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The Pointlessness of Current Videogame Journalism 312

Posted by Zonk
from the struggling-for-relevancy dept.
Anonymous Coward writes "TG Daily has its weekly videogaming column up, and this week the author is attacking what he terms The Pointlessness of Current Videogame Journalism. From the article: '...the formulaic, child-minded writing-for-the-lowest-common-marketing-denominator style that encapsulates 99% of the mainstream videogame press is a load of crap ... Rather than being critics who add to the industry as film and music journalists arguably did back in the heady days of the 50's - 70's... videogame journalists are mere extensions of the marketing machine, pushing even the most mediocre of games into a good light with the public in previews and then trashing them for sport to see how many good puns can be dredged out of the 500 words which the author really doesn't want to have to write.'"
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The Pointlessness of Current Videogame Journalism

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  • No doubt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fryguy451 (592591) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:46PM (#14418244)
    Guess that means they are on par with most other entertainment journalism nowadaze. Go Figure.
    • by Alaren (682568) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:58PM (#14418294)

      Guess that means they are on par with most other journalism nowadaze. Go Figure.

      Fixed that for you.

      • by hokeyru (749540)
        Really. It amazes me that anybody believes anything anyone says at all. Unless you have good reason to think someone is telling the truth, you should probably just assume thier lying. This goes for everyone: journalists, marketers, employers, employees, politicians, salesmen, contractors, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
        • by Boronx (228853) <evonreis@mohr-e[ ... m ['ngi' in gap]> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @09:52PM (#14419198) Homepage Journal
          Discern whether someone has an interest in telling you a lie.

          If you can verify a small part of what someone tells you, do it.

          Are they open to questions and discussion. Are they willing to get specific. Or do they speak in generalities and their flaws behind fake anger, mockery and showmanship.

          Are they asserting more than seems reasonable, or do they clearly delimit what is known and unknown.

          A web of communication between people is actually a pretty good way to look at the truth if a low enough percentage of them have ulterior motives and a high enough percentage of them are in a position and are willing to check some facts.
  • by Saint37 (932002) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:50PM (#14418255)
    Thats why when I want to know what a game is really like, I wait for it to release and browse the games message boards to get insight on the game. In the end I trust the community alot more than the press. Yes, alot of message borads are full of crap too, but its seems to be alot easier to select the valuable posts.

    http://www.stockmarketgarden.com/ [stockmarketgarden.com]
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You hit an important point. When you go out and buy a car, do you believe what the magazines say, or what your friends say from experience? While your friends may talk a load of crap, it is usually easily recognizable which ones know what they are talking about. You can't say the same about the magazines.

      The same rule generally follows for internet discussions. People post messages on BBS' for shits and giggles, not because they think they are going to become rich doing so. But if you come to an RPG fa
    • by radiotyler (819474) <tylerNO@SPAMdappergeek.com> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:15PM (#14418353) Homepage
      I was going to post something very, very similar to this but you've summed that part up for me. The only addition I have is that I hold my friends opinions' in the highest regard. I play mostly FPS, and one of the things I enjoy most is playing with the same people over a select few games. If one of them buys a new game and tells me how amazing it is, and how there's one feature that makes it different from the other multi-player FPS out there (and in his/her opinion better) I can cruise over to their house with a six pack and play the game for myself and form my own opinion rather than relying on a "corporate shill" review online.

      Some games have a buzz that's so fantastic that you can believe the reviews, and some just smell fishy by the them. Obviously the only way to tell for sure is to either buy the game or like I do: try it out at a friends house. With the two options being shelling over fifty bucks for a game (assuming my hardware will run it and I don't have to buy a new knuder valve) or a six pack and a night of gaming with a friend... I'll take beer and friends every time.
      • With the two options being shelling over fifty bucks for a game (assuming my hardware will run it and I don't have to buy a new knuder valve) or a six pack and a night of gaming with a friend...

        I agree with your post, but don't forget about demos, which also, at times, gave me great insight of what a game was like (for example, the BF2 demo made me buy the game, after skipping on the first part, BF1942)

    • But aren't message boards just full of whiners who moan about anything?
    • I agree totally. I never buy a game until its been released and reviewed by the public. And I'll add that I never buy a game without reading the _bad_ comments and reviews (and I've yet to find a game without detractors in some shape or form). This is true of everything I buy - I generally get much more of an insight from the (constructive) critisism than the praise.
    • I rely on high-quality game review sites such as Penny Arcade, Ctrl-Alt-Del or 8-bit Theater. The personal tastes of people like Jerry Holkins or Brian Clevinger are pretty much everything I need to know about the video game industry. Okay, and I read the databeses on the WINE and Cedega websites because the games listed there are the only ones I'm going to be able to play anyway... But as for reviews I'd rather wait for a game to show up in a PA rant by chance than read a publication that just can't get ov
  • by koreaman (835838) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:51PM (#14418259)
    Posting this on Slashdot, of all places...
  • Today the world only wanna the $$$ on the pocket, why I will write a good article to publish into two weeks if I can write a poor article that is printed on every week? It's the business man, accept or leave.
    • Today journalists only want money in their pockets. Why would I write a good article published every two weeks if I can write a poor article that is printed every week? It's the business, man, accept it or leave.

      You're a journalist I take it?

