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Destructoid Discusses! Lazy reviewers? Or, maybe your game just sucks

3:40 AM on 08.06.2008 // Dyson

You may have heard Jim report the other week, that the AIAS prez says that "game reviewers are lazy." I can certainly see how the whole world of game reviewing is not an exact science, but we're not here today to wax poetic on that idea (maybe).

I'm proposing that we discuss the semi-emerging trend of game developers and creators taking an aggressive front towards the people reviewing their games. Ever heard of Dennis Dyack? Remember when he lost it on the 1up show and called for the end game reviews all together? Yeah, that was epic. How about Jeff Minter, the guy who threw a sissy fit because a good game sold more than his crappy hippy fest rip-off of Tempest?

Or, how about when a game maker calls out a review that has yet to be printed? Like I said, game reviewing isn't an exact science, and no reviewer would probably argue with that, but maybe some people have to realize that what they made isn't that good.

And I just can't end this without mentioning Lair. Bad reviews because the reviewers "didn't know how to play it?" Um, is it just me, or doesn't that mean you just made a crappy game? Claiming it's the reviewers fault that he or she couldn't figure out your game because you made a bad design choice -- now that's what I call lazy.


[Editor's note: I held off on posting this one on Sunday to move away from the release of a certain drama fest. Also, some of the editors needed more time to get their responses in.  As always, though, nothing has been changed.]

Joe Burling

Publishers care too much about metacritic. Period.


I think sitting down with the developer, and showing them the flaws while playing the game would be interesting to see. They can argue all they want about how the game works just fine, but when you two are sharing the same experience, and point to the exact flaws, then they'd have a harder time being defensive.

Joe Burling

How many of those developers would have the chance to go back and make the necessary changes, though? How many publishers would push the game out the door anyways? Developers like Valve would take advantage of that feedback, but what about developers like EA? If you gave EA negative feedback on Madden 2010, would they delay the game to fix those issues?

Reviews obviously affect game sales. I guess I'd like to retract my first statement. If I was a developer or a publisher, I'd care about metacritic, too.

I do think it's true that some reviews are not accurate, though. Lair wasn't that good, but did it really deserve a 53/100 average metacritic score? On the flip side, GTAIV was great, but did it really deserve a combined 82 perfect scores on metacritic?

Brad Nicholson - Who is not DMV

Some developers and publishers utilize metacritic to give out bonuses. Great metacritic scores mean more money in the pocket of those who created or helped create the game. That's why they care so much. Regardless of how shitty their game is they're going to get pissy when your review drops the average score.

Jonathan Holmes

Game reviews have limited effect on sales of "mainstream" games. Carnival Games outselling Zack and Wiki is living proof of that. This goes hand in hand with Brad's statement about EA. The people that buy Madden could give a rat's ass about video game scores, so EA doesn't have to care about making a game that will be positively reviewed. 
Part of the reason why the mainstream gaming audience doesn't care about how well a game is reviewed is the fact that most video game reviews are crap and deserve to be ignored. IGN's gave Gears of War a nearly perfect score, but in the text of their review they clearly state the game has a generic plot and forgettable characters. How is the game nearly perfect then? Likewise, Gamespot's review of WiiPlay is abysmally low, though in the text of the review they state at least a few of the games in the package are quite solid. Then how does the game deserve less than a 6.0?
What this boils down to is most game reviewers don't think about how well made a game is when they review it, but instead focus on how much they like playing it. These are two very different things. If a decent film reviewer was to watch Anal Invaders #143, he or she may absolutely love it for all the hot anal action that it provides, but simultaneously recognize that the film doesn't deserve the academy award, nor is it appropriate for the mainstream crowd. Would most game reviewers do the same with a game that was poorly made but filled with the kind of fun that they love? I doubt it. Until they do, game reviews will continue to be looked at by the mainstream gaming audience as the immaterial ramblings of geeks and nerds.
Joe Burling
I LOVED Anal Invaders #143!

11 out of 10
'm not too concerned with game reviews, per se. I'm just tired of people bitching about them every chance they get. I have a pretty good idea who in this industry is biased and who's not, so I know where to go for my review information. Regardless, my beef is more with the whiners out there who tel people like us that we don't know what we're doing when we give their shitty title a bad review.

Almost every single one of us has had someone shit on our work here at the site, but we mostly just shine it on. Personally, I've gotten more than a few complaints about RFGO!, and even more about my writing. I won't say that it doesn't upset me, but I certainly don't go the Dyack route and make absurd challenges to GAF and the community at large when someones tells me that the don't like my stuff.

It's not the issue of the concept of reviews, but how certain people in the industry take them. I mean, really, you're a grown person Mr. So and So; try acting like one. Game reviewers, for the most part, have been playing just as long as you, and they can spot CRAP when they see it. Don't make yourself look like more of dummy by calling foul on that.
Tom Fronczak (Whom I better be seeing at PAX!)
George Bush doesn't care about Eternity's Child.
When big debates like this over game design and game reviews occur, what it usually all comes down to is that gamers truly don't understand what is all incorporated in making a game, and game designers often don't understand what is all incorporated in playing games. The difference, however, is that you can't expect gamers to know how hard it is to make a game, but gamers CAN expect your game to be good if they pay any amount of money for it. In other words, whether it's fair or not, the responsibility all falls on the game designers.
In my opinion, the only time the gamers are ever at fault is when a game is really good (gets nothing but really good review scores), yet doesn't sell well. Games like Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil are the first two that usually come to the mind of most our readers. We all have that game we know was good, yet no one bought, and felt terrible for the game designers who either didn't make a lot of money, or even never got to make another game ever again.
tl;dr -- Aquaria looks way better than Eternity's Child, yet you will probably make more money than those game designers did, Luc. So please STFUAJPG. I'd rather listen to Destiny's Child than hear any more of what you have to say (which was a lot. of shit.)
Hamza CTZ Aziz
Speaking of Destiny's Child, did you all catch this C Blog:
Absolutely hilarious. 
Tom Fronczak
That's hilarious! Btw, how many comments did that review get? 
[Note: The review has been posted by now. At the beginning of the discussion it hadn't, but from here out, its been  live for a day or so.]
Hamza CTZ Aziz
Over 350 at this point. 
Conrad Zimmerman
Nearly 400, which is mind-boggling.

