Maybe you have seen it by now and maybe you haven’t, but there was, over the weekend, a fake Polygon review of Grand Theft Auto V. It was a very shoddy fake—only a screenshot and with poorly kerned pull quotes and misaligned margins—but it still got a lot of people angry.
Yes, surprise! People were angry on the Internet. But this instance in particular seems worth examining for a couple of reasons. First off, Grand Theft Auto V isn’t even out yet and fans are already up in arms about a (fake) bad review. Second, the faker has singled out Polygon as the source of the review. Third, the kerning on the pull quote is so atrociously bad that I wonder if the faker has ever seen good design.
That last one is a bit off topic, but whatever. The other two are pretty big issues. The first one actually seems pretty indicative of a large portion of the problem with pop culture today. There was a recent article describing the issue with fandom and Breaking Bad. Of course, Breaking Bad has a lot of its own problems regarding things happening just because versus things just happening, sufficiently complex character developments, and so on and so forth, but the fandom is especially problematic.
It’s become a point of contention on the Internet of late regarding your opinion on the AMC original series. If you think it is the most perfect show ever created, then welcome to the brotherhood, my good man. If you have any sort of criticism regarding the slow, plodding, nigh nonsensical developments in the recent episodes or broken promises of setups and failed payouts or any other number of problems with the otherwise well-produced and well-acted show, then you can fuck right off.
Having anything close to critical in your mind about Breaking Bad is enough to get cast out from the online discourse from fans. The problem (aside from the fact that this is utter lunacy) is that most of these people aren’t fans of the show; they are fans of the world created by the show. This isn’t just the diegetic world of the characters and the locations and the events but the world of those that also watch the show with you. Just like Lost, half the joy of watching Breaking Bad is envisioning the expansive fringe mythos of cooking meth and calling people a bitch for any (or really no) reason at all.
They want to continue the world that they’ve created with themselves and with other commensurate fans. Theories about where the characters go and where they’ve come from go far beyond the scope of just New Mexico in Breaking Bad or the island in Lost.
And for that same reason, it seems, preemptive fans have taken to arms over a (poorly) faked marginal review. (Marginal! A 7 is a god damn good score.) They live in this world where they look forward to the next Grand Theft Auto not only because they’ll have a new environment to drive and shoot and bandy about in but because the experience of wholly loving what comes with and from a singular product is paramount to them.
Grand Theft Auto games are somewhat of a constant in the world of ever shifting video games. They are not temporally consistent, but they are steady in quality. It’s rare to find a series so established as one that will be evergreen with each release. It’s a constant, and because of that, people find it easy to grab onto, much like a buoy in the midst of the violent waves of a raging storm of annualized franchises and hit-or-miss gambles.
A negative review (or, as I said, marginal) basically takes that rock that folks cling so dearly to and smashes it with a hammer. Plymouth is no more, so find somewhere else to land your boat. It’s telling you that your hopes are foolish before stepping on them and tell you again that they’re fruitless. It’s about as personal an insult as you can muster, more so than having a dissenting opinion after you’ve played the game as well; at that point, it’s a subjective debate. Before that, it’s an assault on your values as a person.
That leads to the very negative conclusion, though, that we should just not have hope, that avoiding the issue altogether is the only way through. That, of course, is not true. It’s perfectly fine to be disappointed. It’s a very natural thing to feel like someone or something has let you down. The key is to just not take it personally. Someone else’s opinions are just that, and they shouldn’t have any bearing on your own. They can influence discourse, but never your own opinions.
As for why the faker chose Polygon, I can only assume it’s because they’re a large and controversial outlet. Within reviews and op-ed pieces, they inject personal values regarding sexism, homophobia, and many other volatile subjects. They do, of course, largely fall on the right side of history (respect all genders, races, religions, and sexual orientations), which leads to the probable conclusion that the same people that tell women on the street to smile are the same ones getting angry over dissenting, fake, or opinionated (which all reviews are) video game reviews.
It doesn’t do much to acknowledge the problem itself, but neither does remembering to grab the keys before leaving the house. Both, however, are necessary steps along a longer journey. Hopefully we’ll reach the end soon. Hopefully we’ll arrive at the destination together where people aren’t angry about bad series finales, websites promoting values, or video game reviewers having opinions. Hopefully.