How To Be A Video Game Snob

How to Be a Video Game Snob

My favourite film critic, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, is trying to reclaim the word "snob" for people of discernment. "If the words nerd and geek can be rehabilitated -- if legions of misunderstood enthusiasts can march from the margins of respectability to the heart of the mainstream -- then why not snob as well?" he pleaded in the Times on Sunday.

To Scott, a snob is a person with taste (the "good" is implied when a snob says "taste"), someone who knows that some pleasures are better than others. His essay is half polemic, half advice column: Yes, my taste is better than yours, and here's how to go about acquiring it. He is not defending snobbery so much as advocating for a very specific kind of snobbery.

He wants to teach you to be a good snob rather than a bad one. A snob -- especially a film snob -- likes Mad Max: Fury Road for its formal achievement and sneers at Oscar bait that is calculated to affirm the "prejudices and assumptions" of the viewer rather than presenting them with "real challenges or true pleasures." At the same time, a snob watches foreign films and reads Susan Sontag.

Video games are certainly afflicted with more than their share of bad snobs. If you are the type of player who writes "Git gud" in the comments or dismisses entire swaths of the medium as "not real video games," then yes, I'm talking about you.

Yet even with all the bad snobs, games have far too few of the good kind. In the interest of advancing Scott's war for snobbery, here are some rules to follow if you want to be a True Video Game Snob. Join us!

1. A snob does not care which corporation published a game.

If you think it's OK to dismiss all of Microsoft's -- or Apple's, or Sony's, or Nintendo's, or Activision's, or Electronic Arts' -- video games because of your visceral reaction to the name of a particular profit-maximizing corporation, then you are the opposite of a discerning player. A snob plays the best games across all platforms, from PC to console to mobile.

2. A snob does not care how much it cost to make the game, or how many people worked on it.

This cuts both ways. If you admire only low-budget indies, you're as much of a philistine as the player who can't be bothered with the small, experimental stuff. Sometimes a blockbuster game is a masterwork. Sometimes a well-meaning indie game that one or two people spent years of their lives making is a turkey.

3. A snob does not care whether a video game is an according-to-Webster "game."

Video games are creative works that are interactive and digital. They include walking simulators, first-person shooters, Twine stories, endless runners, and Madden NFL. There are terrific examples and not-so-terrific examples of each. Being a snob is about being able to see, and explain, the difference.

4. A snob plays old games as well as new ones.

Like readers and filmgoers, video game snobs must acquaint themselves with the classics. Now excuse me, I need to go play System Shock for the first time.

5. A snob reads the credits.

Video games are made by soulless corporations, but they are also made by people. A snob tries, perhaps futilely, to identify the people who make the best games and to follow their careers. You can, I admit, stop watching when the credits no longer include the contributors to a particular game and instead start itemizing the residents of the C-level suites at the multinational publisher.

6. A snob does not care about Metacritic.

Taste is not algorithmic, nor is it democratic. C'mon, we're snobs!

7. A snob doesn't leap to outrage.

The snob does not freak out over box art, or trailers, or other forms of advertising that are not video games. The snob can feel deeply -- anger, joy, sadness -- about an actual game. Even then, a snob doesn't panic when a game seems puerile and doesn't fume when the masses disagree. A snob is patient. A snob is kind. A snob is not jealous. Wait, that's love, in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

8. A snob looks down on players who don't take games seriously.

Video game players who insist that games are "just fun" and therefore are immune to analysis or even smart conversation -- or worse, who believe games are so fragile that an Anita Sarkeesian video could rid the world of them -- deserve a mixture of scorn and pity. Games are among the most meaningful and important ways we choose to spend our time. How could we not have opinions about them that are worth sharing and contesting? (I repeat: We're snobs!)

9. A snob looks down further on people who don't play games.

The infidels are worse than the heretics. The real philistine is the politician who talks about "video games" as an improbable monolith, or the TV viewer who watches House of Cards without knowing that The Stanley Parable and Monument Valley are not merely real video games but also bestselling and amazing ones. The least discriminating person in the conversation around video games, the one with the least discernment and the most deserving of our derision, is the one who manages to be ignorant yet contemptuous of the world's most vibrant, most interesting creative form.

Chris Suellentrop is the critic at large for Kotaku and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? Contact him by writing [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @suellentrop.

Illustration by Jim Cooke


    I don't think snob is the best word to describe this hypothetical person. A snob, as I understand the word, would actually do the exact opposite of a number of these things.

    It would have been far better to invent a new word than to attempt to turn snob into the new literally.

      Yes, I prefer 'a person of taste and discernment'. That is, not someone who blindly consumes, but someone who makes value judgments. Everything else is subjective.

        "Connoisseur" :P

          Exactly. Someone who knows something about what he or she is consuming and how it compares to other similar products.