I think the manner in which a designer responds to a review can have a serious effect, too. People don't tend to forget those sorts of things and, in the age of the internet, getting information on a name you vaguely recognize is only a click away. The next time Dyack or the Lair team has something that they're hyping, people are likely to think back on the stunts and name-calling that transpired. A bad review can be forgotten but, if you fight it, you're only drawing more attention to the negative aspects and will generally come off looking like a douchebag.

And there's nothing people like to look at more than a falling star.
I read them when they were up to 250. I can't believe that he was responding drunk -- probably not the wisest choice. I'm glad that it was a two person review, too. Rev has a rep for hating on everything, so he could just have said that as a defense. With Conrad's same score, there's no doubt about its suckage.
Rev may have a rep for hating on things, but I've never found his criticism to be unfounded or illogical.

I think Luc must've been expecting a good review because it's an indie game and he's had a blog on Destructoid. So, why wouldn't we love him and look through the game's flaws to see it's true inner beauty?
The Jim Sterling
I've written an entire essay on this to the point where it'd make its own article, which is something I've been planning for a while, so I'm going to hold back my elaborated points for its own feature. Suffice it to say though, that I have a big problem with the way reviews are run these days. Chief among my issues are such abhorrent practices as review embargoes and this pathetic rush to be "first" with the work.

Brokering deals with publishers for exclusive previews, news and assets is a practice I can understand. However, when it comes to reviews, which are where honesty in games media actually counts for something, signing clandestine agreements for exclusive benefits creates a world of stigma which you can't rub off. Maybe IGN, for example, was being honest with itself and its readers when it gave GTA IV a 10/10. After all, plenty of other Web sites did that. However, in the rush to be first, and proudly boasting the world exclusive deal it brokered with Rockstar, one has to wonder exactly what was agreed, and it creates questions of bias that may not even be entirely fair, but are impossible to shake off.

I know of sponsorship deals gone sour over review scores. I also know that certain publishers in certain sour deals have, in the past, been a party to exclusive reviews. That stinks of bad medicine to me, and I don't like it.

As I think about the original argument, I think "lazy" is the wrong term to use when talking about reviewers. In truth, they work very hard -- but I think they put their effort into some very questionable practices. Time that should be spent purely focusing on the gaming and striving to be as honest as can be is spent instead inking deals and rushing work out of the gate to beat the rest of the press. As the guys in charge of review content around here, it's Nick and I's job to make sure that kind of shit doesn't fly on Destructoid
Hamza XYZ Aziz
I finally saw videos of Braid for the first time today while working on the new release post for Monday. Does it remind anyone else of EC, expect, you know, good?
Jim Sterling
I'm really looking forward to Braid. Rev, Chad and myself will be reviewing it for the site. I am somewhat positive it will receive more than a 1 out of 10.
Nick Chester
Visually, it's slightly similar to EC (i.e. it doesn't look typical). But the game couldn't be more different. I can almost guarantee it will not get a 1 out of 10. It's very puzzle intensive, requiring a lot of bizarre and complicated time manipulation that had me stuck in a few areas. Also, what does this have to do with the Dtoid discusses?
Hamza CTZ Aziz
Nothing at all, actually, haha.
Joe Burling
I <3 Braid
Jonathan Holmes
A quick word on Eternity's Child and it's now infamous review. Luc Bernard couldn't have paid for a review that beneficial to his game. The amount of controversy that now surrounds Eternity's Child has generated curiosity about the title that never would have come from a positive review. I'm sure that the game will sell buckets, and that some people will actually love it.
But back to the point. it's interesting that Dyson states he knows which reviewers he feels he can trust, while Jim says you never know who is taking money under the table for a good review. If we, certified gaming journalists, have this this much trouble keeping track of who's reviews are legit and who's are not, what chance does a new gamer have of sorting it all out?  Its the people who need game reviews the most that are the most likely to be duped by them.
I was in Target the other day and there was a gaggle of non-gamers staring at the 360 and Wii games. They owned both consoles, but knew nothing of gaming, and didn't know what game to buy. This is the kind of person that could greatly benefit from a good game review.
What did they get instead? A Target employee pouncing on them and saying "Buy Endless Ocean! It's the bomb-diggity!" (real quote). The gaggle of new gamers were on to him though. They asked "Does the game have a point? It seems pointless." His response "Oh yeah, it totally has a point. There is this lady on a boat, and you totally get to know her. It's got an amazing story." Clearly, the Target guy was more concerned with convincing the customers to buy Endless Ocean than he was with actually helping them find a game that they could enjoy.
Thanks to Target guy, the gaggle bought the game, although they clearly stated to him that they want their games to have a "point". The "reviewer"  put his own agenda above that of his customers, and that resulted in them buying a product that they will likely find no use for. That's the definition of a "bad review", and it's something we see far too much of in the world of gaming journalism.
So, there we go. Not exactly the hotbed of action that EC review caused, but the topic itself certainly lent to some interesting points of view (and this time without hentai!).  As always, these discussions are unedited and tend to lead where they may. This week's destination seemed to be that everyone has a woody for Braid.
See you next week! 
(Special thanks to Dale for taking care of last week's <3) 

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