Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Should innovative games get a free pass?

12:22 PM on 11.16.2008 // Jim Sterling

The Guardian has an interesting article up at the moment which discusses the review performance of DICE's high profile first-person-runner Mirror's Edge. Comparing the review scores to this year's biggest releases, writer Keith Stuart expresses frustration that a game as innovative as Mirror's Edge won't receive near perfect grades from the gaming press.

The reason? Game reviewers are not enough like film critics, and its flaws should be overlooked simply because it's innovative. 

"... If it were a movie, Mirror's Edge would be critically lauded by the specialist film press – it would be considered a forward-thinking masterpiece," Stuart argues. "Sure, it's dangerous to compare two such different media, but there are key similarities – one is the way in which critics should be able to deconstruct the experience on offer and draw from it undeniable values that outweigh concerns about basic construction."

Stuart continues, suggesting that fundamental design flaws should be glossed over simply because the game is unique: "So should we really be marking Mirror's Edge down for control issues – a game that aspires to re-interpret the very interface between player, screen and character?"

For one reviewer's answer to this question, and a full response to the subject, read on ...

To answer the question -- should we mark an innovative game down for control issues? If it's a serious hindrance to a game's enjoyment, then yes, absolutely!

The presented argument, while it puts forth interesting notions, seems to be about giving a free pass to games that are "innovative" even if they might not be very fun for the player. Games can be mindblowing, artistic endeavors, yes, but they need to be enjoyable first and foremost, and if a game frustrates with poor controls or bad design choices, they don't deserve to achieve a perfect review score.

In the case of Mirror's Edge, what I see is a game that has meticulously gone out of its way to be "different." From the unique first-person-action elements, to the bright colors, clear skies and even the Asian, brunette, modestly chested female protagonist, this game is one that has tried to lay the exact trap that Stuart has fallen into -- inflation of a game's merits simply because it's pretending to be some brand new innovation. Frankly, the games press has actually surprised me by seeing through all that for once and giving the game an honest appraisal, whatever their opinions may be.

I would argue that the gaming press often does the opposite of what it is being accused of. The word "innovation" is thrown around a lot these days, especially in the post-Wii age where people have convinced themselves that each game must be completely different from the last. While a game should not be a near carbon copy of another, the phrase "doesn't innovate" is one I hear a lot, and I don't feel it's a valid complaint if the game is still of an excellent caliber.

This is not about the quality of Mirror's Edge, which I am yet to play through entirely. We posted our review and Nick was very fair in his assessment. What he did not do was simply ignore the problems just because it was "new," which is what Stuart is suggesting we do.

I am reminded of Space Giraffe designer Jeff Minter, who famously threw a tantrum over Frogger outselling his game and blaming the poor sales on the fact that his game was new and people didn't want that. It's a nice excuse to use, isn't it? The truth of the matter, however, is that Frogger simply remains a better game than Space Giraffe could ever hope to be. Minter's tantrum serves to highlight this mentality that innovation should be rewarded, regardless of quality.

Factor 5 reacted the same way when Lair received poor grades. Game director Julian Eggebrecht accused the games media of being unable to understand the "innovative" game, which wasn't even all that innovative. Similarly, Too Human creator Denis Dyack has swept away criticism of his game by hiding behind what he claims is "innovation." 

Innovation is a convenient new word to hide behind, especially as it can be used to call a reviewer's intelligence into question. After all, if you don't like an "innovative" game, you have to be ignorant and stupid, right? We have seen examples of developers using this preconception to play a sweet tune indeed. People like The Guardian's columnist are the instruments.

Another thing to consider is what the role of a games reviewer is. What truly is the job of a reviewer? Is it to delve deeply into a game's subtext, break it apart and analyze its artistic merit? Or is a reviewer's job to help you decide whether or not it's a good fuckin' game? I do not approach this job with the intention of blasting apart game design philosophy and drawing metaphors about how the designer is trying to get in touch with his feelings about his father. This is because I am a reviewer, not a critic. 

