I should add that I'm not snobby about games, either: I harbor no innate disdain for Popular Game Everyone is Playing just because It's Popular and Everyone is Playing It. If I'm not playing that game, it's probably because I just don't have the budget or time for it, or it's in a genre I'm not particularly interested in. Totally cool if it's your cup of tea, though.
While I understand music snobbery to a degree - I grew up a musician, and it's still insulting to see what passes for "music" in pop culture - I can't quite process game snobbery. Unlike some others, I'm not the type to judge you if I see Bombastic Military Shooter or Annual Sports Franchise: Current Year on your games played list. (This is kinda strange for me, because I sure as hell will judge you if I see Lady Gaga on your iPod.) So when I say I don't get the games listed below, please understand that's not for lack of trying.
I realize I'm not the first person to say I didn't get Grand Theft Auto IV, for example. Or to say I thought the driving controls were incredibly wonky for a game with the word "Auto" in the title, or that the missions were more frustrating and meandering than challenging and exploratory, or that the characters were naturally sociopaths, but not of the endearingly likable variety. Trust me, I wanted to get GTA IV. I loved all the little details - the poorly-constructed fake in-game websites, the blowhard nationalist talk show hosts, the use of an outdated cellphone as the menu interface. The whole "moral depravity" thing was never an issue, either; once the title screen came up, my brain said, "oh, it's GTA," and that was that.
Here's the problem: I almost never abandon games. I abandoned GTA IV maybe 7 hours in. I've dug other open-world games, games with worlds much less fleshed-out and satirical and expansive than Liberty City. So what gives? Am I just bad at driving over hookers and murdering drug dealers? Or is there a deeper disconnect that goes beyond my skill level?
Similarly, I want to say it's because I suck at shooters that Halo 3 bored me to tears. I'm not great at FPSes, but I enjoy the genre and can usually manage to not finish dead last in multiplayer matches. Admittedly, I'm not a big multiplayer fan, especially with the Halo series, where anyone without 30-50 free hours a week to practice is automatically at a disadvantage. Still, Halo 3 - which, I confess, I bought used maybe a year and a half after it released - just didn't click for me. Nothing was mechanically wrong with the game; the usual Bungie tightness of control was there, the familiar weapons and enemies and vehicles all felt perfectly tuned, and the visuals looked terrific on my new HDTV. But the game left me disappointed, and not because it necessarily did anything wrong. I'm sure it was partly my fault for expecting a Halo title to be super-invested in its campaign mode. It's like using a circular saw to chop vegetables: sure, it can do that, but that's not really its primary function.
Probably my worst offense, as far as not liking widely adored games goes, is Super Mario 64. I know I'm not the only one who prefers my Mario in 2D, but I just couldn't force myself through this one. I even bought it for the DS a few months ago just to give it another try, and couldn't get into it on that system either. On both the N64 and DS, the camera controls are awkward at best, the objectives are not immediately clear or compelling, and while the familiar Mario feel is there, I'm just not understanding what made this game so beloved. While I'm sure the pseudo-open world setting was revolutionary at the time, maybe Super Mario 64 suffers from the overinflating effects of nostalgia. Or maybe I'm just not good at 3D platformers (spoiler: I'm not).
This all comes up because I'm playing through Alan Wake right now, and despite the fact that I'm really enjoying the structure, atmosphere, and story, I can't help feeling I'm doing something wrong. Almost every review I've read praises the control responsiveness, but I can't get Alan to do the damn dodge move properly to, um, save my life. And while I agree that the environments and lighting are beyond gorgeous - I haven't seen many prettier vistas - I can't get over the character animations. Probably because the rest of the game is so pretty, the characters look especially stiff and awkward in comparison. In the opening episode, Alan's wife looks like C3P0 with her permanently open mouth that remains largely motionless when she speaks. Since Alan Wake has been in development so long, part of me wonders if the character animations were done using a while ago using old tech. The facial animations in Half-Life 2 blow Alan Wake's out of the water, which is weird since Valve's game is six years older. I rezalize I'm nitpicking - I do still like the game, after all - but I can't help wondering: are my reactions valid, or is my "not getting it" my own damn fault?
See, that's the issue. It's irritating when people say a game or movie or book just "didn't work" for them, but then can't or won't discuss why not. So when something doesn't click for me, I always try to articulate why not. Most of the time, this is a painless enough process; my opinions are my own, and I stick by them. But when my not getting it conflicts with everyone else getting it, there's always that little doubt: what if I don't get it because I just suck?