Cooperatives: EarthBound

Is EarthBound the best game, my favorite game or both?

For the past few years, I've had an ongoing argument with my friend, the film critic and reporter Matt Patches. When he isn't evangelizing The Legend of Korra, Patches enjoys rapping about why and how we become so passionate about our favorite media. He believes that when we say a movie (or video game or television show or subway line) is our favorite, we are also saying it is the best.

In his words:

We're taught to think that there are objective standards for art. A movie earns points for its technical, dramatic and critical achievements. But in the end, the movie we love the most works to that effect because it's running on all the cylinders a great piece of art should. Best is an objective term that has no place in the subjective conversation of art, and if we're going to use it, it should be a substitute for favorite.

I'd long believed the opposite — that I can claim one game is my favorite and that another game is "the best." I wasn't sure why I believed this, besides the obvious pleasure of making Patches' face scrunch with frustration, like a constipated bullfrog.

After playing EarthBound this week, I crafted an answer. It's selfish, really.

Within minutes of booting EarthBound on Frushtick's Wii U, I was agitated by the middling fighting mechanics and slow pace. It's a fantastic, weird, bold and fascinating game. It's just not the best. Not for me, at least. But I think EarthBound's my favorite game, because I cherish the entirety of the experience. Sitting in my boxers on the linoleum floor of my family's kitchen, losing weekends to an adventure that, for the first time, felt familiar and believable to me. EarthBound also introduced me to the internet and forums and other people who loved video games. Looking over my shoulder, I can see the game was the starter pistol for my entire career.

So, by bending already warped definitions of favorite and best, I have two games I absolutely love. I can namedrop them in conversation and hold them up as examples of what I appreciate the most about this hobby. My favorite game is EarthBound.

Now the best game, that's a tough one.

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