TomChick - News - 07/17/07 - Link
Russ Pitts has an article in the latest Escapist about a perennial favorite topic: game reviewing. In an all-too-brief sidebar, he asks a couple of people about the best and worst reviews they've ever read. Warren Spector singles out my review of his Deus Ex as the worst he's ever read, citing a comment I made about how the game was "90% bad".
It's a fair response from Mr. Spector, and my comment was a bit of hyperbole, not far from Mr. Spector's comment that my review was the "worst" he's ever read. Surely he's seen worse. But, okay, fair enough. The point of my 90% comment was that the game's problems (namely the then clunky engine, the inept AI, and the erratic narrative) were constantly interfering with the better parts of the game. I probably could have articulated that better, and it might have made the point more constructively, but hyperbole is the last refuge of the scoundrel, or something like that. One of these days, I really do intend to play Deus Ex again just to see it with a new computer and older eyes. I've got the discs right here on my desk...
But it raises an interesting question, which I wish Russ Pitts' article would have touched on a bit more. We think of a good review as one we agree with, and a bad one as one we disagree with. Which is utterly fucking stupid, and a juvenile way to look at it. I can dislike something, but still appreciate the insight into it that someone might have who liked it. Or vice versa. A good reviewer writes a review that I'll want to read whether or not I liked the game/movie/album. But you're not going to get that when you review things with a checklist of pointlessly subjective comments about what's "cool", "fun", or "boring". Reviews suck for two co-dependent reasons: 1) reviewers are idiots and bad writers, and 2) readers don't care. All readers are looking for in a review that affirms how they feel about a game. And when a guy who merits as much respect as Warren Spector is just as guilty of this as some thirteen-year-old posting on Gamespot's forums, I'm not very hopeful that anything's going to change. But, yeah, it doesn't help when you have smartasses like me throwing around comments about things being 90% bad. So, "j'accuse!" and "mea culpa" and lordy, I wish we'd all grow up a bit.
UPDATE: The coolly British Kieron Gillen pointed out to me that the sidebar seems to have asked its two participants to name the best and worst reviews they've ever gotten for one of their games. In which case, don't I look silly for take Spector's comments completely out of context?
In other words, uh, never mind.