Bite this! Why Mulligan's wrong, wrong, wrong in her latest column

QuarterToThree Message Boards: News: Bite this! Why Mulligan's wrong, wrong, wrong in her latest column
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 03:55 pm:

Jessica Mulligan’s usually so smart, so smooth, so smart and smooth, but this time she’s blown it.

http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html

Here are some excerpts from her latest column, which accuses the gaming press of climbing into bed with the game publishers, with some rebuttals.

“If you’re a publisher and you’re going to spend a lot of money on ostentatious waste, you naturally expect the objects of this waste to fulfill their part of the bargain. As always, the computer gaming press came through with flying colors with their "Best of E3" lists and, as always, they all pretty much picked the same games for the same awards, i.e. those with the best marketing machines, parties and gifts (to be fair, some of those games were worthy of an award; some publishers do have money to hire good talent). Just as ‘honest’ politicians are those who stay bought, so do members of the game press tend be ‘honest’ journalists.”

I’m not sure what Mulligan expects. Should the press attend E3 and not write about the games? That’s why they go in the first place. As far as the “Best of” lists goes, that’s a natural reaction to the questions the press gets asked. “What was the coolest game at the show?” “Which console looked best?” And so on. Readers have a tremendous amount of interest in E3. Magazines and websites that want to have happy readers better cover the biggest gaming event of the year, even if it is more hot gas than hot news.

As to the parties and gifts handed out, I don’t really see how a few trinkets and some free food and booze once a year is colluding with the enemy. Mulligan’s trying to stuff a tempest into teapot, but this kettle isn’t buying it. Besides, the number of gifts and parties was down at this year’s E3. Personally, I try to get invites to parties because I like to go to parties. It’s free food and drink, and it makes my trip to LA less expensive. I didn’t really get any gifts this year either. Well, one t-shirt. Jesus, if I’m in bed with the gaming publishers, they need to work harder to satisfy me. One fucking t-shirt? I’m holding out for a hooded sweatshirt at least!

“If you think I’m just being cruel or exaggerating for effect, I’m not. After all, most game magazines (read: "Damn near all") couldn’t survive for two months without ad dollars from the publishers, as well as internal access to a company for ‘previews’ and exclusive articles. This gives the publishers, especially the ones that spend many dead presidents on advertising, quite a bit of power. If one of them doesn’t like how its products are being reviewed, all it has to do is refuse to grant access and pull advertising for a month or two and, voila! Unfavorable reviews have a tendency to mysteriously disappear. Or are rewritten by editors to be less harsh. Or two reviews of the product appear, one unfavorable and one with an "alternative view." Or critical reviewers no longer get assigned to review that company’s products. Or the cover of a magazine gets bought for a product review. I’ve seen all of that happen in the last ten years, and heard anecdotal stories about many more.”

While it’s true that game magazines need advertising revenue, it’s also true that publishers need game magazines. They need the mags and websites to get visibility for their games, through advertising and editorial coverage. I have no illusions about publishers being quick to let magazines know when they’re unhappy with the treatment that one of their products receives, usually in the form of a bad review. I know that happens, and I know some publishers have pulled ads. I have heard practically no stories of magazines caving in and changing review scores to appease publishers, however. While everyone loves a conspiracy, common sense tells you that reviews aren’t being bought and sold. Don’t most bad games get poor reviews and most good games get glowing reviews? How long would you read a magazine if the reviews were consistently better than the game warranted? A magazine that sells review scores or lets publishers influence review scores unduly will see its readership dwindle. Do publishers try to influence editors? Of course. Does that mean reviews are bought and sold? Please, show me the evidence. Show me the piss-poor game that gets the good review and the mediocre game that gets the 5-star review.

“To be fair, for all I know the judges are incisive and cogent writers with a keen eye for what works in a computer or video game. I wouldn’t know, since I only recognized about five names from the list. However, just as I’ve always felt it is a conflict of interest for the game mags to rely on advertising dollars from the very companies whose products they review, I’ve always felt that those who write authoritatively about games should have helped make at least one of the darn things.”

This is a silly argument. I suppose only those of us who have worked on cars should be able to compare different models when making a buying decision? I suppose those of us who have ever baked a cake should know if a cake is tasty? I don’t need to be a code monkey crawling through lines of C++ to know Kohan’s a good game and Command & Conquer 2 isn’t. I think having game developers serve as critics is probably a bad idea. They know how much sweat is poured into a game and might be more willing to overlook faults due to sympathy.

The one thing I agree with Mulligan on is that there’s a built-in conflict of interest due to mags and websites accepting ad dollars from game publishers. This is something that’s prevalent throughout the publishing industry, though. In your local paper the sports columnist will write about the local baseball team, and the baseball team will take out ads for upcoming special events at games. Car and Driver will run auto ads. Newsweek will review movies and run movies ads. It’s everywhere. It’s the way the publishing industry works, and for good reason. Where better to advertise your products than in the publications writing about them? Ultimately, you have to take it on faith that the publications you read are giving you their honest opinions. If their opinions seem out of line with your own experience, say if that vacuum cleaner that got rave reviews in a magazine exploded when you tried to use, don’t read that magazine anymore. That’s the most effective punishment you can bestow, and that’s what keeps magazines honest. Without readers, they can’t charge for ads.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 04:10 pm:

The main thing Mulligan is ignoring (and this is a habit of hers) is the fundamental way magazines actually work.

There's a seperation of powers. Advertising/marketing is handling ads and Editorial is handling coverage and the twain, from what I've seen and heard, rarely if ever meet.

I can think of countless examples of angry game publishers and magazines who've stood up to them.

Also, remember, Mulligan went a full year expousing her views on MMORPGs in her column while she worked for Origin. To her credit, she never crossed the line, but it was still an unprofessional implied conflict of interest to have coloring every remark.

Nice line about the teacup Mark.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 04:11 pm:

Um, heh. I know of at least one major print magazine that blatantly takes payouts from major publishers to feature certain games on its front cover. Their editorial content amounts to advertising.

Far it be for me to defend anything Mulligan says, but that point is valid -- a number of them would be little better than fireplace kindling without exclusive material and occasionally interesting color commentary.

Then again, most publishers realize there are enough fans willing to work for free on the Web, and more and more people are reading it there. So it makes sense to just give it away, and bypass the print payola. Hopefully the print mags will become more fun to read as a result.

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 04:54 pm:

"I know of at least one major print magazine that blatantly takes payouts from major publishers to feature certain games on its front cover."

They all do this. Entertainment Weekly does this.
The front cover IS advertising. Advertising for both the games and the magazine itself.
Duh.

"Then again, most publishers realize there are enough fans willing to work for free on the Web, and more and more people are reading it there."

More and more of them are going out of business on the web too because less and less people are advertising there. I'd argue that there are few things more easily corrupted by give-aways and tchotchkes in this business than "fans working for free on the net" J.

-A.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 04:56 pm:

And Car & Driver could subsist without car company ads? Sky & Telescope without Meade and Celestron? Etc. Computer game mags are niche, specialty publications. Our audience, our advertisers, and the things we cover are all tied up in one little microcosm of the world. Of course it's incestuous! It's no different than any other commercial publication though.

I suppose we could start a magazine that accepted no ads from the game industry. It would last about a week, maybe less. Who the hell else wants to advertise regularly in a magazine focused exclusively on gaming geeks? Sheesh.

I really, really get tired of hearing the "you guys get junkets and so you're going to be biased" crap. Hey, folks, you try flying from f'ng Vermont to Kalifornia at crappy hours of the day and night to see some half-assed expansion pack or something. Junket my butt--the game companies should be thirlled we don't rip them a new one for the pain in the ass they cause us going out to see them.

I can only speak for the staff at Computer Games, but we're a relatively mature bunch (average age is like 33), several are married, and all of us are a bit beyond the stage of being swayed by "gee whiz, a cool party" stuff. But as Mark says, just look at, um, the articles. Show me the reviews that are tainted. Ain't none. Previews? Who cares? Previews are forward-looking articles on what might be, and are by their nature kinda puffy. We try to make them reasonable, and let the developers make the outrageous claims, but you have to accept a certain amount of gee whiz with previews. Just look at the number of games that get glowing previews and bad reviews, though--there are quite a few.

Covers? Eh, a mag has at best 12 to offer up each year. There are three PC game mags. That's 36 covers. Hot commodities indeed. All the mags gett pitches from a lot of games for covers; the better you're doing, the more and higher quality pitches you get. If you choose to let a company buy in to the cover, and then run a lesser game on the front sheet for money, hey, you're only hurting yourself. It'd be more likely to be the other way around, where a mag would bargain free ads for cover exclusives, but even so, who cares? Ultimately, a magazine can feature anything it wants. You don't have to buy it. And covers are nearly always previews, which are going to be subjective as hell anyhow.

Ick.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Geo on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:01 pm:

She hasn't read some of CGW's or even the Official Playstation Magazine's latest reviews. Some have been so caustically negative, to the point of insulting the developers and belittling the publishers, that I... well really I quite enjoy them. :)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Loyd Case on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:07 pm:

Several years ago, a graphics card company (the name is irrelevant) disliked a review of one of their products. They put a tremendous amount of pressure on the publishing side, pressing the VP of the business unit and the publisher to have the review either pulled or revised. At Ziff-Davis, the wall between publishing and editorial is sacrosanct.

To their credit, the publisher and the VP said "no". Didn't even ask the editorial side about it. So for CGW, at least, there's no pressure.

As for junkets -- I believe it is still Ziff-Davis policy not to accept paid trips. If a trip is deemed worthwhile, the company pays the travel.

As ever,

Loyd Case


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:27 pm:

I was severly disappointed by the blanket accusations leveled in the article. Essentially, all members of the gaming press are lumped into a single demographic, which is then labeled as corrupt and self-serving. The Avault article gave some good examples of actual junkets and the subsequent reviews. The BTH column merely tags along for effect.

Games are not the only industry where this takes place. Ask any doctor how many trinkets the drug companies send them. Sure, this kind of behavior is sometimes abused, but with generalizations and vague accusations, the BTH column is just a piece of sensationalist journalism.

While I have issues with GDC and E3 (including the excessive flashiness), JM also ignores the intended function of both conferences. Sounds like another "give the people what they want" article to me. I mean, that's what drives those E3 reports to being with. Who was it who made the comment that a couple of screenshots generate the site traffic that no editorial piece ever could? Anyhow, it's apparently fashionable to bash E3 this year.

- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:29 pm:

CGW is all right. I wasn't talking about them earlier.

And yes, Bub (Bob), they wouldn't survive without advertising. But existing first as a vehicle to bleed the industry for advertising dollars, putting the service to readers second, is what erodes the readability and trust of readership of ALL magazines. Magazine readership, not just games, is down industry-wide.

The fact is that I find sites like QT3 and Lum the Mad eminently more readable than PC Gamer, and I don't have to wait a month to read it. If they go under one day, it'll suck, but that doesn't mean I'll start reading more magazines. That's not just because I don't have to pay to read Web news, it's because I don't /want/ to pay for boring unreadable 'zine blather.

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:46 pm:

You might be surprised to learn "J", that a lot of the people here, and in fact Mark and Tom, who run Qt3, write for TWO of the print magazines you're talking about. So now you'll be bagging Qt3 as a site to visit, huh? Better throw out Gamespot too. Lots of CGW staffers there. CGOnline must be a no-no also since that's all content from the print Computer Games. IGN...another one full of those nasty print writers. GamePower too.

Are you from Europe? If so, I can understand your frustration with the game mags. If you live in and read US magazines, there are few that I would even think are "on the take" so to speak. And PC Gamer, which you mention by name is run by a former UK magazine guy so it's easy to see why the mag looks and feels the way it does.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 05:55 pm:

No, I'm American. I'm not advocating a boycott of PC Gamer, I just don't like reading it, because it bores me. I like reading QT3 just fine, and I also like Gamespot, especially Geoff Keighley, who roxors my newb azz. I even said CGW was 'just fine.' You must have missed that.

I'm also a wannabe game writer, so you're witnessing me torpedo my opportunities with Imagine Media. Woo woo!

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:03 pm:

Again, what gets lost is the fact that much of the material in the mags is written by freelancers. Who care not a bug fart who advertises and who doesn't. And I've never had anyone from CGM/CGO or CGW EVER even hint that a review should be "softened up" because the game was from a major advertiser.

The thing that irritates me about such irresponsible articles is that they never give examples. If these corrupt reviews were so prevalent, then it should be easy to cite high rated reviews of crappy games from big advertisers that are obviously shady. Likewise, no one ever explains why a high profile EA Sports or Sierra game gets a 2 star review. I suppose it's just easier to make blanket accusations because it's what people like to hear.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jessica Mulligan on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:13 pm:

Good points all around, from the other side of the coin. I'm not convinced, but we can agree to disagree on this.

Do you think this means I won't be invited to the parties next E3?

I DID like this comment from Bub:

"Also, remember, Mulligan went a full year expousing her views on MMORPGs in her column while she worked for Origin. To her credit, she never crossed the line, but it was still an unprofessional implied conflict of interest to have coloring every remark."

Had I reviewed someone else's MMORPG and panned it or, as you put it, crossed the line in any way, I would agree with you. But I didn't, intentionally, to avoid the very conflict of interest you note. I WILL admit to broadening the subject matter sufficiently to positively avoid it, which was probably a disservice to the readers.

Am I just being naive?

To top it all off, the column damn near got me fired once, when I dared note that some online game customers act like homophobic sociopaths online.

-Jess

P.S. Now that J. has actually agreed with me once, we should all pray to our respective gods, because I think the world is about to end.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:16 pm:

Chet at Old Man Murray did a pretty decent wrapup of /many/ vacuous but vaguely positive reviews of Rune.

http://www.oldmanmurray.com/longreviews/Rune/Runerebut2.shtml

It's not that great an example, because he doesn't argue that the editors were afraid of annoying advertisers or game publishers, it was more that the reviewers were afraid of giving a less than passing grade to the game, even when the text of their own reviews suggests they DIDN'T LIKE PLAYING IT.

So to back up, in my book the payola takes a back seat to generally lackluster reporting, reviewing and reporting in print game mags.

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:18 pm:

This is such a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. Every now and then someone (usually in the game media) bashes that very same game media for being a house of payola and puff reviews. Whatever. As Bob pointed out, and jeff reiterated, if this were such a problem, people wouldn't be talking in generalities -- they'd be mad about THIS review and THAT review and a specific magazine or magazines that constantly pulled punches and wrote dishonest evaluations. But you just try to get specific examples out of these people.

Game magazine readers have a huge advantage over readers of news magazines or newspapers: they have the same access to the product that the writers do. If I want to find out what happens to George Tenet's trip to the Mideast, I can't just tag along. I have to rely on reporters. I could email or call friends in Israel, but all they could tell was what the Israeli press was saying -- so they'd be relying on reporters as well.

This is just games. If I read a review of a game and find myself questioning the conclusions therein, I can easily buy the game myself (or ask a friend who bought it) and judge the review myself. If I find myself disagreeing with a majority of the reviews I read, I'll stop reading, and I can imagine most gamers will do the same. So far that doesn't seem to have happened.

There's no problem. Unless Jessica has a list of bought-and-paid reviews she'd like to challenge.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:30 pm:

[J.'s Rune example]

This is a great example of why there's no problem. Take a look at those gaming sites in the OMM roundup (which was hilarious). They're mostly fan sites that are most likely run by high school students. Basically, they're kids. If PR sent out a bunch of Rune freebies to these kids, the reviewers may feel bad (not obligated, or pressured, just plain FEEL BAD) writing something bad about a game that they got for free and thus made them feel important and all journalisty-like. So now we're outraged that the juvenile section of the gaming press isn't writing New Yorker-quality reviews of hack-n-slash Viking games. Are you serious? Is this argument even happening?

The OMM roundup was great for poking fun at the obvious garbage that comprises a lot of game sites. But subjecting it to some sort of serious journalistic analysis is treating the whole issue as being much more important than it actually is.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:32 pm:

Brave and commendable of you to participate Jessica.

"I'm not convinced"
Why not? There's no proof in one direction and ample proof in the other. We're not lying to you here.

"Am I just being naive?"
Probably.
It just isn't a good idea for anyone to work for a game maker and write a column on gaming at the same time. For the possibility of bias (which you admirably didn't show) but more importantly for the "disservice to the readers" aspect you just mentioned. The fact that you still did a good job week to week is a credit to you and your skill as a writer. Regardless, the leap that Mulligan Origin flack is biased is easier to make than | Game Magazines are on the company dole. ;)

Re: Payola
I've gone on junkets and I still wrote critical things afterwards. Companies pay me for my time with airfare and hotel accomodations. I accept them because I'm not independantly wealthy, I'm much more confortable when the magazine sends me on their dime (which does happen - Incidentally Imagine has that same "No Junkets" Policy CGW does). But companies are paying me for my TIME, not my OPINION.

Now, if you and J. will excuse me I've got some nonexisitent payola to collect and a game review bought mansion to go store it in.

-Andrew
PS: I know a couple editors who praised Rune because they honestly liked it. Also, anyone who knows GodGames knows they don't have to fear the wrath of their PR. I've panned some 80% of their release list and they still work with me just fine.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:36 pm:

Bruce Geryk: "This is just games. If I read a review of a game and find myself questioning the conclusions therein, I can easily buy the game myself (or ask a friend who bought it) and judge the review myself. If I find myself disagreeing with a majority of the reviews I read, I'll stop reading, and I can imagine most gamers will do the same. So far that doesn't seem to have happened."

If I were an established game publisher or game magazine publisher, editor or writer, I wouldn't be so smugly self-assured. There is a /lot/ of good game reporting on the Web that anyone can read, for free. That's an audience print mags should be clamoring to grab. The fact that the issue about magazines being in the pockets of game companies keeps coming up is /not/ something to take lightly.

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:48 pm:

Bruce: Um, okay, but Chet's example included C|Net Gamecenter and GameSpy's reviews of Rune. AFAIK, they /do/ aspire to be somewhat "journalistic" (or Gamecenter did, before C|Net axed it in favor of Gamespot, a move I am not arguing against.)

I obviously made a huge hairy mistake trying to argue my disdain for game magazines with a bunch of freelancers. You're not talking to a subscriber, you're talking to someone who bought two years' worth of PC Gamers off eBay for $20, flipped through a few, went 'ick, glad I didn't pay newsstand price for these' and put them all back in the box.

Sorry I wasted your time trying to suggest that the game magazine industry could do a better job, and that there's an ethical problem with selling your front cover to the highest bidder. I am newb, hear me squeak.

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:48 pm:

"Good points all around, from the other side of the coin. I'm not convinced, but we can agree to disagree on this."

Not convinced - based on what? Feelings? If you're going to call a number of us dishonest frauds in a public outlet, please go through the last couple of years of PCG, CGW, and CGM and pull out the examples. You wrote:

"Whether you call it merely influencing the press and creating good will with gifts and perks or outright buying favorable reviews, this is the way it works."

Don't you have a clue how absolutely insulting that is to those of us who write these reviews? What you have said is that we have no integrity, that our honesty is worth less to us than some PR junk that most of us throw away or give to our kids. You didn't even say "it sure seems as though there could be a problem," you said "this is the way it works."

Sheesh. Nothing like a blanket slander apparently written for pure sensationalism.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Tom Ohle on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 06:55 pm:

Bruce wrote:
"They're mostly fan sites that are most likely run by high school students. Basically, they're kids."

That's an awfully broad generalization--not necessarily untrue, but I'm still a kid. And I like to think I don't write biased reviews for games I get for free; if I did, I would only have like 1 poor review on my site.

There is a difference with online media, though. I tend to get only the best companies have to offer. I won't get Evil Dead or Merchant Prince II... I only get the Serious Sams of the world. Not many companies fire bad games my way, which makes it look like I tend to give higher reviews to games.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:21 pm:

Bruce has a half-point -- it's just about games. We're not talking about Ford Explorers, assault rifles, child saftey seats or brain buckets here. These are computer games.

The problem is, some of us make our living writing about games. If I for instance was widely accused of openly pandering and slanting my reviews, the respect for me as a journalist goes down. This means that people won't read what you write, and you immediately become a liability to the magazine/web site/whatever you write for, and you lose your job. And getting another one is damn hard.

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Scott Udell (Scott) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:33 pm:

I could point out that there's nothing stopping a publisher from setting up a web site that looks like a journalistic site or serious fan site, but that slants all its reviews on the publisher's products towards the positive (or its competitors' products towards the negative), and to do this in such a way that it's very hard to find out who's really behind the site. Does this mean that all (or even many, or any) independent gaming sites are this way? Not at all! Of course not--many are perfectly honest. So too with print publications--trying to paint them all with the same brush (and apply that brush all the time, to all the writers and editors) is unfair.

In all my years at Computer Games I can think of one instance where the then-publisher/owner wanted us to temporarily pull a negative review because he was afraid of the reaction from a game publisher (who had earlier pulled out advertising after another negative review). Steve Bauman and I both threatened to quit right then and there, but that was averted when Bob Mayer pointed out that there were other negative reviews appearing on the Web (ours just happened to be the first one out). (Oh, the game publisher was TalonSoft, and the game was that first RTS they did, the semi-parody one; as it stands, I don't think they even ended up wimpering about it.)

I do know that the same publisher/owner also set up a deal with Eidos (and with other publishers?) that we'd do, say, "four Eidos covers in a year," but that we'd pick the games. I know Steve Bauman was uncomfortable with that, but he figured the games that ended up being chosen (by "us", which included the publisher) would've been games we would've considered for covers without any deal/arrangement (although I still can't believe the publisher chose Flying Nightmares 2 over Fallout, but he apparently really hated the Fallout cover art, even though we all thought it was cool; turns out, that FN2 cover sold very well, too).

Generally covers are an advertising tool, but *not* so much for the game as for the magazine itself. I don't think you'd ever see a deer hunting game as the focus of a cover, for example, because the magazines' readership just isn't interested (if a magazine were trying to attract the "mass market gamer" that might be a different story, but by-and-large, the mass market gamer isn't going to even be looking to buy a game magazine).


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:41 pm:

Good god, Scott, you're talking about Tribal Rage? Someone wanted to pull the punch on Tribal -freaking- Rage?

Man, I was proud to slam that bit of trailer trash tripe as one of my last OGR duties.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:43 pm:

My point about it being "just games" was that it's as easy as buying the game and forming your own opinion. You don't have to fly to Tel Aviv to evaluate GameSpot's or CGW's or CGM's review of a game. If they're consistently printing incorrect reviews, then please point to them. Show me some data, somebody. Please. If it's just a general "so-and-so is bought and paid for, but I don't have any specific evidence to cite," then as Jeff said, drop it.

J., I never said that the industry couldn't do a better job. But you've gone from saying that magazines are taking bribes to saying that well, it's just lackluster reviews, to saying that this is some problem specific to print magazines. I don't even know what your point is anymore. You seem to be targeting the print mags specifically, but your specific complaints were about Gamecenter and Gamespy.

Several people on this board can attest that when it comes to professionalism in this industry, I'm a pretty harsh critic. Unreasonably insanely harsh, Andrew might say. But bad writing and writing dishonest reviews are two completely different things. Please decide what you're complaining about.

The whole cover issue, btw, is completly ludicrous as far as I'm concerned. As Bub said, Entertainment Weekly does this. I don't know how CGW or CGM or PC Gamer decide on covers. Frankly, I don't care. You know why?

Here is a problem:

The New York Times fails to cover important health care legislation, or buries it on page A25 because the FDA got outbid by Columbia Pictures.

Here is not a problem:

A computer games magazine puts Civilization 3 on the cover instead of Warcraft 3.

The first is a compelling public interest. The second is a compelling interest for Blizzard Entertainment.

Let's say you wanted to sue the magazine. What damages would you say you sustained? If a magazine published a dishonest review, you could claim that you lost the cost of the game. But if you read a big preview of one game and a shorter preview of some other game? This sounds ridiculous even as I'm typing it. What specific problem do you have with this?

If you want to argue that game coverage (print and web both) would benefit from better writing and general coverage, then I'm so completely on your side it's not funny. But you just seem generally disaffected, and that's something I can't help you with yet. See me in a few years and I can prescribe some drugs.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:49 pm:

When I worked at Gamespot we published a fairly negative Tribal Rage review that drew the ire of Talonsoft, so much so that they withdrew all advertising from ZD.

When I talked to Jim Rose about it -- roughly at around the same time -- he didn't understand why the Gamespot reviewer was so harsh on it. At that point I really didn't know what to say.

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 07:51 pm:

I have a feeling Jim Rose was sole reason for TalonSoft's insane PR. I used to get emails and phone calls from them about just about everything I wrote. They even took note when GDR published reviews of their bundleware.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:11 pm:

"Several people on this board can attest that when it comes to professionalism in this industry, I'm a pretty harsh critic. Unreasonably insanely harsh, Andrew might say."

Um, Bruce, this happy citation of my name can potentially be taken, well, wrong. I'm all for professionalism in this business and I don't think you're insanely harsh at all. I just think your definition of the term "journalist" is a little too narrow. But mainly I just enjoy calling game stuff "journalism" because it makes you go freaking nuts and it makes that vein bulge in your forehead.

You're a freaking double doctor control freak Nazi bastard, you know that? But you're one hell of a game journalist there buddy.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:15 pm:

I don't think anyone's pointed out what *I* consider the biggest travesty in gaming journalism: consistent praise of mediocre games if they're from a big publisher. Tiberium Sun, which was pretty horrid game, got consistent 80+%; ditto for Force Commander. I'm sure everyone can think of further examples.

You can explain why they do this for a bunch of reasons, from outright corruption at the smaller mags to smaller forces of habit at the larger ones, but the question still remains about why it happens.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By J. on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:20 pm:

Actually, I was arguing about two different things at different points in this thread. I only pointed out that Chet's article took on Gamecenter and Gamespy because /you/ said all his examples were of 'kids.'

Putting something on the front cover of a magazine should be because editorial decides it deserves that slot, not because someone paid for it. That's an opinion of mine.

Yes, I am generally disaffected by a few game magazines. I probably let that general disaffection pervade my commentary here. Note however that I have not named any particular game writer that I thought was lackluster.

Because I was speaking in such generalities, just like everyone else in this thread, on both sides of the issue, I guess I took for granted that most people would take what I said with a grain of salt.

Sorry you didn't, and sorry I didn't deliver you a particular reason why I feel the way I do. :o>

J.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:24 pm:

Or maybe the guy actually liked the game. Gasp.

A long time ago at OGR either Chris Jensen or Jason Cross (can't remember which now, sorry guys) posted a review for a game that was the exact opposite of what everyone thought it was (a negative review for a generally positive game -- can't remember which game either). He got generally roasted for it, but he just honestly didn't like it. Some people are like that. The same goes for the other way around -- I'm sure there are some people out there that liked Force Commander and Tiberium Sun. The latter I played for awhile and found it somewhat lacking -- but rabid C&C fans probably loved it to some extent.

