Game reviewing ethics


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dirtbox
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I'm having an interesting disagreement (when aren't I?) with Lutzy over how someone should review a game.

Personally, I believe you should write from your own opinion and mark it on it's merits and downfalls as you personally see them.

Lutz, however believes that you should presume to know what everyone else might think and write from their perspective.

I always considered it an unwritten rule when reviewing that you write from the heart. You are one person and your opinion is your own, you should never, ever presume to know your audiences tastes, just explain yours and how the subject appeals to or repulses you and leave it to the reader to make their own mind up.

What say you?
#1 at 12:31:52 - 09/04/2010
peej
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I say "what a fantastic idea for a thread"

It's a tricky path to tread. The best reviews (on here, and on any other site) are always the ones where you absolutely "get" what the person's trying to put across, regardless of the final score they assign to the game at the end of the review. If you can play the same game, and instantly understand points made in the review, then it's done its job.

Blarting out a stale bunch of game features that could've been pulled from a PR release or the game's wikipedia page is a waste of time.

In some ways, though I absolutely hate the term "new games journalism" at least the NGJ approach gives a more personal impression of a game.

Stevas / NY here have it absolutely nailed.
#2 at 12:34:50 - 09/04/2010
billdoor
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Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one. The trick is to find the arsehole who shares your outlook on games. There is no trying to second guess what other people want, that's the reviewing equivalent of game design by focus group- it doesn't work.

I say give the JRPG to someone who likes them, the FPS to someone who likes them and the mainstream shit to Ellie (or someone like her). I want to know if a game is a good example of its type, rather than whether someone else thinks a game is suitable for who they think I am.
#3 at 12:42:00 - 09/04/2010
NewYork
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As long as the reviewer gives enough objective details, it doesn't actually matter if his subjective opinion is from his heart or second-guessed from what the typical gamer might think.

If a reviewer says "I really enjoyed the combat," I'll learn nothing, regardless of whether he's saying that he enjoyed the combat or the average gamer would.

If a reviewer says "this game has a large geographical area to explore, but around 10 hours into the game you will notice the areas tend to repeat themselves in terms of objects used, to the point that the game feels like ten template areas merely repeated over and over," then it doesn't particularly matter what he thought of it at all: I can decide if that's my kind of thing. And, sure, he can colour these facts with some kind of opinion like "this is not a game-breaker" or "this really bored me after a while", but the key point is backing up what you say, so that the reader can form their own opinion.
#4 at 12:52:56 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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billdoor said:Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one. The trick is to find the arsehole who shares your outlook on games.

Yeah, I'd agree with that. I don't like many reviews because I don't agree with many people's tastes or ideas about what makes a good game, but at least I can spot that because they're being forthright with their opinions rather than plucking what they believe opinion should be out of the air.
#5 at 12:57:01 - 09/04/2010
HairyArse
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Yeah I agree with NY.

The key thing is to mix up personal opinion with a bit of objectivity.

If something is clearly broken or flawed and there's no escaping the fact, then it's your duty to make readers aware of it. But then if there's one particular element that really resonates with you on a personal level, then if you describe it passionately and enthusiastically then your readers might also relate to that point.

I never review a game in a genre I dislike - for example RPGs. If I reviewed a Final Fantasy game I would score it 1 or 2 out of 5. But someone with the knowledge and experience of RPGs would be able to be both objective and subjective about it without being swayed by their inherent hatred for the genre.
#6 at 12:58:39 - 09/04/2010
HairyArse
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Oh and it's good to see you back Deebs - however short-lived it may or may not turn out to be.

:D
#7 at 13:00:18 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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hii

And completely right about objectivity, but there's being objective and compromising your opinion by being so objective that you're attempting to write from an opinion that simply isn't your own.
#8 at 13:00:36 - 09/04/2010
billdoor
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awaits lutz's appearance (however equally brief)
#9 at 13:03:22 - 09/04/2010
peej
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dirtbox said:... but at least I can spot that because they're being forthright with their opinions rather than plucking what they believe opinion should be out of the air.


Those are usually the reviews I get roundly pilloried for when I write 'em.

The recent Perfect Dark review was a good example (though not for here, for somewhere else). Was quite surprised at the number of people who found time to lay into me via email about my opinion of it. I think they genuinely believed that one person slagging the game off would actually somehow affect their own enjoyment, global sales, who knows...

Weird though.
#10 at 13:03:31 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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Hah, well I can't see AATG being quite that influential (yet?) but I do believe it's a reviewers duty to give as rounded an opinion as they can regardless of the audience.

If you like a game, say so, don't make it sound terrible because you think other people might not like it.
#11 at 13:07:20 - 09/04/2010
peej
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It's not, but this other place is metacritic / gamerankings listed, so you get a lot of readers who just trawl through the lowest metacritic / gameranking scores and associated sites, and troll their arses off if you've given a poor score and a negative review of something they like.

