Extra Credits: Game Reviews

This week, we talk about reviewing games, how to pursue a game reviewing career, and how game reviewing might be improved overall.

Recent Comments:

  • First, you say that reviewers need to develop a language similar to movie reviews to describe their media yet you fail to realize that movie reviews are often biased in favor of the reviewer’s personal preferences. Someone who rates 50 First Dates highly is probably not going to give Serenity a very good rating and indeed that is largely what happens with sci-fi movies today. Most reviewers are familiar with the sci-fi worlds of Star Trek and Star Wars and review them accordingly but lesser known IP’s like Firefly are spurned largely because of unfamiliarity with the subject matter. Some of this is countered by the fact that there are not a massive number of movies being released each week. You could easily watch every major title hitting the big screen in a week and do background research into it on the side to lessen the in-born bias towards the genre or IP but that isn’t even remotely possible with a video game.

    Second, it also assumes that the reader knows the relevant subject matter intimately. The big issue here is the inability of the average gamer to play every title hitting the shelf (and I seriously doubt anyone can play every title hitting the shelf anyways). Movie reviews once again fail in this regard and game reviews fail in the same way. The problem is a lack of proper context. For example, why describe the failings of sound design in MW3 by referencing Kingdom Hearts? The industry generates significantly more content than movies and that content varies much more than movies. Movies can be generally defined by setting and type ( 50 First Dates: modern day comedy romance) while video games can be defined by these same descriptors and the mechanics that define the experience(Dead Space: sci-fi horror shooter). The additional descriptor for the mechanics of the game often defines the game more than the setting or archetype. The story of Commander Shepherd would probably be a lot different if it was told to the tune of an RTS or TBS instead of an RPG. Though it may seem as though I am pointing out the obvious my point is that reviews need to be written in a language specific to their game mechanics and their relations to other titles in the mechanical genre because I feel that is where games and gamers are most divided.

    Well let me resurrect the debate.

    Your first point is both nothing new and an unavoidable fact. People has preferences, and even the best critics have their preferences. Obviously it would be great if critics were completely unbiased, but we would need brainwash to do that. A good critic tries to be as unbiased as he/she can, but we humans are far from perfection.
    I don't quite understand your second point. What you're saying happens with every artistic medium. 2001: A Space Oddisey would be a totally different story if it was, say, a comedy.
    It is true, however, that gaming critique needs to find its own language, and it has to evolve from the state it is right now.

    Almozayaf referenced Angry Joe. Maybe he's too friendly for me, as he describes it. He makes valid points, yes, he's entertaining, yes. But his videos are maybe a little long and he still makes comments of the game itself. I like more the style of Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation. He's very informal about his reviews, but he comments the games referencing game design and referencing other games and media.

  • I am surprised this episode didn’t generate more discussion.

    ....
    The day the industry as a whole grows up and starts acting like adults is the day we will be able to face our critics and piracy but as long as childish antics are the preferred methodology of everyone involved then SOPA will be as much as we deserve as a community.

    How the hell does childish antics make us deserve SOPA? And since when does making a game approachable mean we are going backwards?

    I cant speak for DA2, but if you calmed down you would have noticed that in ME2, while planet scanning was a time waster, it wasn't a game breaker. The interface was a lot more approachable than ME1, and most importantly, there was more varied levels than ME1 and there was greater depth in storytelling too. You may not accept it, but to curse the entire game industry just because ME2 was more approachable to me than you is illogical.

    On a broader note, how does this deserve SOPA? If anything, the free internet helped games progress from dumb shooters to varied sandboxes and deep stories with likable, relatable characters. SOPA would silence this progress and games would be in a worse state than they are now.

    I'm sorry, but just because people tend to be kinder to games that you dont like doesn't mean they deserve SOPA.

  • First, you say that reviewers need to develop a language similar to movie reviews to describe their media yet you fail to realize that movie reviews are often biased in favor of the reviewer’s personal preferences.

    I think it should go without saying that all reviewers, whether it's music, films or games, are biased in some manner. Very few people are able to be completely neutral when discussing something they have a stake in.

    Second, it also assumes that the reader knows the relevant subject matter intimately. The big issue here is the inability of the average gamer to play every title hitting the shelf (and I seriously doubt anyone can play every title hitting the shelf anyways).

    It's not really necessary to play everything to have an idea of how it works, or an idea of the content of the thing.
    For a movie example, I have never watched the first Twilight movie. But because of chatter around the internet, or continuous exposure from media, I have a broad idea of what happens in the movie, so I'm not completely in the dark if someone does start to talk about it.

    It's the same thing with games. While never having played Mass Effect 1 or 2, if someone critiques an interface mechanic, or the combat in a game in comparison to Mass Effect, that's still a point of reference I can relate to.
    There's a book called "How to talk about books you haven't read", where the author lays out many of these strategies for talking about things you haven't read, and those techniques apply to films and games as well.

  • I am surprised this episode didn’t generate more discussion.

    ....
    The day the industry as a whole grows up and starts acting like adults is the day we will be able to face our critics and piracy but as long as childish antics are the preferred methodology of everyone involved then SOPA will be as much as we deserve as a community.

    How the hell does childish antics make us deserve SOPA? And since when does making a game approachable mean we are going backwards?