Of course, there is a bit of review hedging going on out there. Reviewer's Prerogative.

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:29 pm:


Quote:

That's an awfully broad generalization--not necessarily untrue, but I'm still a kid. And I like to think I don't write biased reviews for games I get for free; if I did, I would only have like 1 poor review on my site.


Hmmm, the trouble isn't (necessarily) actual bias, but the appearance of bias. Not to get too far off topic, the preview situation also comes to mind. As mentioned above, previews are a bit fluffier since they aren't finished products. At the same time, my (admitted meager) experience is that less-than-stellar previews are withheld, resulting in an artificially optimistic outlook.

As for the 'press not being developers' comment, I imagine that would cause more of an uproar if the press were the ones writing the games. I personally find it disheartening to know that I can never in good conscience go to work for a game company and still continue to write in the same capacity.

As much as I would prefer to 'agree to disagree' it still bothers me that JM chose to present her arguments as fact rather than opinion. Calling the issue into question is one thing; condemning the entirety of the gaming press is quite another.

- Alan
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:38 pm:


Quote:

A long time ago at OGR either Chris Jensen or Jason Cross (can't remember which now, sorry guys) posted a review for a game that was the exact opposite of what everyone thought it was (a negative review for a generally positive game -- can't remember which game either). He got generally roasted for it, but he just honestly didn't like it.


You may be thinking of Tom and his Deus Ex review. Wow, and I thought we were done with that topic here at Q23. ;)

- Alan "not Alan Dunkin" Au
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 08:58 pm:

Nah it wasn't -- it was way before that. I'm thinking 1995-96.

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Scott Udell (Scott) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 09:52 pm:

"He got generally roasted for it, but he just honestly didn't like it. "

That sure happened to me once with my Red Alert review (and it wasn't even *that* negative--just 3.5 stars or so). Of course, the same happened with Cave Wars (which I actually liked a fair amount), but it caused hardly a ripple because that game was pretty much ignored by gamers.

"...what *I* consider the biggest travesty in gaming journalism: consistent praise of mediocre games if they're from a big publisher."

I wish that site -- Gamebriefs? -- still had the score summaries from all the major pubs/sites so things like this could be confirmed more easily. Of course, the meanings of a score differ a bunch, and so does (of course) the idea of a mediocre game. Of course, it's still far easier to semi-accurately track the reviews from pubs (print or online) than it is to *really* track public opinion. You might get a feel from online chatter, but we all know how that can be inaccurate too, or you might try to get a feel from sales (heh--Deer Hunter and its ilk are the best games ever?).

And of course I'm helping to take this thread further and further off track. As for someone saying that all game magazine/site writers/editors are in the pockets of the publishers, I basically ignore them now--I've heard that blanket statement so many times in the past five years it's almost become just an annoying buzz that crops up once in a while. (No, I'm not suggesting the application of a fly swatter.) People that say, "Scott Udell is in the pocket of the game publishers" would probably get my goat a bit more, however (kind of like "I got Scott Udell fired", something I have heard a now-former studio head has said about me... he only wishes!).

What do all the gaming journalists here think of a much more insidious potential conflict, that of getting friendly towards a particular person, team, or company staffer? I know this is something I have to monitor myself, especially in dealing with the teensy wargame developers where you pretty much talk with just one or two people (and where those people often share the same gaming passions). It seems like that could more easily be a problem than getting payoffs.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:12 pm:

I love when this topic comes up. It's like a seasonal thing. April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring pilgr... er, E3 brings the inevitable "Editors are on the payroll!" shrieking.

(By the way, I wouldn't say "wrong" so much as, er, well, "misinformed". Or, perhaps, "drawing conclusions from a lack of data".)

Having worked as an actual editor on an actual for-profit web site, I can categorically state that marketing and sales had contact with the editorial staff exactly once in the two years I worked at Gamecenter--and that was when Fatbabies posted some rumor about how Eidos was sending us checks for good reviews or some shit like that. (Was fun callin Bryan Davies on the phone and yellin "BITCH BETTAH HAVE MAH MONAY" when he picked up, too.) Guess they missed the reviews of Daikatana (a 3, which I wrote), among others... I can't think of an Eidos game that scored higher than a 6 on Gamecenter besides like Deus Ex.

Every company I've ever worked at (Imagine included) kept a very, very, very high and thick wall between sales/marketing and editorial. It's not only good for conflict of interest bullshit claims (which, all due respect to Ms. Mulligan because I normally love her stuff, is what that piece seems to be), but it's easier for all involved.

I'm paid to edit and write, because that's what I'm good at and what I do. I don't have time to worry about what ads are going in the magazine, or on the site, or in the interstitials, or how much publishers are payin for X, Y, and Z, or whatever. Not only did I not know, I have to point out that I honestly did not care--as long as my paycheck kept coming, I was happy.

So if someone's making fat money off game publishers, believe me when I say it's not the editors of game publications.

And I'll join in and say this: If it's as prevalent and obvious as you claim it is, prove it. Cite examples. Show me the money. Hell, give just ONE example.

Spurious claims and "everybody knows" statements, however, don't cut the mustard.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Erik on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:13 pm:

"What do all the gaming journalists here think of a much more insidious potential conflict, that of getting friendly towards a particular person, team, or company staffer?"

I agree - this is the real pitfall. Also, is IGN out of money for editors? Read the first paragraph and tell me if it makes any sense. Then count the misspellings.

http://pc.ign.com/previews/13948.html


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By wumpus on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:17 pm:

Jennifer: "I’ve always felt that those who write authoritatively about games should have helped make at least one of the darn things."

This is your game designer hubris talking. Of course nobody understands games except the people who write them. Actually, I think something close to the reverse of this is true: if more designers were avid game PLAYERS, we'd all benefit from better games.

Jennifer: "How much? Who knows? I do know this; every year I’ve been in the industry, I’ve seen publishers use the power of their money to influence future reviews and previews at least once."

The obvious thing to do here is give specific examples. Nothing convinces like a whistleblower with a whistle they just can't bear to blow. It's a conspiracy, you see!

Bruce: "This is just games. If I read a review of a game and find myself questioning the conclusions therein, I can easily buy the game myself (or ask a friend who bought it) and judge the review myself."

At a cost of $40+, sure. And most places don't allow returns of opened media these days. So that's how much a botched review will cost me. Recent example? Crazy Taxi for the PS2. Great reviews! As I found out, I should have just asked my friends instead-- who, after the fact, were all remarking "why the heck did you buy _that_ game?" Urgh.

Your point about overall review quality is well taken, and I recently alluded to the same thing when comparing the Gone Gold game review guide to http://www.rottentomatoes.com . The difference is astonishing-- the worst movie review I can find is invariably better than half of the game reviews.

Andrew: "The main thing Mulligan is ignoring (and this is a habit of hers) is the fundamental way magazines actually work. There's a seperation of powers. Advertising/marketing is handling ads and Editorial is handling coverage and the twain, from what I've seen and heard, rarely if ever meet."

I agree. The barrier to entry is so low in gaming "journalism"-- we have to make a strong distinction between the professionals, who at least TRY take this stuff seriously, and the fans, who don't.

Take Voodoo Extreme, for example, and compare it to CGM. Clearly, CGM makes some effort to be impartial, hires quality writers and reviwers, and attempts to seperate their advertising and editorial depeartments in accordance with good journalistic practice.

VE clearly does none of these things.

True, sometimes there may be cases where an established, respectable magazine may make concessions of some kind. Nobody's perfect. But this is a far cry from VE, and it's not even remotely fair to lump those two entities into the same broad "gaming media" bucket.

wumpus http://www.gamebasement.com

p.s.

Bruce: "See me in a few years and I can prescribe some drugs."

Which reminds me, I keep meaning to ask you, Bruce. My wife is doing her postdoc at Duke in pathology-- she works with a number of MD/PhD students. Where are you doing your research and in what field, just out of curiosity?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:18 pm:

Scott Udell:

"What do all the gaming journalists here think of a much more insidious potential conflict, that of getting friendly towards a particular person, team, or company staffer?"

Used to happen to me all the time. Not a problem at all, and never has been. Sure, it kind of sucks having to pan a game that someone you kinda like made, but my thought is this:

I'm not being paid to make friends among developers.

I *am* being paid to give my readers the most accurate and complete editorial coverage possible.

Has this ruined working relationships? From time to time, people get pissy about it, sure. But once they stop and think about it, they realize that I'm doing my job--just like they were doing theirs when they put out a game that sucked.

It ain't personal. It's my job. And if people want to stop talking to me because I'm doing my job, then that's hardly my problem, is it?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:28 pm:

I've talked about that in the past (becoming friends with designers, producers, etc.) and mention it in an article that I wrote for Mark and Tom for Q23 - my opinion is that it CAN be tough to get to know someone well, like them, realize that they have spent the last two years doing 18 hours a day seven days a week, not seeing their family, and then tear their product apart in a review. I think it's tougher when you first get started. Most writers understand that being a pro means that you write for the readers. And that the designers, producers, etc. understand that you have to deliver your honest opinion, backed by playing the game thoroughly and being knowledgable in the genre in which you are reviewing. I do think that getting to know the folks on the other side, the game producing side, helps you understand that when you rip a product, you're ripping something on which a lot of people have spent a lot of their life working. You ultimately owe everyone - readers, game companies, editors, etc. - the same thing: a good, honest, accurate review.

FWIW - Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By wumpus on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:32 pm:

"I can't think of an Eidos game that scored higher than a 6 on Gamecenter besides like Deus Ex."

Had you guys posted Tom's Deus Ex review, that record would remain unbroken, right? What was that all about?

wumpus http://www.gamebasement.com


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:34 pm:

Aw, c'mon wumpus, at least get her name right. Where's an editor when you need one? Speaking of editors, that IGN piece is pretty funny in a grammatically morbid sort of way.

Yeah, the 'friendly with industry people' problem is pretty insidious. After all, these are people (myself included) who share a set of common interests.

- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason McCullough on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 10:58 pm:

Everyone's made good points, but I still don't think the assertion I made has been really rebutted: that mediocre games get reviews far better than they objectively "should", in a statistical sense. You'd expect Force Commander reviews to basically be 500 words of synonyms for the word "crap," for example, but if I remember correctly mostly called it "average" and the like. Ditto for Tiberian Sun.

Of course, I'm basing this on just general impressions I have, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. I'm not including "great at first games that you suddenly realize suck after a week" like B&W in this bitchfest, though. That's a *separate* bitchfest.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:09 pm:

I think her whole argument would hold a little more water if the game editorial staff for any magazine actually saw any money from ad revenue. Sure, that's ultimately what pays their paychecks, but if we get $200,000 more in ads one month, I don't make an additional dime. Only the ad salesmen are on commission, and they don't write articles.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By wumpus on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:36 pm:

"Aw, c'mon wumpus, at least get her name right. Where's an editor when you need one?"

Doh, (slaps keyboard) Bad keyboard! Jessica! Jessica!

"Speaking of editors, that IGN piece is pretty funny in a grammatically morbid sort of way."

Editor, schmeditor! To quote Chris Rock, they're keepin it real.. real STUPID.

Man, I have a long night to go here. I still have 85 more messages to post to satisfy 'Anonymous'.

wumpus http://www.gamebasement.com


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:46 pm:

wumpus:

"Had you guys posted Tom's Deus Ex review, that record would remain unbroken, right? What was that all about?"

No idea. I was out of the loop on that one; I think I was Features Editor at the time. To be honest, I really only had time to pay attention to reviews when I wrote 'em. :)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:46 pm:

E3 parties are primarily for marketing and sales forces, not the press. Someone that works in the industry should know this.

If game reviewers should design games to properly review them, should someone writing a column have been the editor of a magazine before commenting on their practices?

And all of this "ad influence" would make a lot more sense if anyone was actually buying any ads.

Bah, this editorial is goofy, sorry. Name names with specific examples or don't write the article at all. It's bad form to speak entirely in generalizations when you're making these sorts of accusations, ones that paint all publications with a single broad stroke and only serve to harm the reputations of those who actually try to do good work.

And by the way, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of the issues people have with the press are with the console press, which has a considerably cozier relationship with publishers than the computer game press. Ooh look, a generalization.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:52 pm:

Jason McCullough:

"...I still don't think the assertion I made has been really rebutted: that mediocre games get reviews far better than they objectively "should", in a statistical sense."

That assertion can't be rebutted, Jason, because it's true. However, with that said, realize that game reviewing is not an objective pursuit; thus, statistical rules cannot apply.

Reviewing games isn't like reviewing a motherboard or a hard drive. And imho, the reason game reviews are skewed toward the high end of the scale, statistically, is the survey set: a bunch of folks that like games are writing about 'em.

Now, once gaming matures a bit (*cough*), you'll be able to review games not only on how much fun they were, but their artistic merit and whatnot, kinda like movies are. For now, though, it comes down to "is the game fun or is it not?" (Associated topics: Does it work? How does it look? etc.)

It's kind of hard to benchmark "fun". :)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - 11:54 pm:

By the way, bitching about press junkets would have had more relevance three years ago when companies actually had them. They may still have them, but if they do I'm rarely invited.

Back to the Laker game...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:09 am:

Oh, and another thing (the Lakers just entered OT).

Again, this article would have had more relevance a few years ago, before companies could spend their "bribe" money more wisely on setting but fansites.

The whole editorial also grossly overstates the importance of the game press, which serves the tiniest fraction of the overall game market. Yeah, they're the opinion leaders, blah blah blah, but well-reviewed games don't necessarily sell, and poorly reviewed games don't necessarily sell. And games that appear on covers don't necessarily sell, and games that get lots of preview coverage don't necessarily sell.

What sells games? MARKETING DOLLARS, word of mouth, MARKETING DOLLARS, the actual game's quality, MARKETING DOLLARS, positioning, MARKETING DOLLARS, timing, MARKETING DOLLARS, luck... oh, and maybe how much a company spends marketing it with retail and in various advertising venues has an impact.

But what do I know? I've never designed a game or worked in marketing at a game company.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Met_K on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:27 am:

This is highly funny for one reason: anyone who accepts money in agreement to advertise the payers, is inherently weak to a conflict of interest.

Accepting money to advertise another person's product, or service, can show that the writer does not condone nor endorse the product/service, just that they've been paid to pass it along. This sets up the person's integrity to be hit:

"Hey, this product I bought was absolute shit! Wait, that review looks along the same lines of the product I bought, and that guy advertised it! That guy doesn't know what he's talking about!"

Sure, it's far-fetched, but does it not make sense? It applies to everything.

It's the main reason most people would look to the Car Buyer's Guide when buying a new car, instead of Motortrend. Why? Because Motortrend takes payments to advertise CARS, which is directly what they write about.

Car Buyer's Guide, on the other hand, accepts no payoffs, is a non-profit organization, and tests the vehicles themselves unbiasedly (on the ideal of accepting no adverts).

That's not to say that Ford and GM don't host seminars to explain why their vehicles are safest. They do. What do they do at those? Why, they pamper the testers and reviewers. They give them free food, free hotels (maybe), nice little trinkets, just like game companies do at E3 (with the exception of hotels, I think).

Does this create a conflict of interest? Probably not. Does E3's trinkets and free food create more conflict than Ford and GM's trinkets and free food? Probably not.

Does Motortrend and Car & Driver accepting advertisements for Ford Explorer's and Firestone Tires cause a conflict of interest? Maybe, but I sure don't see as big a one when they write a massive editorial explaining what went wrong that's causing all these wrecks.

Does PC Gamer or numerous other magazines accepting advertisements for Daikatana cause a conflict of interest? Probably, but did you read the reviews? Explain that to me.

No advertisements means no conflict of interest, period. No advertisements means no magazine. It's impossible to do this for the gaming industry, because really and truly, we can do without it.

And there's no much more of a conflict of interest in the gaming industry than any other industry. In fact, if you want to scale it down, the gaming industry is so measly compared to other print industries, under-the-tables would probably be cheaper than advertising.

Would anyone in the real world who's read a magazine that actually reviews/articles something we need, say, a car, or the news, please stand up?

(Don't thrash me too bad, it's late. =))


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By wumpus on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:34 am:

"Bah, this editorial is goofy, sorry. Name names with specific examples or don't write the article at all. It's bad form to speak entirely in generalizations when you're making these sorts of accusations, ones that paint all publications with a single broad stroke and only serve to harm the reputations of those who actually try to do good work."

Hey Steve, one thing this (mostly pointless, as you noted) article did get me thinking about.. the whole Sleater-Kinney debacle. Now, I don't mean to bring up bad blood here, but bear with me.

One of the implicit arguments in the article is "why aren't more negative reviews published?" While the point is debatable, there is some truth there; it takes a profoundly bad game to get a truly below-average score from any mainstream gaming site.

In other words, the article proposes that more sites need the courage to say "this game isn't just average, it's complete and utter crap that isn't worth your time." And if there aren't a lot of sites that do this, then by george all those sites are selling out, by being afraid or unwilling to tell it like it is-- right? They're just pitching softballs.

Jessica: "While I doubt any reviewer or editor is going to admit that they intentionally softball reviews of poor products from big advertisers, one has to suspect they do, at least occasionally. And what about unintentional softballing, which I define as being kind in reviews for products from a publisher that has in the past offered the writer cool perks… well, one suspects that happens a lot."

Which would mean Old Man Murray is the only site that's "keepin' it real", so to speak. But what are we really saying here? That the only kind of truly bias-free criticism is negative criticism? That only sites where every game review is a critical lambasting is somehow automatically beyond reproach? That there are so many sycophantic, ass-kissing game critics handing out average reviews on a platter that the negative-only worldview of OMM is some kind of necessary cosmic balancing act?

I seem to very distinctly remember being brought to task by you for my "this sucks" opinion of Sleater Kinney. Ergo, it is negative and rude to go out of your way to tell people why and how you think something sucks, assuming you feel strongly enough about the subject matter to do so in the first place.

Yet that's exactly what OMM does every single day, and it's like a giant party over there. With fat chicks in hats. And this article seems to say that we need more people brave enough to stand up and do exactly this.

Mind you, I'm not saying I agree with this. I don't think the act of eviscerating something, whether warranted or not, is somehow inherently courageous or honest. Obsessively cataloging how everything sucks, regardless of how cleverly you do it, doesn't automatically qualify you as a critical genius in my book.

wumpus http://www.gamebasement.com


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:34 am:

"Hey, this product I bought was absolute shit! Wait, that review looks along the same lines of the product I bought, and that guy advertised it! That guy doesn't know what he's talking about!"

AND

"Does PC Gamer or numerous other magazines accepting advertisements for Daikatana cause a conflict of interest? Probably, but did you read the reviews? Explain that to me."

In other words:

Your general assertion is that reviews will mimic advertising, yet your only concrete example contraindicates this very assertion.

Thanks for playing!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:01 am:

"In other words, the article proposes that more sites need the courage to say "this game isn't just average, it's complete and utter crap that isn't worth your time." And if there aren't a lot of sites that do this, then by george all those sites are selling out, by being afraid or unwilling to tell it like it is-- right? They're just pitching softballs."

How many games are complete and utter crap? I really don't think there are that many that you could characterize this way, especially among the big-budget titles.

We do get review score inflation with the 10 point and 100% system. An average score seems to be about a 7/10 or a 70%. With the 5 point system it's usually a 3/5 for an average game, which is a little better.

I'd say in general review scores are inflated a bit, but I also think that many reviewers are doing it just to play it safe. That 7/10 score is a safe score -- it doesn't rock the boat either way too much.

The thing about Mulligan's column is that she's zeroing in on non-issues for the most part. There's plenty of scabs to pick at when it comes to game writing. Jeff Lackey's already contributed an article we're going to run that takes a hard look at game writing. Stay tuned.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By mtkafka (Mtkafka) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:03 am:

Maybe its time a computer game magazine TOOK the console journalism approach ... based on sales, i think pc games might actually need it! bah phooey.

but really, generalizing here, pc game mags these days seem less enthusiastic... theres the prefunctory previews, the semi ok reviews of hyped games, the 5 star / 1 star reviews for "personal" favorite / stinker games of a particualr reviewer... sorta OT but i think a game magazine shouldnt be centered so much on reviews but more on the essentials of what is original and what is upcoming and worth noting...whether they are good or not. I hate seeing games with subtle advances in a certain genre;s gameplay being given a one sentence "well they did do something original"...in a review. Not enough game mags/websites review in terms of the particulars sometimes, but within the whole of there "own" experience, there own view of so and so games.... im rambling. more enthusiasm is needed i guess.

etc


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:06 am:

"What do all the gaming journalists here think of a much more insidious potential conflict, that of getting friendly towards a particular person, team, or company staffer?"

I think this is indeed a bigger problem, at least for some writers. If there is any softballing going on, it's probably due to this more than any kind of monetary influence. It's definitely a bit harder to slam a game if you know and like the people who worked on it.

My biggest complaints about game writing boil down to two things:

1) Hasty reviews. Websites may be more guilty of this than anyone, but it happens with magazines too. It's not unusual for a freelancer to get an assignment to review a game and have less than a week to turn it around.

2) Previews. I'm really tired of previews. The gaming press does far too many previews. They tend to be fluff pieces. Even when they are evenhanded, the impression they create is usually vastly different from what the game ends up being when it ships.

Funny thing is, it's not the game companies that are behind these problems. It's traffic and circulation. Previews are really popular with readers, so publications can't minimize them. As far as reviews go, the site or mag that doesn't get a review of that hot game published right away will lose traffic and circulation to those publications that do. In other words, these issues are the result of trying to satisfy readers, not game companies.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 04:58 am:

Mark Asher:

Can I get an "amen".

"The gaming press does far too many previews. They tend to be fluff pieces..."

This brought up a thought: How many times should a game be previewed by any given magazine or site, given that said game is on a "normal" (12-24 month) dev cycle? Isn't/shouldn't once be enough? When does a preview go from being a preview to something like a PR stunt? "We've got exclusive every-day-for-a-week preview coverage!" Um. That's not a preview, folks. That's a serial ad campaign.

Isn't it?

"Previews are really popular with readers, so publications can't minimize them."

Actually, I'd fine-tune this statement. Previews aren't popular with visitors. Screenshots are. The editorial is almost secondary with previews. Note that many of the larger sites have seemed to have given up on editorial, just linking to the dozens, hundreds, or thousands of brand-new all-exclusive we-done-hit-Print-Scrn-our-own-selves (!!!) screenshots. (Which is ironic, considering they're paying both for a huge amount of bandwidth to serve all those jpgs in addition to paying editors to generate the editorial that's generally being ignored.)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Alpern on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 08:28 am:

Following Mulligan's logic, that would mean the X-box would have gotten lots of good press and buzz from E3, right? But I think we've all heard how underwhelming it was.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Rob_Merritt on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 09:37 am:

When Tom Chick gets to preview Deus Ex 2 then I'll say that game companies and magazines aren't in bed together.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 10:40 am:

"How many times should a game be previewed by any given magazine or site, given that said game is on a "normal" (12-24 month) dev cycle? Isn't/shouldn't once be enough?"

I think once is enough, though I think that you can do a short preview when the game is announced and then a longer one later on.

It makes me wonder what the optimal PR time is for a game. Do you really want to start publicizing it 18 months before it's going to ship? I'd prefer it be like HOMM4, where they don't do the official unveiling until 6 months or so until the game is going to ship.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 10:42 am:

Most PC games are mediocre. Thus, most reviews offer up mediocre ratings. :-) Seriously, it's relatively rare to find games that are truly horrid--many are just boring and trite. We're actually starting to get a bunch of solid if not truly inspiring titles, too--it tends to go in bunches. We love to find games that are so bad we can write rippingly funny pans, but it's rare.

The hardest games to write about are the ones in the middle, neither good nor bad. There's little you can say about games like that.

There is also a perception that criticism is somehow more intrinsically valid than praise, which is poppycock. Hell, by one logic given that EA never advertised with us for years and years, we should have panned every EA game--which would have simultaneously proved the influence of advertising, and boosted our credibility by offering up negative coverage! Cool.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:01 am:

You guys are getting all worked up over a column that contains "analysis" that's at least as flawed as the worst printed game reviews. The editorial is completely devoid of substance - as others have said; if the game writing biz is so corrupt, where are all the tangible examples of poor games getting good reviews. Where's the evidence of actual confict of interest? Where have gamers gotten screwed by reviews?

We jump all over reviews that are obviously out of whack - like Trotter's Ascendency review and Trent Ward's Outpost review - and it's pretty rare to have such flawed samples (both writers have admitted that they blew it, and neither review was favourable because of advertising pressure). As if a bunch of loudmouths like us would silently tolerate obviously biased reviews.

Aside from the lack of tangible examples of misconduct, the editorial consistently ignores evidence that there is no actual conflict of interest (in spite of the potential apprehension of bias due to the symbiotic relationship). Every publication I've ever written for has been threatened or "punished" by a gaming company because of a bad review - none of those publications has changed a thing, other than to mock the embarrassing, unprofessional conduct of the gaming company. Again, those are notable exceptions that are just laughed at - most companies act professionally in response to negative reviews.

Statements in the editorial like: "some Web sites literally depend on the publisher marketing dollars for survival" are just inane. How insightful!- right now, EVERY single online content producing Internet business depends upon advertising dollars, and those advertising dollars naturally primarily come from the companies creating products that the readers of those sites are expected to be interested in -- those discussed at the site. Every single online content business, and almost every magazine, faces the exact same potential conflict of interest.

Condescending lines like "if the game press were thinking clearly" are just embarrassing. Look, Jessica's uncovered a hidden conspiracy when our brains were too muddled with visions of SimCity 3000 shirts dancing in our heads. A large number of the contributors to this board know far more about every aspect of the gaming industry than our neighbourhood Sherlock, Jessica.

I love her "astonishing" revelation that most of the judges on the E3 Game Critics awards have not "made a game before". How many "critics" of movies/art/music have created a sample of the products they critique? Is a guy who holds a boom mike therefore a better critic than a film student? Is it sufficient to be a 3rd assistant director in order to be a critic, or do you have to be at least a 2nd assistant director? Is someone who directed a film in 1955 better qualified than someone who was a cinematographer in 1993? Her allegation that the only "valid" critics are those who have previously produced similar products is a ridiculous admonishment that's older than Siskel & Ebert.

And "if Jessica was thinking clearly" when crafting an editorial that purports to be complaining about conflicts of interest in the gaming industry - how did she arrive at the moronic conclusion that having game developers as E3 Awards judges -- effectively rating their own products and those of their employers and direct financial competitors -- would result in less biased and more legitimate awards? Oops.

