They're cliches, but it's all true. When I was younger I tried to convince myself that I liked the same things as the masses. So that I could be part of the gang.
I never really got along with Final Fantasy VII, but when it was released I recall giving it a good review on Digitiser.
It was hard not to tell myself I was wrong for not liking it - that I was somehow missing something. So I plugged on and on, denying that I was actually hating every wretched minute of the thing.
It's not a mistake I make these days, but when my tastes go against general opinion I still find myself fighting that urge to believe that it's somehow my fault.
Take Destiny. It's a game that people love. It's a phenomenon, and though it may be waning in popularity now, there's no question that it's a defining game of this current generation. And I wish I loved it the way so many other people love it. I still feel like I'm missing out.
Yet, I didn't understand why it wasn't clicking with me.
Until I played The Division.
Destiny and The Division are different games - they play differently - but there are similarities in that they're both online loot shooters, which are intended to have a long lifespan.
Yet I'm loving The Division, whereas almost from the moment I booted up Destiny I struggled to enjoy myself.
What catalysed it for me was reading Jim Sterling's review of The Division. He described it as "a 'playable' game in the same way Anaconda is a 'watchable' movie" and "overwhelmingly okay". The Division isn't perfect - god knows I'm going to kick something if I get booted off it one more time - but his critique seems harsh to me. Though it would seem that way, because I really like The Division - as much as Jim Sterling appears to like Destiny.
He compares the real-world loot you grind for in The Division as uninspired next to the flaming swords and huge laser cannons you'd find in Destiny - and that's when it clicked with me why I like one and not the other.
See, I can buy into The Division because the world is based upon our one. I've visited New York half a dozen times. I know it pretty well, and it's cool to play games in familiar environments. I've never been to Mars, and the planets in Destiny are so far beyond my frame of reference that I struggle to engage with them. Which is weird, because I love Star Wars - a franchise that is set in space and on alien worlds.
And yet... as I write that, maybe another piece of the puzzle has slotted into place.
See, it's all about the aesthetics. Something about Destiny - and its spiritual predecessor Halo - never felt real to me.
Just like the Star Wars prequels, there's something intangibly fake about it. Even the structure feels oddly alien, with its theme park-style shooting galleries. The art design - while unquestionably impressive - is so drenched in chrome and neon that it looks like nothing I've ever been able to touch physically.
The Division, on the other hand, does a great job of grounding me in reality (even if there are numbers and hit points flying around the screen). There's a weight to it that I never experienced in Destiny. I mean, I know I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptica at the best of times, but it isn't as simple as that. It's something just out of reach... whereas Destiny is so far out of reach as to be on the other side of the Solar System.
Consequently, I think I've solved something that has bothered me for decades - a key part of why I like some games and not others. The more alien a game is - from the art direction to the gameplay - the more I'm going to struggle to enjoy it.
Maybe my imagination only stretches so far - I'm all for living a fantasy, but I want a fantasy that doesn't feel utterly unachievable. I want to see amazing things happening in the world I already live in - not be transported somewhere that's beyond my frame of reference.
And that's ok, because there's enough of both approaches to keep everyone happy. Though this is obviously said with the caveat that I'm right and everyone else is stupid.