done justice in film or gaming?
  12. Most importantly, what are some bizarre combinations of ingredients you enjoy?

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