Heh heh, I did laugh at her personal dig at me though.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:03 am:

>I think once is enough, though I think that you can do a short preview when the game is announced and then a longer one later on

I think 2 are appropriate. One when the game is announced, and one when there's actually code to preview.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:11 am:

"I think 2 are appropriate. One when the game is announced, and one when there's actually code to preview."

I think more previews are fine during a long and drawn out design process. You know, new preview but only when there is something significantly new to say about 4 year + delayed game.

However, I also think that mags and sites I work for should post as many damn previews and screens as they want. If the people want it, as was said eariler (man, screenshots are the least interesting preview item to me) and it gets the site or magazine money... I'm all for it.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BobM on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:15 am:

Someone spouted this: but I still don't think the assertion I made has been really rebutted: that mediocre games get reviews far better than they objectively "should", in a statistical sense. You'd expect Force Commander reviews to basically be 500 words of synonyms for the word "crap,"

Here's your rebuttal from Gone Gold's Gold Guide:

Adrenaline Vault (1.5/5) "This is one of the worst strategy games I've ever played, and I am truly saddened that the "Star Wars" name has been reduced to this level of entertainment. Force Commander is a product that early on saw its design questioned and fun factor re-evaluated, and obviously for good reason. LucasArts never should have released it. The concept behind it admittedly is fantastic, but the execution suffers in almost every conceivable manner. The interface is a true clunker, the graphics and artificial intelligence are truly suspect, and the proliferation of bugs leads Star Wars: Force Commander down the path of the Dark Side, beware!"

BarrysWorld (2/10) "You get the feeling that no one loved this title and just wanted it out the door as soon as possible. The game feels 'icky and half done. Very little can salvage this abomination from the sewers, without the Star Wars header it's an awful product that deserves no ones hard earned, with the Star Wars title on it, it just damages the credibility of what should be an excellent franchise and adds nothing to Lucasarts corporate sheen"

Daily Radar "It's hard for us to give a game that we've promoted a low score. We did several interviews with members of FoCom's development team and looked at some of the various units, but once we began playing the game, we found that it fell far short of our expectations. Force Commander is nowhere near the wreck that was Star Wars: Rebellion or the shameless licensed crap that was the Phantom Menace game, but it simply does not have the elements needed to provide an enjoyable game experience"

Game Guru (1/5) "A game that had a lot of potential was thoroughly ruined with dated graphics and horrible music. I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone that I consider a friend. Maybe an expansion will come out in order to try to save the unsuccessful game (i.e. Firestorm). But until then, stay away from this game. Merely touching the box and looking at the back to look at the pictures will deem you an idiot forever"

Gamecenter (3/10) "Star Wars fans hungry for a little strategic action are going to have to keep waiting, unless they are incredibly forgiving by nature. The only thing that separates the game from the "me too" RTS pack is the Star Wars license. But ultimately, that doesn't hide a very weak game, plagued by a cumbersome interface that hinders gameplay"

GameProWorld "Force Commander feels incomplete. While a lot of care has gone into certain parts of the game, much of it seems to have been thrown in without a second thought. Star Wars fans will certainly get a kick out of reliving scenes from the movies, like hunting for the droids on Tatooine, but the game's many flaws prevent Force Commander from bringing the ultimate Star Wars battle experience to your home PC"

GameSpy (57%) "It's not so much that Force Commander is a truly bad game. It's just stunningly, utterly mediocre, with very few positive qualities to it. This game should have remained in-shop for several more months, with extra testing, tweaking, and gameplay modifications to make it more fun, more strategic, and worth of the Star Wars name.

Now there were a few positive reviews in there, but that had more to do with the Star Wars fan-boy quotient of the editor than anything else.

Here's some good blurbs for Force Commander:
Gamer's Pulse (8.8/10) "As a huge fan of Star Wars myself, I really enjoyed this game. It’s full of some fun times and frustrations, but overall, if you like the genre and just so happen to be a fan of the universe this game is set in, then by all means I can’t recommend it enough"

GameSpot UK (7/10) "the game can be great fun. It is a Star Wars game and there's nothing quite like stomping your AT-ATs through the rebel lines. And outside the somewhat linear, plodding scenarios in the campaign, and beyond the tiresome battle of trying to outbuild the AI, the multiplayer aspect with real opponents is very appealing. A mix of impressively huge AT-ATs, with the smaller AT-PT, AT-STs and titchy Stormtroopers advancing on a Rebel position, looks the business and gives something of the flavour of the films"

Computer Games Online (3/5) "despite the fact that a patch has already been created to address multiplayer issues, this side of the game still seems to have considerable stability problems. With these drawbacks, and the absence of a few other standards of real-time strategy games (such as a speed setting or a mission editor) in mind, Force Commander deserves at least a qualified recommendation to dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fans. The campaign and storyline are enjoyable once frustrations over camera controls and vehicle movement are overcome. The frustration that cannot be overcome, however, is how good this game could have been but for a few irritating shortcomings"


Sorry for the excessive post, but I had to "refute" that ridiculous statement.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BobM on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:17 am:

Ooops.. didn't see this till after I posted: PC Gamer gave Force Commander 90%. They are definitely on the dole. There's no other way to explain that one.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:27 am:

What kind of paranoid mind immediately looks at a bad review (poorly written or thought out) and immediately assumes corruption or collusion?

Games aren't as, er, black and white as people think. Gooseman loves Hitman, the Gamecenter people loved Rune (really, I teased them about it), I got over 100 angry responses from Klingon Academy lovers when I panned it and there are people who really loved Daikatana.

A review you disagree with is usually due to a reviewer you disagree with, not bribery or corruption.

That said, I know for a fact that the Flying Heroes developers paid Mark Asher thousands of dollars for their coveted Game of the Year Award.

-Andrew
PS: Mulligan's criticism of the E3 Awards is especially odd. Those are Press Awards aren't they? Why should game development be a criterion for the judges?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:23 pm:

"That said, I know for a fact that the Flying Heroes developers paid Mark Asher thousands of dollars for their coveted Game of the Year Award."

Yeah, but I didn't read the fine print and they paid me with thousands of dollars worth of unsold copies of Flying Heroes.

As to the official E3 awards, while I think the judges they pick are fine, I think the awards themselves are silly. It's one thing for the various publications to make their picks of the most interesting games of the show, but the official awards seem overly full of pomp and ceremony. Christ, they're waiting until June 18th to announce them, like it's the Academy Awards or something. The official awards are just hype to the nth degree.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bernie Dy on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 12:26 pm:

Dess said: "The editorial is completely devoid of substance - as others have said; if the game writing biz is so corrupt, where are all the tangible examples of poor games getting good reviews. Where's the evidence of actual confict of interest? Where have gamers gotten screwed by reviews? "

Right! And where are all the dollars we writers got? Why are some of us still scrambling at day jobs, and others forced to write for shitty web rates? Where are the nice cars, huge kickbacks, and (Mark wants to know) the hookers? (Okay, you can insert stupid obligatory joke here about the God Lot)

If there are payouts, I sure didn't get any, and I'm pretty sure all of you out there didn't either. T-shirts, coffee mugs, and um, my little box of Ultima Online M&M candies are hardly the foundation of a corrupt empire.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:04 pm:

I dunno, man. I do just about anything for M&M's. Especially UO M&M's. Yeah, I'd give anything a good review for UO M&M's! ;-)

Hey, developers!! I CAN BE BOUGHT!!

(Yeah, right...)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Enkdiu on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:18 pm:

This has been an interesting debate concerning journalism in the gaming press, but the dormant Anthropologist in me also feels obligated to point out that the 'Potlatch' portion of the article is flawed. I suppose encouraging the gaming community to read Cultural Anthropology is not productive, but please don't rely entirely on an encyclopedia entry that is largely based on 19th century research.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason McCullough on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:38 pm:

Sorry, Bob, I should have limited my statement. I should have said "mediocre games get good reviews from the *print* gaming press if they're from a big player." Out of that list, CGO is the only print one, I think.

Online-only reviews are surprisingly accurate, and I have nothing to complain about there. I have no idea why, but if you add together all the usual online suspects, they average out to a pretty accurate game evaluation.

With that and the PC Gamer 90% debacle, I rest my case. ;0


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Rob_Merritt on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:48 pm:

PC gamer on the dole? Naaaa impossible!

(where oh where is Critical Bill when you need him)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Hicks on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:49 pm:

Here's a quick story of my involvement with Sierra, Computer Games magazine and Nascar 4. I was fortunate enough to do a preview of Nascar 4 and meet with Papyrus code monkeys at their offices, where I also met the Sierra PR rep. I stayed in contact with Sierra's PR rep throughout the development period, and when N4 was near completion, I was invited to attend the N4 launch party at the Daytona 500, all expenses paid, with at least a dozen other journalists also attending. I was hoping to meet Andy Mahood and Gord Goble, and discovered that they were not present because they were reviewing N4. Steve Baughman, EIC of Computer Games magizine, poopooed my reviewing the title due to the big trinket and the possibility of my review being favorable. Can Jessica swallow that a hunk of integrity that big?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 01:55 pm:

GT Interactive sent me a free salt lick for Deer Hunter 2. Empire sent me Wild Turkey (the booze) for 101 Airborne. Running With Scissors sent me to a strip club for Postal!

Which is true? Am I the weakest link?

Sorry, I'm feeling weird this morning.

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 02:05 pm:

My coolest trinket is still the Sectoid skull that Hasbro Interactive sent me. It's life-sized, if Sectoids actually existed, and looks quite realistic. I'm a big X-COM fan, so I love it.

The weirdest thing I got was a fungus in a petri dish from Interplay for Evolva. The game went over about as well as the fungus.

Oh, and Verant sent me a Christmas card with a dollar bill inside. That was weird, but I can always use a dollar.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TSG on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 02:13 pm:

If one of my students had written this editorial it would not have scored well.

1) Assertions with lack of evidence. Don't just tell me, show me.
2) No clear motive. Are the payouts significant enough to undermine journalists' search for credibility?
3) No pressing concern. How do practices in this industry differ from practices in other (more credible) industries? Examples?
4) Undercuts own point in concluding paragraphs. If gamers aren't "as stupid as...portrayed" what would be the benefit of shilling subpar products?
5) Assertion that at E3 everybody picked the same games unclear. Everyone is being paid by the same people, then? If so, where is the competitive edge gained? Could they have picked the same games because these WERE the best games?

I'd mark it up for writing and organization, though - typical of Ms. Mulligan's work.

C+ with a request that no writing - even editorial - be done without evidence of research.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Xaroc on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 02:13 pm:

Mark wrote:


Quote:

Oh, and Verant sent me a Christmas card with a dollar bill inside. That was weird, but I can always use a dollar.




That is an old trick they use for getting people to answer mail surveys. It was found that if you put even a dollar in with the survey it is much more likely that people will fill it out because they feel guilty that they were "paid" and didn't do anything if they don't. Weird eh?

-- Xaroc
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 02:37 pm:

Xaroc, I had heard of that before. Verant didn't want me to answer anything, but I guess the dollar made me remember that they sent me a card. It worked well for that.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 02:52 pm:

I have a Sectoid skull too and it rocks. Um, that is, I have a Sectoid skull *on my bookcase*, not in my head. K'Nex sent me a Mad Cat build out of K'Nex parts, which is nifty as well, even though we don't review toys. Lemme see...NovaLogic sent us a bunch of Nerf guns, for Tachyon, for some reason. We got really cool wooden catapults from Cavedog for that fantasy RTS game they did, whatever it was called, while Microsoft sent cheezy little plastic trebuchets for AoE II: The Conquerors. We still gave 'em 5/5 for the game though, even if the toy was crummy.

I have an inflatable mace from Settlers IV, and we have a whole wall of signed Baldur's Gate II prints from Interplay, plus other Interplay-provided artwork (nicely framed) as well. Some of it's pretty ugly, some is actually nice. A host of pocket knives, pocket watches, flashlights, drinking glasses, letter openers, and other crap litter our offices.

It's fun, but really, this stuff is mostly junk. We did send the $50 that Interplay sent with Light and Darkness PR crap back, as that was over the top. And if anyone sends cigars, I snag them, as I'm the only cigar smoker here.

Oh, and they sent us Lava Lamps for Stupid Invaders, which was pretty cool. Steve never opened his .


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:06 pm:

Damn, Bob, I always suspected you were a whore to the game publishers. Now I have proof.

That was TA: Kingdoms, by the way. In retrospect, a bad choice for Cavedog.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:26 pm:

I rarely get anything.
I got AOE2 but no plastic Trebuchets
I got TA Kingdoms but no wooden catapult
I got Stupid Invaders but no Lava Lamp
I got X-Com Interceptor but no Sectoid Skull
I got Evolva but no mold (good)

Once I built a railroad, made it run, but no RR Tycoon 2 stuff.

I was expecting a cigar with Tropico, but nothing came.

I got a fifth of Rum with Age of Sail 2, which coincided nicely with Gamecenter dying... I got a Team Fortress 2 T-Shirt, which is hilarious to me. I got all the BG2 prints and I think they're absolutely great!

I got the Austin Powers DVD with Austin Powers Operation Trivia, which impressed my wife more than anything else I've gotten from game companies.

Hear that game companies? Give me movies.
I still panned that damn Austin Powers game though.

Yeah baby.
-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:31 pm:

>where oh where is Critical Bill when you need him)

Out of business. He was running a site called Extreme Hardware as part of the Gamefan network.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Geo on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:49 pm:

Augh! *swept away from the forums by the world's busiest thread* :)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BobM on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 03:54 pm:

Jason McCullough said: I should have said "mediocre games get good reviews from the *print* gaming press if they're from a big player." With that and the PC Gamer 90% debacle, I rest my case. ;0

----

Yeah, when I noticed the 90% that PC Gamer gave it, I knew my supposed rebuttal was in trouble.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 04:04 pm:

Ya know - sometimes someone just screws up a review. If such reviews were a regular occurance, I think we'd all be suspicious. But sometimes you just flat out miss the target. I remember reviewing Fox's golf game. I've reviewed every golf game for the PC since Mean 18 was the cat's meow, and I certainly should have rated Fox's game as a one or two star at most. Yet, for some reason, I enjoyed the damned thing while I was playing it, a lot more than I should have. The graphics were weak, the physics were poor, the swing interface was iffy, but there was something in the tour mode (and there must have been something in the water that week) that made me give it 3 or 3.5 stars. Heck, I only gave LinksLS 2001 3 stars. When I cranked up Fox Golf about a month or so after I turned in the review, I was aghast at how bad it was. I only wish that I had intentionally screwed up the review for money and women (although Bauman was my editor, and I'm sure he would have intercepted the big bills and the good lookin' women. ;))

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 04:15 pm:


Quote:

We did send the $50 that Interplay sent with Light and Darkness PR crap back, as that was over the top.




Okay, wait, I wanna be sure that I'm reading this right: They actually sent cash? Wow. Yeah, that's way over the top. That's evidence for Jessica, right there!
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 04:18 pm:

>But what are we really saying here? That the only kind of truly bias-free criticism is negative criticism?

I think we're saying that the only criticisms in GENERAL are negative. Otherwise it's a compliment. What's a "positive criticism?" =)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Dunkin on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 06:19 pm:

I think they call that constructive criticism :)

--- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 07:30 pm:

Very brave anecdote there Jeff Lackey.
I've certainly blown maybe more than my fair share of reviews as well. All primarily due to deadline issues, but they do haunt me at times.

No wait, they were due to corruption and I profited handsomely from each and every one. Yeah, that's it.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Brian Rucker on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:35 pm:

After reading this exchange my concerns regarding motivation for the, often, gentle reviews of uninspired games are laid to rest. I've worked in publishing before, though not gaming, and I'm familiar with the wall between editoral and marketing departments. If we can assume that wall stands in PC gaming mags then all is more or less well.

But I wonder how many gamers are new to the hobby? How many will get any sense of perportion between what's 'hot' this week and what's really great? Yeah, the occasional retrospective is nice and I've seen collections of classic games on magazine CDs but how many people can really walk into a gallery and understand why a painting is considered good without understanding some context for the work?

From what I see in most reviews, either the writer assumes considerable gaming background on the part of the reader (to the point they'll recognise a reference to BC3000 as raising a red flag or X-Com as being a great tactical game rather than, say, a shooter or a space sim) or the writer assumes the player knows nothing about comperable titles and doesn't think they care. But the writing is always subjective. Whether written in a naive and feisty I'm-a-publisher's-bitch style or a bitterly cynical wanna-be-Hunter-S-Thompson insider burn there's nothing resembling standards.

Perhaps this is an impossible request and it certainly is off the topic of this thread, but we seem to have a remarkable gathering of talent in the QT3 forums. Perhaps a discussion about qualities, with specific examples, make a game excellent in your eyes would be helpful to begin forming a general 'theory' of game evaluation?

I wonder if critical categories can't be invented on the basis of games that are 'understood' to be great in each one? Can agreement be formed by a community of critics as what each category really means and can they be applied with anything approaching objective precision?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By The Artful Dodger on Thursday, June 7, 2001 - 11:36 pm:

A small point:

Most of the legitimate criticism I've seen of game mags has nothing to do with payola or advertising. After all, the chinese wall between advertising and editorial at any reputable organization should take care of that, and reporting on the *lack* of such a wall would be great fodder for those that dislike said organization.

The problem is access.

As mentioned earlier, game mags write a *lot* of previews, and the reason they do is because of the popularity of said previews and the screenshots they contain. Whether or not one magazine or another gets said screens is totally up to the publisher or developer, and *that* is where influence can be exerted. Marketing doesn't write previews, editorial does, and if editorial is heavily, heavily critical of a company's games, the flow of preview information might be shut off. No exclusives, no reason for the mag to exist in the eyes of consumers. Advertisers notice that circulation is down, and the mag loses cash until editorial plays ball and the flow of lifegiving information returns.

The trend seems to be towards sort of a pack mentality in some ways as well. It's ok to bash a game that everybody else is bashing, because there's no way they can *all* be punished. Heavily criticize a game that the rest of the magazines are praising, however, and you become the odd man out. That's a scary place to be.

I wouldn't want to be the sole guy saying "The Sims is boring after a week" in a major magazine. Might just lose that big B&W preview to one of the competition. After all, *they* don't allow obviously biased reviews in their publications.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 12:21 am:

Artful, your assertion would carry more weight if game companies could afford to be that cavalier. They can't. As much as The Sims or Black & White looked like hits before they were released, they weren't sure things at all and many perfectly good games fare poorly at the market. It's a huge risk, every game that comes out. Therefore, game companies desire high profile coverage (in magazines particularly) at least as much, if not more, than game magazines require exclusives, screens or previews to sell magazines.

Mature, wise, PR reps take the bitter pill of bad coverage and then move on. Each new game is it's own market to push. And only the small online websites can safely be ignored.

A good preview (and previews should be fair-minded at the very least) is far more effective than any ad.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 02:11 am:

>Mature, wise, PR reps take the bitter pill of bad coverage and then move on. Each new game is it's own market to push. And only the small online websites can safely be ignored.

And then there's Eidos re: Tom Chick.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 02:25 am:

Artful Dodger:

"I wouldn't want to be the sole guy saying "The Sims is boring after a week" in a major magazine. Might just lose that big B&W preview to one of the competition."

If PR people were short-sighted, petty, and particularly stupid, that'd be a valid point and a cause for concern. However, I've found (in practice) that vengeful PR people with chips on their shoulders generally don't last very long in this industry.

(Also to note: PR folks do move around a great deal; what better way to impress your future boss than to say, "Yeah, I've been blacklisted by PC Gamer, CGW, and CG because I threatened to give exclusives to the other mags due to their biased reviews of my company's products. Am I a bad-ass or what?")

Mags and sites like exclusives and pre-emptive coverage, to be sure; those sell magazines, make great covers, turn traffic, whatever. However, with that said, each magazine has but 12 covers a year, and every other publisher is competing for that space as much as you are. You really, really don't want to burn bridges in this industry. If a mag or site misses an exclusive, it kind of sucks... but it's a rare, rare thing that only one game coming up is cover-worthy. And remember, game previews are pretty timely--you can't just hold off and let Big Game Magazine run 6 titles in a row from your company. Even if they wanted to, which is more than a bit unlikely.

Brian Rucker:

"I wonder if critical categories can't be invented on the basis of games that are 'understood' to be great in each one? Can agreement be formed by a community of critics as what each category really means and can they be applied with anything approaching objective precision?"

Sure, I'll take a stab at this one... though I wouldn't consider myself part of "a remarkable gathering of talent" by any stretch of the imagination. Rather than think about this too much before I start typing, let's just see what comes out.

From the original theory/statement/what-have-you, it looks to me like a good approach might be empirical. So let's grab some data... how about released, award-winning games over the past couple of years, or games that made otherwise staid, objective editors into drooling idiots. List comes (c)2001 Off The Top Of My Head, is in no particular order, and is representative of me basically turning around in my chair and scanning the titles on my game shelf. We'll start small, because I think it's going to be clear very quickly what the difficulty might be.

Unreal Tournament, Thief, Deus Ex, Half Life, Age of Empires, Everquest, Baldur's Gate, Sacrifice, Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, System Shock 2, No One Lives Forever, Diablo, and Starcraft.

In order to establish a universal rating system, we'd need to find the things that all these games have in common... or, hell, even one thing. Other than they're so much fun they're addictive to play (we'll call that the "QT3 Variable"), what do they have in common?

Hell, I've got all these myself and I can't think of a damned thing. Someone wanna throw me a bone?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 03:55 am:

"Games aren't as, er, black and white as people think. Gooseman loves Hitman, the Gamecenter people loved Rune (really, I teased them about it."

Someone just referenced the Gone Gold review guide page for Lucasarts' Force Commander, a game that clearly SUCKS, by any reasonable metric. And sure enough, the reviews were almost all negative (with the notable exception of Star Wars fans, or PC Gamer). So the system works in this case, more or less.

Since you brought it up, let's examine a tougher case-- a game that generated a mixed response. Rune is an excellent example.

http://www.gonegold.com/gguide/rune.shtml

Most people liked the game. I would say more than 75% of the reviews are not only positive, but quite positive. B+ or better. I include myself and my site in that camp, by the way, though Gone Gold doesn't list us.

On the other side of the coin, Old Man Murray wrote a scathing article about how much Rune sucks. Evidently this wasn't enough to get their point across, because OMM then piled on, WWF style, with a followup article critically lambasting the positive Rune reviews!

http://www.oldmanmurray.com/longreviews/Rune/Runerebut2.shtml

A quote from the conclusion of that article

---

"Okay, I give up pretending I like these reviews. What the fuck is going through these people's minds? Even reviews that read as if the author doesn't like Rune (IGN for example) give it a 90. I don't get it. This review at 3D gaming daily just broke me. Is this his first review? He has all of 3 games to draw on for comparison.

Do you remember when you were in 10th grade and one of your friends asks you if you want to go to a Billy Squier show? You have no idea who this guy is because your entire musical taste is defined by your second oldest sister's music collection of Led Zepplin, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and the Ramones. So you say, "Yeah, Billy Squier rocks. I'll go." Then you go and it's your first show ever so you get caught up in it. By the time you're riding home you're thinking, "Billy fucking Squier Rocks! He's the rockest motherfucker ever!"

I had a revelation two days later when I saw Billy Squier's My Kinda Lover video on MTV. Not only did Billy Squier not rock, he made me feel like a fag for ever liking him in the first place. I can only hope that 3D Gaming Daily's Jared Taylor gets his revelation soon."

---

Personally, I think that's crossing the line. I know some of these sites are easy targets because of the poor writing skills, but for the love of Christ-- isn't stating their opinion of the game (in an extremely negative format) enough? Do we really need people with Super Mutant Brains to go out of their way to attack the positive reviews, too, and patiently explain to the poor readers why they are oh-so-wrong?

I guess it just grated on them that the positive reviews far outweigh the negative reviews. But I don't know what they're expecting; I would reserve this kind of deep-frying for games that really do suck through and through, like FORCE COMMANDER.

wumpus


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Erik on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 08:35 am:

"Evidently this wasn't enough to get their point across, because OMM then piled on, WWF style, with a followup article critically lambasting the positive Rune reviews!"

When you get back from posting to alt.counterculture that Mad's latest installment of "Lighter Side of Hippies" has finally crossed your line, here's a correction:

Later, we lambasted Rune a *third* time by giving our year-end "Best Use of Norse Mythology" award to the Viking slot machine game Runeslots. Also, here's an excerpt from our upcoming E3 coverage:

"It tells the evidently true story of a group of Navy pilots who were shot down and taken prisoner during the war we lost to the tiny prehistoric jungle nation of Vietnam. Some of them were held for as many as eight years in what was essentially a medieval sewer."

The words "medieval sewer" are a link back to the original Rune review.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Kevin Perry on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 09:08 am:

Veering madly off topic:

Erik and Chet at OMM are game critics, not game reviewers. For them, the utter lack of innovation in Rune was a greater sin than the fact that whacking skeletons with an axe can be fun for a while. At least, that was my impression.

Insert my now-familiar rant about the difference between journalists and critics, and the need for true criticism in this industry.

Thanks to OMM for disguising true intellectual commentary as caustic humor. Guess that junior high school experience came in handy.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bernie Dy on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 09:48 am:

"gentle reviews of uninspired games "

What is meant by this? Is it a reference to reviews that give a poor game a high grade, or a review in which the language and demeanor are even?

I see posts from people saying they don't like reviewers because they can't just come out and say, "This game is shit." But that's not a review - that's a single line easily spouted from the cover of the bleachers. It's as if a review that analyzes what's done well and what's done poorly in the game isn't enough. It has to be insulting and scathing, or else it isn't negative. A professional writer can get the point across without having to throw acid.

-----

Wumpus, I thought the OMM stuff had already been discussed in another thread? I think even they've admitted their material was meant as entertainment, not serious reviews. Frankly, their stuff sends me rolling. I wish I could be as consistently witty.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:13 am:

>>Marketing doesn't write previews, editorial does, and if editorial is heavily, heavily critical of a company's games, the flow of preview information might be shut off.

Yeah, but so what? It's their loss, not ours, particularly in a print magazine with a fixed number of pages. If a big company cut off preview access, they'd be the ones losing out, not us. We'll write a different article on some other game or topic.

And if it got bad enough, I have a simple response to someone acting in a threatening manner: "Can I quote you on that?" That ends it right there, because if we went public with that information, they would lose in a big way in the eyes of the public.

In some cases lines get crossed, both on the publisher and editorial side, but as a general rule as long as we're fair and honest and factually accurate in our reporting, companies do not get too worked up over negative editorial.

