John Walker's Electronic House

On Being Hated Disliked A Bit

by on Nov.25, 2010, under The Rest

Tonight a number of RPS readers have announced that my opinions are no longer worthwhile, and that they shall be ignoring me from now onward. This is because of two crimes in the last week. I wrote about the 1993 adventure “game”, Myst, and Telltale’s new release, Poker Night At The Inventory.

The latter caught me far more by surprise than the former. The game is, beyond a very nice gimmick (four popular game characters playing poker with you), pretty weak. It offers a horrible poker game, made briefly entertaining by some funny comments from the cast. Once they start repeating, which is early on, it becomes about struggling through an awful card game, and clicking through much repeated dialogue, to try to hear a new gag. What really threw me was not that people complained that they enjoyed the game and so I was wrong (a standard response to a negative review), but rather that people were furious – I mean absolutely livid – that I’d reviewed it as a poker game.

Even more so, to do so as someone who knows how to play poker. It’s not for people who know how to play poker, I’ve been repeatedly told. I’m not allowed to play the game because of mistakes I’ve made in the past. That stupid, ignorant mistake of having learned the rules to the game.

This was only compounding my fall, following my piece on Myst written for Eurogamer’s Sunday retrospective slot.

Here the reaction was somewhat expected, since I’d deliberately set out to annoy people. What I had hoped was that the overtly, facetiously, ludicrous way in which I began the article might tip people off into seeing that this was a deliberate act of insane polemic. I accused the game of causing the current recession, the war in Iraq, and the deaths of hundreds of children worldwide. A reference I made suggesting it was also responsible for the Holocaust was (very wisely) removed by the editor.

I thought that being so silly, so obviously over-reacting, might have given the fury that followed a little context. I blamed Myst for all the ills of gaming that followed, making it very clear at the start that I didn’t care if this was accurate. It’s still Myst’s fault anyway. Because I really hate Myst, and all the games like it. They’re the antithesis of gaming for me, and I wanted to say so, all at once, in one place. (What’s a bit weird is that the bit I thought would cause the most trouble – my very mean comments about Mac gamers – received no response whatsoever. Perhaps everyone else can’t stand them too.)

Oddly enough, slagging off Myst is how I made my reputation in my early days on PC Gamer. Many years ago (8 to 10, I think) I became known for being the guy who was given all the horrible adventure games to review. Occasionally I’d stumble upon one I thought was great, and it was a real treat. But mostly they were hideous. Future would have to run my reviews past their lawyers before printing them – something I always wore as a badge of honour. I featured Myst and its sequels in They’re Back pretty often, challenging myself to find new vocabulary to express my feelings. The point being, the EG piece was nothing new for me. If anything, it was as much of a retrospective of my old reviewing as it was of the game. But back then there was a lot less internet, a lot fewer people to get cross with me for enjoying myself expressing my disgust for a game I hate.

All unacceptable.

And completely understandable.

For instance, I cannot abide Mark Kermode, no matter how talented a communicator or reviewer he may be, because I find his opinions to be so ridiculously contrary as to surely be egregious. Essentially, I disagree with him, so he rubs me up the wrong way. A few people have compared us, which makes my blood boil, but probably because there’s some truth to it.

There are sites I enjoy reading, but if I see particular critic’s names at the top I’ll instantly decide whatever they’ve written is going to be wrong. If I find that their opinion aligns with my own, I’ll search for a bit of writing that proves they like it for the wrong reasons, and so are still untrustworthy and idiotic. For a few people, today I became untrustworthy and idiotic.

What we most want is to see ourselves reflected. We find reviewers or critics whose tastes and opinions are similar to our own, and then enjoy reading their agreeing with us. It’s an ego thing. It’s much more rewarding to go, “YES! Mmmmmm! Me too! You’ve said it perfectly!” To have our opinions, that we may have never formed into words or sentences, expressed for us in an entertaining way.

What I hope is that I can write in such a way that still informs and changes minds for those who are biased to agree with me, and perhaps still be entertaining or interesting enough to be worth reading for those who are not. I mean, that’s a tough challenge. But I think it’s worth aspiring toward. When I see a comment that says, “I disagree with everything you’ve said, but I enjoyed reading it,” I think I feel the most proud.

The Myst piece really was, in my opinion, a piece of comedy. Comedy based in truth – my true feelings about the game, and the horror that followed in its wake. But I was aiming to make people laugh, mostly at the ludicrous hyperbole. With Poker Night, I wanted to inform people about how bugged the game was, and explain that it can’t play effective poker, while giving my reaction to it all. Hence why we call our reviews “Wot I Think” – a very deliberate statement about the personal, subjective nature of all reviews, that we’re open about, and embrace. It really is what I think, and it’s always a bit strange to see people so certain that I had no right to think it in front of them.

But I’m just as strange. Well, almost. I don’t tend to leave comments. Unless I think a piece is factually false, or based on lies – that’ll get me commenting. More often I comment on my own articles because other people are being factually false or lying in response to them. Either way, that’s my motivation. I’m sure Mark Kermode will never be troubled by my sneering at him, as I’ll keep out of his way. But of course, were he to start posting on a site I loved, that may change.