      Yeah, I think they were looking for 'discerning critic'. To me, 'snob' heavily implies the exact close-minded thinking that the article rails against. The typical use is for someone who turns their nose up at perfectly good things because they are of insufficiently refined heritage or breeding.

    10) A snob doesn't mock or deride something new until they've personally tried it and decided that it's just not what they're looking for.

    I guess, going by this criteria, I'm a video game snob...
    Except maybe the looking down on other people, that's just being a shitty person

      Yeah. There's a guy in one of my classes who is ALWAYS giving me shit for being a console player. Even though he knows I have a good rig, i've just chosen to keep it for work and use my console for games.

      I never thought it would annoy me, because I was a PC guy for so long, but it's getting REALLY annoying.

      What sucks is that he's not a bad guy, he's just trying to be funny. I don't think he knows how it comes across.

        A friend of mine was a "PC master race" person until I actually laid out for him the specs of the PS4 and XBox One (which are about on par with a midrange modern PC - would be a high-end PC but the cores are clocked fairly slowly).

        In any case, I was agreeing until the last two points (#8 and #9). A true snob does not care about anybody else's opinions, except as a guide to locating material to be a snob about. Looking down on other people is deeply uncool. (A phrase that probably dates me...)

        I can read another person's opinion and disagree with it, without feeling it necessary to put that person down; if if that opinion is that they dislike video games. While it is true that there are "good games" and "bad games", it's quite possible for me to dislike a game that is basically "good" and on occasion I have liked games that are "bad"; in neither case is it necessary for other people to agree with me.

        I mean, my mother plays games, as long as the games in question are Klondike Solitaire. That doesn't mean she has bad taste, it just means that video games are not to everybody's taste.

        In the same way I actually enjoyed (for example) the Green Lantern movie, although I understand that it wasn't actually a good movie.

        I can't understand anyone disliking Princess Bride, though.

          Specs wise the ps4 and xbone are barely entry level. They would of been considered mid range 3 years ago. My primary gaming choice is a ps4. But I've also got a xbone and a pc rocking a 3570k and a 970. Theyve all got strengths and weaknesses but artificially inflating one or the other and trying to tighten a gap with choice words that dont really apply isnt the way.

            The PS4 and XB1 both have 8 cores, albeit running at (for PS4) 1.6GHz. While the multithreading effectively steals some efficiency, in terms of raw capability that's equivalent to a 3.2GHz quad-core CPU, just barely below the 3.3GHz i5; supposedly 102.4GFlops. I've had trouble finding a decent GFlops benchmark for the i5, but that seems to be about where the (lower end) i7 was a couple of years ago, so is probably about right for an i5 today.

            RAM is all GDDR3, which has some pluses and minuses but allows some capabilities that regular DDR3 doesn't permit; overall opinion seems to be it gives a speed boost vs. DDR3.

            The i3 (entry level) has 2 cores at (maximum) 3.8 GHz, well under that level.

            The PS4 can handle approx 1.8 TFLOPS, somewhat better than a GeForce GTX 750Ti and slightly faster than a GTX 950 (the most recent generation card) which seems to be selling for around the $270 mark right now. Admittedly, the 950 is the lowest model in the 9xx range, but those cards have only been out a couple of months (and the conversation was back in February). Your card, the 970 - which you seem to think is pretty good - does about 3.3TFlops, just under twice that of a PS4.

            Midrange seems about right to me. Probably at the low end of midrange, but a significant boost on the entry level capabilities of the i3. At the time of original release, two years ago. it was solidly in the midrange bracket. Now, it's getting edged out, but it's well above entry level.

            You could buy a GTX 950 and an i5 and pay a bit more than $500 for those components. Add hard drive, RAM, motherboard and all the other bits and you wouldn't get much change from $1000. With the PS4 selling for $400-500 - which is definitely entry-level PC pricing - it is, bang for buck, pretty good value.

            That said, I have a new (i7) PC that's much more capable. There's absolutely no doubt that a decent gaming PC will blow the PS4 and XBox One out of the water, performance-wise; you could put together a box with ten times the teraflops. But that wouldn't be a midrange PC.

            Anyway, the systems are not entirely comparable - the PS4, having fixed hardware, can be optimised more easily - but the argument that a PS4 is roughly on par with a midrange PC seems to be at the very least defensible.

            Last edited 08/10/15 8:04 pm

              The biggest weakness in what youve said, and i was also calling it midranged until i realised it is not all cores are equal. 8× 1.6ghz cores isnt the same as a 3.2ghz quad. Proved by a 5ghz 8 core performing worse than my 4.2ghz ocd quad. And the TFLOPS is whole system vs a single component. Sure it can be optimised but that only does so much when its similar architecture. And with a 970 being top midrange (its 3 cards down in the order of one provider thats midrange even if its a pretty expensive one off special and on special can cost as low as $330

              Its still a great system and visually when sitting 4m across the room i can barely notice the difference in graphics comapred to pc. It makes a difference in closer gaming environments. It was definitely midrange at launch, but tech moves fast even if cpus are lagging.