      Sorry, dude. I don't even consider badly written Slashdot comments acceptable. There's no way I'm going for bad journalism for which I have to pay. It better be fairly well written, and it better be honest, or I'm not spending a dime on it, and I'm not buying anyth
  • by cornface (900179) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:55PM (#14418276)
    My first exposure to gaming magazines was Nintendo Power and Sega Visions when they first came out. Now _that_ was marketing influenced games journalism. hehe.
    • I remember the moment when I decided to let my Nintendo Power subscription lapse. I had never really connected the dots until I opened to the "letter of the month", and the entire thing was:
      "Mario for president!!!!!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:55PM (#14418278)
    Those geeks who motorcycle as well as play video games know the story of the "every column inch stuffed to the gills with advertiser propoganda" magazine very well. So-called moto"journalism" is basically utterly shameless pandering to the major motorcycle manufacturers. The magazines basically say whatever the bike makers want, and will only very infrequently mount any kind of serious criticism. Those that do are quickly wiped off the map for financial reasons. In short, remember this: Even if you subscribe to them, your subscription doesn't come close to paying for the cost of the content in those magazines; the product manufacturer's advertisements do. And thus it is no surprise that the moto rags are transparent mouthpieces for the industry, and have little interest in the reader beyond shoving shiny game ad of the week down their throats.

    And the situation is exactly the same with game review magazines.

    Don't expect it to change; it's not going to. Until the flow of money is massively re-arranged to come far more from the readers than the manufacturers, the magazines will continue to be shameless advertising and little more.
    • What's your point? Every industry has its magazines that are nothing more than repackged advertising. In some industries, that is actually a good thing. People buy certain magazines for the adverts.

      I'm not sure how or why you're comparing PC Games with Motorcycles.

      You can get a full experience of (most) PC Games with several days of dedicated play.
      How can you expect a comparable review of a motorcycle?

      Off the top of my head, the best reviews I can recall are where Caranddriver takes a car and makes it a dai
      • You can get a full experience of (most) PC Games with several days of dedicated play. How can you expect a comparable review of a motorcycle? Off the top of my head, the best reviews I can recall are where Caranddriver takes a car and makes it a daily driver for x0,000 miles.

        FWIW most biker rags tend to review only the aspects of bikes that can be figured out in a couple hours of riding, and then only because that's what their readership is interested in. Unlike cars, bikes tend to be a luxury purchase r

    • "And the situation is exactly the same with game review magazines."

      Not all mags were total mouthpieces, I think the best gaming rags (when they first started out) were GamePro and Electronic gaming monthly, I used to get stuff like Nintendo power for a while mostly for info on new games/codes and stuff. In the earlier EGM and Gamepro days they'd trash games pretty handily and hand out shit scores.
  • by saskboy (600063) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:56PM (#14418285) Homepage Journal
    I've never enjoyed TV video game reviews. Back in my teens when I was playing Gameboy and computer video games, I'd buy magazines and read hint books. Now when I see something come on like Tech TV, I shudder and jump to the remote to change the channel. The reviews are little more than ads for an industry I care so little about these days. Perhaps my priorities have changed too much to enjoy video games like I once did, but do we really need entire channels devoted to advertising video games? Do children even read anymore?
  • Is this new? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackstraw (262471) * on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:56PM (#14418287)
    Rather than being critics who add to the industry as film and music journalists arguably did back in the heady days of the 50's - 70's... videogame journalists are mere extensions of the marketing machine.

    Emphasis added for stoners :)

    So, is this new? Look at any niche market journal like for stereo equipment, cars, or anything, and tell me how much negative press there is in them.

    I'm a recovering audiophile, and I remember when I would read the magazines of the trade, everything they "reviewed" was excellent or at least very good compared to their multi-tens of thousands "reference" system for the money.

    • by SIGFPE (97527)

      I'm a recovering audiophile

      So it's curable then? That's good to know. May your recovery be a complete one.
      • Re:Is this new? (Score:3, Insightful)

        So it's curable then? That's good to know. May your recovery be a complete one.

        It's 100% curable. The treatment involves enjoy the music, as opposed to the sound.

    • everything they "reviewed" was excellent or at least very good compared to their multi-tens of thousands "reference" system for the money.
      Doesn't that partially have to do with the audio industries extreme fear of (double) blind tests?

      Can you think of any 'magazines of the trade' that actually had a blind testing policy?
      • Can you think of any 'magazines of the trade' that actually had a blind testing policy?

        Car magazines tried it for a while, but it got too expensive and risky to drive brand new cars while blind.

        Doesn't that partially have to do with the audio industries extreme fear of (double) blind tests?

        I've actually seen double blind tests before for amplifiers with statistics, significant differences, confidence intervals, and everything. I've seen a number of double blind codec and media tests, especially for lossy f
  • Halo 2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RickPartin (892479) * on Saturday January 07, 2006 @05:57PM (#14418291) Homepage
    Am I the only one who felt blatantly lied to about this game? Every video game publication or TV show hailed this as having an amazing single player campaign. When I sat down to play it I found it to be a boring rehash of the last game. There were many problems with the game that normally would make their way into reviews but these were strangely absent. Clipping and other graphic glitches, horrendous story, repetitiveness, and probably the worst end level I have ever seen. I swear there was some sort of massive pay off made somewhere to game reviewers.

    I wish I could elaborate more on what was wrong with Halo2 but it's been awhile since it came out. I can't be the only one to think the single player was poo though.
    • Re:Halo 2 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by akhomerun (893103)
      what happens is the reviewers get caught up in the fact that they've been anticipating the game forever and really want it and really review it based on the merits of the first game + the hype of the second one, instead of truly reviewing it as its own, original game.

      in cases of movie adaptations/comic adaptations, etc, as long as the game plays OK the reviewers will give it a great score based on the fact that they like batman or whatever.
    • Re:Halo 2 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ProudClod (752352) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:50PM (#14418490)
      I can speak with first-hand experience on this matter. The contents of this post come from my experience as Sub Editor at Gamers Europe when Halo 2 was released.

