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Cult games, and the elusive notion of "quality"

So, I was born 1989, in Sweden, and was introduced to video games and computers very early. By the time I was 3, I had all but co-opted my stepfathers NES, which I used a LOT. I played games like Megaman 1, Super Mario Bros, Shadowgate, Faxanadu, The Legend of Zelda 2: Link’s Adventure, Duck Tales 2, you know, the stuff. The good stuff. Of course, I didn’t know that then.

When I was older, I got a Nintendo 64, along with Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. Phenomenal games, and I was phenomenally excited. I’ll never forget the magic of exploring Hyrule, or figuring out how to get the various stars in Bob-omb Battlefield. I remember “sharing” stars with friends, by telling each other where to find stars that the other had missed. Later on I complement my collection with games such as Pokemon Snap, Majora’s Mask, Castlevania 64 (yeah it’s a good game fight me), Jet Force Gemini, and many more.


Of course, in addition to this I also occasionally played a ton of different games at friends houses or as rentals and so on. Games like Megaman 2, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, Bucky o’ Hare were just a few among them. Of course, there were many more that I tried but didn’t like, but these games stuck with me due to me considering them to be good games.

As I grew into my teens, I lost touch with many of these older games and instead opted to play the lastest and greatests, but somewhere in my mid teens I started seek out these old classics and reconnect with my gaming origins, and to my surprise, almost all of the games that I had played and considered to be great when I was between 4 and 8 years old went on to become either established giants, or cult classics.


This always interested me, because how could I, a snot-nosed 5-year-old with a near-unhealthy relationship to video games be able to discern quality? What did I base my assessment on? I mean, some of these games were hard as all hell. Megaman 1 is an extremely punishing game, full of awful game design (looking at you, Gutsman stage), and Faxanadu is seriously complicated for a NES game. Not to mention The Adventure of Link, which is in a league all of its own. I didn’t actually finish many of these games until I was much older, but the constant dying apparently didn’t diminish my enjoyment of them.

But isn’t “quality” a subjective concept, that both depends on the perceiver and the context in which it was created? How then, can someone without both context and knowledge determine what is good and what isn’t?


Circumstantial evidence says that there at least seem to be aspects quality that are universal, but then again, quality is subjective, so...

What do you think?

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