Of course let's keep one giant thing in mind re: the original topic, the editorial. She may be talking as much about console publications as computer ones. Things may be entirely different there as you may or may not be dealing with slightly less mature editorial, and the stakes are considerably higher.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:16 am:

Kevin Perry: "Erik and Chet at OMM are game critics, not game reviewers."

Actually Chet and Erik are entertainers, a point that most people, particularly Wumpus/Atwood clearly miss. But, admittedly, criticism does goose their sparkling muse.

Note the "Lighter Side of Hippies" reference/dig from the inestimable Erik. Genius!

Now, I'm going to come out and just say this: "Rune was clearly (murkily) shit"

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:38 am:

Steve: "She may be talking as much about console publications as computer ones. Things may be entirely different there as you may or may not be dealing with slightly less mature editorial, and the stakes are considerably higher."

I've been wading hip deep in console coverage for a while now and this is a valid point.

Also Console game publishers play a tougher game of Hardball. Anyone try and get anything out of Capcom PR? Sony? Tighter than an unshorn Samson's fist...

But Jessica's never been known to cover anything console related in the past Steve. She's pretty myopically MMORPG oriented.

The funny thing about her corruption comment, re: the Best of Show awards... I picked pretty much the same games as most pubs have as being "Best of Show" but I did it 100% independantly.

"What's you're favorite game?" at E3 replaces "What's your major" as the conversation starter du jour.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:40 am:

Just to clarify, the Of Light and Darkness $50 bill promo campaign that Interplay ran was part of a larger campaign focusing on the seven deadly sins--we received some food for Gluttony, faux "hate male" for Wrath, etc. The $50 was for Greed I think. It was cute, but $50 was too much to be cute.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:50 am:

I'd hate to be put in that position.
re: the $50 for "Of Light & Darkness"
They should have sent a gift certificate or a dollar or something. The gimmick is certainly cool enough.

I'd have given the $50 to charity I think, but, man would I have resented it. I bet Interplay got some crap for it. They should have. That's the sort of thing that could really attract mainstream news attention, in a bad way.

Angle: 1990's Payola Returns in Game Biz!
Coupled with a profile of 50's record payola, add a dash of conspiracy and sensationalism and, voila, insta scandal and ample mud flung around.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:50 am:

PS: Robert, what did they send for Lust?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Thierry Nguyen on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 12:41 pm:

"PS: Robert, what did they send for Lust?"

I am not Robert, but I intrude for the sake of intrusion anyhow.

Lust was a copy of Playboy, if my synapses are working correctly.

Or something similar.

-Thierry


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 12:47 pm:

"Or something similar."

Ah...
Maybe a photo of the entire Interplay game development crew poolside in tuxes and bare feet surrounded by bikini babes?

Anyone remember that silly ad?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 02:15 pm:

Ya, Thierry is right I think. We also got a copy of Playboy from G.O.D. for some game that was mentioned in Heffner's mag. They even had it bookmarked.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:35 pm:

"I see posts from people saying they don't like reviewers because they can't just come out and say, "This game is shit." But that's not a review - that's a single line easily spouted from the cover of the bleachers."

This is precisely what OMM does, though: it's little more than saying "this game is shit" in a highbrow 'just you watch how clever our Super Mutant Brains can be' alt-pop way. There's no real critical depth there. They are as guilty of shallow reviews as the shoddiest fansite. And in a way it's even worse-- because it's presented in that sniggering, cleverer-than-thou tone. As Alanis Morrisette said, Isn't It Ironic?

"It's as if a review that analyzes what's done well and what's done poorly in the game isn't enough."

Is Rune the worst game ever made? Is it in the same league as Mortyr? I challenge you to tell me the difference between the OMM Mortyr and OMM Rune reviews. Actually, I'll save you the work: there isn't any difference.

"It has to be insulting and scathing, or else it isn't negative. A professional writer can get the point across without having to throw acid. "

Which is fine; the specific problem I have is when the criticism is tossed to the wind, and all reviews read the same way. See Mortyr and Rune respectively. Granted there are two token positive OMM reviews-- for NOLF and Half-Life respectively. Both are laughably devoid of any critical examination of what makes either game worth playing.

"Actually Chet and Erik are entertainers, a point that most people, particularly Wumpus/Atwood clearly miss. But, admittedly, criticism does goose their sparkling muse."

I don't subscribe to the argument that "it's all entertainment" and therefore invulnerable to criticism itself.

wumpus


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:44 pm:

Jeff,
You aren't getting the joke.
Guess what. When SNL (that's a television show) does a political parody... it's fake. It's satire. It's funny. Fun-nee. You're either thinking too much or not thinking hard enough, either way you're failing miserably at it.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:49 pm:

Hey Wumpus - maybe you should think of it this way. Imagine Howard Stern was actually witty, and imagine him talking about movies. That would be very different from Mike Clarke or Roger Ebert providing movie reviews.

May be a crappy analogy, but it's the best I can come up with at the moment.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:53 pm:

"Both are laughably devoid of any critical examination of what makes either game worth playing."

When you need groceries, do you go to the bookstore? Just wondering.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:53 pm:

"When SNL (that's a television show) does a political parody... it's fake. It's satire. It's funny."

These aren't parodies of reviews. They're real reviews. That is how Chet and Erik actually feel about the games in question. But hell, don't take my word for it: e-mail them and ask. I have.

It's not like they secretly enjoyed playing Rune and wrote this hilarious parody of a negative review.

There's a big difference between "a funny, entertaining review" and a "parody of a review". OMM gets the funny and entertaining part right, at least. It's the review part that kinda sucks.

wumpus

p.s. Erik Wolpaw's Adrenaline Vault. Coming soon to a website near you!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 07:57 pm:

"It's not like they secretly enjoyed playing Rune and wrote this hilarious parody of a negative review."

Why would they have to secretly enjoy a game to write a hilarious parody of a negative review?

Rune really does suck though. See, OMM is funny because it's true. So true....

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 08:04 pm:

"Rune really does suck though. See, OMM is funny because it's true. So true...."

No, _Force Commander_ sucks. Rune is a good game that some people didn't like. See the Gone Gold guide for confirmation on both points.

Which brings me back to the original topic-- do you think other sites simply weren't brave enough to critically eviscerate Rune OMM style, the way Jessica Mulligan's "softball" analogy implies?

Because when it comes right down to it, most games really do completely suck and aren't worth your time. Even the so-called "average" ones. That's the part OMM gets right.

But then again, this implies an awfully black and white "sucks or rocks" worldview... which isn't always a great thing, either.

wumpus


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 08:16 pm:

Everything in that OMM "review" was true. Everything was also, bear with me here, exaggerated for comic effect.

Therefore, every joke worked and was funny.

"do you think other sites simply weren't brave enough to critically eviscerate Rune OMM style, the way Jessica Mulligan's "softball" analogy implies?"

No. You're still missing the point. OMM comically eviscerated Rune, I don't want Gamespot to do that. That isn't what Gamespot does. If anything I want Gamespot to give Rune a 5 of 10, like it deserves.

See, eviscerating Star Trek: New Worlds, Daikatana or Force Commander isn't funny. It'd be pointless. The designers did that themselves. It could certainly be argued that mediocrity is a much greater crime than ineptness.

Why attack a ganged up on target. If you want humor, go for the popular bad game. It's much more funny to attack a sacred cow than a lame duck.

-Andrew
PS: I gave Rune a 5 of 10, like it richely deserved.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:34 pm:


Quote:

If anything I want Gamespot to give Rune a 5 of 10, like it deserves.



Gamespot gives scores lower than 6? :)

With their crazy rating system, I find that hard to believe.

--Dave
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, June 8, 2001 - 10:53 pm:

Actually I wrote that without actually referring to Gamespot. I meant it as in "I expect straight reviews from Gamespot". Looking at it now I see they gave it a 6.7, 'they' also happens to be Erik Wolpaw, which, given the subject of these messages, is a bit of synchronicity that definitely creeps me out. I sorta picked Gamespot at random there.

Doesn't Gamespot use a weighted set of criterion? I imagine that keeps it fair but makes it hard for reviewers to create a comfortable "Overall" score.

Happy Puppy used to be weighted, but it was weighted perfectly evenly.
Meaning "Documentation" was weighed the same as "Gameplay". Ugh. That meant my review of Vampire turned out to be a 7 overall. Even though I gave the gameplay a 4... that damn 9 for graphics tipped the whole thing off-kilter.

That's pretty bad stuff and the Puppy changed soon after. They began letting the reviewer assign the overall score. Gamespot's is at least weighted differently. Meaning some categories hold more weight than others. That's more appropriate I think.

Anyway,
Begin "weighted score: pro and con" argument now.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 12:07 am:

No need to go there. Garbage in, garbage out as Steve Bauman is fond of saying when the topic comes up.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By David F on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 01:55 am:

Ok I think I found a case for Jessica's point. PC GAMER, Braveheart 90%!!!! ARGGGG, either a buyoff of monumental proportions or someone was asleep at the wheel (as in coma!). Of course, I've had my own brushes controversy, I did give Evolution 4 stars, but I did give valid reasons for it, mainly, darn it, I love that game (still play it). Probably my most controversial rating (except maybe my fairly favorable review at Games Domain for Wages of War).

I also had one review that was rewritten by an editor while I briefly wrote at gamepen (waaaaay back). A 2 star review became a 4 star review after a massive massacre of my text and rants were cut. Knights and Merchants was the game and I never wrote a single word for them again.


But as far as a global conspiracy, or even anything other than the average level of anomalous behavior verse any other industry is complete poppycock! You’d think organized crime had moved in or something… I can see it now, the new HBO hit, the Gameanos, organized crime in gaming journalism! **OWWW**, some overweight Italian guy broke my knees for talking about it….Gotta go!

David

What? Speak clearly and slowly into the lamp, the FBI can’t hear you...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 02:09 am:

"Ok I think I found a case for Jessica's point. PC GAMER, Braveheart 90%"

Was this the US or UK mag?

I think some games get good scores because the reviewers don't really play them long enough to see the faults. They see the glitz, but little else.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 04:59 am:

"Actually I wrote that without actually referring to Gamespot. I meant it as in "I expect straight reviews from Gamespot". Looking at it now I see they gave it a 6.7, 'they' also happens to be Erik Wolpaw, which, given the subject of these messages, is a bit of synchronicity that definitely creeps me out. I sorta picked Gamespot at random there."

Okay, point taken. I didn't realize Erik did reviews for any site other than OMM. That's a solid review. So, my apologies to Erik.

What other reviews has Erik done for 'mainstream' gaming mags or sites? That's the first one I'm aware of.

wumpus http://www.gamebasement.com

p.s However, it does end up being another "I have such a massive hard-on for Die By the Sword that no other melee combat system can ever compare" review. A reasonable viewpoint, but as someone who really hated DBTS's combat scheme, not one I agree with.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Erik on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 08:42 am:

"What other reviews has Erik done for 'mainstream' gaming mags or sites? That's the first one I'm aware of."

I've done a whole freakin' bunch for gamespot and a few for cgm,cgw,daily radar, and pcxl. Pretty much every OMM review has a boring version by me on gamespot (mortyr, kiss, nolf, rune,codename eagle, alice). I reviewed the Rune expansion for gamespot recently and hated it, so you can add that to my obsessive hatred of Rune list. Along with the pc version, I reviewed the dreamcast port of KISS for zdnet as well. That version includes all the jokes I forgot to include in the omm review. See if you can find them!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 09:52 am:

"I've done a whole freakin' bunch for gamespot and a few for cgm,cgw,daily radar, and pcxl. Pretty much every OMM review has a boring version by me on gamespot (mortyr, kiss, nolf, rune,codename eagle, alice)."

Geez. Boring indeed. I had no idea any of your other reviews were out there. To be fair, I don't frequent GameSpot. But you know what this totally reminds me of? Those Angel movies. You know, student by day, stripper by night.

And yes, the Rune add-on was not such a hot idea-- all multiplayer stuff? Ohhhkay. Whichever exec greenlighted that decision should be sacked. I mean, I'm flattered that Rune sold enough to justify an add-on and everything, but what the hell kind of expansion is that?

wumpus

p.s. You know what really takes the cake? This Charles Ardai review of Alice.

http://www.zdnet.com/products/stories/reviews/0,4161,2678581,00.html

My favorite part is "(I must have had to restore 50 times before I could finish the library level, just because I kept missing the last jump.)" Sounds like a 3.5 / 5 star game to me, folks!

For some reason, this reminds me of Ebert's inclusion of "The Cell" in his top 10 movies of 2000. Sometimes bad things happen to good reviewers for no rational reason.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Kevin Grey on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 01:02 pm:

There seems to be a lot of confusion between the US and UK versions of PC Gamer. The US mag gave Force Commander 43% and Braveheart 34%. Somebody must be looking at the UK version for those 90% scores.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 03:28 pm:

That doesn't surprise me. The UK mags are notorious for their rushed reviews of beta versions.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, June 9, 2001 - 06:46 pm:

That is an extremely important distinction!

And it explains a lot. Especially why I had no rememberance of PCG doing those things...

Bear this in mind, PCGamer UK (which isn't affiliated with PCGamer US directly at all... they are both owned by Future Media, but that is a recent thing - I think) typically reviews games before they've even gone gold.

They reviewed Half-Life, a full review, in September. HL came out in November. Mid-November. I'm sure there are a lot more examples. Braveheart and Force Commander being just two examples.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 12:42 am:

I thought the idea of doing the Rune expansion as multiplayer-only wasn't such a bad idea. That seems to be a reasonable way to go in the future--rather than putting in token crappy online multiplayer just to get the checkbox on your single-player game, just do a single-player game, and add multiplayer with the expansion.

Granted, that's not exactly what Rune did...they improved multiplayer with the expansion, but it had it in the first place.

I'm not saying the Rune expansion doesn't suck. Maybe it does, I dunno. I didn't play it. I just think the idea of doing multiplayer-only expansions aren't such a bad thing. Provided, of course, there's a good chunk of multiplayer there, not just 10 maps and two play styles or something. Looking at Erik's review, his beef doesn't seem to be that it's multiplayer only so much as that it just sucks. It needed bot support, new weapons or powerups, stuff like that. Or maybe that's just the way the Gamespot Edit reads.

It should also be noted that the Rune "expansion" doesn't actually require you to own Rune. Weird, but not a bad idea either.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Erik on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 07:52 am:

"I just think the idea of doing multiplayer-only expansions aren't such a bad thing"

I agree. But it does introduce a new gambling feature when purchasing a multiplayer-only title. No matter how good the game is, if it doesn't become popular, you've thrown your money away. There really haven't been too many truly multiplayer-only titles (Hell, even Everquest has "bots" and can be played by yourself). Allegiance comes to mind, Tribes 1, and Rune HOV; I'm sure there're a few others. Instead of reviewing these games, sites should just provide a realtime report on the number of people playing them at any given moment. It could be a graph.

That said, the Rune expansion really is light on significant content. There are plenty of new maps, but since Rune's exclusively close-in combat makes level architecture a lot less meaningful than in ranged weapons games, they're all pretty redundant. Plus, the player movement code was changed drastically - instead of moving at different speeds depending on whether you're backpedaling, sidestepping, or going forward, player movement now occurs at a uniform rate. That change divided the already tiny Rune community into two incompatible micro-itty-bitty factions: people running the new patch (required for HOV) and people continuing to run "old" style servers. I'm not sure if the people at Human Head even think about Rune as much as I do.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, June 10, 2001 - 08:20 pm:

"I agree. But it does introduce a new gambling feature when purchasing a multiplayer-only title. No matter how good the game is, if it doesn't become popular, you've thrown your money away. There really haven't been too many truly multiplayer-only titles (Hell, even Everquest has "bots" and can be played by yourself). Allegiance comes to mind, Tribes 1, and Rune HOV; I'm sure there're a few others. Instead of reviewing these games, sites should just provide a realtime report on the number of people playing them at any given moment. It could be a graph."

I've often said that multiplayer games are a straightforward popularity contest. Which is why the success of counter-strike is such a blessing. Erik, I'm surprised you've never written anything about the CS phenomenon. Did you know it's Tom Chick's GOTY 2000? Just kidding. But it is the most popular multiplayer FPS ever, and as a fan of the FPS genre more or less exclusively (I don't see you reviewing much outside that genre) I would think that you'd have some thoughts on it by now.

Also-- I thought the simplistic Rune melee combat model was fine for singleplayer, but it's clearly inadequate for multiplayer. That's my biggest problem with having a multiplayer-only expansion for the game. It just seemed so illogical.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 02:40 am:

"I think some games get good scores because the reviewers don't really play them long enough to see the
faults. They see the glitz, but little else. "

What about bias? I'm guessing reviewers, like other folks, have their favorite types of games, and have a natural inclination to write favorably of games that remind them of old favorites, significantly softening what might otherwise be bad reviews.

Oh, yeah--Mark, you should put up a photo or two of that sectoid skull. I'd like to see it!

I also wonder about the CGW system. I've read a few times that the reviewer's slant is only a partial consideration for the overall rating. But if the reviewer was the only one to play the game all the way through, then how fair are the slants that the editors then apply to the game, based as they almost must be on limited experience?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Robert Mayer on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:25 am:

At CGM, we tend to funnel games to reviewers based partly on their preference, for the type of game at least. We generally don't give shooters to people who hate shooters, or RTS titles to turn-based strategy fanatics, etc. It's impossible usually to find someone who likes every type of game, though we try to find people who are open-minded about many styles of play. We have a pretty good idea of what types of games each reviewer is comfortable with, and try to match the games with the reviewer.

After all, it's hardly a valid review if you give, say, Emperor: Battle for Dune to someone who hasn't played a real-time strategy game since the original WarCraft, and hates the genre with a passion. Nor would we give a game like Blue Shift to someone whose idea of an action game is playing speed Scrabble.

Luckily most of our reviewers are pretty flexible. And honest; we've had reviewers (including staff) turn down reviews because they felt so hostile to a game before they even got it. We don't worry too much about people feeling really good about a game prior to seeing it--in our experience, the higher the expectations the more brutal the review if the game fails to live up to them. It doesn't work the other way around--if someone hates a game before seeing it, they aren't likely to change their minds.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 03:08 pm:

"But if the reviewer was the only one to play the game all the way through, then how fair are the slants that the editors then apply to the game, based as they almost must be on limited experience?"

I don't want to presume to answer for CGW, but I think on a general level it makes sense for an editor to assign a score to a review. If the reviewer has done his/her job, the contents of the review will allow the editor(s) to fit it in with the overall view/scoring system of the magazine. Reviewers may have different interpretations of what scores mean, while the editor has a macro view.

I've been avoiding this thread, if only because I've stated my opinions on the subject elsewhere, even on this board. In a nutshell, though, I don't think Jessica Mulligan's article was very well-researched, but I think the issue it alludes to is a problem. Many editors here will say it isn't, but having been an isolated freelancer and an entrenched editor, I find that editors often have a very myopic view of their position in the industry, wanting to outright dismiss any potential bias and ignore any appearance of such.

I don't, however, think it's as cut and dried as the article (and the dozens of like-minded articles) made it sound. Ads aren't a problem, goodies aren't a problem. I think that the problem is much more subtle and, for me, it's related to two major issues: Editors are often out of touch with their audience. For any of the larger mag/site editors: What was the last *new* game you bought?

The other issue is larger. Simply being entrenched in the gaming industry changes your view of it. Having someone involved in the production of a game describe said game to you inevitably alters your view of the finished product. Because of that, I largely disagree with the following exchange:

Scott Udell:"What do all the gaming journalists here think of a much more insidious potential conflict, that of getting friendly towards a particular person, team, or company staffer?"

Bill McLendon: "Used to happen to me all the time. Not a problem at all, and never has been."

I just don't see how that is possible. Companies that are proactive show you games all the time. If nothing else, your final analysis of the game is based on what you've been told, and whether or not the game is what you expected it to be. It may not be a problem, but you can't deny that there's an influence there that probably doesn't exist w/r/t other media. It's an especially difficult area when you become friends with a developer. There's no way that relationship can't influence your analysis of a game in some way. It's best just to recognize the potential for bias and/or conflict, and avoid it altogether.

That said, I'm going to go back to lurking for awhile. This topic is threadbare. There's no substance to the standard argument, and the areas of potential conflict aren't all that interesting to discuss.

-Ron


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 04:18 pm:

Just to clarify on CGW's rating process: freelancers turn in a rating, and the CGW editors discuss the ratings in a meeting to make sure the rating makes sense in terms of consistency with the article and consistency with the magazine. I've never had a rating adjusted more than a half star, and most ratings are not changed from what the reviewer turns in. That said, I obviously prefer the way that CGM/CGO handles it, which is that the rating you turn in is the rating. Even there, however, the editors look at the submitted rating and will challenge it if it doesn't match the text.

As for relationships effecting reviews - we're all human, so certainly it can be tough. But I've written some tough reviews of games from people who I know fairly well and respect quite a bit. Interestingly enough, the people in the industry I know and like the most are also the people who are the most professional and thus handle criticism in a professional manner. It doesn't mean it isn't tough to tear apart the work of someone you know and like - just that you have to be a pro and do your job.

As to your comment that this is an influence that doesn't apply to other media - can you imagine how much more difficult this is in other entertainment media? There you are directly criticising a performer by name, be it music, TV, or movies. You interview, say, Sylvester Stallone in his home, like the guy a lot, then have to write that his latest performance is like watching a badly animated cartoon. Or the producer of the TV show Yes Dear gives you special access to the set, treats you great, you go to dinner to interview all the cast members, then publish for the world to read what an amateurish production the show is, with specifics by performer. All of whom you will have to interact with in the future.

Makes our business look easy, eh?

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 05:26 pm:

Lackey: "But I've written some tough reviews of games from people who I know fairly well and respect quite a bit."

Sure, but these reviews are still informed by your knowing them. This is as much a pitfall, to me, as going easy on a game. The relationship is there, and it affects your coverage. Regardless of whether that coverage is positive or negative.

Lackey: "As to your comment that this is an influence that doesn't apply to other media - can you imagine how much more difficult this is in other entertainment media?"

I disagree. Other entertainment media don't consistently write speculative articles about works in progress - mostly it's rumors or personality pieces. You don't read alot of previews in non-gaming entertainment mags, and those you do read are just as fluffy.

Conversely, there isn't much in the way of personality profiling in gaming mags. I would be just as suspect of the Sly scenario you pose above. Check the Roger Ebert/Drew Barrymore history. He interviews her, obviously admires her, and gives almost every film she is in a positive review. That's a conflict, or at least I perceive it as one which is just as bad. If a writer really likes Sly Stallone as a person, it's a bad editor that assigns that writer to review one of his films.

On a more specific level, though, it's different for game mags. You are consistently being shown in-development products with the developer/producer/whathaveyou filtering the experience. When you play a final game, you know what the experience was intended to be. That informs your writing, and it's worse if that developer/etc. is someone you respect. It seems to me that it's impossible to be impartial, and it doesn't matter if your opinion of the game is positive or negative.

-Ron


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 06:00 pm:

Hi Ron,

"I just don't see how that is possible. Companies that are proactive show you games all the time. If nothing else, your final analysis of the game is based on what you've been told, and whether or not the game is what you expected it to be. It may not be a problem, but you can't deny that there's an influence there that probably doesn't exist w/r/t other media. It's an especially difficult area when you become friends with a developer. There's no way that relationship can't influence your analysis of a game in some way. It's best just to recognize the potential for bias and/or conflict, and avoid it altogether."

I hate to get on this old warhorse, but it's very possible, because you don't know me. :) I have/had a very strict attention to detail and what my actual job was in the industry/media. My job, as I saw it, was to present readers with the most complete, unbiased, and comprehensive view of whatever product I had gotten exposure to, be it a preview, review, or news story.

It's not in my best interest, or that of my readers, to pull punches because, say, I get along really well with the folks from Bender/Helper, or Microsoft/Turbine, or Simon Schuster. Those relationships, while beneficial to my (previous) position, can't and shouldn't have an impact on the facts behind the title.

Does this piss people off? Sometimes, yes; it's unavoidable, because they're assigned to a title or developing it or responsible for it. Does this impact my future relationships with 'em? If they let it, sure--not much I can do about that. Nor, really, is there much I'd care to do about that, because that isn't my problem.

Has this ever been reflected in the content? Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I've never softballed a review or preview--and I never, ever will--because of some non-related relationship with the person or persons involved in the creation, publication, or promotion of the game.

All I care about is the game. That's all I'm supposed to care about, that's all I used to be paid to care about, and, thus, that's all I care about. Show Me The Games. The game is what the game is, and it's my job to tell people what the game is. Not what the game could have been. Not what the game should be. Not what My Vision of the game could be. Not what the company wishes I would say it is.

Don't get me wrong, though. I don't take joy in slammin the shit out of a game if I know/like the ppl involved in it. But I don't shy away from it because of said relationships.

Believe it or don't. That's your option. You might want to ask Asher or Bub if you don't, though--I've worked with them directly in the past, and they know what I'm like. Mwa ha ha. :)

Oh, and this:

"You are consistently being shown in-development products with the developer/producer/whathaveyou filtering the experience."

This is exactly why I prefer to do previews from code. If I'm being left an art CD and a press kit, the preview will reflect that: "According to the developer..." is a phrase I use a lot. Also, I like to get direct quotes from devs to put in the preview, so readers know it's claims from devs instead of editorial analysis.

"When you play a final game, you know what the experience was intended to be. That informs your writing, and it's worse if that developer/etc. is someone you respect. It seems to me that it's impossible to be impartial, and it doesn't matter if your opinion of the game is positive or negative."

Again, you don't know me. :) The game is what the game is, and I did reviews based on what the game is. Not what they wanted it to be, not what I think it should have been, but what came out of the box and got installed on the hard drive. Yes, it's a detached viewpoint, but it's a necessary one if you're to have any credibility with your readers. I like to think I did, but wtf do I know.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 06:40 pm:

Ron - I understand where you're coming from, and they're legitimate points. I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for my own experiences and guidelines.

"Sure, but these reviews are still informed by your knowing them. This is as much a pitfall, to me, as going easy on a game. The relationship is there, and it affects your coverage. Regardless of whether that coverage is positive or negative."

I had to chew on this one for a while, and think of actual examples to see if what you said is correct for me. Of course, there's always the Heisenberg Uncertainty thing when you try to address a question like this one. But I can't really see a difference in reviewing a game in which I know the developers and one in which I didn't. For example, in a flight sim, I may know that the designer wanted to do a dynamic campaign, but decided to go with scripted missions because he couldn't get the dynamic campaign right. I don't cut that product any more slack than one which has scripted missions and I don't know why - the feature is either in the game or isn't, it is either well done or it isn't. What the developer intended really isn't of interest to a reader who is trying to decide whether to spend his $40, only what was delivered, and thus that's all that should be discussed. I don't doubt that it is a potential pitfall, but I think any professional reviewer should avoid having an article colored by "intentions" of the developers. And as I go back and look at side by side reviews I've done where I know the designers and where I don't, I just can't find a bias on paper.