      The problem is that the first wave of reviews - the most important in terms of ensuring people believe the hype - are from publications/websites that received preferential treatment in the form of early code. In addition, the publishers embargo all reviews until a certain date, forcing all outlets to generally release their reviews at the same time unless they want to appear to be "beaten to the scoop". This also prevents would-be-critics (or at least unimaginative ones) from seeing

      At Gamers Europe, we received some of the first batch of code. This came as something of a shock, as it was generally only the conglomerate-owned big guns (IGN, Gamespot etc.) who had this privilege. However, thanks to our links with Microsoft Ireland, we were included too - so we sent our man Piaras to review the game, and he and I made sure that we too were ready to go live by the embargo date. So that night, along with all the other sites posting their 9+/10 reviews, we released our review - a large volume of copy, tinged with disappointment that whilst the game was a decent FPS, it didn't scrape the heights of its predecessor. This was topped with a score of 8.0/10 - we only reviewed the single player campaign as the European Live servers weren't yet up; I'm still perplexed as to how other sites were able to test the game online...

      Anyway, the fanboys went absolutely batshit (the writer received at least one death threat), Microsoft were not best pleased (but to their credit, have continued to send us code - the relationship we have remains essentially unchanged), and by the end of the day we found ourselves as the only review of Halo 2 online that offered any criticism.

      So in short: there was no pay off that we observed - there was a launch party a few days after the reviews went live that journos were invited to, but this is pretty standard with big titles, and doesn't amount to a substantial bribe - nevertheless, given the difference between our views and that of every other publication, our man in attendance found it quite an uncomfortable experience.

      What there was, was a co-ordinated schedule for reviewing the game, effectively set by the publisher. All the big, important reviews were concentrated into a single blast of hype a few days before the launch date, with no opinion seeping out beforehand. Looking at the first day sales figures, and your own conceptions of how the game was critically received, you can draw your own conclusions as to the effect that had on the gamebuying public.

      [Apologies for the slight incoherence of this post - I'm currently feeling a little out of practice!]
      • ...pretty standard with big titles...

        I read that as 'big titties'. I gotta lay off the porn.

      • Re:Halo 2 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ediron2 (246908) * on Saturday January 07, 2006 @09:10PM (#14419044) Journal
        You weren't impressed, you gave it an 8/10, and due to this the release party was *uncomfortable* for your man in attendance.

        Talk about grade inflation... that pretty much much proves TFA's point.
        • Re:Halo 2 (Score:3, Insightful)

          by garylian (870843)
          Bingo!

          What happened to giving an honest score?

          Somewhere along the way, folks bought into the bullshit that many parents thought was important, and lead to a whole generation believing that "there are no losers". Remember that scene in "Meet the Fockers" when the guy's father is proudly showing off his son's 10th place ribbons?

          Reviwers and game magazines seem reluctant to give anything lower than "really good" as a score, as if a score of average or lower would somehow hurt the game's feelings.

          An average ga
    • Re:Halo 2 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Paradise Pete (33184)
      When I sat down to play it I found it to be a boring rehash of the last game.

      I think that's being kind. #1 didn't have silly boss battles with infinite henchmen, didn't have absurd inequities such as with the alien sniper rifle, where the mighty Master Chief with his fancy new armor dies instantly with *every* hit, and yet grunts can absorb two or even three body shots. And oh yeah, Halo had an actual ending.

  • by j1mmy (43634) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:00PM (#14418302) Journal
    Nowadays, you can download demos and watch videos of just about any game online. The reviewer isn't doing much that you can't do yourself, though it might take you slightly longer to download such content. I'm not sure the problem is the writing, I think it's the need. Is game reviewing even necessary? Were reviews this bad back in the early 90's and 80's when gamers didn't have the access to the kind of preview stuff that's out there today?
    • really?
      Let me know what you think of the demo of Black and White 2. And the Sims 2 demo. And the Movies Demo.
      Youll have to code them first, because they dont exist. Ditto the Half life 2 demo.
      There is a worrying trend amongst big developers and publishers to not 'bother' with a demo these days. And I've heard it explained to me from the companies themselves, they think that if they spend enough on marketing, people will buy the game anyway, why sully the issue by letting them try before they buy?
      In some way
    • PQ, Gamespy et al. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mfh (56)
      I remember back in the early days of Planet Quake [planetquake.com], when Bastard (Basty) was running the site. This was of course before Gamespy [gamespy.com] transformed from being a little ping tool, into a giant marketing juggernaught. Quake lovers like myself would collect in #planetquake and chat about the latest mod, hang out on servers and submit news to contribute to the (then) growing online Quake community.

      I did a lot of mods myself. Some I would have liked to have finished, but the ones I did finish all collect dust now. (and
    • Some reviews are good. The ones done by journalists that have some experience in the general field of journalism. They know how to write something interesting and meaningful.

      The problem with "Internet Journalism" is that for the most part, you don't need any of those qualifications. You can pretty much just pick up a keyboard and write and article. I'm surprised at the loads of junk you find on the "big" game review sites to tell you the truth - you'd think they would want people that can write well.
  • You have Videogame Journalism (IGN, Gamespot), and then you have Journalism that occasionally touches on Video Games. I don't know that anyone takes those sites seriously, since most games never score below a 7.

    I think the latter is much worse, as a lot of the time mainstream news coverage of video games is simply exploitive fear-mongering (take *any* coverage of Grand Theft Auto, for example).
  • by Twid (67847) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:01PM (#14418304) Homepage
    Personally, I get most of my game info from GameFaqs [gamefaqs.com], which has user reviews and nice overall scoreboards for magazine reviews. The user reviews are sometimes dumb, but you can get a general flavor for a game by looking at the magazine reviews and user reviews. I've still been burned once or twice but at least looking there first can help you avoid the real stinkers.