    SOPA exists because of piracy and some piracy exists because consumers can't trust game developers to provide an acceptable trial, fully disclose mechanics of the game, reviewers to properly disclose features of the game, or return the game if they are unsatisfied(for obvious reasons of course). Have you played ME1 and ME2? If so look at this review for the inventory system for ME2 and tell me if this accurately described anything at all.

    http://www.gamespot.com/mass-effect-2/reviews/mass-effect-2-review-6246923/?page=2

    It never says you no longer have the ability to use any weapon or armor you want it says it has been restructured and streamlined. The reviewer says it only seems stripped but it actually was stripped. They simply failed to inform you of the fact and instead changed the subject. Don't you think the RPG elements of a game are important in an RPG? They limited every RPG element in the game but a two page review of the game only gives those elements one paragraph and then that paragraph generally ignores the fact that those elements were heavily limited. Yes it admits to having fewer skills but immediately points out that you have a larger team and the time you can spend in a single play-through. In other words, the reviewer only admitted to a reduction in RPG elements once and then changed the subject without even adding a period.

    There was no trial and this is the quality of information the community received from supposedly independent review? What recourse does an RPG enthusiast have once they find out they have been sold a sub par product? None at this point. As I pointed out, you can't give the game a bad review or you will be banned (childish behavior) and you can't take the game back for a refund. The developer just sold you a lemon and you can't do anything about it. What are you going to do when ME3 rolls around? Get screwed again or pirate the game to see if its worth a crap? I am not saying that these elements made the game unplayable but they did take away from the enjoyment of the game for RPG enthusiasts who enjoyed the first game. Not to mention it now has less RPG elements in it than BF3. If MW3 claims to be an FPS with RPG elements why can ME2 claim to be anything other than a TPS with RPG elements?

    Hell a single player in MW3 has access to two weapons, three perks, three streaks, two equipment, and a death streak. Many of these have varying levels of customization in and of themselves. It's RPG elements are on par or even exceed those of ME2 it just doesn't incorporate those elements into the story of the game. Too bad really since it's RPG elements are probably better than two epic RPG titles. Why should they get a pass for making a game that barely qualifies as its genre in a modern world?


    I cant speak for DA2, but if you calmed down you would have noticed that in ME2, while planet scanning was a time waster, it wasn't a game breaker. The interface was a lot more approachable than ME1, and most importantly, there was more varied levels than ME1 and there was greater depth in storytelling too. You may not accept it, but to curse the entire game industry just because ME2 was more approachable to me than you is illogical.

    Why wasn't it a game breaker? Other games get brutalized for much less trivial interruptions in flow and if you want Shepherd and crew to reach their full potential you have to drag yourself through this awful mechanic. Read the review of Too Human and explain to me why it gets penalized for making you run around in a home base to get from shop, to shop, to quest giver, to quest start while ME1 and ME2 do not.

    http://www.gamespot.com/too-human/reviews/too-human-review-6196150/

    If you have played that game and ME1 or 2 then you know they are all similar in scale and distance between vital locations but Too Human gets beat up for the same thing ME1 and ME2 are lauded for doing. Why? Because a biased moron reviewed Too Human and ME2. They didn't even understand the mechanics of the game and it shines through in the review. That review is way off the mark in multiple area's and the community score reflects that.


    On a broader note, how does this deserve SOPA? If anything, the free internet helped games progress from dumb shooters to varied sandboxes and deep stories with likable, relatable characters. SOPA would silence this progress and games would be in a worse state than they are now.

    I'm sorry, but just because people tend to be kinder to games that you dont like doesn't mean they deserve SOPA.

    Why do we deserve less? A lot of the community fights against anti-piracy legislation with the same reasoning as people promoting intelligent design and at the same time the industry and community are both to blame.

    The community largely turns a blind eye or even defends the activity and the industry either fails to provide the community with enough information to make an informed purchase or they work with reviewers to misinform the community. We can point fingers all day are we can work together to fix the problem. No one seems interested in doing that though. Only winning the argument.

  • First, you say that reviewers need to develop a language similar to movie reviews to describe their media yet you fail to realize that movie reviews are often biased in favor of the reviewer’s personal preferences.

    I think it should go without saying that all reviewers, whether it's music, films or games, are biased in some manner. Very few people are able to be completely neutral when discussing something they have a stake in.

    What is stopping the reviewer from only reviewing RPG's, FPS's, TBS, etc and saying "I am an RPG fan and reviewer" since most gamers do have a preferred genre and most people are biased work within those limits. News agencies don't take the entertainment gossip writer and send him/her to Syria to report on war crimes. It's a stupid and short sighted approach to a medium that produces vastly more content in a week than film.


    It's not really necessary to play everything to have an idea of how it works, or an idea of the content of the thing.
    For a movie example, I have never watched the first Twilight movie. But because of chatter around the internet, or continuous exposure from media, I have a broad idea of what happens in the movie, so I'm not completely in the dark if someone does start to talk about it.

    I never said you couldn't compare a simple mechanic though sound design could be construed as or actually be simple depending on the game. Really that was a poor choice for an example.

    It's more like trying to describe a game through very broad terms like "the best way to describe this is Fallout meets iCarly". Thats actually an awful way of describing anything. Is it Fallout's world acting like a bunch of young girls or is it a bunch of young girls blowing each others heads off? Saying "the inventory system is accessed through a radial function similar to that pioneered by Mass Effect" is perfectly fine and in fact that's what I want to hear but more specifically I want to hear an example in the genre if possible simply because it's more likely that I will have played that game and have a point of reference. I mean there are vampires and werewolves in Underworld too and you don't compare that movie to Twilight unless you are pointing out how different they are!

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