What Stuart wants is a videogame critic, and I think it's unfair of him to lump the roles of critic and reviewer into one entity. That's not how it works. I think more videogame critics would be a great thing, actually. We could do with more writers that provide deep and engrossing game analysis. However, I disagree that reviewers should be the ones doing that. Comparing a film critic to a game reviewer is not only wrong due to media differences, but professional ones as well.

Ultimately, innovation has its place in the games industry, of course it does, and analytical critics are more than welcome to go with them. However, we play games to have fun, and most of us want an experience that caters to that simple goal. Videogames can be beautiful, mindblowing, intense experiences, and I will defend their right to be considered art forever, but that doesn't mean a game can hide behind claims of innovation and expect a free pass.

Cutting someone's head off with a sword strapped to a baby horse is innovative. You still go to jail for it. 

[Article discovered thanks to Negative Gamer]

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Public service announcement: Marry an orphan. It makes the holidays so much easier when you don't have to deal with pain in the ass in-laws.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
So... how long is it until we get the inevitable Colonial Marines or Ride to Hell: Retribution PS4/Xbox One re-releases?
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Screw Bloodborne. I finally managed to overcome not tearing up while listening to the entirety of Never More. Git gud! [youtube][/youtube]
NYCpunk avatarNYCpunk
you know what's not okay? scalpers with 10 copies of fire emblem fates SE on ebay for $200+. and no one is saying anything.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Fallout 4 wouldn't be Fallout with ridiculous glitches and shenanigans. Here are a few I've run into - [youtube][/youtube]
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I've never earnestly went drinking before so it's cool to know I'm the slow, sleepy, impaired type.
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
Got to admit I didn't expect to find a mewtwo amiibo at my bookstore of all places...
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
My cousin found out I slept with his girlfriend and is pissed. Understandable. I am totally sick of the angry phone calls though. It reminds me so much of playing Call of Duty online. The screaming 11 year olds suck on there too.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Huh. Apparently even Japan has a Black Friday sale going on on PSN right now.
Lawman avatarLawman
Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I know that somebody has 2,625 more medallions than me. No, Resident Evil: Revelations 2, I don't really care.
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
This fucking Bloodborne DLC, jesus. I'm on new game+, about level 90, and shit just tears my dick off. I don't know if I want to start another guy just to avoid NG+ and level him up, etc. sigh....
Shinta avatarShinta
Wii U, top selling black friday item on Take that you anti-Wii U people.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I am pretty hyped for when I get a laptop because I'll be able to have a good enough connection to stream XbOne/soon PS4 games to it along with natively rendered Steam games. Hype!
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Got a PS4 that came with SW Battlefront this week, and planning on picking up the FFX/X-2 remake. Hype is through the roof, especially for FFX. If I were to get one other game, what should it be?
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Did a google maps search around my parents house for bars and there isn't one in like 25 miles, so I picked up an Intel compute stick and South Park: Stick of Truth on Steam. That's more or less the drunken screaming I'm in the mood for at about the cost.
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Do you ever have that moment of clarity when talking to someone and suddenly realising: You're just a skull, and they're just a skull, with fucking eyeballs and a sac of skin being the only comparative difference between you visually? ..just me then?
Nathan D avatarNathan D
After quitting for two days out of frustration, I beat Ludwig on my first try of the night. I'm on cloud fucking nine right now.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
When I did my retail shift today, we were moving more Smash/Splat Wii U bundles and the Gears/Rare Replay/Ori XB1 bundles than Uncharted and Battlefront PS4s. I think Nintendo and MS have better value on their side this holiday. Sony got lazy.
Confuseddalek avatarConfuseddalek
I found this weird game called Samurai Heroes for 8 dollars today. Its not bad.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
Got Deadpool, Arkham Asylum and BioShock 1 and 2 all for 30$. Not to bad for going Black Friday shopping late.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -