Society has come up with this brilliant idea that “good” and “like” are interchangeable synonyms, and it’s something that starts at an extremely early age, where your parents constantly hound you over the matter of whether your food tastes “good” or whether the movie was “good”. Well, it’s a problem that has spilled over into videogames, so it’s worth briefly dedicating our time to.
Basically, when you say that you “like” something, you are arguing that you gained some degree of pleasure or enjoyment from it, and there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with this. You are simply stating your reaction to something. Nothing more, nothing less. But when you say that something is “good”, you are effectively ordering or ranking that thing. By saying it is “good”, you are saying it is better than the “bad” stuff. And in doing so, you are asserting yourself as an authority on the matter, and implying that you have enough expertise that you can make such an assertion and back it up.
Sounds simple, right? So what’s the problem? Well, the terms are often used interchangeably, and it leads those who clearly lack authority to inadvertently assert that authority. And I can speak from personal observation that this has been the source of many a pissing match on the internet. Good luck explaining to someone that something they liked could possibly be “bad”, because in their eyes, “good” and “like” are one and the same. (Unless the “bad” thing they “liked” is phrased under the friendly, non-combative euphemism that is a “guilty pleasure”.) And good luck explaining the difference between “like” and “good” in casual conversation, lest you be criticized for semantics, and it’s decided that “you’re taking this way too seriously”.
Then again, this is to be entirely expected from a culture of consumption that expects that you to take an authoritative opinion on every topic. The American political spectrum and its bought-and-paid news cycle gives you two choices, and will be argued by two “experts” on their topic, reinforcing the notion that these are the only two choices and you must take one. Sports television—particularly ESPN—has created a culture in which you are expected to take as many opinions as possible as quickly as possible, boiling the various topics of the day down to ninety-second soundbytes and then rushing on to the next topic. The simple idea is to falsely empower people, no matter how ill-informed or unqualified they may be, to take an authoritative opinion on everything.
But anyone who has reached some degree of enlightenment will tell you the tipping point is that moment where you have learned enough about the world to realize you don’t know that much. So while the ill-educated will continue to assert that false sense of authority, the enlightened man will realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know.” That’s all “like” is. It’s to say that “I played the game, I don’t necessarily know if it’s good or bad—and I will have to give more thought to that matter—but I can say that enjoyed the time I spent with it, and you can take that enjoyment for what you think it is worth.”
Of course, the ideal for any person who has given enough thought to a topic—and wishes to become a leading authority on their topic—is that “like” and “good” become synonyms, and that one becomes so supremely confident and knowledgeable that their personal preference becomes the ordering. Generally speaking, that’s a lofty and arrogant position for one to take, and given the complexity and range of today’s games, it’s most certainly a difficult goal. But if you want to understand games, it’s a goal worth pursuing, so long as it makes the games more engaging and enjoyable.
So you got that? There’s a difference between “good” and “like”, it’s not a hard one to understand, and it’s not hard to figure out which one you should use. And believe me, it will save you a lot of hassle in the future. You’ll like me for it, and you can thank me later.