Bioshock 2 was another review that I got it in the neck for because I was less than complimentary about the game.

Even though the site IS listed with Metacritic / gamerankings, it still probably has absolutely no influence on anyone's purchasing decisions - in fact I'm pretty sure that even the biggest sites wouldn't really carry that sort of consumer influence.
#12 at 13:13:13 - 09/04/2010
HairyArse
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That reminds me. We need to try and get on metacritic and gamerankings. AGAIN.
#13 at 13:18:57 - 09/04/2010
NewYork
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Hmm, I think my post about objectivity may have been a bit of a tangent.

Without sounding like I take my reviews seriously in any way, this is something I've struggled with when Hairy sends me a game to review that I end up not enjoying, and yet I know that most people would enjoy.

Ratchet and Clank, for example. I wasn't into it. And I actually asked on the forum:

NewYork said:
Hmm... it's all right. Just not as good as everyone's saying.

But I wonder, do I review it from the point of view of me, who currently thinks it's all a bit meh and probably a 7/10 at best, or from the point of view of someone who'd really enjoy the game and would give it 10/10?


In the end I kinda chickened out and basically said everything I disliked about the game, but then in summary said something to the effect of "but if you are the type of person who'd like this, then you'll like this", (very tautological) and gave it a favourable score. I think there's something for everyone in that approach: my own view, and some comfort for fans of the game.
#14 at 13:24:37 - 09/04/2010
Stevas
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That way I look at reviews is like this:

/squints
/nods
/raises left eyebrow quizzically
/smiles thoughtfully

But then, that's me. I'm willing to concede that maybe you humans don't see them that way.

I'd still maintain you're all quite insane, mind.
#15 at 13:28:24 - 09/04/2010
HairyArse
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Stevas doesn't even know what a 'review' in the traditional sense is...
#16 at 13:31:53 - 09/04/2010
blizeH
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Can you not do a bit of both? Rate the game on it's own merits, but also look out for how it might appeal to others.

So for example you might hate JRPGs, but if you had to review Final Fantasy XIII you might give it a low score, but also mention the positives and the sort of people that it might appeal to.
#17 at 13:32:36 - 09/04/2010
Stevas
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HairyArse said:Stevas doesn't even know what a 'review' in the traditional sense is...


Why, I've never been so insulted in all my -

Wait, no, the other thing... fair point.
#18 at 14:10:53 - 09/04/2010
Lutzie
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This is with respect to my review on Infinite Space on AATG BTW... personally, for my gaming tastes it's a 9/10. But critically, as a game, I think it's only worth 6/10.

Reason being, it's flawed. IMO it's got a lot of problems and missed oppertunites. Hence a 6/10 (Well, 3 stars).

But for me, I don't mind them flaws so much, and the good outweighs the bad, to make it a 9/10. But if I gave it a 9/10, I think people would be annoyed given the flaws.

I also posted this on EG:

Take FIFA. If I reveiw FIFA from my point of view it will get 1/10 cos I can't stand footblol games. But am I right to review the game and give it a 1/10?

"Great graphics, plays well, sounds superb, presentation is nice... 1/10" Doesn't read right does it? Surely you have to mark a game on what it's worth as a game, not what I think it's worth just because I like or dislike it? If the latter was true then I'd split the whole of gaming library into "Shit", "good" and "very good".
#19 at 14:35:27 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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No, it was sparked by that review, but it's highlighted some truly odd notions you've since voiced about creating a review. Your scoring policy is kind of irrelevant, although that's pretty damn weird as well.

I thought it was an interesting discussion and wondered what other people thought.
#20 at 14:39:29 - 09/04/2010
Lutzie
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billdoor said:
I say give the JRPG to someone who likes them, the FPS to someone who likes them and the mainstream shit to Ellie (or someone like her

I agree with this, and it's the very reason why I'd never review games for a living TBH. Hence my FIFA comparrison.
#21 at 14:41:13 - 09/04/2010
Murbal
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Tricky.

I LOVE Bayonetta. It's a 9 or 10 for me, but I'd be so wary about recommending it. In fact, I've told two colleagues who asked about it not to buy it - I know it's not for them.

That said, if I were to review it, it would be done from a view point of my own personal experience. I couldn't mark it down knowing it wouldn't be for everyone.
#22 at 14:42:08 - 09/04/2010
Murbal
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Which site reviewed with a reviewer's tilt? Gamespot?
#23 at 14:42:44 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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Lutzie said:
billdoor said:
I say give the JRPG to someone who likes them, the FPS to someone who likes them and the mainstream shit to Ellie (or someone like her

I agree with this, and it's the very reason why I'd never review games for a living TBH. Hence my FIFA comparrison.

Well, taking that into account with Infinite Space, I loath JRPGs and everything about them, yet this is a JRPG and I love it, and so do you, yet your review makes it sounds barely playable at best.
#24 at 14:43:28 - 09/04/2010
Lutzie
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dirtbox said:No, it was sparked by that review,

You know what I meant.

but it's highlighted some truly odd notions you've since voiced about creating a review.