    Also, I love the game info posted at Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com]. Gabe and Tycho have similar tastes in games as I do, so when they love a game it's a pretty safe bet that I'll like it too.
    • by Twid (67847)
      Oops, I meant GameRankings [gamerankings.com] not GameFAQs. GameFAQs is good too for walkthroughs, and there's a new site called Stuck Gamer [stuckgamer.com] that is posting video walkthroughs. Appears to be down at the moment, but there are some good gameplay videos there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:03PM (#14418313)
    I see this every time I dare to glimpse at the gaming press. The absolute worst of the worst are the TV shows, like GamerTV, Gamesville, and that old one with the woman with the weird hair. Here's the recipe: too many futuristic "swooshing" animations, episodes repeated ad-infinitum no matter how old they become, review after review of Yet Another 3D Platformer 4, and a clichéd, useless "We give it... 3 out of 5!"-type section.

    You will almost never see a game like N [harveycartel.org], or Uplink [uplink.co.uk] reviewed, because they aren't backed by the big cartels like EA, whose latest player name update to FIFA will doubtlessly turn out to be a "worthy addition to this legendary series".
  • by deadb0lt (519221) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <noraa.nosbocaj>> on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:10PM (#14418331) Homepage
    ....and someone had to say it. I completely agree. The quality of videogames in general has taken a nose dive since the cream-of-the-crop 16 bit era. These days, the focus spent marketing games by the publishers far outweighs the more important focus of the developers themselves to develop a game that is actually fun to play. Time and time again, developers are touting games that drop the ball in the fun-factor court. Even 1st class developers like RARE and id are releasing mediocre games when compared to what they previously developed. DOOM 3 and PERFECT DARK ZERO are two prime examples of deleopers dropping the ball. and if you think those two games are anywhere as close to what they previously released, then you need to get your head checked. RARE and id are just two examples. Lets not forget the other 90% of videogame developers out there that nobody follows or even ponders what the next piece of crap they're going to release will be. With all that said, I have to thank Rockstar, Valve, Epic, and Blizzard. Kudos. Keep up the good work.
    • Even 1st class developers like RARE and id are releasing mediocre games when compared to what they previously developed. DOOM 3 and PERFECT DARK ZERO are two prime examples of deleopers dropping the ball.

      Doom, when compared to Wolf3D, is considered better because of improved Mod support and graphics. The game was better because you could actually strafe - but it still had problems of an elementry grade FPS (with strafe-running and such).

      Quake, when compared to Doom, is considered better because of impro

      • Any expectations that came from the game was hyped by the customers, not the developers.

        *cough* *splutter* Troll, surely?

        I mean there are a lot of Doom3/iD fanboys who thought it was the second coming, but it was all you could do to get Todd Hollenshead to stop proclaiming it as the first coming.

        For instance, from Todd's blog on the release of Doom 3:

        Thanks to everyone for their patience (yeah right! =) and for everyone at id, Activision and our numerous partners for helping us create what I bel

    • Maybe I'm just showing my age... but the cream of the crop in gaming was actually toward the end of the 8-bit era. Since there were no powerful CPU's or great graphics cards, gameplay took a front-row seat. The 16-bit era... at least at its inception... heralded a new era of graphics and incredible CPU power (for its time). Unfortunately, for many years the platforms suffered from "incredible-hardware-itis", where game makers spent more time focused on the graphics than the gameplay.

      This got better; some 16
  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quantum Skyline (600872) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:11PM (#14418337)
    Can't the same be said for newspapers with respect to political parties and politicians?
  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:15PM (#14418352)
    Heres a quick summary journalistic levels

    Trade Publications : worst of the worst would be given away if the publishers were allowed to by their advertisers. Most of the articles are either written by employees of the advertisers, the rest is the lowest cost possible filler.

    Review magazines: Especially true of car magazines but holds well for just about everything else. Toyota at one point asked what it would have to do be car of the year and was told buy out the issue. Its a little less blatant these days but no different. For game magazines ask yourself how every fisrt person shooter knockoff can have 4 to 5 stars or an 80% plus rating. Or how someone can select the most influential games of all time have them be 70% consolers and have half life as the rep for FPS games. Consumer reports is the exception but because they focus on so much their quality and conclusions arent as good as they could be

    General readership magazines: Review space is pretty much advertising. The Stuff in stuff didn't just wind up there. The toys in t3 arent just picked at random.

    Newspapers: Maybe, maybe not

    If you wan't good reviews find a blog with coments, and look for it to have trashed stinkers you know about. This is good for anything. I really wish I had done that before I bought a DSM-320 network media player, it pays for hard drives and just look at all the people that own space heaters oops Intel processors.
    • Well, I had 5 mod points, so I modded this one overrated (5 informative is too high; I'll say why in a second), and -- before clicking "moderate", decided to check out one of the underposts.

      Naturally, a long-standing slashdot-bug that I had forgotten about, changed my mod to "underrated". I can't change the mod back to what I wanted, so I'm going to cancel it with a post.

      Here's why I say the post is overrated:

      Trade publications are *not* trash. Maybe trade publications in marketing-driven industries such
    • Most blogs I've seen are usually completely taken in by hype (estimate: 90% or more). There are blogs and less popular review sites that present excellent reviews, but they're few and far between. Just generally saying "trust blogs" isn't any improvement.
  • ... I get all my news from GAMEST, Arcadia Monthly and Famitsu. I don't see the problem.
  • by crovira (10242) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:21PM (#14418371) Homepage
    And they deserve it. C-Net used to be honest, back when they had their TV show, but they turned into a Microsoft mouthpiece and everything was 'great, just great.'