"I disagree. Other entertainment media don't consistently write speculative articles about works in progress - mostly it's rumors or personality pieces. You don't read alot of previews in non-gaming entertainment mags, and those you do read are just as fluffy."

I don't follow you here. There's more written about a lot of movies before they're released than after. Most of it carefully orchestrated by PR folks that make the people we deal with look apathetic.

"You are consistently being shown in-development products with the developer/producer/whathaveyou filtering the experience. When you play a final game, you know what the experience was intended to be. That informs your writing, and it's worse if that developer/etc. is someone you respect. It seems to me that it's impossible to be impartial, and it doesn't matter if your opinion of the game is positive or negative."

Here I'll just respectfully disagree. I really don't care what the experience was intended to be. When you review the final build, you review what's in the game. I think I understand what you mean - for example, if I reviewed a flight sim in which there was a "head bob" in the cockpit, and it was annoying and unrealistic as hell, would I be more inclined to cut some slack if I knew the designer and he told me during development that he meant for that effect to be in there because some WWII pilot had convinced him it was more realistic? For me, the answer is no: it either works or it doesn't, no matter what he intended. This isn't speculation, this is based on real experiences. And again - I can only speak for myself.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 08:44 pm:

Lackey: "Of course, there's always the Heisenberg Uncertainty thing when you try to address a question like this one."

Which is the point I was trying to make, and I don't think I did it very well. My issue is that if there is the potential for conflict, then that is as much of an issue as the conflict itself. And I don't think writers are effective judges of such things, because they are biased about their biases. Which is why I disagreed with Bill McClendon's (apologies for misspelling your name earlier) statements above, I think it's up to editors/magazines to institute policies to avoid potential conflicts, no matter how slight.

And I also want to apologize for seemingly singling out Bill McClendon by using his statements. I was reacting to the general sentiments, and not leveling any accusations at anyone in particular. They were general accusations, but I stand by them.

If you have "inside" information on a product, it will color your view of that product. How that influence affects your ability to write about it unbiasedly is another matter. Bias is always an issue, and the degree to which it's problematic is up to writers and editors to decide.

It's a bit unfair, because I've made my argument somewhat irrefutable by bringing up the fact that editors/writers will always deny the effects of bias. But again, I don't think individuals can judge. It's up to pubs to draw lines where they see fit.

As Bruce Geryk wrote, we're just talking about games. It's fun, blah blah. I edited game magazines for almost a decade, and I've thought about these issues far too much. But I still hope that the reviewers who inform my decisions (thanks, Tom Chick, for Tropico!) take the responsibility seriously.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:01 pm:

I'd like to add that Dulin's assertion can work the other way. Potentially, it's possible to be harsher on a product created by a development team that you know or are friends with to overcompensate for possible bias.

Or, if you see cool features that didn't make it into the final product, you might be harsher than you would if you'd never known they existed.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey (Jeff_lackey) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:05 pm:

"But I still hope that the reviewers who inform my decisions (thanks, Tom Chick, for Tropico!) take the responsibility seriously."

There's the bottom line, eh? All you can ask is that a writer is aware of the potential pitfalls and puts the reader's interest first. The human factor will always be there, for better or worse.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 09:28 pm:

Ron:

"And I also want to apologize for seemingly singling out Bill McClendon by using his statements. I was reacting to the general sentiments, and not leveling any accusations at anyone in particular. They were general accusations, but I stand by them."

No harm done. And as for the misspelling, heh, you weren't the first and you certainly won't be the last.

And yes, I can sort of see where you're coming from, and yeah, I guess it has the potential to be an issue... but similarly to PR people calling and threatening to pull ad buys because they don't like editorial coverage, an editor that could be "bought" by PR people being their friends would quickly become common knowledge, I assure you. And said "editor" wouldn't be one for very long.

Finally, yes, I took my responsibility to my readers very, very seriously when I was actually employed as an editor. And should I ever become employed as an editor again (here's hoping, though the market is somewhat tight right now), that will remain the same.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Scott Udell (Scott) on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 10:20 pm:

"If you have 'inside' information on a product, it will color your view of that product. "

You definitely have a point, I think, but now the question is, to what extreme does the solution need to be taken? Theoretically, to meet the requirement of "no potential bias" you'd need a reviewer who's never played any other games, has never played games period, doesn't even know what games are? Okay, that's a silly extreme, but how far do you need to take it? Make sure the reviewer of a product has never read anything about it before reviewing it? Has read the previews, but never seen any communications (interviews, web postings) from those inovlved in the development of the product? Or just has never had any direct contact with the developers or the game itself prior to reviewing it (what, then, of pre-release demos or open betas? And I still think preview coverage could impact a reviewer). An interesting issue, to be sure.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Monday, June 11, 2001 - 11:15 pm:

>>You are consistently being shown in-development products with the developer/producer/whathaveyou filtering the experience.

But unlike Ebert, we don't review every game. We use an enormous pool of freelancers, so the editors, or the people writing the previews, maybe review 10% of the games in any given issue. The majority of our freelancers may have read a few previews, and that's about it; they share the perspective of the informed buyer. A few, the Chicks, the Bubs, get preview code or write previews of games before they ship. The majority do not.

And we actually make an effort, when possible, not to assign the writer of the preview the review, feeling they're too close to the product at that point. It doesn't always work that way, particularly on the more niche-y titles, but it's a good thing to strive for because I do agree that it is a problem to be too close to the development, or to have too insider of an opinion of what the game was supposed to be before playing it.

Oddly enough, I wrote a short preview of Half-Life and also did the review, but I actually had no clue about Xen when I hit that area (and I wasn't impressed with the game at all in preview form, thinking they were all talk). And I also managed to somehow avoid most of the Black & White and Tropico previews.

I also tend to forget almost everything I edit, which helps when it comes review time.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 12:13 am:

Man, I personally read almost no previews anymore. All I want to know are the basic facts about the game, what are the planned features, etc.

In other words, you could give me a bullet list of features and a few screenshots and I'd be happy. The web and the flood of pre-release information about games has really killed my interest in individual titles until they're just about ready to come out. There are a few exceptions, of course.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 12:18 am:

"As Bruce Geryk wrote, we're just talking about games. It's fun, blah blah. I edited game magazines for almost a decade, and I've thought about these issues far too much. But I still hope that the reviewers who inform my decisions (thanks, Tom Chick, for Tropico!) take the responsibility seriously."

I hope the implication isn't that because I think that it's "just games" that I feel free to trash games for no reason or give good reviews to bad games. As long as I keep doing this I'll continue to take my responsibility as a reviewer seriously. But the fact is that I think a lot of this stuff is over-analyzed. Reviews make certain assertions which (if they aren't along the lines of "it's cool!" or include the word "bump-mapping") should strike an intelligent reader as making sense or not. Someone who reads the web or magazines regularly should have a feel for which reviewer(s) match his or her tastes and should be able to inform his or her game-buying decisions without too much trouble. Just like movie reviews. Whether Jeff Lackey (for the sake of example) is infinitesimally more forgiving of some game because the developer bought him a beer once is irrelevant. All of these "degrees of bias" may be interesting to talk about (for someone else) but if they turn a 3-star review into a 3.5-star review, I'll never notice.

I remember a long while back on these boards when someone (maybe Ron?) mentioned the idea of a site that covered the industry of game writing rather than gaming or game development. My response then was to ask what this kind of Brill's Content of gaming would do? Point out bad writing? Might as well do a Google search for the word "computer game review" and include the links. Point out the inconsistencies between the review text and the numerical rating? Intelligent people can do that for themselves. Scott Shuger does a nice job of pointing out biases or inconsistencies in national newspaper reporting in Slate's "Today's Papers," but the fact is that 90% of it is something that occurs to a critical reader while he's reading the paper in question, himself.

I guess the point is that you can think really hard about game writing, but if you do your brain explodes.

Bruce


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 12:55 am:

>My issue is that if there is the potential for conflict, then that is as much of an issue as the conflict itself.

There's no doubt that "apprehension of bias" is bad and, as you suggested, publications should avoid situations where it is created, but it's not as serious an issue as actual bias.

It may not be possible to avoid having preconceptions of a title/developer because of prior experiences/relationships, but I do still think it's possible to review a game without allowing those preconceptions or biases to influence you in any material way.

At some level the reviews can be judged on their own merits -- I think it's apparent, almost immediately, when a reviewer is letting his or her biases unduly influence the subjective opinions that form the basis for his/her reviews -- and those reviews lose credibility within the industry pretty quickly.

-- Bit of a segue: even though film reviewers interact differently with the creators of the products they review (as others here have stated), I think most film reviews are terrible. Although movie reviews are frequently better written than gaming reviews, film reviewers routinely seem driven to espouse particular perspectives or agendas of hostility.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Supertanker on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 01:01 am:

What bothered me about Mulligan's column was her assumption that all game writers are unable to resist the "unwritten quid pro quo." It reminds me of a saying I heard attributed to Willie Brown (former Speaker of the California Assembly, now Mayor of San Francisco) on the effect of lobbyists: "If you can't come here, drink their liquor, eat their food, and then still vote against them, you don't belong here." Similarly, I expect professional writers can take the junkets, eat the food, drink the beer, and write a savage review if the game warrants it. It is the same thing I expect out of any other specialty magazine. If a particular writer breaks that trust ("I forgot I wrote the strategy guide and the only positive review."), then I will remember that when I read any other reviews from them.

Her assumption doesn't even pass a facial test. If all it takes is free stuff to sway a review, why is there ever a negative one? Why didn't Swamp Buggy Racing win at least one Editor's Choice?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Brad Grenz on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 01:31 am:

I've just got to pop in and say I agree with Mr. Geryk here. At some point you've got to see that maybe the writing isn't the problem, maybe it's the reader. I think Ron's expectations are simply unrealistic. Striving for objectivity is an admirable thing for any form of journalism, but this stuff, and criticism especially, is not an exact science. You can't approach a review like a double-blind study. A person's viewpoint, expiriences and even biases are important, they are not liabilities. I don't want my reviews coming from somebody who is playing their very first game. I demand somebody with a frame of reference. It's like they tell you when you go to jury duty, as a juror your personal opinions, biases and expiriences SHOULD be used to help you make your decision. That's what the whole jury system is about. And that's how reviews should be too. If they can't tell me some new FPS is better then Blood 2 or worse then Half-Life, what good does that do me?

When you're reading coverage and you've turned the experience into a wild goose chase (or alternately, a scavenger hunt) for possible and "percieved" conflicts of interest, you're the problem. We're dealing with people here. Writers have preferences, ideosynchrosis, foibles, personal relationships, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they're giving me their honest opinion. If a particular writer's work seems completely out of line with popular opinion, that doesn't mean they're dirty. Maybe they're just fucked up. Check the byline and rememebr to discount their opinion in the future. Christ, whatshisname over at shacknews.com gives little movie reviews sometimes on the weekends and he literally gives every movie he sees an 8.X out of 10. Clearly this guy shouldn't be a film critic, but I don't think he's on his local cineplex's pay roll. He probably just likes to feel good about the money he spends for a ticket.

But again, I don't think any of this stuff is specific to the games industry. I think it's silly to single out gaming, these issues are universal. Like the example given above someone might get buddy-buddy with an actor and then have to give a bad review of something they're in. Someone might have been covering an election and really gotten to like a particular politician personally while covering their campaign, but then has to write an article about some underhanded tactics being used as part of their campign. What's so different about a writer getting to know a level designer while covering their current game?

Brad Grenz


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 05:35 am:

Geryk: "I hope the implication isn't that because I think that it's "just games" that I feel free to trash games for no reason or give good reviews to bad games."

Not at all. I was agreeing with you. It's important to realize that what we are covering is almost incalculably unimportant in the big scheme of things. At the same time, it's important to take any sort of consumer-oriented writing seriously to some degree.

Bub: "I'd like to add that Dulin's assertion can work the other way..."

Thanks for clearly saying what I was seemingly unable to.

Grenz: "I think Ron's expectations are simply unrealistic."

My expectations are only that editors attempt to define the limits of potential bias and avoid it. To whit:

Steve: "And we actually make an effort, when possible, not to assign the writer of the preview the review, feeling they're too close to the product at that point."

We had a similar policy at GS when I was exec ed. (I believe they still do).

None of what I was saying was hard and fast, and I don't think there are any black and whites when it comes to this issue.

However, I think it's important that writers - and, more importantly, editors - for any consumer-oriented publication are constantly aware of the potential for bias. I'm not advocating that every review be written by someone who has never played a game before. My original post was taking issue with a post that said tight relationships with game companies had never been a problem - a view specifically expressed by one editor in one post, but shared by many in frequent conversations I have had over the years.

The lines are blurry, and it's unrealistic to say that they aren't.

-Ron


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - 10:06 am:

If I may: I have spent far more time outside this industry than inside -- if, indeed, I could even call my "inside" now. (That's a different argument, though.) I've read lots of magazines all along, had a few subscriptions, picked more up off the stands. It never occurred to me until I started hanging out here that such a problem could exist. So, in terms of "potential bias," I'd have to say that it probably isn't an issue to the "general gaming public," meaning people who play games a lot, read a decent number of reviews, but are not, themselves, "inside" the industry. Most of them have probably never even thought about the fact that most of the people who review games got those games for free, and probably don't realize how previews are written. As I said, these are things I never even bothered to think about until recently. I don't think the general gaming public thinks about them, either.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Brian Rucker on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - 08:47 am:

I'm another outsider. Just a regular guy who likes his games. And potential conflict of interest had occured to me but I never dwelled on my suspicions because I couldn't prove them and as, others point out, any engaged consumer will read different reviews and evaluate both reviews and products on the basis of the spread. It's easy to suspect foul play when you're ignorant of the facts and dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. It's not always true.

My particular angle, and I won't pretend to be speaking for anyone but myself, is that most of the best games are ancient history. Civ II, Falcon 4.0, Daggerfall, X-Com (back when that meant something) and I could go on. These may not have been originators of their genres but they do, in my mind, represent high water marks in critical areas of gameplay and immersion.

Once in a very blue moon you'll get a Europa Universalis or a Combat Mission that genuinely breaks new ground in an enjoyable way but these important games tend to get lost in the commercial jibber-jabber about the latest top dollar title from some four-color back-cover publisher.

I'm not in the business but I wouldn't mind seeing a couple things. A) Standards or at least an organized theory of analysis. Once you have one everyone will at least have a common standard to complain about and rebel against when designing thier own systems. B) A Brill's Content of Gaming Journalism site? Not a bad idea. Not because I can't figure it out for myself but because, like (A) it will create a forum for debate and exposure of ideas. A common reference point. C) A noncommercial site that holds up standards of real, exclusive not inclusive, excellence in game design and keeps a comprehensive listing of such games, and explanations for why they rank, available.

Anyhow, back to my spot in the bleachers.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Weinstein on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - 01:22 pm:

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not this is a problem in game coverage, there is a really stark version of this issue going on in New York right now.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/14/nyregion/14PAPE.html

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce Geryk on Thursday, June 14, 2001 - 05:27 pm:

That's an excellent article. I missed that in the paper today.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jessica M on Friday, June 15, 2001 - 01:29 pm:

Just wanted to check in and let you know I haven't been ignoring this thread, per se; it has just been a wild couple weeks and next week I'm on the road for five days. Time, she be a'lacking.

Also, a head's up that I'll be contacting some of you via email in a week or so for permission to use your comments in an upcoming column. Every once in while, I use the column to publish a "Hey, these guys think I'm a bonehead, and here's why they think so, in their own words" view. Note that I do not use this for refutation, but simply to get an alternate view out there for the readers to see and evaluate.

-Jess


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, June 15, 2001 - 01:47 pm:

Please be sure and let us, here, know when that goes up. I'd be interested in reading it. I'm sure many others would, too, seeing as some people will have quotes in there.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By JessicaM on Saturday, June 16, 2001 - 12:43 pm:

Michael,

I'll do so. It's likely to be about month; there is just too much to do in the meantime.

Best,

Jess


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Aszurom on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 01:15 am:

And now a word from our sponsor

"freelancers turn in a rating, and the CGW editors discuss the ratings in a meeting to make sure the rating makes sense in terms of consistency with the article and consistency with the magazine. (...) I obviously prefer the way that CGM/CGO handles it, which is that the rating you turn in is the rating."

I've got a couple of points here.

1. It's 1/4 what publication the review appears in, and 3/4 the name on the byline. I've heard occasionally "that bastard ______ reworded my article and changed my whole point in the conclusion" and "I turned in a 6.5/10 and they made it a 9/10 WTF?!" However, these incidents are the rare exception and by no means the rule.

After a while as an avid reader of game pubs, I had an epiphany... I started looking at the bylines and lo-n-behold, a pattern was revealed to me. I'm at the point now where if you told me reviewer X is going to write about game Y, I could psychically predict the score it's going to get. (to that end, I registered gamepsychic.com, but that's a whole 'nuther story)

Point being: You can't target a publication for criticism without taking bylines into account. It does seem, however, that certain publications have a MUCH better stable of writers than others. Personally, I respect CGM, CGW, and Gamesdomain for that. On the opposite pole, anything from Imagine has to work to impress me - but if Ben Sones went over there it wouldn't instantly cause his articles to be cheese either. It's the writer, not the rag.

I really wish that someone would do more with the identity of their staff than a cartoonish bio blurb. Siskel and Ebert were Siskel and Ebert... not "Some guy from the Sun and another guy from the Tribune" (or wherever they worked). Similarly, I know that whenever I see Erik Wolpaw on anything, that it's going to be honest, readable, and probably contain some esoteric rudeness that I'll find amusing. So, I'd much rather see the article billed as "RUNE, reviewed by Erik... pg 40." than "RUNE review ... pg 40."

Why do I blow $8 on an issue of CGW? Mainly because Gordon makes me feel guilty for not reading his "flight sims are dead" column if I miss it.

2. "Make sure the rating makes sense..."

Ok, I can see that it's a good thing to make sure that the reviewer understands that "well, in our magazine 70% is actually good, like an 85% in PC Gamer terms" or whatever. The problem here is that there is no possible way to set a standard, because there's no means of comparison. If I give game X 100% and then a much better game comes along, I can't give it 110% can I? Yet it's the new standard by which following titles will be judged, so it shifts the scale. A review score is some magic floating number.

I suggest the following standard for ALL publications, which will at long last unify the % and star-based rating systems:

A 95%+ ***** : The new standard by which I'll judge all future games in the genre. Perfecto! This is what I show my buddies when they come over. Hell, I call 'em to come over to see it.

B 85%+ **** : Equal or slightly less than the last game we gave a 5-star to. I'll probably play this game a good while after the review is turned in, because I get off on it. I suggested to my buddies that they should pick it up.

C 75%+ *** : You'll play it a few weeks, maybe finish it if you're determined. As for this reviewer, I might play it again if there's time and nothing new comes out. Initially I thought it was great, but realized it was average after a week or two. (cough... Black&White... cough)

D 65%+ ** : I got bored with this game fast, and you will too. Maybe it even pissed me off some. Once I turned in my review, I uninstalled it and shelved it. I didn't hate it, but it's just not worth my time when there's **** and better stuff on my desk.

F 60%- * : I swore I'd chew my goddamn foot off to get out of writing this review. Every time I was supposed to be working on this article, I was playing something else just to avoid it. Hell, I took up rock climbing and alligator wrestling just so I'd have something else to do. I told my editor the dog ate it, that's why it's late. Not only did I uninstall it, I gave the cd to that kid who used to beat me up in school - hopefully it'll hurt him plenty.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 03:58 am:

Here's a modest proposal for you-- I say we do away with all ratings.

Just read the damn review and decide for yourself what the reviewer thought of the game. 3 stars? 67/100? 85%? What's the difference?

The real challenge is mapping your preferences to the reviewer's. I don't think a rating helps on that front at all. It's so arbitrary.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Aszurom on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 05:05 am:

Not really... and that's why I started paying close attention to who wrote what.

The reason, good or no, that pubs have ratings is because people can't be bothered to exercise reading comprehension. That and readers seem to want a concrete statistic, rather than something they can interpret meaning for themselves.

I dislike ratings, but for an entirely different reason... I've noticed that it's the kiss of death to hand something an average rating. Why? Because when someone's flipping through a magazine and they see a 3-star rating they assume "average game, nothing to read about here" and move on. Now, if you promise them entertainment by gushing endlessly about a 5-star dreamboat title, or disembowling a 1-star turd, they'll stick around long enough to at least begin to read your stuff. At the least, they'll read the paragraph closest to where the rating appears on the page, be it first or last.

For the most part, people avidly read preview content... which oddly, has no rating. I think 90% of the people who read reviews already own the game anyway, they just want to see if I agreed with their opinion of the game. I've never gotten fanmail from someone who didn't have the game in question, for example. Why can't I get email from hot gamer girls who want to give themselves to me solely based on the quality of my prose? Tom gets that shit all the time, pisses me off.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By TomChick on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 05:11 am:

"Why can't I get email from hot gamer girls who want to give themselves to me solely based on the quality of my prose? Tom gets that shit all the time, pisses me off."

I presume you mean Tom Ohle, because the only eXtreme email I ever got was a death threat for my Deus Ex review.

-Tom


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Aszurom on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 06:19 am:

Yeah, but I sent that, so it doesn't count


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Sunday, June 17, 2001 - 07:15 pm:

"I dislike ratings, but for an entirely different reason... I've noticed that it's the kiss of death to hand something an average rating."

I don't think it's a different reason at all. It's the same reason. Ratings interfere with the review. If we must have a 'rating', then I say go with a basic thumbs up or thumbs down. That forces the reader to actually scan the text if they want more detail.

And, in the end, isn't every game either a thumbs up or thumbs down? It's always a personal preference.

"the only eXtreme email I ever got was a death threat for my Deus Ex review."

Yeah, I remember my first internet death threat. Those were the good old days.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Scott Udell (Scott) on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 12:37 am:

I'd like to do away with ratings myself. I remember when we added them at Strat Plus/CGM (it was largely done at reader and advertiser request, although there was, as I recall, a sizeable group of readers--perhaps growing over time--who wouldn't mind losing them).


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 11:55 am:

There's never been a "sizable" group of readers who want to lose ratings. It comes up maybe once a year, or less, from readers. In fact, I can't remember the last time a reader contacted the magazine asking for ratings to be removed. It doesn't happen. The only time it comes up is on message boards like this, where you have a considerably more sophisticated gamer (well, mostly) who consults more sources, who has a better idea of what he or she likes, blah blah blah.

People like ratings. It gives a simple, at-a-glance summary and allows you to easily compare product A to product B.

It also gives you something to bitch and moan about. Does anyone discuss Games Domain reviews, aside from those written about Deus Ex by Tom Chick? Nope, because the starting point for almost any discussion of a review is the rating, not the specific points contained therein. If you just made those points minus the rating, no one would even think twice about them.

Hell, I like ratings. I like trying to distill an entire article into a rating, and an upside/downside. These are fun writing challenges, just like writing 100 word reviews, or those little 60-second reviews here (or whatever they're called). I bet those are fun to write.

But ratings also do have an upside. They make you think of the entire review, how it's balanced, and whether it make the points you want to make and properly reflects your overall opinion of the game. If you think a game is a 4-star game you need to make sure your text matches that rating, that the criticisms and praises are properly balanced to fit that rating. You can't, or shouldn't, spend 90% of your text slamming the game but then 10% telling that, "despite all of this, it's just incredibly fun"... which is something you see with many reviews. With a pure text review without ratings, it's a lot easier to do this kind of thing, and could end up giving the reader the wrong impression of your opinion of the game.

And remember kids, ratings are meaningless without the context provided by the text. It's a package deal. Those who would criticize ratings seem to lose track of that.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Scott Udell (Scott) on Monday, June 18, 2001 - 02:21 pm:

"There's never been a "sizable" group of readers who want to lose ratings. "

Hmm, I thought that there was. Maybe I'm just thinking of the initial comments when the change was made (and those, of course, wouldn't have been a scientific sampling). Didn't one of the surveys some time back show some resistance to/dilike of (not widespread, but enough to be noticed) to scores? I can obviously say nothing about current feedback as I'm no longer at the mag.

"Hell, I like ratings. "

That's not what you said back when we made the chage! You said it was mostly a reponse to readers/advertisers.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - 11:21 am:

>>Didn't one of the surveys some time back show some resistance to/dilike of (not widespread, but enough to be noticed) to scores?

I don't think we've ever had such a survey.

>>That's not what you said back when we made the chage! You said it was mostly a reponse to readers/advertisers.

Yeah, I was resistant, but then again I never thought I'd enjoy writing shorter, more concise reviews.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - 01:24 pm:

"Yeah, I was resistant, but then again I never thought I'd enjoy writing shorter, more concise reviews."

I'll second that.
In the course of my "involuntary career readjustment" I've been doing a lot of 150-250 word movie and television reviews. Also a lot of preview/product blurbs for the GameBoy Advance, news releases, tech etc.,. Lots of blurbs, basically. It forces you to self-edit and trim, which is really good for a writer (and often really hard to do).

To that end I bought Pauline Kael's "5001 Nights at the Movies", which is a wonderful primer on how to say an awful lot, well, in a tight space.

Though, for games, I *much* prefer doing 500-1000 words. Especially if the game is bad. I sometimes think bad reviews should be longer on principle.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - 02:12 pm:

I think the value of learning to write a good, very short review is more than just learning to say things in a more concise manner (although that is certainly a skill I need to further develop!) What I believe is the most valuable lesson in writing a very short (100 - 200 words) review is learning how to capture the essence of the game and communicate it well to the reader. A lot of us too easily fall into the rut of listing all of a game's features and commenting on how well or poorly they work and pat ourselves on the back on a review well done. But the best reviews somehow find a way to articulate the heart and soul of a game, as touchy-feely as that sounds.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Tuesday, June 19, 2001 - 04:24 pm:

That's exactly it, Jeff. I think writers too often feel obligated to avoid "leaving something out," perhaps because online critics (in Usenet, or wherever) can be so anal. "He didn't mention THIS, so obviously he didn't really play the game." Maybe. Or maybe he just didn't think it was relevant.

Catering to that mindset gives you reviews that reads like a checklist:

"The solo game is blah blah blah."
"The graphics are blah blah blah."
"The multiplayer is blah blah blah."

I prefer reviews that focus on what's relevant and sum up the game experience in a meaningful way. If the graphics didn't really leave any impression in your mind (good OR bad), then why talk about them in your review? I can see what the game looks like from the screenshots. If a game has multiplayer but you don't think that feature is particularly noteworthy, then don't waste 200 words talking about it.

