Sins of a Silicon Empire is a new regular feature here at The Reticule. Essentially, we’ll take to the task any issue we feel is particularly relevant, or is a sign of the trappings of decadence undermining our fair sport. We’ll attack anyone and everyone. This week, it’s us, the journalists and you, the readers. Enjoy!
You adore this game. You’ve not had this much with a game in months. Actually, you may have not even played it yet. You just know it’s going to be good. You just cannot get your head around the fact that some prick behind a keyboard has slated your new love affair. How dare they.
Some examples: Oli Welsh committed the crime of giving Metal Gear Solid 4 an eight out of ten. How dare he! Accuse him of platform bias! Send in the death threats! (Yes, he did receive some of these.) Where are those pitchforks?! I barely needn’t mention Ben Yahtzee who I’d guess has upset each and every one of you at one point or another. I know he liked Call of Duty 4 a bit too much for my liking. How dare he!
Well, the simple fact is, they’ve played a lot of games. Probably more than you, and they’ve been doing it for longer. The ability to articulate your language means nothing if you’ve not got the knowledge and experience required, and for the most part, these guys and girls have. I myself have been playing games some 16 years; longer than many gamers have been alive I’ll guess. It’s not as long as some of the better writers out there, but I don’t think many gamer’s first memories can include scraping £1 a week until they could afford X-Wing and X-Com. In other words, we basically know more about games than you. You think otherwise? Set up a blog, grab a dictionary, and come prove me wrong.
When you come to writing about, and reviewing games, things do change. You’re going in with an itchy Fraps finger and a notepad. You’re applying that experience with games, and your ability to isolate good and bad features in a way in which a casual blast through may not pick up on. I’ve started to wonder if in this way, the reviewer looks for different things in a game than the average gamer does. Certainly, it works the other way too.
How many times have you bought a game based on grade A reviews, only to find yourself disappointed? Probably more times than you can count I’d guess. The most recent example people will bring up is probably Spore. Across the board, Spore received glowing reviews, and despite the distribution furore, was critically and commercially successful. But visit any gaming forum, and I’m sure you’ll find more than a few irate, angry internet men cursing Will Wright’s name, and weeping over the mythical “2005 version”, now somehow scattered to the winds.
So the Sins of our great pastime I’m trying to illustrate today? Firstly, reviewers perhaps need to start considering more down to earth concepts: Is this worth spending a couple of drunken pub nights on? Am I going to get bored of this before it’s over? Secondly, that consumers need to consider some of the things reviewers bring up. It’s no good trying to raise points like “I bet you couldn’t make something better” when the very fact that we can spot such problems means we’d probably not touch trying to make something like it even if we knew how.
So what’s my answer to this situation? Well, firstly, start reading some good journalist’s work. I know now more than ever to trust Jim Rossignol for example, after I blindly bought STALKER Clear Sky after he demolished it in PC Gamer. Secondly, people need to stop worrying about scores. What’s the honest to god difference between an 8 and a 9? It’s either good, bad, or excellent in my books. I’ll let you into a secret. We spend ages trying to generate a scoring system. Then we waste all that by pulling them out of our ass. That’s why I proposed the Reticule’s alternative model rating, and why I think it provides a better judgement than percentages or points. We’re here to tell you if you should, or should not buy a game. Then occasionally lift the really good ones above their less worthy kin in the hope that developers take notice of what works.