    I don't mind when things DON'T get reviewed. There are understandable limitations of time, space and money.

    I DO mind when things are reviewed and it just reads like the press release from the company, and the reality is vastly different.

    That's when I stop reading.

    If you've nothing good to say, then say that you've got nothing good to say. Don't just blather on with the press release in one hand and the tatters of your integrity oozing through the fingers of the other hand.

    And if you play something and it SUCKED, I expect to hear about why you thought it sucked and what could be done so it didn't suck so hard.

    Sorry but lazy journalism is just PR work and payola.
  • by miller60 (554835) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:24PM (#14418381) Homepage
    If you're interested in video game journalism, check out the Video Game Media Watch [vgmwatch.com] blog written by Kyle Orland. Another good source of video game media criticism is GameDaily's weekly media column [gamedaily.com]. Also worthwhile is the International Game Journalists' Association [igja.org].

    In addition to pointing out all the bad journalism out there, these sites help identify blogs and magazines that strive to offer better writing and reviews. Visit those sites and click on a few ads. Marketing-driven articles continue to appear because game publishers pay the bills. That only changes if game mags and sites can develop business models where they are accountable primarily to you - their readers - rather than game companies.

  • Metacritic (Score:4, Informative)

    by Laconian (578463) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:30PM (#14418404)
    For game reviews I tend to go to Metacritic [metacritic.com]. Metacritic aggregates critical scores and generates an average score number, which is a valuable indicator of critical consensus.
  • by scowling (215030) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:31PM (#14418409) Homepage
    This was among the most poorly-written "professional" opinion pieces I've ever seen. Does TG Daily not have a copy editor? Does this McKenna kid actually get paid to write?

    the formulaic, child-minded writing-for-the-lowest-common-marketing-denominato r style that encapsulates 99% of the mainstream videogame press

    Encapsulates? That word does not mean what you think it means.

    Starting in the most critical area of the videogame press's remit and where I have the most self-doubt about my own writings in the past

    Is this English?

    McKenna, I'm sure that you had point in there somewhere. From what I was able to decipher from your article, I'm pretty sure I agree with you, more or less. But I guarantee that you'd benefit from a couple of years of formal education in composition, and your work would certainly benefit from a couple of studious edits, preferably from someone else.

    And for Pete's sake, lay off the parentheses, ellipses, generalizations, overuse of subordinate clauses, overuse of multiple descriptive adjectives per clause, and the like. Thankfully, you didn't use "quite" or "a tad" as qualifiers. You did, however, use "rather" several times; those three qualifiers are among the strongest indicators of amateur writing.

    I'd sooner read well-written marketing copy than poorly-written criticism.
    • the formulaic, child-minded writing-for-the-lowest-common-marketing-denominato r style that encapsulates 99% of the mainstream videogame press

      Encapsulates? That word does not mean what you think it means.

      2. To express in a brief summary; epitomize: headlines that encapsulate the news. [reference.com] Fits just fine!

      Starting in the most critical area of the videogame press's remit and where I have the most self-doubt about my own writings in the past

      Is this English?

      If you read beyond a 3rd-grade level

      • Already answered the "encapsulates" bit elsewhere. No, you're wrong. And no matter how you slice it, the "remit" sentence is poorly constructed at best and nonsensical at worst.

        If you want to criticise my criticism, at least have the ability to do so. Mere unsupported assertion isn't going to cut it, particularly when you haven't got clue #1 as to what you're talking about.
        • If you want to criticise my criticism, at least have the ability to do so. Mere unsupported assertion isn't going to cut it,
          See the following:
          particularly when you haven't got clue #1 as to what you're talking about.
  • To the author... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RoffleTheWaffle (916980) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:39PM (#14418447) Journal
    ... I say, "Thank you."

    I've been telling my friends this kind of thing for a while... My opinion of the video game industry at large is already very negative, and my opinion of their bitches - yes, I said bitches, because that's what your usual video game journalist seems to be; an unwitting, unwilling bitch of a the magazine's marketing department and the 'big studios', fellating video games and companies he or she may not even like - in the press is even worse. This article sums the case up nicely. Video game magazines suck.

    To restate some of the points made in the article, the average 'professional game reviewer and journalist', whose job it is to insult our taste and intelligence with their awful articles and reviews, is very juvenile and apparently unskilled in the field of journalism in general. This may or may not be an accurate portrayal of their skill as journalists - they may in fact be instructed to convey themselves as though their balls have yet to drop - but it doesn't make me think higher of them, considering that they appear to be lowering themselves to the level of mere children in order to please the marketing department. I can barely stomach most video game journalism, because it sounds like I'm listening to a pretentious, hyperactive twelve year old rave on about a new game his parents bought for him and then compliment his own 'skill' as a gamer, even though he hasn't played the game past the first level yet, and probably can't. I know the magazines are trying to relate to teens and pre-teens, because that's where the money's really at... but give me a break. This isn't 'PSM 4Kidz!'. This is supposed to be a witty, intelligent, professionally written publication, not some snot nosed brat's 5th grade English project about what video games he got for Christmas.

