Remember that game I was telling you about yesterday? Kingdoms of Amalur? Amazing game and I’m having a blast with it, honestly. However, I made the mistake of checking out the reviews and hands-on-impressions of it before I actually picked up the title. I was met with something utterly frustrating that caused an irritated Facebook status message and we all know how much I hate the world seeing that I get angry, right? (See Twitter/Steam handle: CandiceHatesYou for confirmation.) Upon checking out these articles on various little blogs and websites of actual repute and such, I came to find that there was a definite difference in professional game reviewing and everything else. It was making me downright livid, to be honest.
A game that I had been enjoying, Kingdoms of Amalur, was released to very little marketing behind it and it was too bad because the game had a lot of promise. It blended a delicious amount of Skyrim with elements of Fable and even God of War. The combat was compelling, the UI was simple and easy to get through, and the visuals were so absolutely stunning (Todd McFarlane and R. A. Salvatore. How can you go wrong?) that it was going to take some pretty strong elements to make me dislike this game. The story? Did I mention that the story was heavy, rich with history and characters, and introducing levels of fantasy that you don’t see often enough in games these days? Yeah, let’s just say that Kingdoms of Amalur is a game that I felt didn’t get enough credit. Sure, the majority of the scores for this title are good, but they still didn’t sing the gospel. Maybe that’s another source of irritation, but let me not get ahead of myself here.
The few random spots from which I read negativity were part of a common issue among gaming sites nowadays, and perhaps it comes from a wellspring of a games industry that is begging for a rebirth of creativity. I don’t know; I just know that when I see people shilling out terms for a game like “Diablo clone,” “loot grab,” and “Skyrim-Esque,” I get offended for the creators. Writers who get so scared of the fact that you can’t enjoy a game without being called a “fanboy/girl” and immediately getting lauded as such, that they sway almost completely toward negative, instead, to avoid it. Maybe this is what it is, you know? Maybe it is because I have spent time with some of the makers of these games — developers who have poured their heart and soul into a title to have it released — and then the most you can say is “Meh, this reminded me too much of Mehhh so I don’t really give a mehhh about mehhhh.” And how insulting is that? Is it hard to believe that a game developer could’ve been inspired? Maybe they wanted to recapture a feeling that they had while playing games from their youth and maybe expand upon the feeling and the experience, yeah? Why do we instantly have to be negative and assume that companies aren’t trying hard enough to come up with something new?
Sometimes, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, you dig?
To me, a review is a chance to discuss a game and what it’s all about, plus the feelings it invoked in you to an audience of people who haven’t played it yet. You can come from a standpoint of “Hey, I haven’t played this before, so here is my account of it.” Or you can say, “I love this series and so I’m going to introduce you to it from my perspective.” Both can be absolutely enjoyable to read. What my gripe is: the people who want to naysay for the sake of naysaying. It has always been my way to give as many negatives as I give positives to a game, and if I can’t find any positives, I still try to put a spin on it. I have never, ever wanted to grind my heel into the face of people who put years into a title just to see it fail due to something like merchandising. A good friend worked on the Iron Man games just to see me heavily despise everything about them, but I made sure that my readers knew it had little to do with them and everything to do with Marvel’s merchandising team. It can come down to a lack of marketing resources as well, like in the case of Kingdoms of Amalur, or even games that fail because the bigger publishing house that owns them is dumping all of its funding into the more lucrative title it’s releasing. It happens all of the time, you know? Sometimes, not enough review copies gets sent to the media and, whether the games industry writers want to admit it or not, they get downright vicious if a PR company doesn’t supply them with free review copy.
Because I have been involved with this industry so much in the past — hell, almost 10 years — I have seen it become so achingly devoid of humanity. Engaged in a conversation with one of my co-hosts last night, he stated that you have to dig around for the reviewers who speak to what you’re looking for and I feel that it might work for him, but not everyone else. Why can’t we all be professional and follow a set of standards? Why should we recklessly put grades and percentages to how much we enjoyed a game without really digging in deep to understand why we might not have? Why, as reviewers, shouldn’t we be held to a responsible level of reporting what a game is about, why it will or won’t work, and just what is behind either outcome, carefully, and with humanity behind it?
I have talked to designers and people involved in the writing and art direction who sang the holy hymnal of a game they put their entire lives into. Where they had to leave their family for months — maybe years — at a time just to see their dream created and a paycheck as additional compensation for their creative input. You meet these people at conventions and they take your hand and lead you into this world that they, and their friends, helped craft for you to enjoy and you become so entranced with their excitement.
And then you go home, you jot down your notes, and come to find that people are all over the Internet, taking a huge, steaming expletive on their dreams.
It kills me, you guys. It does. It destroys me to see that people are so lazy and wanting desperately to be labeled as “The Guy Who Doesn’t Pull Punches” that there is no responsibility anymore. These so-called-writers can’t actually put any thought and effort into what they’re saying; they just use a bunch of buzzwords and leap toward the negative in a way to make themselves stand out, but guess what? It doesn’t work that way. Not anymore. I read far more yammering rhetoric than I read intelligent and humanity-driven reviews, and it’s got to stop. It’s this kind of babble and cookie cutter drivel that is driving games writing into the ground and I’m, quite honestly, disgusted.
What this comes down to is pretty simple: Act responsibly and learn your chosen craft. If you’re going to put any time and effort into being a reviewer for any industry out there, know that you have a responsibility to be informative as well as human. Hell, take a look at some of the fine writing going on at Polygon and The Verge and take note of reviewers and writers who want to make you think as well as inform you about the next upcoming game. If you are one of those writers who I listed up there, maybe you’re feeling a bit sheepish right now and, for that, I hope this maybe helped you put a few more tools in your arsenal for the future. Honestly, if I had one thing to suggest to anyone who wants to take on this kind of employ, it’s this:
Don’t be a dick.