The only other thing I've put (I think) is this:

Dirtbox wrote:
You shouldn't publish a review you don't agree with, that's not how it works.

Firstly, who says? Where's this rule book?

Secondly, I *do* agree with my review. What's wrong with loving a 6/10 game? Those 6 points are brilliant points, and it's worth suffering the problems to play the great bits. My enjoyment isn't 6/10, it's closer to 9/10, but the game itself is flawed in many ways, and can't be given such a high score.

Thirdly; If you watched a film and 60% was stunning, and 40% was absolute pap, would you still not recommend it to people? Would it not be worth watching the shit to enjoy the brilliant parts?


Your scoring policy is kind of irrelevant, although that's pretty damn weird as well.

Why? My review is a 6/10. My personal enjoyment of the game has nothing has nothing to do with the review. They're seperate things. IMO, they HAVE to be. I could happily review Elite now and give it a good mark if I based it on my "fun factor". Will joe bloggs like it? Not very likely! By todays standards it's not a fraction of the game it could be. But I'd love it, and would happily play it. (Inverse FIFA argeument there)
#25 at 14:45:54 - 09/04/2010
Lutzie
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dirtbox said:
Well, taking that into account with Infinite Space, I loath JRPGs and everything about them, yet this is a JRPG and I love it, and so do you,

A very fancy dressed up JRPG yes. One with many flaws like a shit combat system (for starters) and a whole slew of missed chances to turn the good into the great.

yet your review makes it sounds barely playable at best.

No, it makes it sound very flawed. It is in many ways. One half is superb. One half is codswallop.
#26 at 14:48:12 - 09/04/2010
Stevas
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I've said before I believe AATG should have some system for "matching" your profile to that of the reviewer (based on likes and dislikes, favourite boyband, what side of the pillow you keep the gun under - that sort of thing).

That way, if you read a review written by someone with tastes close to your own, AATG can say, "hey, you! Yeah, YOU! Stevas said this game fucking rocks, what are you waiting for? Oh, you're waiting for hell to freeze over and Sony to actually bring down the price of the PS3. We also see you're awaiting the return to glory for Newcastle United, and that you're only interested in shmups and 2D fighters circa 1990-99... hey, wait a fucking minute... aw, fuck it, that's just you re-reading your review again, isn't it Stevas?"

Okay, maybe not EXACTLY like that, but something like it. It could also jump out at you on the front page with "HEY, STEVAS SAYS THIS GAME ROCKS, AND WE NOTICE YOU HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME TASTES AS HI - wait, that's you again, isn't it dude?"

Okay, look, I just want AATG to say hello to me occasionally. And a cat with bionic limbs. Nearly forgot the cat there, now I'm making a wishlist.
#27 at 14:50:32 - 09/04/2010
dirtbox
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Frankly Infinite Space could almost be an appalling game, slated in previews and reviews

Sadly thereís a few down sides to the game....

Perhaps the biggest let down is the battle system.

Thereís a couple of minor things that grate too;...

The game is overall a very good game and certainly worth the £25 I paid for it. But the closer a game gets to being great the easier it is to see the flaws. And some of the flaws (Especially the combat) are so glaringly obvious it makes you wonder if one half of the game was designed by a veteran developer....

All in all if you can put up with the poor combat, the other failings...


This is how you begin each paragraph for a game you like? You barely said a good thing about it in the whole review, and even when you did it was a barbed sentence. Flawed or not, a great game is a great game is a great game....

Sure it drops a point on the final score, but rather than concentrate on the crap, extol some virtues, because they far outweigh the cons if overall you liked it enough to write a review and play it non-stop.
#28 at 14:54:59 - 09/04/2010
Kay
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Just yet another reason for why scores are pointless and should be scrapped. A simple 'yay', 'nay' or 'maybe if you like this sort of thing' is pretty much all you need to complement the review text. Much less metacritic willy-waving that way.
#29 at 14:58:16 - 09/04/2010
Lutzie
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It may seem that Iím really having a go at Infinite Space here; Iíve written more about the bad than the good of the game, and that really isnít the case. The game is overall a very good game and certainly worth the £25 I paid for it.


dirtbox said:This is how you begin each paragraph for a game you like?

Usually yes. When I've been given a steak with a turd on it, I'll notice the turd far more than the steak. Doesn't matter if that was the queen of the cow civilisation on my plate, it's still got a turd on it.

And with gaming it gets even worse because the flaws stand out all the more the more stupid they are, and IS has a fair few stupid flaws. We're talking room 101 game design flaws.

Flawed or not, a great game is a great game is a great game....

But does that make it worthy of a high mark? Great game, no flaws is 10/10 yes? Great game, tonnes of flaws.... that a 10/10 still? IMO, no.
#30 at 14:59:47 - 09/04/2010

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