    The reviews really get to me in particular. The previews, too, because they're so vapid and superficial, often praising only the visual elements of the games instead of telling me whether or not I'll be able to enjoy it sober, but the reviews are the best. My friends are frequently let down by the magazines, and yet they still eat it up. (Shame on them.) Each time it's the same story. They get hooked in by the hype in the previews, read these amazing reviews, and then go buy the game... And what happens? Two out of three times the game sucks ass, and they wind up feeling cheated. The reviews are, in my eyes, commercials. They're written like commercials, they flow like commercials, the pages are even set up like commercials. This is advertising, not an honest review, and it shows. Sometimes the reviews aren't even remotely accurate, falsely portraying certain elements of the games they cover to make them look better. This is why I wait to read user reviews of games online or learn about them through the grapevine. I'd rather learn about a game from somebody who has actually played it, not some two-bit hack of a journalist who's essentially being paid to lie.

    Hearing this all come from a real insider - an actual video game journalist - is very refreshing, and I'm glad that he's finally coming clean about it with himself. That's the kind of honesty I'd like to see more often in the publications! Movie reviews could use a bit of that, too, but that's another story for another day. This guy really hits the nail on the head, and it's good to see a reviewer do some reviewing of his own, and take a good look at his work and what he and his colleagues have really been contributing to... It's a shame he might not have a job much longer. Maybe he'll go and start his own magazine or something...
  • A couple of years ago when I was working with a big (gamespy-big, at the time) computer-game network.
    We received a review-copy of a bull-riding game.
    The reviewer in charge of the genre was amazed by the pure idiocy behind the game, and reviewed it VERY thoroughly - it got 4% on our review-scale.
    We didn't actually believe we'd ever get another game from that publisher (ever), but lo and behold; we did.
    The second time around, they scored 18% (mainly due to music by Lynyrd Skynyrd..).

    My point?
    There are sites w
  • Drivel (Score:2, Informative)

    by mustafap (452510)
    I write for a magazine, 2000 words per article each month. I wish I had this guys skill at writing absolutely nothing in 976 words. It would save me days each month

    Nothing to see here, move on.
  • 1) Create an indexed customer review structure like newegg's
    2) Implement a strong moderation system like Wikipedia's
    3) Find a way to compensate and reward outstanding reviewers.
    4) Make this service easily accesible and simple to use.
    5) ...
    6) Consumers profit huge.

    If a system like that became popular(and useable) it would force game publishers to hire better talent and more of it, instead of using 30% of their production budget to brainwash us into buying their 3rd rate products.
  • PC Gamer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @06:59PM (#14418528) Journal
    PC Gamer recently got a new Editor-in-Chief

    I'm not sure if he wrote it or not, but the first page of the reviews section was about their ratings system.

    They sum up readers perceptions of game ratings, like this:
    • 95% and higher Great and/or "biased"
    • 90%-94% Good, but should've been rated higher than Doom3/Far Cry/HalfLife 2
    • 80%-89% Crap
    • 70%-79% Really Crap
    • 0%-69% Total Crap and/or "biased"


    I'm sure it's somehow relevant.
    • *chuckles* True that. Makes one wonder what's the point of percentages on reviews. I think a star rating, one to five, is more reliable - ironically, for being less exact.
  • There just hasn't been a good game magazine. Especially considering that I buy solely imports and there are no longer any magazines that offer reviews of any kind on import games. And import magazines are actually more annoying to purchase than the games in many ways...and they're not necessarily that great either. So really if I could get a band of people together and write something that actually sounds decent and has a nice layout for a game magazine I could be rich eh?
  • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @07:07PM (#14418567) Homepage
    As a person who earns his living making video games, video game reviewing has always been a sore spot.

    We read all of the reviews. All of them. IGN, Gamespot, Famitsu, Edge, Joystick101, The Atlanta Herald... you name it we've read it. This is where we get our impresson of people's impression of the game. This is where we get fodder to make alterations to future games. And you know what, it's disheartening when nearly every review gets at least one thing factually wrong. It's disheartening when the reviewer clearly hasn't played more than 15 minutes into the game that you just spend 16 months creating. And it's disheartening when the reviewer keeps talking about boobies and poop and fart jokes like he was a 12 year old on the playground.

    One of the most insightful pieces I've read talked about how Half-Life 2 used darkness to symbolize safety and bright, light areas as a sign of danger. But this was Game Developer magazine talking about art direction, not a reviewer talking about the game itself. Maybe it is too much to ask for a reviewer to take as in-depth a look at a game as a developer would, but there is direction to be had here. Compare and contrast with other titles, plot developments, gameplay structures, etc. Give insight into what the developers were trying to achieve and what they created. Put the game into context. Even Ebert will delve a little bit into the movie school theory behind the movies.

    Even as simple sources of opinions, reviewers frequently fall down. Afraid of "offending" any publishers, they don't say anything negative about certain titles. Afraid of stepping out of line, they keep their scores in line with everyone else's. I saw a review the other day that said "X may very well be the best game available on the PS2." He then gave it a 70%, same as everyone else.

    There is a lot of room for innovation and insight in video game reviews. Hopefully somebody will pick up that opportunity and run with it.

  • by MysteriousMystery (708469) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @07:10PM (#14418581)
    The video game industry and media are not like other medias, this is particularly with regard to things like Previews and Reviews. As he mentions video game magazines are 1/3 or more filled with previews. Having worked in the print side of the video game media in the past I can tell you that you can't say anything negative about a product in a "preview" without being complained at by marketing managers, product managers and PR people all of whom will threaten to withdraw advertising or support from your publication if you continue to do so since the game is only a preview. Similarly relationships with game companies are always tense, generally speaking games are ranked on a scale of 5-10 not 1-10. A game rated 5 is as good as being ranked 0 since the average game (use gamerankings.com which indexes magazine and large website reviews as an example) gets around a 7. The reason this is the case has a lot to do with the fact that if a company comes back to you as a reviewer (or your editor) and says "We're upset our game was given score X" your editor can always say "Well, 5 out of ten is average" when in reality it's not.
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @07:18PM (#14418607)
    PC Gamer prides itself in writing reviews when a game comes out, not waiting for patches since when you buy the game, you're stuck with it for weeks if it is a lemon until a patch finally arrives, thus encouraging publishers to not release a game til its ready.