I think it’s quite fun to be a critic people have decided to hate dislike a bit. It’s not much fun being slandered, or having people make announcements about me based on ignorance or lies, and that’s a common part of the job. But I think it probably means I’m getting something right somewhere. I wouldn’t like to be universally hated – I’m a pretty nice guy, and I think I deserve to have a few people who like me – but I can’t help but grin and think of myself in good company to have a few haters gunning for me.


35 Comments for this entry

  • Lewie Procter

    I disagree with everything you’ve said, but I enjoyed reading it.

  • Simon Tout

    Hi John,

    Inevitably you must be a disappointment to people if all that they seek from your reviews is confirmation of their own opinions. I certainly didn’t agree with your review of Myst, which I enjoyed immensely when it was released, but I don’t feel personally threatened by your dislike of it. Your ongoing rabid anti-Apple diatribes, however, are clearly aimed at provoking me and I shall not bear them. :-)

    Keep up the good work

  • Philip

    I agree with everything you said, but didn’t enjoy a single word.

  • alice

    For what it is worth, I love all of the RPS contributors even though I do not agree with them on many games (and totally agree on others). For example, I think Quinns is being too pedantic with the points he raises in his Journey of Saga series and it sort of broke my heart because to me it signals a fundamental difference between his opinion and mine, but I still read everything he posts. The quality of the writing, if anything, keeps me coming back.

    That said, I really enjoyed the Myst piece and have yet to form an opinion on Poker Night at the Inventory.

  • Drug Crazed Dropkick

    *spends next few weeks making subtle references to this on RPS*

    I disagreed with you, and found Poker Night enjoyable, but you had the same gripes I had with it, mainly that Max ALWAYS BLOODY RIVERS YOU AND AJDHAJLHFOAI…


    It just seems they annoyed you a lot more than it did me. I managed to get a good read on the Heavy a lot of the time somehow…

  • Alex

    Your intent with the Myst article flew right past my head. :I

    As for the Inventory, I’m bad enough at poker and lucky enough not to have encountered any of the bugs that I basically had no problem with the game. The dialogue repeated itself, but having played a few hundred hours of Left 4 Dead 2, that type of thing doesn’t bother me, either.

  • Alex

    And I wasn’t joking about l4d2. I just booted Steam back up and I has me at 317 hours.

  • Lu-Tze

    Any review that says “John Walker” at the top is going to agree with me. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but you always reinforce my opinion.

    What that means is that things that would completely pass me by, instead I pick up and love.

    And this is why I have more than 1000 stars in Slitherlink.

  • mister k

    Reading that poker night thread through it feels like people have been linked to defend the game, but there are some regular commenters there. I find anger at someone dissing a game you enjoyed… strange. One of the most baffling things about this is that, assuming you are correct, the AI is terrible at poker. So no matter the players ability at poker, new or experienced, they’re not going to get a good poker game. Baffling stuff.

  • innokenti

    While I frequently disagree with you Mr. Walker, I find your writing witty, interesting and always engaging. Likewise with the other RPS lot.

    I am disappointed that I don’t hate you…

    Anyway, keep up the good work. I won’t be cancelling my subscription!

  • Xercies

    I think i have read your work for at least 5 years now starting from PC gamer, moving onto RPS and onto here as well. You usually have tastes aligned with me and so I started loving your work and of course you are always entertaining.

    But i have to strongly disagree about disliking Mark kermode, sure sometiems his opinions are wrong(mostly on twlight series0 but most of the time i do find him aligning with my tastes.

    What does that mean? Well I hate you now because you hate Mark Kermode ;)

  • Vagabond

    Hopefully some kind soul will upload edited versions of Rumdoings with your voice removed, for the people who have decided you’re not worth listening to anymore.
    As an added bonus Nick would be cast, in a Garfield minus Garfield-esque fashion, as some sort of mad person just talking to himself for 45 minutes.

  • NM

    You’re wrong, and you’re a grotesquely ugly freak. Thanks.

  • colthor

    I still love you, John Walker <3

    (As if unsolicited, anonymous declarations of love over the internet weren't creepy enough, know that I didn't say that to my ex once in over five years of going-out. Even if you substitute her name for yours. Scared yet?)

  • Kirrus

    @colthor, that’s just .. wrong! 5 years with no L word?!

    Whilst I might disagree with your thoughts on a game that totally and enjoyably enthralled me for at least 48 hours (MystIV), I’ll *never* ignore you. I’ve bought and ignored too many games on your recommendations to not accept that your opinions on games are (almost always) dot on what I need. So instead of moaning, I say, please keep up the good work :D

  • Arthur

    I’m a pretty easily offended soul myself, but the gnashing of teeth on the Myst one was beyond outsized. Several people seemed to think you were targeting them personally, and others really did appear to think that the more insane jokes were meant to be serious. I’ve never seen a larger collective failure to grasp humor.

    With Poker Night at the Inventory, I wondered if maybe the fact that it was $5 blinded people to it’s more obvious flaws. IE: you saw it as a bad game, and they saw it as a $5 game.

  • NM

    Arthur, I am offended by that “it’s”.

