Review Scores in Gaming

In quiet moments over the last few weeks where I have been reading through parts of the gaming press, my brow has become furrowed over the furore concerning complaints about the review score system.

 As a brief background to anyone who has missed the mess, Eurogamer gave Uncharted 3 an 8/10 score and were internet-crucified by a series of commenters claiming that Eurogamer were attention seeking, trying to get extra hits, and generally saying that they were wrong and irresponsible to give it any less than a 9/10.  Incidentally, most of these often incredibly harsh and unrepeatable-before-the-watershed comments will have come from people who hadn’t played the game yet.


That doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me, but then I could chalk that up to the fact that I barely understand the desire to leave comments in general. I do however think it’s fair to say however that it’s insane and sadly not existing in a vacuum.  The issue has been discussed and dissected in other places, most recently by Jim Sterling at the Escapist and by Checkpoint on PATV a while back, both worth a look if you are equally perplexed about the issue.

Game journalists complaining about game journalism is actually becoming a bit of a cliché now and is nothing new.  The complaining about review scores has been bubbling away for ages.  One of the main issues is the conflict of interest that can arise in the course of the symbiotic relationship between PR and journalist with the PRs under no obligation to send review copies of games and journalists needing copies of games in order to review them and maintain a readership. I’m sure most establishments could afford to arrange a game-buying budget to circumvent this but regardless, it can make it a little awkward when it comes to reviewing an absolute stinker.

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An Introduction To Video Games – Pilot Episode

A while ago, I wrote about how I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t try to make their own television shows.  I then couldn’t work out why I hadn’t tried to make one before.

As a result of these musings, I bring you my pilot episode of ‘An Introduction To Video Games’.

Making this, whilst fun, has taught me why more people don’t try it.  It’s much harder than it looks and takes ages to put together.  I do suspect that if I make another one, it will be produced much quicker!

Legitimate Critic

I have a problem whenever I review things.  There is an inner monologue that I seem to maintain that repeats the phrase “Who am I to say this?” over and over again driving me into a guilt spiral if I’ve been asked to review something that I deem to be not-very-good.

As far as I am concerned, the best critics have a deeper understanding of whatever it is they are critiquing.  As my field at the moment is predominantly games, I have a wide range of peers to look to for inspiration or despair.   As an example of a good critic, Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation is someone I appreciate not because of his oft hilarious turn of phrase but because I always feel he has a grounding of knowing what he’s talking about.  He can be pedantically critical, but that’s the best way to help a medium improve and it is always very clear just how much he loves the games he reviews.  Most importantly for me, his understanding has come from his contribution to the Indie games field and he has self published several titles and following his blog will reveal that he often works on several more that never see the light of day due to a mix of inertia, lack of time, or a realisation that the idea was better on paper.

Other reviewers also tend to read better in my opinion when they have game design experience.  The Rock Paper Shotgun reviews are always solid because they are also written by people who not only have a passion for games, but also have some experience with designing games or mods.  Likewise the Bit-Tech reviews (and yes I am a little biased here) are generally good because the guys that write them have dabbled in game design as well.  In this day and age, if you are interested enough in games to write about them, it would be crazy if you hadn’t dabbled in a little hobby-coding at some point, even if it’s playing around with a level editor or something.

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Game Addiction and Compulsion

The guys behind my favourite web show, Extra Credits, have recently done a two part episode on the issue of game addiction, the second part of which is a wildly different format to their usual set up due to the fact that it’s a subject that’s close to home for show writer James Portnow, and consisted of a very heartfelt retelling of his own personal experiences with game addiction/compulsion.

They make the point that games aren’t addictive in the medical sense as they don’t create a chemical dependency, but that they can be remarkably compelling and grown adults can turn away from real life to sink themselves into a virtual one.

They also make the very valid point that if you have fallen into this sort of lifestyle, you are not alone.

I know there are a couple of people who read this blog who politely (and often quite rightly) complain whenever I write something a little bit more personal than usual, so for you guys, this post might be one to skip.

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A Game’s Worst Enemy

Any careful development or thoughtful planning on the part of anyone making games can be undone in one fell swoop from every game’s worst possible enemy.  Their nemesis.  Their one stumbling block on the way to greatness.

The player.

Any player has a unique ability to completely and utterly destroy any game.  There are several ways they can do this with some of the most popular methods being to play another game along the lines of making sure everyone else isn’t having fun, but the one that can scupper just about anything, online or offline, is where the player is given free reign to exercise their creativity.

Playing Space Marine at the preview event I went along to the other day (and look, here is my write up over at Bit-Tech), I started thinking about how the developers must dread players when we started playing the multiplayer part of the game.  Space Marine comes with the option to customize your power armoured super soldier down to the colours of individual parts of armour.  The intention here is that you can create unique designs or anything you might have painted if you happen to have been a fan of the miniatures.  The reality in most cases is however wildly different.

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