    I'm not sure when the last time they actually followed the practice was, but i'm guessing it's been years.

    Take CIV4 for example.

    I did them a favour of informing them of how a significant percentage of gamers could not play the game because of brutal bugs that get worse as the game progresses. And I warned them that if they ignored it, they'd loose me as a reader as well as everyone else I could pass the word on to. They obviously didn't care.

    For many, excitedly buying CIV4 when it came out meant nasty graphics problems ending in a crash to desktop or bluescreen. Playing with the large map settings made the game entirely unplayable beyond the early stages with turns that took exponentially longer until the crashes happen.

    For at least 2 months gamers were subjected to this bullshit with almost no word out of 'gaming god' Sid Meier's Firaxis.

    Then what do you know, a miracle happened. A patch was released and the game became playable, and was finally the game we expected.

    I think it was the next damn day (gee what a coincidence) that I found the PC Gamer issue with a massive review suddenly now available which expounded on what an incredible game it is, gave it a very high mark in lines with the past CIV games ... and spent only about 2 sentances describing that the game may have been released early in an 'unpolished' and 'slightly buggy' state !!!!

    They mention that a few gamers had posted about problems in a forum. No mention was made about the wide spread crash to desktop problem. This game deserved a mark in the low 40's, not mid 90's.

    It's total bullshit. hundreds complained on the CIV4 fansite forums. hundreds tried to find any link between their hardware and the crashes ... which there was none, it was purely buggy programming. hundreds were very pissed off that they had trusted the great Sid Meier name and been screwed over simply so that CIV4 could launch before AOE3.

    So I'm sticking to my word. I'm not buying PC Gamer anymore and several of my friends are doing the same. A couple of them are serious CIV fans and will not be giving their money to Firaxis over the way they've treated their fans.

    • I did them a favour of informing them of how a significant percentage of gamers could not play the game because of brutal bugs that get worse as the game progresses. And I warned them that if they ignored it, they'd loose me as a reader as well as everyone else I could pass the word on to. They obviously didn't care.

      The word you wanted is "lose".

      Mod me down if you must, but it's important that intelligent people understand basic English vocabulary.
      • Wow, all the spelling and grammatical errors in my post and you chose to pick up on lose / loose?

        I may be sloppy, but it's obvious that you simply think you have some understanding of the Queen's English with little idea of the bigger picture.

        That picture of course consisting of a redwood sized broomstick being lodged up your ass.

        • I have no patience any more for reactions like this. I didn't sit through years of boring and repetitive schooling to have highly intelligent computer professionals and hobbyists-- who also sat through the very same sort of mind-numbing training-- criticize me as a "Nazi", a "pedant", or "having a stick up my ass" for merely expecting a basic standard of writing ability.

          Have some fucking self-respect, and use the correct words.
  • by Tim Browse (9263) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @07:41PM (#14418698)
    ...it's a sentence!

    This article should come with instructions to breathe between each sentence, they're so long.

    Most of the things that look like paragraphs are actually a single sentence. I agree with other comments about the quality of this guy's writing. Glass houses, and all that.

  • The state of video game journalism is the central tradgedy of my life, too. I lie awake at night moaning over it. It destroyed my marriage. It cost me my job. It drove me to intraveinous drug use. I see children playing and people laughing and think, "Look at them, how could they, HOW COULD THEY, with the state of video game journalism the way it is?!?"
  • ...*videogames* are pretty pointless.

    I enjoy playing them (quite a bit, in fact), but worrying about the state of the journalism surrounding them, well, I just can't see why anyone cares.

    • A *good* videogame can be far more entertaining than a film, and the up front investment in a game is higher: it might take £30 and two hours gaming to realise a game sucks. Mainstream media devotes a lot of space to reviews of films and it is taken seriously enough to be an academic subject, why shouldn't we expect well-written reviews of games?
  • by payndz (589033) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @08:03PM (#14418782)
    I used to be a game journo (editor, in fact) some seven or eight years ago, and I'm *so* glad I got out of it when I did. As the smaller developers were snapped up by the giants, dealing with the publishers became more and more unpleasant.

    I always at least tried to be honest with game reviews - if I thought something stank, I said so (I think the lowest review score - as the final percentage rating - I ever gave was 3%), and while previews had to be more informative than opinionated, I generally took the piss a bit if the game deserved it. There's only so many cutsey platform game previews a man can write without going mad.

    Problem was, not only did certain publishers throw shit-fits and threaten to withhold future games if they got bad reviews (or sometimes actually go through with the threat: there was a period of about six months where my mag had to buy games by one publisher - fuck it, it was Ocean - because they wouldn't send us code), but as time went by they also started getting nasty about previews as well. Basically, they wanted their press releases to be reprinted, including the captions they'd written for the screenshots. Er, no. Not going to happen. So the PRs would go over my head and threaten to pull advertising - not just from my mag, but from other titles as well. Fun fun fun.

    Since things were only going to get worse as the publishers ate each other and got more powerful, I decided to get out as soon as I got the chance.

    There are some mags whose editorial policies I still respect - Edge, PC Zone, GamesTM - but many of the rest have fallen into the 'exclusive cover/fawning preview/minimum review score of 85%' routine/trap because it's the path of least resistance to ensure they can get product to cover.

