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What Do You Want?
Wow, it’s been a while. I’ve had blogs in my head but no time to get them down in type. You see, I’ve been travelling – a lot.
This year’s changes in E3 have prompted the publishing houses and developers to run many smaller events where we, the press, get hands-on time with products. In many ways, this is a good thing. I enjoy having more time with each product at an earlier stage; I enjoy having time to talk about the product for more than 20 minutes before being pushed on to something so different I’ve forgotten what I just saw; I especially enjoy having the opportunity to take the product home and play with it before proffering an opinion. Now isn’t that novel?
But, I’ve seen so many games recently it’s like E3 all over again. I’m rarely home. The costs are extraordinary. GamersInfo is a Tier 2 site – we don’t have corporate sponsorship. We depend on the views generated by readers to generate ad views to keep us afloat. Otherwise? We don’t exist. That’s what most sites are – Tier 2. This constant traveling is rough.
But that’s not what this blog is about. I have a question (well, this is me, I have many questions) for you, dear reader.
What do you want from us? You know, the people writing about the games…
There’s been a trend in the past year or so (we can see it in the article views and it’s not just on this site) for previews to become more important than reviews. I can see the logic in this: you want to know what a game is before deciding to purchase it.
However, the code we’re given to preview is incomplete, often bug ridden, may change significantly before launch. To be fair to the game, it’s often prudent to mention nothing more than a feature set and a “hope” for game play.
If we’re given preview code late enough, we can offer an opinion of the game as it will be…but at our own peril. Does anyone remember the flack Gamespot took over The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for giving it an 8.9 out of 10 before it had even been released when the fans expected a 10?
Or - and this one is tough - you preview a game as average or mediocre or *shudders* poor and the developer takes offense and writes you a scathing letter because you didn’t understand features that weren’t documented properly or couldn’t play them because the learning curve was too difficult. Then the site no longer receives any support from that developer (and occasionally publisher) again.
This happens with reviews as well, but less so because in a review there are other sites that usually agree with your opinion. It’s harder to be singled out if nine other reviewers agree with you.
Do you want our honest opinions? Do you even trust them?
I’m writing this from a hotel in Seattle. I’m attending a conference where I will go to sessions that have nothing to do with writing about games. But I want to learn how they are made. I want to learn what the developers learn. It makes me more valuable to both the developers and to you, the reader. It should make my opinion more educated. But, do you care?
This is my sixth such conference this year alone. Does it show?
And to any developers/publishers reading this…we know we’re your “free” advertising. But do you care about our opinions? Some of us have been doing this a long time; some work hard to aspire beyond the level of mediocrity that permeates this space called internet.
There are a few that even understand the medium in which you create your art.
Do we have value beyond “pimping the game”? And if so, what is it?
A month or so back I posted a scholarship essay because I’m in school at the moment. I don’t like the state of “games journalism”. I don’t think there is any. But I don’t like the state of game reviews, either.
I fully acknowledge that many game reviewers don’t have the knowledge or understanding of “game” concepts to write anything more than determine if they had fun – and I think that is a perfectly valid and laudable form of review. It’s what this site is based upon and I intend for it to stay that way.
But, I also feel that there are many good, educated people in the games press whose opinions are discounted. Perhaps it’s because of the mediocrity of the industry as a whole. Perhaps it’s because there are so few “big” sites and so very many Tier 2 and 3. I don’t have an answer. Yet, we’re here, an untapped resource.
So, reader…be you player or developer…what do you want from us?
Of course, the problem is as you point out: journalism doesn't necessarily pay the bills. Upset the wrong people and you get your supply (or advertising) cut off. And, as we all know the industry has a lot of ugliness that could be exposed.
On the review side, this has lead to inflation of scores. This ties back into the bit about outraged Zelda fans at the latest incarnation's 8.9/10 score. The problem is that this is a terrible rating. Truly low ratings are reserved for unpolished games from small developers/publishers or for companies that forgot to pay the advertising bill this month.
For games, I'd love to see more reviews of indie games. I'd love to try out more of these types of games, but I don't have the time to weed through the cheap attempts to cash in on a popular types of games compared to the really interesting indie games out there.
I'd like to see a break in the pattern that equates signing to a big publisher as the criteria for review interest.
I'd like to see some game criticism appear, alongside the endless consumer reviews.
I'd like to see game journalists who are actually capable of game criticism.
Most of all, I'd like to be able to pick up a games magazine and feel something other than anger. But I recognise, at least, that this last problem is my own. ;)
PS: You're Captcha system is *hard*. It took me 5 attempts last time...
So I would like to see more of the same in game reviews / previews. Specifically, I mean that the average game reportage could benefit from more clarity of exposition. There should be a clear distinction between subjective opinion based on an aesthetic faculty, and game-play related technical or mechanical criticisms.
Perhaps if all criticisms are documented in a vaguely scientific way (i.e. causally), flak from developers/publishers would be less worrisome?
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