The Insight: How Bayonetta Helped Me Overcome “The Over-the-Shoulder Critic”

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By Harry Rabinowitz

I don’t like playing games in public.  I get self-conscious, embarrassed, like I have a group of critics watching my every move, even when no one is paying me any mind.  I want games to be respected by everyone, and when something inherently silly, childish, sexist, stupid, mundane, poorly written, or poorly designed happens in the game I’m playing, I can’t help but turn around to see if anyone’s noticed.

And half the time, someone does notice.  I have the pleasure (and curse) of playing games around game designers.  Designers can strip a game down in a matter of seconds, either making you look smart for choosing to play that game or look like a tasteless buffoon.

Most days, it’s the latter.  Recently, I was watching a friend of mine play Final Fantasy XIII, a series that I am very familiar with, but an installment I have not touched.  Throughout the play session, I was intrigued by the battle system, character progression, story, and world.  Only an hour or so in, I hadn’t really decided if I “liked” the game or not.  Like many JRPGs, the character designs were easy to poke fun at, but I made fun of Snow’s plaid waist scarf and Vanille’s triple stringed yo-yo staff thing in an endearing way.

That is until one of the many MFA game design students begins to take note of the game.  After watching for about four minutes (and calling a robotic scorpion boss monster “cute”), he stated, “So this game is just walking down hallways, watching cutscenes, and rolling a bunch of dice?”  My friend replied, “basically”.

Final Fantasy XIII, 6 years in development, millions of dollars in the making, broken down into a sentence.  After hearing that, I looked back at the game and it seemed like trash, an utter waste of time.

This is why I don’t like playing games in public.  It constantly feels like I need to defend the game I’m playing, or even my right to play it.  After watching a five minute long cutscenes with shaky dialogue, I feel like I need to explain why this is worth my time to the board of “proper game designers” behind me.

But after playing one game demo in public, I threw all this out the window.  Bayonetta 2 showed me that, if I’m having fun, maybe I shouldn’t feel the need to defend myself.

It helps that Bayonetta 2 is utterly insane.  You can see what I mean for yourself on the next page.

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