    (And I was never offered a free holiday in return for a good score. Bastards!)

  • "Rather than being critics who add to the industry as film and music journalists arguably did back in the heady days of the 50's - 70's"

    A certain percentage of reviewers of any kind have always sold out. Be it music, movie, or some other form of entertainment such as video games. For example, take the Payola scandal [straightdope.com](s) of the 1950's, where DJ's & radio stations were paid to play certain songs and music "critics" were paid to write enthusiastic, favorable reviews.

    If you dig deep enough in your hist

  • The Onion A.V. Club (Score:2, Informative)

    by Col. Forbin (88061)
    The Onion's A.V. Club [avclub.com] has very good game reviews. They don't take themselves too seriously, and they answer the only question I care about with a game - should I buy it?

    They also have the extremely entertaining Games of Our Lives [avclub.com], which consists of very funny reviews of old games (20+ years in most cases) written by Wil Wheaton. [wilwheaton.net]
  • Isn't it inevitable that many game reviews are childish and shallow when many of the games reviewed are equally childish and shallow? You wouldn't expect a detailed structural and emotional analysis in a review of American Pie 4, why would you expect it in a review of Quake 4?
  • by l0rd (52169)
    While I agree with the point made (anyone remember that horrid american magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly ? 100% pictures & hype and no content), there are still some gems out there. One of them is Edge, which I have read from issue 1 and is in my opinion the best gaming mag out there. Even though they do sometimes go overboard (anyone remember when they gave super mario 64 a perfect 10?).

    All in all I find british gaming mags to be of better quality than their american counterparts. However I do find
  • Actually, there was at least a bit of good video game press - around the time the PS and Nintendo 64 were at their hight, there was a magazine called Next Generation [wikipedia.org] (ironically enough). They had great articles, a full spectrum of system coverage, and I thought fair reviews.

    They eventually devolved into the IGN web site we have today, the morlocks to Next Generation's exalted heights of civilized gaming coverage. My personal low point of the new gaming media was buying the IGN DVD coverage from E3, which
  • by prockcore (543967) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @09:30PM (#14419132)
    The problem is that games are really hard to review. Because what one person finds great, another person finds untenable.

    A good example is Resident Evil 4. It got Game of the Year from several different publications. I rented it.

    There is no way I would ever recommend Resident Evil 4 as game of the year, I couldn't even stand playing it for an hour. That's for one reason and one reason alone. Here it is.. are you ready?

    You can't move and shoot at the same time.

    Read that again. As soon as you pull out your gun, you lose the ability to move.

    At that point, I don't care about the story, the graphics, the sound, or anything. The game is absolutely unplayable.

    Only one review I read even mentioned the fact that pulling out your gun (or an axe, or any weapon) will switch you to "aim mode" where you can't move. How could they not mention that?

    Well, probably because the reviewer is *used* to playing Resident Evil games. The entire series has a history of horrible control schemes.

    Games are hard to review because your experience with them depends on your experience with other games. You're inadvertantly comparing RE4 with RE3, and the fact that the camera is over-the-shoulder in RE4 made it a little easier to move around compared to RE3... so your relative experience got a little better.. not worse.
  • by Bruha (412869) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @11:10PM (#14419472) Homepage Journal
    I used to write for Warcry/Crossroads gaming network. If a game I reviewed sucked I would say it sucked. I'd even tell the publisher what was wrong with it. The problem nowdays, is that companies like IGN, Stratics, and any number of magazines; make thier money off these good reviews. Game publishers have retaliated against bad press buy not letting them test anything again. I even see this in Warcry nowdays when I stop by and cruise articles. They claim to still supposedly be one of the "Volunteer" websites.

    I think bloggers will be the next big thing in game journalism. I have plans on writing reviews of the games I have bought and played on my blog. While it may not be pre-release reviews of games it will be anything from first run to bargin bin games from Gamestop. Either way look to bloggers to give perspective that you will be hard pressed to find on any normal gaming website.
    • As an avid gamer (Score:3, Informative)

      by queenb**ch (446380)
      I quit paying attention to what the media outlets had to say about a given game a long time ago. If they want me to shell out my hard earned dollars for a new game, here's my drill:

      1) There had better be a demo
      2) It had better work on my hardware
      3) I had better like the demo

      Short of that, the game makers can get stuffed. They bought the reviewers off ages ago and every gamer knows it. We don't listen to the hype when we're picking a new game. We either go with a series we know and trust, or we hear via
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Saturday January 07, 2006 @11:46PM (#14419605)
    When Master of Orion III came out in 2003, it was widely acknowledged as a horrible, horrible game. At least, among anyone who played it. But reading _some_ of the review sites, you wouldn't have known it. I mean, this awful game was given outright glowing ratings so much that you had to wonder if it was sarcasm. Take this sample of the review of just the sound from the game, where they cover one of the more annoying, short, and repetitive aspects: the dialog with aliens...

    The sound is good to excellent, making full use of your speakers' dynamic range. I always turn up the speakers when I've gotten a diplomatic message to hear the wonderful alien voices. The music is stellar, haunting, stirring and intriguing by turns. I never had the urge to turn it off and still find it compelling.

    Summary: 4.3/5 *Note: 2.5 is average ...I wish I could say it WAS sarcasm, but it struck me as something different. I am by no means a big game player. I might go out and purchase one or two games a year. But the best I could figure was that these guys were being sported free copies (and probably advance copies), and didn't want the gravy train to stop, so they keep on giving glowing reviews.

    IN SHORT: I rate the integrity of any game review site on the inverse of the rating that they gave Master of Orion III.

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