Writing short forces you to think about these things, because you simply don't have the room to do the standard checklist in 300 words (which is what our half-page reviews run, more or less). And I've seen some half-page reviews that left me with a better idea of what Game X is all about than other one (or two) page reviews.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - 02:57 am:

> prefer reviews that focus on what's relevant and sum up the game experience in a meaningful way.

I don't see how that's inconsistent with being thorough, and providing an overview of the key points that'll help potential purchasers to make an informed decision about whether or not to grab a game.

A review should absolutely emphasize the reviewer's primary impressions of a game, first and foremost -- when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, what's this game about and how does it deliver? But unless you're limited to 100 words or so, you should also be able to summarize other aspects of the game that may be material to potential purchasers. And you should clearly, at least, cover points relevant to the game's primary audiences.

Taking Quake 3 as an example -- a reviewer would be negligent, in my opinion, if he or she didn't adequate summarize what the multiplayer features are like, since that's the primary focus of the game. But while that's the game's main focus, it's also highly relevant to many potential purchasers whether or not the game is even reasonably playable solely as a single player game.

By the way, Ben -- great D&D article, and preview of Neverwinter. Incidentally, did you get any details (or did you already know any) on the particular incidents that resulted in Gygax's departure? Your piece was somewhat vague on that point -- Gygax e-mailed me a few years ago and we chatted on this point, and the impression I got was that he blew a buy-sell provision in the TSR shareholders' agreement because he misunderstood the implications. I'm a huge Gygax fan, so I'm pretty bummed that he ended up leaving TSR when he did.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Wednesday, June 20, 2001 - 09:48 am:

"Taking Quake 3 as an example -- a reviewer would be negligent, in my opinion, if he or she didn't adequate summarize what the multiplayer features are like, since that's the primary focus of the game."

Absolutely. In fact, I'd expect the multiplayer features to be one of the main focal points in a review of Quake III. But in a game in which multiplayer features are not the main attraction, I'd expect a review to devote less space (a passing mention, perhaps, if multiplayer is really not important to the experience).

The trick is to determine which aspects of a given game are relevant to the experience of playing it, and write the review around that. "Checklist" reviews tend to devote roughly equal space to a host of features that have little bearing on the writer's opinion of the game, and that makes for a unfocused and unforceful review.

Re: the D&D thing--thanks. It was a lot of fun to write (a lot of work too, but fun work). When I talked to him, Gygax was convinced that he was in the right about the legality (or rather, the illegality) of that share transfer, although I'd take that with a grain of salt since the court obviously disagreed.

Gygax strikes me as a really nice guy, but he likes to talk up a storm (good for interviews) and he exaggerates a lot. The number of Blume relatives that were on the company payroll grew over the course of our conversation, for instance. I ended up going with the lowest number that he gave me, and kept it int he context of a quote by Gygax (since I really have no way of confirming it). Still, the interviews with Gygax and Dave Arneson taught me a lot of stuff about the history of the game that I never knew.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By JessicaM on Monday, July 16, 2001 - 01:08 pm:

Okey dokey... the column with responses to the Potlach column has been submitted, including several, used with permission of the authors, from this thread.

The normal schedule would be for the column to go live on Skotos (http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html) at 3pm PST tomorrow (Tuesday).

Regards,

Jess


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Monday, July 16, 2001 - 10:37 pm:

From Jessica Mulligan's 7/3 column, describing the reaction to her "ethics" column:

"Professional game reviewers, industry commentators and magazine/web site publishers, however, had a somewhat different view, bordering between a simple 'You're wrong.' to stronger language. Understandable; I was pretty bold with my assertions."

At least judging by the thread here at Qt3, this statement is misleading. The majority of the posts criticized the column for being filled with speculation and finger-pointing without one iota of concrete or even circumstatial evidence to back it up. Perhaps that's the "stronger language" she's referring to, but it's ridiculous for her to boast that this criticism was in response to her "bold assertions."

As if to prove these criticisms, she writes that she got many supportive emails:

"The email that came in was a bit more mixed, with some correspondents reacting with 'I knew it! Why else would Game X get such glowing previews and reviews, when the game was the biggest stinker since Outpost?'"

Game X? Come on.

This subject was done before, and better, by David Israels. Yes, I'm bringing his story up again. For all the faults in his "Perils of Playola" stories, at least he did some research and backed up his arguments.

I'll be interested to read Mulligan's follow-up article tomorrow.

-Ron

Perils of Playola, pt. 1
Perils of Playola, pt. 2


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Monday, July 16, 2001 - 10:42 pm:

"Game X? Come on."

Exactly. Name the game. What game got great reviews that really is a stinker? I can't think of a single one outside of Outpost, and PC Gamer admitted that was a mistake.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Gorf on Tuesday, July 17, 2001 - 02:53 pm:

Jessica made more sense when she was Rick, that's for sure.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, July 17, 2001 - 03:28 pm:

Maybe so Gorf, but that's irrelevant. Let's not bring the argument down there.

She's wrong and we've demonstrated that. The fact that her readers wrote in saying "I knew it!" only demonstrates how bad her influence is in this case, and how paranoid some of her readers are... while the fact that she seems proud of her "bold assertions" demonstrates how shoddy her ethics actually are.

You simply can't make a blanket assertion that reviewers are on the take and not provide proof. Even in an editorial. That's muck raking and shoddy journalism. Nothing else matters.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By JessicaM on Tuesday, July 17, 2001 - 09:57 pm:

Normally the columns go up on Tuesdays at Skotos, but it doesn't seem to have made it today. I've sent an email in to the editor to see what is going on.

My apologies for the delay. As for the follow-up, it isn't a rebuttal to any comment here. Here's a couple parts of the preface as a teaser:

"One thing that tends to irritate me about the press is how some reporters and columnists use their publishing power to get the last word in a patently unfair manner."

and

"So below, I present some criticisms and other views of my June 5th column, Potlatching Your Way To Riches (http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html), without comment or rebuttal. Some of these comments came by way of email; many of these quotes came from a message thread called 'Bite this! Why Mulligan's wrong, wrong, wrong in her latest column' at the Quarter To Three (http://quartertothree.com/boards/) game news and comment site. This was also the title of veteran game reviewer and columnist Mark Asher’s rebuttal column to ‘Potlatch.’ Qt3 is frequented by many game reviewers and commentators."

Just to note, I asked permission to use all comments.

Gorf, do I know you? If so, feel free to drop me a line.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 11:51 am:

It's up.

http://www.skotos.net/articles/BTH_05.html


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By JessicaM on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 11:53 am:

The column is now up at http://www.skotos.net/articles/bth.html


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 12:07 pm:

Well, I'm glad to see that people here got the last word on the subject, but I'm not happy with this response.

Jessica didn't retract or even modify her "blatently obvious(ly)" wrong accusations.

At least an acknowledgement that she didn't even have anecdotal evidence to her audience would have been appropriate. Much less a Deep Throat spilling the "payola" beans.

Now, if you'll excuse me Microsoft just bought me a hot tub and I have to sign for it. As a side note, isn't the Xbox totally rad?

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason Levine on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 02:17 pm:

OK, so what are we to make of Dune: Emperor scoring an 89% from PC Gamer? =)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 02:22 pm:

Heh,
A reviewer with poor taste? (I dunno, I've never played Dune Emperor, I've actually heard mostly good things though...)

But "a critic with poor taste" is the intelligent way to take any review. I just don't understand the people who immediately see a consipiracy whenever they see soemthing that disagrees with their view.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 02:26 pm:

Dune getting an 89% surprised me. That does seem high. I did enjoy the game, but there are too many problems to warrant that kind of score, at least in my mind.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason Levine on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 02:31 pm:

Joking aside, I don't think it's a BAD game either. It's just the SAME game Westwood has been making for the last 7 years or so with a graphical facelift.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 02:42 pm:

Outlying points don't make a trend. I think most of us have had a review or two that we just blew - no graft, no special relationship with a developer, just for some reason our rating of the program was "wrong." Sometimes it's wrong without the quote marks: for whatever reason, you miss something or things that should have dropped the rating significantly. Sometimes it's "wrong" in that we actually like a game that, in retrospect, is a crappy game. I think it's very rare for experienced reviewers, and particularly reviewers experienced in the genre being reviewed, but sometimes someone just honestly misses the mark.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 04:08 pm:

Exactly Jeff,
It shouldn't happen, but it does happen. It's human.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 08:32 pm:

About Emperor (damn, I can't come up with a good abbreviation for it), I think it comes back to the whole issue of "give the people what they want." Why should Westwood change the formula if that's what sells? The NPD Intellect numbers indicate it hit top 20 for June. *Someone* is playing the game.

On the outlying data point issue, part of the problem is that there are just too few data points. You've got, what, three major print mags (CGM, PCG, CGW)? Fine, throw in a couple big game sites and you've got maybe six datapoints. Woot. Makes it hard to chuck outliers, but it's wholly subjective anyhow. We're talking high variance, and damn if the readers don't know it's subjective. While I agree that reviewer tilt shouldn't matter, I subconsciously remember that Tom Chick liked Sacrifice and didn't like Deus Ex.

- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 09:15 pm:

Well, in my years of reading PC Gamer, I've always found their scores "inflated" compared to the other rags. That's their calling card. Their writers have always loved flash above all else. Emperor: Dune has flash and a lot of standard gameplay so it fits their bill.

I mean really, how many people are still subscribing to PC Gamer that aren't past that phase of gaming yet? I dropped my sub over a year ago due to their wimpy editorial and before release reviews. Look at their staff, in particular the editor-in-chief. He's a former UK games magazine guy. What are UK mags well known for? Reviews of games three months before completion and a lot of sensationalism to sell magazines. No one could convince me that this hasn't carried over to the US mag now given who's in charge. Their Diablo II review confirmed a change in editorial policy a long time ago.

Either way, without asking whoever wrote the review specifically if he was swayed by some outside force, you can only say he's a moron and gave the game a review you disagree with. With no proof, there is no guilt.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BruceR on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 10:51 pm:

"Well, in my years of reading PC Gamer, I've always found their scores "inflated"...

It's a little more than anecdotal in that case.

BruceR


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Lee Johnson (Lee_johnson) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 09:42 am:

Hmmm... Emperor... I was really looking forward to this game, and the teaser gameplay movies they released for it during development looked great. Now, having spent some time playing it on the LAN with a friend, and a shorter period of time in the Atreides campaign, I find myself thinking that Red Alert 2 was more fun to play.

I agree with the assessment that it's more of the same from Westwood; I'd feel happier with the game if it performed better. It's barely OK on my Athlon 900/GeForce 2 rig, but it chugs on my wife's Pentium III 550, for crying out loud. The 3-D graphics in Emperor are pure chrome as far as I'm concerned, and aren't worth the hefty system requirements they incur. Also, the game seems to suffer from a bizarre problem of scale. I don't know how to explain it, except to say that all of the buildings and units feel way too big for the maps they inhabit.

If you already have RA2 and don't have any sentimental attachment to the Dune license, I'd recommend keeping your wallet in your pocket. Come to think of it, I already gave Dave that advice last month. :-)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BobM on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 11:41 am:

"About Emperor (damn, I can't come up with a good abbreviation for it)"

Full title: Emperor: Battle for Dune
Abbreviation: EB4D


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 01:52 pm:

I worked for PCGamer for two years and did around 10 reviews in that time. Nobody ever "inflated" my scores.

I'm not saying David is wrong here, only that he's noting an average over the course of all reviews rather than some shadowy mandate (that I'm aware of).

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 02:16 pm:


Quote:

Full title: Emperor: Battle for Dune
Abbreviation: EB4D



Yeah, okay, I was trying to steer clear of the E:BFD abbreviation. <heh>

- Alan
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 02:32 pm:

Yeah... I actually was noting that you can't specify that there's foul play there (or even really infer it) just by looking at all their reviews in some time frame. All that shows is that they tend to review toward the top of the scale. It says nothing about the editorial policy.

What I AM noting is that the editor-in-chief today comes from a background in game magazines that makes me suspicious of their reviews being of finished products. All I've ever read myself in UK mags and all I've ever heard from readers of them is their distaste with the "review the beta" policies. Put a guy in charge who instituted policy in the UK and now does so in the US and well... 2 + 2 = 4. But once you know this, you can decide whether the mag means anything to you or not. In my case, I'm no longer a paying subscriber or buying it off the newsstand. My dollar speaks for me. I pay money for CGW. (BTW, why is it no one from PC Gamer ever shows up in any discussions on the web? Is there a gag order?)

Either way, my suspicions are my own and unless someone shows me absolute proof that someone is tweaking scores at PC Gamer (or they're being asked to grade kindly due to marketing/advertising concerns), then it's just me and my own opinion based on reading the magazine and nothing else.

...and frankly Bruce, writing an article about print gaming magazines for a large gaming website who competes with print doesn't carry any weight in my eyes either. You could have sent me a link to Dictionary.com and it would have been just as relevant. You guys at Avault are very good at tweaking your readers to be suspicious of everyone but you. Why didn't you also include your own advertising/editorial policies in that article or do a follow up on how web sites have the same problems. Avault reviews are typically quite high across the board (and sometimes WAY off the mark). Should we be suspecting something of you too?

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BruceR on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 04:30 pm:

Dave, a graph's a graph, man. (And I don't work for AVault currently, check the email link). And in the survey time I gave, their scores were above the mean of the other two mags by a statistically significant margin.

That may have been because they're optimists about the gaming industry. That may be because they don't like to say bad stuff about people. Or it could be because they were leading everyone else in total advertising dollars at the time and didn't want to mess things up. We only offered facts, not conclusions.

Websites don't criticize websites for the same reasons that PCGamer doesn't criticize CG or CGW, and for the same reason a game magazine owned by Sierra wouldn't be highly respected. It's ALL conflict of interest. But yes, everyone should have a watchdog, websites included.

Personally I've always found it fascinating how reviewers always bridle when someone reviews them... whether the basis of their criticism is satirical (Chet), philosophical (Jess) or statistical (um, me.)

And while I'm burning my bridges here, "J." is right. Any employee of a magazine that sold their cover placement for filthy lucre should just STFU, right now. It doesn't matter if other members of the yellow press do it: it's still completely and utterly wrong, and would have a tangible impact on public respect were it to become widely known. Once you've crossed that line... well, that old Shaw v. Lady Astor anecdote says it better than I could.

BruceR


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 04:45 pm:

So,
did they fire you before or after the "3 month trial" was up, Bruce?

Also, Jess' argument wasn't philosophical. It was unfounded. And you bringing up your statistics during an argument about whether or not a magazine's high scores are "bought", as you just did, implies you've reached a conclusion even if your article did not.

The fact remains that freelancers scores aren't influenced editorially at PCGamer (or CGM - I can't vouch for other outlets). Your stats might stem from PCGamer's editorial team (maybe games are scored in a round table, I wouldn't know). Or from the way 10 point scales tend to work. There's something easier about give a 2 of 5 than giving a 40%. Don't know why that is exactly.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 05:51 pm:

>>Personally I've always found it fascinating how reviewers always bridle when someone reviews them... whether the basis of their criticism is satirical (Chet), philosophical (Jess) or statistical (um, me.)

Or alternately they are merely criticizing the critic of the critic for having flawed methodology (you) or, as Bub said, one that's unfounded and ultimately as meaningful as someone writing an editorial saying, "There are politicians out there who ACCEPT BRIBES!"


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 06:20 pm:

"Websites don't criticize websites for the same reasons that PCGamer doesn't criticize CG or CGW"

PCG, CGW, and CG also don't print criticisms of reviewing web sites, so I don't think that logic holds.

When you take three sets of data, as in the case of three mags, on something as subjective as game reviews, the odds are that the threee data sets will have quite a bit of variance. I'm not sure how significant it is. If you had plotted 20 magazines and 19 were all pretty much within error bars of each other and one was way out of whack, you might have something significant.

I think Bub may be on the nose, however, in this caes. If you're trying to assign cause and effect to a set of data, you need to take into account all the variables and try to figure out what's the most significant. I think that since CG and CGW share a 5 star rating system and have approximately the same range of scores, and PCG has a 100 point system that has a line with significant variance from the other two when you try to convert it, the most obvious conclusion is that your conversion method is not appropriate. I'd bet that people look at a three star review differently than they do a score of 60%, and I would imagine that a reviewer who gives a game 3 stars would give it a higher score than 60%.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce_Geryk (Bruce) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 08:29 pm:


Quote:

Dave, a graph's a graph, man.




I don't mean to be a jerk, but that's just about the most innumerate statement I've ever read.


Quote:

Personally I've always found it fascinating how reviewers always bridle when someone reviews them... whether the basis of their criticism is satirical (Chet), philosophical (Jess) or statistical (um, me.)




Again, not to be a jerk, but I think you need to learn basic elements of statistics before you can claim that your criticism is in any way statistical.

As Andrew and Jeff pointed out, your methodology is severely flawed. Jeff's comment that

Quote:

If you're trying to assign cause and effect to a set of data, you need to take into account all the variables and try to figure out what's the most significant. I think that since CG and CGW share a 5 star rating system and have approximately the same range of scores, and PCG has a 100 point system that has a line with significant variance from the other two when you try to convert it, the most obvious conclusion is that your conversion method is not appropriate.




is an elementary flaw you seem to not have thought significant. And if you're going to even try to claim you're comparing statistically similar samples, you'd have to eliminate any game that wasn't reviewed by all three magazines. And so on.

For the third time, I don't mean this to be insulting. But statements like this (from your article) make me wonder if you gave any thought whatsoever to the interpretation of your data:

"Where the reviews are not the same is in the ratings. Compared to the other two magazines, PC Gamer gives significantly more positive ratings overall. The median rating for both Computer Games and CGW is 3.5 stars out of 5. The same middle-of-the-road game in PC Gamer, however, would get a "75 percent" rating, going by the median score (see graph). One can debate if the average piece of work in the game industry really deserves that high a mark. What isn't debatable is that more of PC Gamer's reviews are gathered at the higher end of their scoring range. One wonders if this more positive view of the industry isn't having some effect on the magazine's ability to get and keep its advertisers."

Since there has been a debate all along about whether a 1-100% score skews towards the high end because both reviewers and readers equate it with a school grading system where 75% is average and 50% is failing, an alternate interpretation is that there is NO difference between the scoring systems, as long as you assume that any score under 50% is an "F". In fact, you may have inadvertently shown that 1-100% scoring systems really do work out (in practice) to be analogous to school grading systems, no matter how much the publications that use them try to assert otherwise. But the fact that you just blithely accept a 75% score as a "high mark" suggests to me that you really didn't think about this all that hard, or are basically innumerate, or both.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 09:20 pm:

For anyone not familiar with the term (like me until just now):

Innumerate.

Main Entry: in·nu·mer·ate
Pronunciation: -r&t
Function: adjective
Date: 1959
: marked by an ignorance of mathematics and the scientific approach
- in·nu·mer·a·cy /-r&-sE/ noun
- innumerate noun

-Andrew
PS: Ouch!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By timelhajj on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 11:33 pm:

Ouch, indeed. I had to look it up, too. While I was there, I got another.

skewered

tr.v. skew·ered, skew·er·ing, skew·ers
To hold together or pierce with or as if with a skewer.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By David E. Hunt (Davidcpa) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 01:02 am:


Quote:

(BTW, why is it no one from PC Gamer ever shows up in any discussions on the web? Is there a gag order?)




Uh...Someone named William "Billy" Harms posted on another thread on Q23 today. If he is who he says he is, he could probably answer that question as I believe he is currently freelancing for PC Gamer (and a former editor there) since gamecenter.com went down. I also believe he reviewed the Dune game (89%) mentioned earlier in the thread.

-DavidCPA
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BruceR on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 05:11 pm:

The data for shared reviews had little to differentiate it, and the data set as a whole was smaller. I'd be happy to send anyone the entire data file that it was based on... several people in the industry have already asked for it.

In this case, that data was merely offered as supporting evidence that PC Gamer "grades on the curve." That point seemingly has been accepted... the question of debate then is whether the reason for that is some timidity on the reviewers' part (which I concede I suggested), or the adoption by the magazine of a system that encourages belling-up... which could also be seen as timid behaviour, just one step removed. The debate then has nothing to do with methodology qua methodology, rather interpretation. You guys really should keep in the habit of looking up the big words before you use them.

I wish magazines could review websites, if their substantial financial interests in them didn't prevent it. We'll just have to find our own watchdog... although the democracy of discussion boards makes it less imperative than finding one for the mags, in this writer's opinion.

And the answer to your question is "Neither," Andrew. Tell me, have you stopped beating your girlfriend, yet?

BruceR


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 05:32 pm:

"And the answer to your question is "Neither," Andrew. Tell me, have you stopped beating your girlfriend, yet?"

Ha! I totally deserved that.

Let me explain my thinking...
Bruce, you are the fourth person I've met who has left AVault as quickly as they came. Since the other two were fired just after completing their (illegal) unpaid "trial period" I assumed the same thing happened to you. After all, why work for free for three months and then quit on your own?

Now that you know the thinking what led to my rude statement, I wonder why "girlfriend beating" immediately sprang to your mind as a counter example? Something from your past, perhaps?

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Myschyf on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 05:34 pm:

___________________
By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, July 19, 2001 - 04:45 pm:
So,
did they fire you before or after the "3 month trial" was up, Bruce?
___________________

[sarcasm on] Damn! That had to hurt! [sarcasm off]

Bruce was at Avault for about 9 months. He left, under good circumstances, because of time constraints. Lum's has no deadline constraints and many of us have corresponded with Bruce for some time now. Bruce's former employers know about his current writing gig and have wished him well. Is there a problem Bub?

To speak to the topic: I've been reading the arguments here and they are good ones. Reviews and previews are subjective. If one (or more) magazine(s) consistently print good reviews (regardless of actually quality which can't be quantified anyway other than in a net sales type of sense) of games that could mean the editors and reviewers are on the take, it could mean that the editors and reviewers have low standards for good games (or that they are easily pleased), and it could mean that the magazine only reviews games they like (which actually makes a lot of sense to me since my first reaction to a shitty game is to toss it -- not to write a review of it).

Well all know how the print magazine industry works. In MOST (notice I said MOST -- not all!!!) of the genres, say cosmetics for instance, the magazine does a spread on how to apply said cosmetics in conjunction with a 4-5 page advertising spread from a major manufacturer. Of course, women's magazine's don't review cosmetics so perhaps thats a bad example.

In any case I don't think its all that far-fetched to assume, when one sees a magazine giving consistently good reviews to games that other magazines consider sub-par, that a certain someone somewhere got a certain something in return for that review. You all know that this happens. It may not happen in *your* particular instance but it does happen.

In all the time I've written for Lums I've accepted exactly ONE freebie -- a copy of Asheron's Call. I hated the game and have said so many times. At this point I'm loathe to accept any other games or any other type of handouts simply because I want to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That option is open to you. I understand its costly to go to E3 and GDC but many people from the fan sites do it on their own dollar -- there is nothing preventing you from emulating them. So if you want to be squeaky clean you know what you need to do. If you want to accept gifts (games to review, plane tickets, whatever) then get used to people like Jess and Bruce thinking that you are accepting something for something (rather than the nothing that you all are so loudly postulating).

And now that Bruce Rolston, Jessica Mulligan, Myschyf and J have all agreed on something I am going to go hide in the closet because I'm sure that the end of the world is nigh.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 05:50 pm:

Aside: That slam was on Avault actually, not on Bruce.

The problem with Jess and J. and Bruce and Myschyf is that you are all assuming impropriety and THEN looking for it. Why are you assuming PCGamer, CGW, CGM, Gamespot, etc., accept plane tickets to trade shows? The fact is, all of them have a policy where they don't accept that at all.

Tchotchkies and reviewable copies of games are another matter, and I agree there is the "appearance of impropriety" there. But the gap between appearance and fact is a wide one. One that you guys just can't jump.

Myschyf and Bruce, there is NO PROOF in Jessica's ramblings. None. We were all more offended by that fact than her addled conclusions. As Steve indicated, a journalist cannot accuse a politician of corruption and then not prove it. The same applies to her. Funny how Bruce is the one who brought up "yellow journalism".

Now, why are you siding with that kind of thinking? Because you've already judged yourself superior to the professional press and you're hanging onto any scrap of wrong doing you can find.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BruceR on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 05:58 pm:

Nah, Andrew, I just have no way of knowing if you have had a ball-and-chain yet, so the old cliche might not have applied. Hence, "Girlfriend" = safer bet.

And thanks, Mys. Just for the record, it was just over eight months, and I like to think I left David and Brian's shop under excellent terms. If I could have kept writing there and met my other obligations, I would have. David Laprad in particular is one of the best writer/editors in the business, and saying otherwise is fighting words as far as I'm concerned. I'm sorry other people's experiences were less successful, though.

But enough about me. :-) Anyone want to collaborate on an article statistically evaluating the big game websites for fairness? Anyone want to suggest who could publish it? And how does one calculate advertiser impact (counting pages in magazines is much easier)?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Myschyf on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 06:04 pm:

Sorry Andrew but I don't see how I've sided one way or another. What I said was that I didn't find the idea far-fetched given what we all know about the print magazine industry and made a statement about what needed to be done to escape the appearance of impropriety. This is nothing new to you.

Furthermore Jess's column is an editorial. Its about what she thinks. This isn't factual reporting here guys. Not what you do, not what I do, not what Jess does. One man's junk is another man's treasure. You think Diablo stinks I think it rocks. That sort of thing. You want facts? Go read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times (and keep your fingers crossed and read between the lines). Better yet go read a dictionary or encyclopedia. Those books provide facts.

We provide opinions. Jess's opinion is that you guys are, more or less, on the take. Your opinion is that you don't. Personally I don't really give a shit whether you are or aren't as long as you aren't working for me if you are. If I caught you doing it though -- I'd probably write about it. I'd take the moral high ground too.

However, I don't judge myself superior to professional press. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. Its not something I aspire to, but people that can crank out articles in the face of deadlines and day jobs and do it day after day is something I respect. That one article I did with Jessica probably drove her crazy since deadlines (as far as writing goes) don't mean much to me. She forever had to hound me to get my part done.

But see here? Here I am defending Jess and Bruce who are colleagues and co-workers (in a sense) so obviously I'm not impartial. But that's my point -- none of us are. To claim otherwise is silly.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Myschyf on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 06:09 pm:

Oh and as far as accepting plane tix etc. I direct your attention to this post:
http://quartertothree.com/boards/messages/8/447.shtml#POST8617


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bruce_Geryk (Bruce) on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 07:42 pm:


Quote:

The debate then has nothing to do with methodology qua methodology, rather interpretation. You guys really should keep in the habit of looking up the big words before you use them.




