These days, my goal with Red Ring Circus (when I manage to find the time to write!), is to focus on games and movies that are off the beaten path. I feel like I’m doing my job when I can steer my tiny audience towards small titles they may have never given the time of day, like A Plague Tale: Innocence, or Arctic. The opportunity to share a discovery like that—particularly when the internet already employs thousands of poorly-paid critics to sing those praises—is a rare treat.
More often, my explorations away from the mainstream are about my own curiosity. I’m drawn to B-tier efforts and oddball indies. I buy a ton of obscure retro horror games, even if I may never get around to playing them. And even when I’m playing the most prominent triple-A blockbusters, I develop a relentless completionist attitude, hunting for some unique corner of the game that few people noticed.
It can be pretty time consuming. When I write about a game like The Sinking City or a film like Serenity, I’m doing it in the hope that I sate curiosity for someone else. “Here are the things that are unique and cool and interesting about this, and here are a million reasons you shouldn’t go near it.” My service, if I’m offering one, is to pique your curiosity but save you some time.
That said, I think people should play the occasional bad game or watch a bad film that intrigues them. Those rotten apples give some perspective, especially when they’re founded on some good ideas. Take a chance on an unpopular title, and you either make an exciting discovery or gain some more appreciation for the stuff you love.
It’s so tempting to go with the zeitgeist, especially now. There is a subset of games, movies, TV shows, and books that feel like required consumption. Fear of missing out is almost unavoidable, and the amount of content that may come up at a party, or at work, or on a forum discussion, is more than any one person can consume.
The result is that we end up with some messed up priorities when it comes to the “art” we spend time on. You can see that flaw in action on this very website. When I offer up a timely review of a game like Far Cry: New Dawn, it’s an attempt to put some value on those fifteen hours I wasted chasing a zeitgeist moment. And don’t even get me started on Days Gone.
The game industry and gaming audience are so bad at this. In the last few years, the idea of keeping up with all the high profile games that may come up in conversation has become a full time job. How can you take my recommendations of A Plague Tale seriously when you have 90 hours of Red Dead Redemption 2, 120 hours of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and 2000 hours of Destiny or The Division to tackle?
What’s worse is how this idea has allowed great games to fall off of everyone’s radar. There’s a perception that games are so good now that you have no choice but to only play the cream of the crop. But if that’s true, why are so many people still chasing Anthem’s tail or putting time into another cynical Far Cry or Ghost Recon game? There IS only enough time for the cream of the crop, but “cream of the crop” doesn’t have to mean the game with the biggest advertising budget.
So I guess if there is some greater point to this article it is this: try to be more thoughtful about the games, movies, and other content you consume. Take a chance on that game a handful of people are praising, rather than the game two million people said was “just okay”. And if I ever manage to help you get there through this website, let me know, because it’s a big reason why I still do it.
P.S. I won’t pretend Red Ring Circus is some hall of oddities. I review a ton of mainstream games and film, but my hope is that for the most part, you’re getting thoughts on things here that you won’t find repeated on fifty other websites. And I still plan to write about mainstream stuff. In fact, I’m considering writing about my time with Sekiro, even though about a billion people have already written about that one.