Why reviewing King of Fighters 99 wasn’t fun?

“I should have been a pair of ragged claws Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

I should have been a bus driver.

Although bus drivers are universally despised by both the living and the dead, children and people from pre-industrial societies that have yet to invent the bus, and aliens from the planet Zerkon, no one takes it personally when the driver arrives late. Or not at all. Or arrives close to the time, but on fire. Or late with the understanding that the driver had to stop to pick up the latest edition of Juggs magazine. Everybody just accepts and deals.

If I were a bus driver, besides getting to wear a neat bus-drivin’ hat and enjoying the opportunity to forego all things hygienic, I wouldn’t be getting angry letters in my e-mail telling me that I suck. Letters describing the degree to which I suck, and presenting a thorough description of my suckitude. Missives informing me that I suck various parts of animals, some of which I need an anatomy book to properly locate.

Please don’t misconstrue. My life is rather pleasant. If my existence were a candy bar, it would chock full of nougaty goodness. Each day I get to go to work, interact with some very nice people — some of whom wear their underwear on the inside — and play videogames for pay. Every now and again, I get to test out videogames and then write what I think. Criticism, I believe it’s called.

Now if you have toes, a critic has likely stepped on them. It’s human nature to be passionate about things — movies, books, artwork, (god help us) Pokemon. Our collective need for acceptance is great and criticism of any kind can seem a personal assault.

The other day, I broke the hearts of King of Fighters fans everywhere. After playing SNK’s King of Fighters: Dream Match ’99, for the Sega Dreamcast, I proclaimed the game to be a “miss” — not altogether bad, but not particularly good either. Not to belabor the point, but the graphics were uninspired (read: awful) and the gameplay, while competent, certainly did nothing to redeem the title. If this game were released on the Super NES, it would be hailed as a masterpiece. As it was, it was far too little, much too late.

With each word of criticism, the clashroyalehack.fr, the website, opened a bit wider, and the creaking got louder. The angry spirits who’d invested so much into their love of the fighting series, began to rattle their chains. Moaning drowned out all but the jackhammering of pissed-off hearts. Certain mailboxes received sermons on suckitude.

It sounds odd, but there I was, a critic of sorts who seemed perplexed by criticism, even criticism of the sort that told me I suck so hard my face should have rightly imploded years ago. Then, the dim bulb flickered in the darkened basement — the letters weren’t an expression of hate. They were a celebration of passion.

Videogames move people. They inspire love and hate; movies are made to capture their essence. People collect games the way they would baseball cards, and will defend their favorites the way a mother will protect her children. Ultimately, the only thing those angry letters heralded was an enthusiasm for the medium.

Which got me to thinking: maybe the reason no one takes the bus driver thing personally is because no one cares about the bus.

Now if you have toes, a critic has likely stepped on them. It’s human nature to be passionate about things — movies, books, artwork, (god help us) Pokemon. Our collective need for acceptance is great and criticism of any kind can seem a personal assault.

The other day, I broke the hearts of King of Fighters fans everywhere. After playing SNK’s King of Fighters: Dream Match ’99, for the Sega Dreamcast, I proclaimed the game to be a “miss” — not altogether bad, but not particularly good either. Not to belabor the point, but the graphics were uninspired (read: awful) and the gameplay, while competent, certainly did nothing to redeem the title. If this game were released on the Super NES, it would be hailed as a masterpiece. As it was, it was far too little, much too late.

With each word of criticism, the Pandora’s Box opened a bit wider, and the creaking got louder. The angry spirits who’d invested so much into their love of the fighting series, began to rattle their chains. Moaning drowned out all but the jackhammering of pissed-off hearts. Certain mailboxes received sermons on suckitude.

It sounds odd, but there I was, a critic of sorts who seemed perplexed by criticism, even criticism of the sort that told me I suck so hard my face should have rightly imploded years ago. Then, the dim bulb flickered in the darkened basement — the letters weren’t an expression of hate. They were a celebration of passion.

Videogames move people. They inspire love and hate; movies are made to capture their essence. People collect games the way they would baseball cards, and will defend their favorites the way a mother will protect her children. Ultimately, the only thing those angry letters heralded was an enthusiasm for the medium.

Which got me to thinking: maybe the reason no one takes the bus driver thing personally is because no one cares about the bus.

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