If you take a look at that graph, you'll note that you've converted PC Gamer's 1-100 scores to correspond to the 1-5 scores in CGW and CGM. If you don't think that's methodology, then you're the one who needs the dictionary. While you're at it, look up curved grading, since you obviously don't know what that means, either. I don't think you'll find "belling-up" at all.


Quote:

The data for shared reviews had little to differentiate it, and the data set as a whole was smaller.




So you chose a statistically invalid dataset because it was larger? See my previous post about your familiarity with statistics.


Quote:

I'd be happy to send anyone the entire data file that it was based on




Sure, I'd be interested to see it. Please email it to the address above.

As for the analysis of website reviews, an interesting comparison might to look at websites that allow readers to rate games, and then compare those ratings to the official reviews.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 08:10 pm:

"or the adoption by the magazine of a system that encourages belling-up... which could also be seen as timid behaviour, just one step removed."

"The debate then has nothing to do with methodology qua methodology, rather interpretation."

As Bruce commented, it is precisely about methodology. When you step outside of raw data by applying some type of conversion to the data in an attempt to achieve equivilency, then interpret the data based upon your conversion, you're making a significant assumption: that your methodology is valid. Your assumption is that a 3 star review is interepreted by the readers and the writers as the equivilent of a 60% review. If you want to make that conversion, you need to test your methodology: for example, ask a broad cross-section of readers and writers if they believe that a 3 star game is equal to a 60% game, or that a 4 star game is equivilent to an 80% game. I'll be willing to bet your methodology fails at that point.

Bruce's point on the validity of the dataset is also appropriate: in addition to the validity of the conversion factor, you have to be comparing equivilent data and the most valid data would be reviews of the same game. However, I think that point is swamped out by the invalid conversion.

Hey - I write for CGW and CG, so I have no axe to grind by the shot at PCG. I just think that if we go after Jessica for unfounded interpretations, we have to go after everyone we see making claims based on shaky data (although in your defense, at least you USED data. ;) ) And if Bruce and I seem anal about this data stuff, understand we've both spent a major part of our life being trained in the proper and inproper use of data and our day jobs are based on such.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 09:12 pm:

"Furthermore Jess's column is an editorial. Its about what she thinks. This isn't factual reporting here guys. Not what you do, not what I do, not what Jess does. One man's junk is another man's treasure. You think Diablo stinks I think it rocks. That sort of thing. You want facts? Go read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times (and keep your fingers crossed and read between the lines). Better yet go read a dictionary or encyclopedia. Those books provide facts."

Here's the problem. When you make accusations, it's wise to back them up with examples. Mulligan provided none.

I can offer plenty of examples. My own reviews, none of which had the scores altered, as far as I remember. Where's the crime taking place?

I say Diablo rocks and you say it sucks? Guess what? We've said nothing. If you say it sucks and then point out specific examples based on playing the game, then you've said something. It's not enough to cry graft. Cry graft and then give us some examples. The most damning omission on Mulligan's part was in claiming that some big name titles get inflated scores. That plays well until you think about it -- name the games that suck that get good scores. Show us the pattern.

It's the first and most important lesson of critical writing, and we learned it back in ninth grade english. Support your thesis with evidence.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 09:28 pm:

"In any case I don't think its all that far-fetched to assume, when one sees a magazine giving consistently good reviews to games that other magazines consider sub-par, that a certain someone somewhere got a certain something in return for that review. You all know that this happens. It may not happen in *your* particular instance but it does happen."

I don't know that it happens. Is there a magazine that gives consistently good reviews to subpar games?

This is what I'm talking about. Let's move from the realm of pointless conjecture to specifics. If you think a magazine is on the take, say so and give us some examples that show a pattern of inflated review scores.

I don't see it. I haven't seen it in my experience. Magazines are much more fearful of the readers than they are of the game publishers.

The gaming press is pretty clean from my experience with it. If you want to pick at scabs, then accuse the press of being amateurish, because the gaming press probably is that. But a lot of that's the subject matter and the readers. Games don't lend themselves all that well to serious investigative pieces and most readers don't want to read those anyway. They just want to be excited about the next great game coming out next year.

You of all people should know that, Myschf. Just look at the huge amount of interest there is in MMOGs that are still in development. What's going to get more attention? A preview of Luclin with exclusive screens or a look at why M59 failed?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 11:05 pm:

>>Well all know how the print magazine industry works.

Really? How many of us have print magzine experience, specifically game magazine experience? Not just freelancing, which gives you only one perspective on the biz, but working full time?

>>Of course, women's magazine's don't review cosmetics so perhaps thats a bad example.

Yes, that's an exceedingly bad example. In fact, it's an apples/oranges example. How about bridal magazines? Vanity Fair? Equally bad.

>>In any case I don't think its all that far-fetched to assume ... you all know that this happens.

You go from saying it's not "far-fetched" (which I'd agree with) to "you all know this happens." So which is it? Does this happen or are you merely speculating?

No one would deny it could happen. If it did actually happen, who really thinks it wouldn't get out in public? With anonymous posting on message boards, there'd be a smoking gun, and ex-editor who's no longer working in the biz, who'd spill the beans. Hell, even fatbabies hasn't reported direct ad/review correlations (that I'm aware of).

>>I understand its costly to go to E3 and GDC but many people from the fan sites do it on their own dollar -- there is nothing preventing you from emulating them.

Um, all press pays to go to E3 and GDC. Unless I'm missing out on something.

>>If you want to accept gifts (games to review, plane tickets, whatever) then get used to people like Jess and Bruce thinking that you are accepting something for something (rather than the nothing that you all are so loudly postulating).

It is normal for publications to accept products for purposes of evaluation. Newsweek does, yet are we pointing the mighty finger at them?

I'm all for someone being a watchdog for editorial on the industry. I'd love for magazines or websites to be exposed for accepting advertising in exchange for editorial. I know this happens with websites; there was a widely circulated e-mail from one site promoting a preview for any game that was advertised on a site, and in getting my ear chewed off for blowing someone's exclusive, a PR/marketing flack told me they'd purchased a number of ads/previews and we were jeapardizing that deal (the sound of me caring less about this was deafening, considering the level to which they'd screwed us over by backing out of a cover with two days to go before heading to press).

Unfortunately, I wouldn't nominate Adrenaline Vault to serve this purpose for any number of reasons. Consider the expose linked above. For all of the flawed methodologies in comparing review scores (which are arbitrary numbers to begin with, with no baseline "correct" rating to factually state one being "high" or "low"), they failed to disclose a slightly important issue: they are in direct competition with the publications they're evaluating for readers, editorial, and advertising. It's in their interests to cast a negative light on these competitors; if you're willing to accept that magazines inflate review scores you'd concede it's possible the motivation for the article wasn't as pure as "uncovering the truth." That this conflict of interest wasn't disclosed is a blunder on the part of the editorial staff and invalidates the entire article.

A watchdog can't be a competing publication; it would have to cover gaming publications and how they cover games, not the games themselves.

By the way, PC Gamer has fairly recently changed the descriptions of their 100% system to more directly match that of a 5-star system, i.e. they now call a 60% rating "Average."


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Friday, July 20, 2001 - 11:22 pm:

>>Furthermore Jess's column is an editorial. Its about what she thinks. This isn't factual reporting here guys.

An editorial with no basis in fact is, well... fiction.

>>Jess's opinion is that you guys are, more or less, on the take. Your opinion is that you don't.

It's fine to have an opinion, but presenting one with no facts to back them up renders your opinion rather meaningless.

Without specific proof, saying an industry, or group of people, or individuals, are corrupt is meaningless.

"I think website editors are crooks and dishonest with their readers. And their personal hygiene is suspect." Yeah, it's my opinion. And?

Let's substitute an individual in the above statement. "Tom Chick is a crook and dishonest with his readers, and his personal hygiene is suspect." Without evidence, this is not only meaningless but could also be considered libelous (assuming it was knowingly false and done with malicious intent, blah blah blah).

Now if I followed it up with, "According to Mindy Bubblehead, former PR manager of Interplay, Chick accepted cash payment from Interplay in exchange for trashing a competitor's product, Deus Ex. Furthermore, according to a friend of his named 'Trevor,' he plays the game and extolls its virtues to everyone around him every day, which contradicts the scathing review he wrote for it. 'Trevor' also noted he rarely bathes. When contacted for comment, Chick belched and said, 'Yeah, but it's no Flying Heroes.'"

Now that would be a story.

(Note: names have been changed in the above story to protect the innocent. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 02:27 am:

Exactly Steve,
Mys... Jessica was writing an editorial and editorials are somewhat exempt from journalistic concerns, meaning you can convey an unfounded opinion if you want. But that doesn't mean you can simply toss off an irresponsible opinion simply because you believe it and not identify your lack of evidence.

You still have some responsibility to truth and to fairness (assuming we aren't talking about satire or a humor column). The thing is, an editorial can be a powerful thing. All Jessica accomplished was to reaffirm unfounded prejudices about the industry with her opinion, but she did so while using the mantle of "journalist."

Basically, she pulled a Rush Limbaugh.

She has a column, therefore, she must be right!
Some readers believe that.
That's irresponsible of her.

Also, you say making fun of Avault, Brian Clair, and David Laprad is "fighting words" to you Rolston... yet people making unfounded accusations of impropriety and mishandled statistics regarding magazines I work for is not "fighting words"?

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Ron Dulin on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 05:58 am:

Steve: "there was a widely circulated e-mail from one site promoting a preview..."

Great example, Steve. We used to have that blown-up and pinned on the wall. Damn, I wish I still had that email.

The case you mention is possibly the only real case of graft I've ever seen or heard of in my ten years of working at game mags.

Sure, there were some bad calls (and these are rightly notorious among those who care about such things) but those were the result of poor judgement, not some pocket-lining conspiracy. If we need to dredge up PC Gamer's Outpost & Ascension reviews everytime this subject comes around, then we should probably find something more pertinent to talk about.

-Ron


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 10:17 am:

"We provide opinions. Jess's opinion is that you guys are, more or less, on the take. Your opinion is that you don't."

You do understand the flaw in that statement, correct? Here's an example of the logic of that statement:

"Steve's opinion is that Myschyf is a child molester. Myschyf's opinion is that he's not. We all have opinions."


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 12:43 pm:

>>Great example, Steve. We used to have that blown-up and pinned on the wall. Damn, I wish I still had that email.

Yeah, me too. And it was probably as innocent as an overzealous sales person; I'd hate to think of what sales guys say in order to make a sale. "No" typically isn't in their vocabulary.

>>The case you mention is possibly the only real case of graft I've ever seen or heard of in my ten years of working at game mags.

The other one I alluded to, with the angry PR call, is the only one I have first hand knowledge of as well. I hear whispers of other things, but they're usually pretty innocent in the general scheme of things.

And as you said, we've all made mistakes that we regret and (hopefully) learn from.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 02:22 pm:

'I'm all for someone being a watchdog for editorial on the industry. I'd love for magazines or websites to be exposed for accepting advertising in exchange for editorial.'

Heh, where is Critical Bill when you need him.

http://www.pathcom.com/~kenl/stunk1.htm


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Saturday, July 21, 2001 - 03:47 pm:

A better story for Jessica to investigate is the opposite of the tack she took.

Jeff Green was pretty clear that Activision was "angry" over recent CGW reviews last year. Tom Chick revealed that Eidos "no longer does business with Tom Chick" (they also don't do business with me), Psygnosis' infamous Drakan emails, etc.,

A better story, one more easily supported, is how game companies sometimes try to throw their weight around. The conclusion to that story though is that evidence shows that game mags don't let them do it. Sadly, that doesn't support her pre-conceived "opinion."

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By BruceR on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 03:44 am:

We all have our day jobs... I suspect mine's no less statistical or involved with the scientific method than some others present here.

I agree that a 100pt-scale-to-10-pt scale linear conversion should be validated, but how is that possible with only three magazines in this slice of the market? There are no close comparators for PC Gamer's system, nor am I aware of any studies having been done that rate consumer perceptions of different magazine rating systems overall. The kind of studies you would need to establish the point beyond reasonable doubt are simply beyond the capability of a small-staff website to conduct.

(And Bruce, you could have made the same argument about the smaller dataset, so I'd have been screwed either way. It wasn't a question of throwing anything out... believe it or not, even AVault's readers have a limit to the number of pages of dry statistics they're going to read in one sitting.)

In that way, it's similar to another criticism, mentioned a few posts up, that there is no baseline comparator to represent the score that the games actually "deserved"... neither possible, nor widely acceptable if created, such a standard seems to be more just a way of setting a bar so high as to stymie any analysis of game magazine journalism whatever. (Nor do I feel that AVault's acceptance of game advertising by itself "invalidates the entire article," as one person suggested; by extension if that were the case, every review of an advertised game in either medium would also be invalid.)

But forget the validity or invalidity of comparisons between the three magazines for a minute, and try to focus at the simple point I was initally trying to make: that, in the time period in question, almost exactly half of all games reviewed by PC Gamer had scores HIGHER THAN 75. I initially intervened here to point to more-than-anecdotal evidence that PC Gamer tended to give high review scores: I would consider a median of 75 curiously high for any reviewer measuring any product in any magazine. But that does not by itself equate to payola, nor have I tried to establish that connection here or elsewhere.

With the exception of supporting J's statement that the acceptance of money for cover placement would be clearly unethical, which he claimed to have direct knowledge of in at least one unspecified instance (and I personally do not), I have never intimated or implied anything about "corruption" involving specific magazines or writers. Although I personally abhor the magazine preview article as a pathetic publicist's playground, I still read all three magazines religiously, rely on their reviews in purchasing games, and learn much about this industry from their better feature and column writers, many of whom evidently hang out on these forums.

I believe there are the same pervasive, systemic biases in this journalistic trade as any other, and I have been as susceptible in my career to their influence as anyone else. So far, I have a clear conscience, and I have no evidence whatsoever to indicate anyone else writing should not as well; if I were to come upon such evidence, I agree that it would be a story worth writing.

BruceR


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 02:44 pm:

>>a standard seems to be more just a way of setting a bar so high as to stymie any analysis of game magazine journalism whatever.

You can't really really discuss a game magazine's "journalism" solely by focusing on reviews. The real issue with magazines is preview coverage, which has a significantly greater affect on sales then those reviews.

I'd love to see someone evaluate the tone of previews in comparison to the publication's reviews. That would be an interesting comparison.

>>Nor do I feel that AVault's acceptance of game advertising by itself "invalidates the entire article," as one person suggested; by extension if that were the case, every review of an advertised game in either medium would also be invalid.

You missed the point. It's not the acceptance of advertising that's problematic, it's the competition for readers, something which is obvious but should be disclosed.

Face it, it's in Avault's interest to make any competitor look bad, be it website or magazine. Advertisers look for numbers when they decide where to spend their money, hence an article that attempts to illustrate whether there's some corruption or a slant in competitors is immediately suspect.

Again, a watchdog can not be in competition with the publications it's watching otherwise the perception of its motivations are suspect. Something like Brill's Content can, in theory, be a watchdog because it covers the media as it covers politics/entertainment/etc. As it goes directly to the source, i.e. starts producing articles on those same topics as opposed to looking solely at the coverage, it becomes a competitor and loses credibility.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Rob Funk (Xaroc) on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 03:51 pm:

Steve wrote:


Quote:

By the way, PC Gamer has fairly recently changed the descriptions of their 100% system to more directly match that of a 5-star system, i.e. they now call a 60% rating "Average."




That makes no sense. People are conditioned by seeing school grades related to a 100 point scale. I don't think most people would buy a 60% rated game but I believe most would at least consider a 3 star game. They would be better off grading things on a school scale and maybe tacking on a letter grade.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Monday, July 23, 2001 - 03:59 pm:

PCGamer does a lot of things that don't make sense.

Letting Greg Vederman have a camera for instance....

-DormOnkey


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By John T. on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 - 09:20 am:

"PCGamer does a lot of things that don't make sense. Letting Greg Vederman have a camera for instance...."

Whoa, that's so obscure Dennis Miller is embarrassed! :)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By David E. Hunt (Davidcpa) on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 - 11:55 am:


Quote:

PCGamer does a lot of things that don't make sense. Letting Greg Vederman have a camera for instance....




He does get carried away with the pictures sometimes.

PC Gamer did institute a new hardware grading system in the current issue. They give a 0-100% rating with products being classified in three categories - low, mid and high (or dream as they call it) level systems. Is a Geforce 2 MX that receives an editor's choice equal to a Geforce 3 that also receives an editor's choice award? Not exactly because they are meant for different types of systems. This grading system makes it more clear to readers how to interpret the scores. Good for them.

As far as PC Gamer game scoring goes, I don't think their scoring has been out of line (even during the period looked at by the avault article), but I think they have been harder on games in the last few months (i.e. more low scores). I don't know if it is the games or changes in editors or what. Maybe it's just me:-)

-DavidCPA
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Tuesday, July 24, 2001 - 05:21 pm:

Any of you full-time game reviewers driving game company bought Lexus'?

Payola 2001

http://www.salon.com/ent/music/feature/2001/07/24/urban_radio/index.html


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Simeron on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 02:26 pm:

To all these gaming POLITITIONS that love to talk out of both sides of their mouth and thier "build in waste disposal oriface" at the same time, let me give you some truth you undoubtedly don't want.

1) If a game is not in ALPHA at the very least, it is NOT playable, period. I don't give a rat's furry tail how you put it. SWG should NOT have won BUPKUS at E3.

2) If you don't like the way most GAMERS think about how you "press" people act around big game companies..here is a SHOCKING IDEA! DO FOOKING ACT THAT WAY AROUND THEM!

3) If you can't or won't understand this, then go peddle your wares elsewhere. For all your "business savvy" and "unbiased" views of games, you are ALL becoming more and more of a laughing stock among real world press people and worse for you, among the gamers you sell your rags too.

I can NOT go to any major message boards now without seeing at least 1 out of 3 posters either making fun of the gaming press or outright saying your a bunch of sellouts and its not worth buying your mags anymore. Maybe you guys better wake up and smell the brimstone before you wind up going the way of all these fabulous DOT.coms from a year to two years ago. You can only rest on past laurels so long and you are all beginning to feel the coming backlash if you don't start remembering where the HELL your real customers are. Your subscribers don't buy your mags for the advertisers boys and girls. And once you get to the point that your subscription hounds are disappearing instead of showing up, its probably too late to save your mag. Then you will see just how LOYAL them corporate joes you're whoring yourselves to are.

And believe me, you'll just be another crack whore kicked to the curb. Just look how most of THEM treat THIER PAYING customers.

Simeron Steelhammer
aka Ben La Count


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 02:53 pm:

That's an interesting collection of accusations. I don't suppose you care to link to any "major message boards" or quote any 'real' press people complaining about the industry. If you're going to make an argument, at least have the decency to support it.

- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 03:57 pm:

These arguments are simply hilarious. NO ONE takes e3 seriously. The fact that Asheron's Call won two (or was it three) years running pretty much sums things up folks. The e3 awards are shit. There is NO argument that the game mags require ad dollars. They do. DUH. That doesn't mean they need to whore our their respective award allocations. Remember, the advertisers are the tail, not the dog. Who's wagging who here? The subscribers are the ones to whom the mags need to be loyal. The advertisers will throw their money at whoever picks up those precious subscribers. You can bitch slap microsquat or verant into next tuesday and the'll be back for more next month so long as your subscribers keep turning pages. And that will happen if you give them good, HONEST, content. e3 hasn't been honest in many years and everyone knows it.


LV


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 04:17 pm:

E3 is a vendor show. Not a press show. The E3 awards tend to go to high profile and exciting games because of a few important reasons (none of them being payoffs).

1. They generally ARE the most exciting to us jaded uber-fanboys. Having been announced at the show and promising the world.

2. They tend to be viewable in private rooms (as Wardell notes in his recent Avault feature). Since it's frankly impossible to hear ANYTHING about a game displayed on the floor, we get the most info from private showings. You know, we cna ask qustions and the person showing the game actually has answers. Really: E3 displayers tend to know nothing about the game they are showing. Why? Because they're job is to show the guy from Babbages how cool the graphics be.

3. Our readers, the majority, are far more interested in Star Wars Galaxies than the latest from Stardock. It's assumed we are supposed to create hype, I'm sure small developers would like that (and I agree, we need to do it more) but mostly what we do is REFLECT hype.

Now, all that being said, I'm just a freelancer. I picked much different games than the mags did (they chose "the best" based on a consesus of editors, which neatly explains why tiny games were missed). Were I an editor or an EIC, I might run things differently.

"Remember, the advertisers are the tail, not the dog."

Brilliant statement.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 04:22 pm:

This thread got linked to today at Lum the Mad's via an article about the E3 Awards. I tend to agree with the gist of the article, but they linked to this thread for no real good reason, and completely dismissed the negative response Mulligan got as "closing the ranks".

Anyway, MMOG fans are perhaps the most zealous (nice word for it) of all game fans now, so Simeron's comments don't surprise me. What's really funny is that the hype generated by the E3 Awards pales in comparison to the constant stream of hype generated by the MMOG fansites. If Simeron wants to point a finger, he should aim it that way.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason McCullough on Friday, July 27, 2001 - 11:03 pm:

'gaming POLITITIONS'

Simeron, have you ever posted on USENET? Say, perhaps, about 'FUCKING BIG MOUSE?'


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 02:03 am:

>>I can NOT go to any major message boards now without seeing at least 1 out of 3 posters either making fun of the gaming press or outright saying your a bunch of sellouts and its not worth buying your mags anymore.

Yeah, and you see on these same message boards 1 out of 3 posters calling each other a "fag0t." Does this mean there's a higher concentration of homosexual gamers then anyone ever expected? That whole PC Accelerator/PC Gamer "let's be really cool and sexist" attitude was all wrong... they should have been homoerotic.

Or maybe, just maybe, gamers like to whine.

1 out of 3 posters also hate [FILL IN THE CURRENT POPULAR GAME THAT EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE BUYING]. Currently, Diablo II is the worst game ever made that has sold millions of copies, and in the past we've seen Half-Life, Quake III and Unreal Tournament eviscerated by 1 out of 3 message board posters.

If 1 out of 3 message board posters actually bought the magazines and games they like to bitch about, there'd be a lot more rich people around.

I'd say 1 out of 3 magazine editors thinks you're full of shit and probably don't know what you're talking about, but that'd just be mean.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 02:05 am:

Well said, Steve. I mean, there's just nothing to add to that. Especially that last line -- priceless.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Cerra Whisperwind on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 01:59 pm:

Just thought I would throw my two bits into the frey:

I don't agree with giving awards to games who are not scheduled for release within the year (before the next E3). Any review given to such a game is automatically incomplete becasue the game is not close to being finished. While there is nothing wrong with incomplete reviews, this fact should be stated up front and no awards should be even considered. By the time the game actually gets published who KNOWS what else will be out there that will be even better? Game companies put award symbols on their boxes when they publish, wouldn't you look silly if your award was on the box of the next-best game?

Next years "best" game will always look better than this years "best". Technology gets better every year. Judge based on the best use of todays tech, not tommorrows.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mariachi on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 03:22 pm:

Excuse my potential naivete, but couldn't an awful lot of these accusations and attacks be avoided by simply revising the categories and judging precepts?

In my experience the typical gamer buys into the 'category' concept rather blindly. Keeping in mind that a large portion of the players bashing the developers, publishers, and reviewers fall into a very young (and therefore immature and/or inexperienced) demographic, simply modifying the review approach might help a great deal.

Keep existing award eligible categories such as Action/Adventure, RPG, MMORPG, RTS, FPS and the like... typical fare for the magazine editorial consumer. Throw into this mix new review areas such as 'Best Potential' or 'Damn, This Could Be VERY Cool'...

Award your accolades to Best Of Show, Best of Type/Genre, Best Use Of Current Technology and so forth. Offer a small bone to the developers currently hard at work on a project of any given type. Make them hungry for the Big Trophy, and build in some defensibility should things go awry...

"Hey folks, we said it had the best potential... the fact that it hasn't been released 26 months after we made that statement doesn't change that fact, and were not sorry we said it".

Give the awards worth giving to the game I can buy on the shelf within a realistic timetable. SW Galaxies doesnt deserve a Best of E3 award if it cant be played yet, but damned if it might not fit into the category entitled 'Greatest As-Yet-Unrealized Potential'.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 03:29 pm:

"SW Galaxies doesnt deserve a Best of E3 award if it cant be played yet, but damned if it might not fit into the category entitled 'Greatest As-Yet-Unrealized Potential'."

But understand - E3 is NOT a show for demonstrating exisiting, finished games. It's a show for peddling games in development. If you wanted to select a "Best of E3" award that only included completed, shipping games you'd have about 6 total games from which to select.

Jeff


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 03:38 pm:

You could limit the awards to games that were playable and have plenty to choose from. I wouldn't mind that.

I think the awards are stupid and pointless, though. They should just do away with them. You might as well hand out awards based on press kits. "Look at these screenshots and this feature list! This game will rock!"


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 03:56 pm:

I agree that the awards are meaningless, and I don't know anyone that knows how they are awarded that pays any attention to them. They do kinda fit the rest of E3, however: lots of noise, smoke, and mirrors.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mariachi on Saturday, July 28, 2001 - 03:56 pm:

OK Jeff, thats a valid counterpoint, but the concept is still sound given that I proffered it under a conditional term, namely:

"Give the awards worth giving to the game I can buy on the shelf within a realistic timetable."

I dont disagree that promoting titles still in development is a must... this practice promotes growth and maintains ongoing interest in the gaming community. But giving a prestigious award to an unrealized title with such an incredibly 'far far away' delivery date seems a bit unfair. And anyway, (here comes that naivete again) shouldn't there really only be one BEST of Show?

Best Of Show being the E3 crown title, followed by Best FPS, Best RTS, Best MMORPG, etc.

I do see your point though, and having only 6 games (+or-) wouldn't make for a very interesting read =)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 04:32 am:

>You could limit the awards to games that were playable and have plenty to choose from.

...just to be clear, to be eligible for the awards, a game does have to have demonstrable code, and not just be a video of game footage, etc. So even though Duke Forever had a cool movie, it wasn't eligible this year. Similarly, even though Metal Gear Solid 2 was probably the hit of the 2000 show, it wasn't eligible because there was only a movie available.

I think we've actually had a pretty good track record with the E3 awards (although Freelancer certainly hasn't lived up to its impressive debut). We certainly recognized Half Life's potential before that game generated any hype. But we're always interested in feedback on how we could make the awards better.

The main reason we haven't adopted criteria restricting eligibility to games "to be released this year" (which has certainly been considered), is because it's more interesting to talk about what we think is the "best" game, even if that opinion is based upon incomplete information.

