Games journalism criticism is a young field of business. As with any emerging practice it often likes to talk about itself, not because games writers are pretentious masturbatory bastards, but because we care to do the best job possible for those that patron our publications (that's you). We're also in the business of perfectly aligning our critiques with the commercial successes of games, otherwise we're big fat liars who stole your money. Wait, what?
In this latest episode of game dudes over-scrutinizing our craft, I present you three fascinating pieces of contemporary literature: A writer accusing the gaming press of a cover-up conspiracy (seriously?!) to preaching widespread embargo apocalypse, an editor-in-chief semi-apologizing for previews that may wasted his readers time, and a peculiar piece on Buzzfeed on whether or not sites like Destructoid are capable of ever truthfully assessing a product. The latter, of course, was received with a brutal tongue-lashing from his brighter contemporaries.
The entire argument at its core, if I may be blunt, asserts that gaming consumers are morons easily led astray by the gaming press because we are optimistic about our hobby. If you agree with this, I'd like to bite your face.
To say that the gaming press can be misleading by a preview and not concede that, if ever fooled, the truth does not rise to the top is delicious jelly tripe, deserving of only lips due a corner office at Fox News where agenda buttocks may line up for regular laps.
As someone who runs a site that religiously publishes more articles than a sane person can keep up with I completely reject this notion. If we're ever bamboozled by a doctored screenshot, captivated by a phony pre-rendered video, or charmed by the snake-oils of its satin-tongue Frenchies we will shout it from the rooftops of every beacon known to us. Which, by the way, is ineffective sometimes even if we told you so.
That said, maybe there is a poor wild animal somewhere that actually places pre-orders after reading a preview of an unfinished game we can't accurately report on due to embargoes and just common decency to allow the developer push out their damned fetus before we curb-stop it in front of its parents. This cute guide is for you!
Tip#1. Don't pre-order anything you've only read about in a preview
Can we all agree that pre-order bonuses are fleeting and goofy, only existing to support the inevitable death of retail? Even if it comes with a fairy that poops horse armors, your pre-order is as risky as standing at the front door of Walmart on CyberMonday. We wrote about an unfinished game, not a finished product.
Wait for the review. Put. The. Wallet. Down.
If you're a gambling man and love the thrill of uncertainty, have at it. If you're upset that the game didn't live up to the hopeful preview on a half-developed game, then you're an idiot. We run reviews and continue to report on games weeks after they are released. We wouldn't judge your wife's cooking while the turkey's half-frozen, either.
Tip#2. Remind yourself that your backlog exists
What ever will you do during the week that the entire Internet is tweeting and playing the game that you want? I don't know, let's see ... exactly what you were doing before?
For every game you're tripping over yourself to purchase on launch day there are 1,000 superiorly written, better orchestrated, honky-doory titles rotting on eBay that you've yet to discover. Use the imagination that videogames has cultivated in you to pretend that your legs have been gnawed off and you must wait a whole two weeks until they respawn to carry you to the thrift store. Instead, isn't it time to face your shortcomings as a human being? Did your uncle touching you incorrectly prevent you from enjoying a Tactical RPG? Use this time to reflect on that.
Tip#3A. Formulate your own opinion by breaking into someone's home
The best way to sell you a game, according to a speaker at a recent videogames marketing conference, is to keep it as far away from you as possible. I'm not making this up.
All the hype, marketing, previews, reviews, etc. are shockingly less effective in telling you how you will actually feel about a title than having the audacity to sit on a friend's sofa and borrow the controller, or download a demo. You have friends, right?
You may also want to identify reviewers that you enjoy across multiple websites, and wait until they spend days reviewing a title so you can skip straight to the score and perform maths. We're all wrong anyway, so you may as well reconcile whose wrongness is the best.
Tip #4. Remind yourself that modern media isn't scarce
99.9% of games don't sell out permanently, so calm down, son.
Remember, what you're actually buying is permission to use data burned onto a disc that costs less than a quarter, or the data transfer cost to them. You chilluns don't have to deal with RAM shortages and volatile market prices causing cartridge production to grind to a hault, as seen in the 80's with The Adventure of Link. Your body will rot forty times over before this generation's Blu-RAY discs become rare. The exception might actually be digital media that requires persistent servers online. Play those games while they're here, but don't preorder them without doing your homework first, babies.
Bonus PSA: Diamonds are also not rare, but we'll let you explain that one to your girlfriend. She won't care and will still secretly desire the biggest one you can afford, because we are simple, simple animals.
Tip #5. If you don't enjoy a videogame, think of the raccoons
Look at the sprawling city around you, and spit at it. Modern civilization has made it easy to deliver previews electronically into homes, but have also made it very difficult for nearby forrest creatures to purchase the copies of Aliens: Colonial Marines that humans have left to waste. By murdering yourself and leaving your windows open perhaps a curious family of raccoons can cuddle over your first-world corpse to discover why videogames are art.
Speaking of which, do you journalize art for truth and accuracy, or do you just kind of stand around stroking your chin while trying to criticize it on a very personal level? I'm scared and confused, surrounded by tense smaller animals of a different vernacular.
[Photo Credit: Nigel3]