  • Arthur

    Oh also, if you’re ever feeling bad when people send you hate mail listen to this song:

    And brush the hate off your shoulders.

  • Arthur

    NM: that was my iPhone auto correcting me. It is adamant that all “its” have apostrophes.

  • Alex Bakke

    I think I’ve read most of the comments, and I honestly can’t think why people think your review was either biased towards TTG, or rubbish because you didn’t like the poker.

    Fantastic, in depth review.

  • Jambe

    John Walker: Struggling with Internet Fame by John Walker, Famous Internet Figure

    I like your writing and most of the writing at RPS because it’s genuine. Honest opinion in an approachable format is always good, even (and perhaps especially) when I disagree with it.

    What we most want is to see ourselves reflected. We find reviewers or critics whose tastes and opinions are similar to our own, and then enjoy reading their agreeing with us.

    There’s truth to this, but disagreement is also enjoyable. My views are refined more quickly by contrasting them with conflicting views than by agreeing ad nauseam. It’s certainly nice to share an opinion, but encountering views which boldly clash with your own often makes for essentially automatic introspection. Also, it’s possible to lull oneself out of a skeptical mindset by agreeing too frequently (say, with a good friend, an idol or an inspirational figure).

    I’d say I agree with you about 75% of the time, but the 1/4 or so of opinions we don’t share stand out much more readily in my memory. That fact alone is interesting.

    I certainly don’t hate you because of our differences of opinion about games. If anything, the more clearly you elucidate your opinions, the more valuable you become to me as a source of information.

    Hating somebody over games of all things is… well, I don’t like using the word immature but it’s entirely germane. Repeatedly expressing hate for people via the internet about such trifles strikes me as a sign of being very poorly-adjusted. I can understand expressing dislike of somebody over consequential issues, such as burqas, stem cell research, universal healthcare, etc.

    I don’t hate you because of your views on culture or government, either. You are largely innocuous. I do hate some of the music you seem to enjoy, though. I prefer singers who can sing.

    Now I’m off to stuff my face with turkey and all the rest of our meal.

    Also, as usual, I demand more Rum Doings, a Rum Doings website, Rum Doings Twitter integration here at, etc. Take time out of your schedules to appease my trivial needs! *pounds fists on table*

    When I am Doings-less I am all =(

  • Edgar the Peaceful

    My post is perhaps a little saccharin amid the witty retorts to you uncharacteristically neurotic post, but sometimes one just needs to be reassured. So, John, keep it up. Your writing (and broadcasting) never fails to be amusing and intelligent.

    Dragon Age is turgid crap though.

  • NM

    Edgar: do you really think John’s neurosis is uncharacteristic? Heavens.

  • Edgar the Peaceful

    Well, it does leek out here and there. I find a lot of John’s writing almost macho, for want of a better word: Unusually confident and assured.

    I’m married with two kids, by the way. Football.

  • Edgar the Peaceful

    ‘Leak’ – Christ, a terrible gaff when replying to Nick Mailer.

  • Kieron Gillen

    It’s not as if that even RPS agrees with RPS half the time.


  • Blissett

    “I think it’s quite fun to be a critic people have decided to hate.” Oh do belt up John. You’re hardly Armond White now are you? More “be mildly irritated by” than hate I’d say.

    Still your Kermode comments made me chuckle. Reminded me of a girl I used to know who insisted on telling everyone she met that “some people” thought she looked like Michelle Pfeiffer. She couldn’t see much resemblence thankfully as she’d always thought the actress was a bit weird looking.

    Personally I stopped agreeing with both yourself and NM quite some time ago but for some reason am compelled to continue listening and visiting this blog. Curious.

  • John Walker

    Oh good grief, not for a second was I attempting to oh-so-subtly compliment myself by comparing me with Kermode. I really don’t respect him at all, and find the comparison insulting. I think I’m a far better critic than he is. But I can see that our polemical style (ranting) is something we possibly have in common.

  • Blissett

    I’d be interested to know how much of Kermode’s recent work you’ve listened to or read. I think your characterisation of him as a polemical contrarian is rather unfair but is probably a view I’d share if I only picked up his more extreme moments. On the whole he is an intelligent, passionate and opinionated critic and comments such as “I really don’t respect him at all” do you little credit.

  • John Walker

    Your mum does little credit.

  • DXN


    And that's really all there is to say on the matter.

  • PleasingFungus

    I disagree with everything you had to say (about Myst – haven’t played Poker Night so can’t say), but tremendously enjoyed reading it.

    Also, someone with a few spare hours should take Vagabond up on his suggestion.

  • Tom Camfield

    @ botherer

    We have different tastes, you tend to rate stories, atmosphere and jokes higher than I would (I skip most cutscenes), so when I read your assessments, I just adjust for this. Simples.

    That said, I’ve been a victim of my own temper for so long that I can quite understand the urge to write angry OTT missives, I’ve just learnt not to press send.

    Re: Myst – I can’t remember a single positive mention of the game over the last twenty years… the reaction to your retrospective is like someone screaming at you for thinking Titanic is bad… it’s not as if it ever was a massive hit with the critics…