                I'll grant that it's now roughly low midrange; but it's considerably better than the best i3, so it's not really low-end.

                It's hard to be sure when we can't easily run benchmarks on the PS4. From what I've read the Jaguar CPU used by the PS4 uses some of the tricks of higher-end CPUs (such as out of order processing) so the gap in actual work done per clock cycle isn't all that bad. Unfortunately I couldn't find a GFlops number for the recent Intel CPUs to make an apples-for-apples comparison. Where the pain really lies there is with the penalties involved in splitting work across multiple CPUs; 2x1.6GHz core will very rarely actually perform as well as 1x3.2GHz core.

                When you're talking TFLOPS, you're talking about the GPU, realistically speaking; the CPU is only around 102 GFlops, so it really doesn't make a dent in that number. Single-component vs. whole-system performance isn't really a distinction. The same is really due for PCs - the graphics card does the heavy lifting, the CPU won't add more than a few hundred MFlops at best.

                In any case, the PS4 = midrange PC thing is definitely arguable, although as with all consoles it will become less arguable over time. As the CPU race has slowed down considerably in the last ten years or so, it won't become outmoded anywhere nearly as quickly as the PS2 was, but it will happen eventually.

          I both agree and disagree with you here. I look down i people all the time, anyone who says they don't is more than likely lying. The more standards you have the more people don't meet them.

          But in regards to Snob "dom" the difference between you and those people Greg is that you realise that the green lantern is bad. When I have someone try and tell me, not that they liked and enjoyed the green lantern movie but that it is in fact a good movie the snob much like the hulk forcibly comes out and must hulk smash.

            Well, OK, I admit to looking down on people who pay thousands of dollars on Candy Crush... and on Tony Abbott, but doesn't everybody look down on Tony Abbott? With the probable exception of Alan Jones.

            I do try to avoid the fallacy that a person disagreeing with me means they're an idiot. There are idiots who disagree with me, but there are probably just as many people who are intelligent and well-informed who also disagree with me. It's all good, the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same.

    I think it should just be 'how to be a gamer, not a tool' and doesn't look down on the people in the last two points, but tries their best to engage and educate with them.

    'Snob' has always been a derogatory term. This just doesn't work. As mentioned above, a Snob would do almost the opposite of what's listed.

    Still enjoyed the article though, just need to change the term used.

    someone doesn't quite know what snob means...

    I think for any of this to be taken even remotely seriously #1 should be changed to "A snob does not care which platform a game is on" - if you actually care about games then you should at least take exception to companies known for regular anti-consumer behaviour and the occasional bout of actual fraud or content theft!

      Also not caring about the company? Sorry, there are some shitty companies out there and it's good to take note of which ones they are and not support them.

      So by that proviso I guess I'm not a snob.

        Or not a 'good snob' at any rate, whatever that's supposed to mean.

    most of those things describe me, but i definitely dont think snob is the word.
    i think maybe 'true gamer' fits better as a term. someone who is about gaming for the game and associated experience.

    Anyone who plays mobile games shouldn't call themselves a gamer GIT GUD!!!!!!!

    jk jk read the article before you Downvote lol

    What? This makes no sense. Where did you find this guy Kotaku? The Daily Telegraph?
    This article describes the exact opposite of what most people would describe as a snob.

    5. A snob reads the credits.
    Video games are made by soulless corporations, but they are also made by people. A snob tries, perhaps futilely, to identify the people who make the best games and to follow their careers. You can, I admit, stop watching when the credits no longer include the contributors to a particular game and instead start itemizing the residents of the C-level suites at the multinational publisher.

    And holy shit there are a lot of folks at the C-level suites of those multinational publishers. It's always fascinating reading the credits list and wondering just how much involvement the members of those teams actually had with the game and how much of them being there is simpy a perk that they were assigned thanks to the publisher being the one to fund the bloody thing in the first place.

      That's the problem with most AAA titles these days. The credits run for-fucking-ever because they include literally everyone who ever worked for a guy who fixed the broken plumbing across the street from the bus stop used by one of the staff of the consulting company that offered a quote on reviewing procedures in the finance department of another company that organised the licensing rights to this one obscure track by a no-name artist so that it could appear in the fucking credits because they're so god-damn long.

      GTA5's credits ran for 36 minutes. 36 minutes. Fuck that shit. The only reason I sit through credits is to see if there's any scene during or after them. If I want to know who did the voice acting or design work, I'll look it up online where it's orders of magnitude easier to read.

      Last edited 09/10/15 12:28 am

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