Again, with the probable exception of Freelancer (and that's not even certain yet), where are the examples of us giving awards to games that actually turned out to be bad?

Desslock


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 07:44 am:

I think some people find it grating that a game might get an award and then not be out for two years or more. Neverwinter got last year's award for best RPG and this year's award and it may not be out until after next year's E3, presumably after it wins the award for the third year in a row.

Freelancer was best of show for '99. Who knows when that will be out?

I also see that Black and White won awards in both 1999 and 2000, another repeat winner. Why reward a game two years in a row?

Best Action Game of 1999 -- Team Fortress 2.

I also don't like the idea of formalizing awards for unfinished games. It smacks too much of boosterism instead of criticism. It's not as if the games won't get enough ink as it is. Why have a panel of judges pin a ribbon on them?

I dunno -- these awards are a marketeer's dream. Games get awards without having to be finished and without the critics even being required to play them. You can see why some people view these awards with suspicion.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 11:46 am:

Desslock,
I was under the impression that those complaining here are complaining about the magazine awards, not the "official E3 awards" that you're a part of.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 12:06 pm:

I honestly don't think these people know what it is they're complaining about. Some must think we're talking about legitimate Game of the Year awards awarding games not out yet and others are criticizing the mags for awarding E3 titles best of show. I'm not sure why you guys keep trying to answer them since they've already condemned all of us as a bunch of guys on the take?

E3 is all about hype. It's the place that publishers and developers show off their products to the retail community. The press is there to sell their magazine to those same retailers as well as cover the new game announcements and any game they don't get a chance of seeing at the developer's headquarters or in the magazine offices. Gamers don't understand this because there's really no show for them. In Japan, the gamers get a chance to go to shows like this so they can see the new titles. So E3 becomes the place where gamers aren't allowed, but they're also not the target audience for this show.

Either way, this is a wierd way to go with the discussion. E3 awards are a fluffy way of saying "these games look good early on". They have NOTHING to do with actual reviews of finished games.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 12:40 pm:

Dave,
I think some of this anti-press animosity and paranoia comes from the developer community. I'm not lumping Wardell in with some of them, but you should read his recent feature at Avault because he has a few very valid points there.

What it comes down to, and Jessica mentioned this, is that small devs get ignored at E3 while SW Galaxies gets lauded. Honestly, that's the only complaint that makes any sense to me. If I was a struggling developer I'd get sick of high profile vaporware winning awards too. Especially if my more modest (looking) effort was getting ignored.

Another thing that's getting missed by some of these "visitors" is that, we were refuting Jessica's column. We were mocking it some. But we weren't "closing" ranks. She had no proof and her accusations were conjecture and totally unfair. That galls me most. I'd love to see proof of a mag or journalist "on the take". It'd be bad for my profession, but every reporter loves a good story (besides, I know I'm clean).

As I recall Jessica's thesis statement was basically that E3 Award winning games won their awards because of tchotchkies and parties. Something those of us who went to E3 found patently false.

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 01:59 pm:

Not that LucasArts had either tchotchkies or a party, mind you...

I don't think I'd ever be totally comfortable with an "E3 Award" given to incomplete games because it's still rewarding unfinished games. Of course that's all sort of a given, still... if you wouldn't review an alpha or beta game, why give it an award?

But I have no problem with others doing it, and perhaps if the rules were changed, or if everythere was made very clear I'd be more inclined to want to participate (though I'm still not sure of the value). But I do think it's a "much ado about nothing" issue... see the article at lumthemad.net as an example of it being an "issue."


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jeff Lackey on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 05:11 pm:

Is there another entertainment industry show where critics present awards to unfinished products? "Best movie trailer" or "Best first three chapters in a novel at show?"


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 05:11 pm:

What I don't like about the awards is that they seem to be such a creation of the publishers. I know that they're not, but they serve no real purpose other than to provide additional promotional material for the publishers to use. As such, they seem to do no good whatsoever.

I object the formality of the awards, really. Convening a committee, voting, running a website, awarding plaques for all I know -- it all lends an air of legitimacy to games that aren't done yet. It's like film critics giving awards to movies after watching trailers.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 05:54 pm:

>I also don't like the idea of formalizing awards for unfinished games.

I don't understand the issue, especially when I think the actual award winners have for the most part proven to accurately foreshadow the best games of the the future.

All the E3 Awards are intended to do is highlight the games that people thought were the best of the show - that's it. Not necessary which games will be the best at the time of release, but just the games that generated the most buzz at the time of the show. Judging by the traffic that e3 coverage gets online, gamers are very interested in what people liked at the E3, and the awards just respond to that interest. They're just providing an annual snapshot on what people were impressed by.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 06:22 pm:

"They're just providing an annual snapshot on what people were impressed by."

Who people?
I know you're a part of it Stefan, but, is there a list or something?

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 06:47 pm:

>>I don't understand the issue, especially when I think the actual award winners have for the most part proven to accurately foreshadow the best games of the the future.

As I said, I don't actually think it's a big deal, but I'm guessing the issue is that it's an award solely designed as a marketing tool for game companies. Does it really serve any editorial purpose? You could argue previews are marketing tools as well, but they do have some value as news and can be interesting articles when done as more than just a list of features and superlatives.

But awarding incomplete games, even with the caveat that it's just the "Best of the Show" (i.e. a snapshot of the game on that day), has little value as a buyer's guide as we all know games can vary wildly (both positively and negatively) from when they're shown to when they're shipped.

>>Is there another entertainment industry show where critics present awards to unfinished products? "Best movie trailer" or "Best first three chapters in a novel at show?"

Well, "Best Movie Trailer" would be fine as you'd be on equal footing; it would be judging the trailer, not the full movie. It wouldn't be "rough cut" versus "final edit" versus "some footage we through together to approximate what the final film will look like," which is the cinematic equivalent of E3.

And I don't think the book industry lets anyone see a book before it's in its final form. But it's a long-term, long lead-time industry. They get the hype going with finished product, months ahead of release.

I don't know if any other entertainment industry shows the press/public works in progress, outside of trailers for movies. Sometimes a movie may show 15-minutes of footage to distributors, but the press usually isn't involved (I believe). The game industry does this because, well, it can, and I suspect because they haven't swung around to the "finish game, hold for a few months" mode of business.

Then again, I heard Tim Burton was still tweaking Planet of the Apes two weeks before it appeared on screens, which makes you wonder if long lead-time publications saw a "beta" of the movie...


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 10:31 pm:

>But awarding incomplete games, even with the caveat that it's just the "Best of the Show" (i.e. a snapshot of the game on that day), has little value as a buyer's guide as we all know games can vary wildly (both positively and negatively) from when they're shown to when they're shipped.

Agreed, and that's clearly not the intention of the awards. Gamers are interested in what people thought looked good at the E3 - that's all the awards are intended to convey.

As you know, even games that are going to come out prior to the next e3 can vary wildly from when they're shown to when they're shipped -- Vampire the Masquerade being a prime example. On the other hand, I though Deus Ex demonstrated terribly at the 2000 E3.

>I know you're a part of it Stefan, but, is there a list or something

Sure, it's right at the E3awards.com site: http://www.e3awards.com/judges.html. It's a pretty big list with about 40 judges, with every major gaming publication/site represented (IGN, CGW, PC Gamer, GameSpot, Happy Puppy, GDR, EGM, GameSpy) as well as console pubs and mainstream pubs like LA Times, Wired, Rolling Stone. I don't think CGO participated this year, although they have in the past, and two of three Globe gaming pubs did participate).

I've participated in the awards since their inception, and really like the idea of a "publication neutral" awards. Sure, they don't mean much other than what games (with demonstrable code) attracted buzz, but that's interesting to a lot of gamers.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 12:10 am:

>>Agreed, and that's clearly not the intention of the awards. Gamers are interested in what people thought looked good at the E3 - that's all the awards are intended to convey.

Sure, I'm just not sure about a band of journalists getting together to effectively "endorse" one product over another in that state. I know it's not doing that literally, but that's the way it's used by publishers, and as far as I can tell how it's perceived by followers.

I'd be all for this kind of "publication netural" thing as an "end of the year" kind of award for complete games, though.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 01:37 am:

"I'd be all for this kind of "publication netural" thing as an "end of the year" kind of award for complete games, though."

And that would be much more interesting. And we'd be happy to supply webspace for it. :)

Seriously, that would be a fun read. Someone should do it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon (Crash) on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 10:11 am:

Desslock: "I don't understand the issue, especially when I think the actual award winners have for the most part proven to accurately foreshadow the best games of the the future."

Italics mine. So, what about those games that sucked? Did they get the E3 Award on their box as well? Bet they did. So it's a marketing tool, then. Nothing more.

"Best Buzz of E3" says exactly what about the game itself? Other than the publisher's got a crack PR team, I'm not entirely sure. Is that added game value? Or is it just that the bulk of the "press" that attends E3 is working so hard to build legitimacy that they'll slap awards on, and vote for, nearly anything?

All the same to me. E3 is a boring, noisy, overheated and overpriced sideshow. Giving out "Best of Show" awards in that environment seems... well, somewhat counterproductive to actual credibility. Then again--well. You finish that thought, because I don't think I want to go there. Not right now, anyway.

Maybe the awards should be renamed "The Punxatawney Phil E3 Show Awards" with the subtitle, "If We See Our Shadow, It'll Be Game of the YEAR... Someday... Maybe."

At least then they'd be accurate.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 11:49 am:

>So it's a marketing tool, then. Nothing more.

Of course it's something more. It gives gamers who don't have the opportunity to attend the show an idea of what people were impressed by, and that's something readers clearly have an interest in learning (judging by the traffic E3 coverage generates). The awards are about giving our readers what they want - if a company is able, incidentally, to use the fact that they created a great presentation (with demonstrable code) to generate some accolades - good for them, but that's clearly not the purpose of the awards.

>Best Buzz of E3" says exactly what about the game itself? Other than the publisher's got a crack PR team

It has absolutely nothing, whatsoever, to do with a publisher's PR team, any more than a magazine's game of the year awards relate to a publisher's PR team. An award "says" that 40 judges from almost all of the major gaming publications thought that these games were the ones that, as of this "snapshot" in time, they were most excited about. That they thought had the most potential.

>Or is it just that the bulk of the "press" that attends E3 is working so hard to build legitimacy that they'll slap awards on, and vote for, nearly anything?

Gibberish. Next...

(Ironic that someone who would question credibility could state something so damaging to his own.)

>E3 is a boring, noisy, overheated and overpriced sideshow. Giving out "Best of Show" awards in that environment seems... well, somewhat counterproductive to actual credibility. Then again--well. You finish that thought, because I don't think I want to go there. Not right now, anyway.

uh, overpriced? boring? By all means, go there -- conclusively prove exactly how flawed your reasoning is. What the hell does overpriced have to do with anything? Perhaps the fact that you find the show "boring" is just colouring your perception of anything associated with the show. If you don't like the show - fine - lots of people don't. But lots of people are interested in the show, because it's the one time of the year that almost all upcoming games are displayed in comparison to each other, and even if I didn't attend the show I'd want to know what people liked the best - that's what the awards demonstrate.

>At least then they'd be accurate.

No, they're accurate, because they're just expressing the subjective opinions of a bunch of gaming press. Your reasoning, however, is not.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bub (Bub) on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 01:59 pm:

"Maybe the awards should be renamed "The Punxatawney Phil E3 Show Awards" with the subtitle, "If We See Our Shadow, It'll Be Game of the YEAR... Someday... Maybe"."

Hilarious!

-Andrew


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 02:17 pm:

I still find it annoying that most of the industry advertising deals with unreleased games. There's always a hot new game right around the corner (or not, as delays set in), but in retrospect, there are very few games that I still play on a regular basis. Maybe it's just that I don't rely on advertising to make my gaming choices now that I have better sources. Still, I doubt RCT and The Sims can attribute their success to pre-release ads. B&W is perhaps the counter-exmaple, although I wonder if it has staying power.

- Alan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon (Crash) on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 05:31 pm:

Desslock: "uh, overpriced? boring? By all means, go there -- conclusively prove exactly how flawed your reasoning is."

Have been there three times, Desslock.

As for the rest, I know where you're coming from. Where we disagree is in the perception of value. You think it has value. I don't. You seem to believe it's a popularity contest of some kind--"The awards are about giving our readers what they want". I happen to believe it's more about quality, and giving "game of the show" to a non-playable rolling graphics-engine demo seems more than cheesy to me.

But what do I know. I'm not An Important Industry Maven(tm). I'm just some guy on a messageboard who's been there done that. "I ain't blind and I don't like what I think I see."

Let's move on now, shall we?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Monday, July 30, 2001 - 09:55 pm:

>>By all means, go there -- conclusively prove exactly how flawed your reasoning is."
>Have been there three times, Desslock.

Been where - The E3? That's not what I was asking you to do. I was responding to your comment that you "didn't want to go" to some place. Presumably the same magical place that contains all of the justifications for your statements. You certainly haven't shown that place yet.

Presumably it's the same place that would make it perfectly clear why you felt it was appropriate to toss in a few throw-away lines criticizing the credibility of 40 of your peers without providing any supporting statements of any substance.

>You seem to believe it's a popularity contest of some kind--"The awards are about giving our readers what they want.

What are you trying to state? What's a popularity contest? The games chosen for the awards? The existence of the awards themselves?

It's interesting to a lot of gamers to know what people thought were the most promising games at the only show of the year where almost all upcoming games are shown side by side (inviting such comparisons). Are you deriding that interest because you don't share it?

>I happen to believe it's more about quality,

What's more "about quality"? What's "it"?

>giving "game of the show" to a non-playable rolling graphics-engine demo seems more than cheesy to me.

What ominous traits are you ascribing to the awards that are "more than cheesy"? Corruption? Malevolence? A conspiracy to buy off the gaming media by substituting their eclectic wardrobes for the very, very large, black t-shirts that are gleefully distributed by your "PR flak" friends? Don't be silly.

Maybe it's inappropriate to make any comment on (other than presumably to criticize), games that haven't been released, even if there's demonstrable gameplay (as there is for each of the games eligible for the E3 awards) -- but then most previews wouldn't exist either (not necessarily a bad thing). That may be a reasonable position, but it arguably makes every word written about pre-release software similarly inappropriate (to varying degrees), since someone could make a purchasing decision based upon an opinion of a product that isn't the same version of the product that the purchaser could acquire.

Or maybe publications should only discuss games after having access to playable code (and some of them don't write previews without that access). Or maybe publications should wait until there's at least demonstrable code, so at least some core gameplay is available (which is the criteria for the E3 Awards). Or maybe publications should provide "first looks" or early commentary almost as soon as a game has been announced (which is what absolutely every magazine/site currently does).

Arguably all of those are bad practices, if the only valid purpose of game coverage is to allow potential purchasers to make informed purchasing decisions (which I don't think is the case), but it's certainly not a problem endemic to the E3 Awards.

>I'm not An Important Industry Maven(tm). I'm just some guy on a messageboard who's been there done that.

Been there, done what? Been corrupt? Lacked credibility? Is that why you're under the delusion that you're insightful? First off, no one is more qualified than any one to post to this board. Secondly, you're apparently perfectly qualified to make unfocused accusations devoid of substance. Sure you're not a Maven?

>Let's move on now, shall we?

Fine.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 01:51 am:

Personally, I'm very interested in what goes on at E3, because I've never been, and will likely never go -- though I'd love to.

Even so, the awards, I find, are pretty irrelevent, due to a lot of the reasons already mentioned. I'm more concerned in substance. Mark and Tom's coverage of E3 was great -- it's still up. Go read it. They know how to cover such an event. The awards? They're lost on me -- but probably not on everyone.

Perhaps a better thing to do than abolish the awards is to either refine them, or educate people (man, I'm starting to sound like a politician) as to what they are, at the heart. Make it clear that they're based on unfinished games. It would be great if a publisher couldn't use the awards out of context to make it seem like a game is superior to what it actually is, but who could regulate that?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon (Crash) on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:02 am:

Clarifications and answers to direct questions follow.

Answer to: "It's interesting to a lot of gamers to know what people thought were the most promising games at the only show of the year where almost all upcoming games are shown side by side (inviting such comparisons). Are you deriding that interest because you don't share it?"

Not in the slightest. E3 is what it is: a blaring, flashing hype-fest where everything in a publisher's stable is trotted out into the main ring to be run around a bit. E3 reflects this, as does the bulk of any site's show-coverage traffic--I would be extremely surprised if any site's editorial got more clicks than the screenshots. So by this yardstick (i.e. "giving the people what they want"), people want to see pretty pictures, they don't want to read.

Covering a circus isn't done with words. It's done with pictures. And most E3 coverage provides this in spades. Nothing to complain about there. Simply making an observation.

Or, to put it another way (because I'm not sure that's clear; been a long day), if I want to hear about the dog-and-pony, I'll check out E3 coverage. If I want to hear about the game, I'll wait for the preview.

Answer to: "What's more "about quality"? What's "it"?"

Editorial coverage of games.

Answer: "What ominous traits are you ascribing to the awards that are "more than cheesy"?"

Ominous? Hardly. A closer adjective would be "silly". Giving a game an award when it's barely even a game in the first place is silly. It'd be like giving Car of the Show to a really bitchin' clay prototype that got a lot of buzz and was only shown behind closed doors.

clarification: "Presumably it's the same place that would make it perfectly clear why you felt it was appropriate to toss in a few throw-away lines criticizing the credibility of 40 of your peers without providing any supporting statements of any substance."

Read carefully. Note that I said "most". I did not say "all". The two are not synonyms. How many representatives from how many publications attended E3? Hundreds? Thousands? 40 out of a thousand is 2.5%. That kind of percentage falls well within acceptable "margin of error" in a sample of that size. Thus, "most". Not "all".

I pay attention to how I phrase things, especially on the Internet. Read more carefully next time, please.

Answer: "Is that why you're under the delusion that you're insightful?"

Uh, I've been called a lot of things in my time, but "insightful" certainly isn't one of them, Desslock. And not only do I not think I'm "insightful," but I have no aspirations to become insightful. So... barking up the wrong tree, here.

Answer: "Sure you're not a Maven?"

Wouldn't be one if you paid me.

Hope that covers it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:28 am:

>Even so, the awards, I find, are pretty irrelevent, due to a lot of the reasons already mentioned. I'm more concerned in substance.

...and you certainly won't get that from the awards. They're just a kind of "publication neutral" summary of what a bunch of individuals were impressed by, which may or may not be of interest. The awards are by no means an attempt to replace, or supersede, the extensive coverage provided by a lot of sites/publications. I think the coverage provided by sites like GameSpot is frankly, completely comprehensive -- reading all that material, checking out all the screens, you'd see more of the games of the E3 than any single attendee, that's for sure.

I am, by no means, trying to lionize the awards or make them into something important. But vague conspiracy allusions or holier-than-thou, condescending pronouncements of the relative virtues of gaming previews are pretty naive and misplaced.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:42 am:


Quote:

They're just a kind of "publication neutral" summary of what a bunch of individuals were impressed by, which may or may not be of interest. The awards are by no means an attempt to replace, or supersede, the extensive coverage provided by a lot of sites/publications. I think the coverage provided by sites like GameSpot is frankly, completely comprehensive




You know that, and I know that, but I think that anyone who might ever see these awards needs to know that. Until that is the case, they may do more harm than good. I don't know, maybe not -- and I'm certainly not intending to attack anyone involved in the process. They do have their place. I'm just not sure that the perception is correct, and I think it needs to be made more well-known exactly what the awards are intended to be.

I don't have a problem with the awards, per se, but I don't think that the people who give them and the people who read about them see them the same way. I don't think that's good.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 03:03 am:

>Read carefully. Note that I said "most". I did not say "all". The two are not synonyms. How many representatives from how many publications attended...40 out of a thousand is 2.5%. That kind of percentage falls well within acceptable "margin of error" in a sample of that size. Thus, "most". Not "all". I pay attention to how I phrase things, especially on the Internet. Read more carefully next time, please

You criticized the e3 awards by stating that the bulk of the press would slap awards and vote on anything, and backed up that inflammatory "conclusion" with no substance, whatsoever. Don't hide behind some nonsensical statistic to suggest you were talking about something else when your original words are still available for anyone to see. By the way, it's actually 4%, not 2.5%, Mr. Careful.

Think the awards are meaningless? Completely reasonable conclusion, if you think there's no point in commenting on pre-release games (or games until they're on the verge of release), although I can't think of a publication that doesn't comment on games from the moment the games are announced. But when you write inherently offensive statements about how the only motivation for the awards is marketing ("nothing more"), and how "you bet" games that sucked got awards, don't be surprised to be called on them, and be prepared to back up your statements with substance.

>not only do I not think I'm "insightful," but I have no aspirations to become insightful

a man's gotta know his limitations.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 03:51 am:

"I can't think of a publication that doesn't comment on games from the moment the games are announced."

Yeah, but I can't think of a publication that hands out awards to unfinished games, either. Besides, publications are in the business of covering the game industry; they do so before and after E3. The E3 Awards have no ties to any ongoing publication. They seemingly exist simply to promote the trade show.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Bill McClendon (Crash) on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 07:06 am:

*sigh*

"You criticized the e3 awards by stating that the bulk of the press would slap awards and vote on anything, and backed up that inflammatory "conclusion" with no substance, whatsoever. Don't hide behind some nonsensical statistic to suggest you were talking about something else when your original words are still available for anyone to see."

Let's put them here so we all have a frame of reference (since, I don't know, scrolling up and ctrl+c/ctrl+v is unfair to some and whatnot):

"Best Buzz of E3" says exactly what about the game itself? Other than the publisher's got a crack PR team, I'm not entirely sure. Is that added game value? Or is it just that the bulk of the "press" that attends E3 is working so hard to build legitimacy that they'll slap awards on, and vote for, nearly anything?

In that paragraph, I see exactly one statement: "Other than the publisher's got a crack PR team, I'm not entirely sure." Don't know where you went to school, but where I did, sentences that end in this -- ? -- are called "questions". Not statements. I asked a question, admitted I wasn't sure, and then took guesses. Inflammatory? Perhaps. Then again, if you've got nothing to be defensive about, they'd be comical. Or spurious. If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem sure does look like a nail.

I criticized the E3 awards for being silly. The presentation of said opinion might have been better, to be sure, but this isn't Pulitzer material anyway.

Also, as to "nonsensical statistic", it was a guess. An estimate. A ballpark figure. And it was presented as same. As questions.

"By the way, it's actually 4%, not 2.5%, Mr. Careful."

I suck at math, Desslock. Always have. Another of my many limitations.

"But when you write inherently offensive statements about how the only motivation for the awards is marketing ("nothing more"), and how "you bet" games that sucked got awards, don't be surprised to be called on them, and be prepared to back up your statements with substance."

There's the inherently offensive and statement parts again. Twice, now. And incorrect both times. Remarkable. And let's look at the original text again, since--for someone so concerned with exactly what was said--you do seem to delight in trying to quote out of context:

So, what about those games that sucked? Did they get the E3 Award on their box as well? Bet they did. So it's a marketing tool, then. Nothing more.

So what about those games that sucked that still got awards, Desslock? You never did answer the question. I'll make it plain: Are games--and by association, their publishers--that receive one of these awards permitted to use the logo/award/mention of same on the game box? If yes, then games that suck that display the award are deceiving game buyers--and your organization, by association, is assisting in that deception.

Since marketing is the science of showing your product in the best possible light (among others), an award on a freshly released game that may have little or no bearing on the product that's actually inside that box is marketing. As are preview quotes in advertisements in magazines. I'd just like to point out the danger inherent in that little facet with a recent, and painful, example. Displayed prominently on the front flap of the Anarchy Online box is a quote from IGN.COM that reads:

"With such a rock solid product it would be no surprise if anarchy online[sic] dominates its competition...as the top online title for years to come."

Rock solid product? Hm. Maybe I picked up the wrong Anarchy Online at the store.

Before you get your feathers all ruffled, again, let me point out that this is in no way pointing to some massive X-Files/Majestic-like conspiracy theory, or smoke-filled rooms with publishers and editors in cahoots, or any of that "FIGHT THE MAN" crap. It's simply an observation based on what most likely would be a common perception.

As for games that sucked getting the award, I was operating under information you yourself provided. Want me to quote that back, or can you remember that you did indicate that not all of the games you gave awards to merited them upon (eventual) release? So yes, please do call me on that one--and when you call, call collect, because it's your statement--not question--that I'm operating from.

"a man's gotta know his limitations."

It's really a shame that more don't. If you know what I mean.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 10:12 am:

There's a ton of words here, but I think the bottom line is close to what Mark noted.

The E3 Awards are assigning a value judgement to unfinished products.

That's not something we do in previews of games for print or online magazines (if we're trying to stay impartial until release, which the mainstream game press usually tries to do). Rather than telling us about the product, you've assigned it a value compared to other games before you really have any idea how good or bad it's going to be. If I'm not mistaken, this is why no one from CGM participated in these awards.

--Dave


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 11:51 am:

>Rather than telling us about the product, you've assigned it a value compared to other games before you really have any idea how good or bad it's going to be.

That's a fair comment (as I've consistently stated), although it's also what previews do - perhaps is a less tangible package - but it's routine for box covers and ads to quote from glowing previews ("best strategy game ever", was a quote from a major magazine used months in advance of the release of StarCraft), because the authors of those previews have already given an opinion that the game, or certain aspects of it, was/were impressive -- prior to really knowing how good the actual finished product would be.

To me, it comes down to whether or not you think it's appropriate to comment on a game's potential, and I don't have a problem with doing so.

>If I'm not mistaken, this is why no one from CGM participated in these awards.

I think you are mistaken, although I'll defer to the CGM crew here, or at least it's a recently arrived epiphany that hasn't prevented CGM from participating in past years. The different publications have participated to varying degrees -- frankly, only PC Gamer has given them any meaningful recognition in the past -- since publications like to focus on their own coverage, which is totally cool. But the publication neutral aspect of the awards has always been appealing to me.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 12:29 pm:

>Don't know where you went to school, but where I did, sentences that end in this -- ? -- are called "questions". Not statements

A rhetorical question has the same intention as a statement, for one thing, and you made plenty of inflammatory statements. Again, you shouldn't be surprised to be called upon to back up opinionated and unsubstantiated statements or comments. You still haven't done so.

>>what about those games that sucked? Did they get the E3 Award on their box as well? Bet they did.
>There's the inherently offensive and statement parts again. Twice, now. And incorrect both times. Remarkable.

Yep, remarkable, that you can make the statement that "you bet E3 Awards were given to games that sucked", and then act surprised when one of the participants in those awards asks you to back up those statement with tangible examples. Remarkable that rather than address the point, you first retreat behind some nonsensical, irrelevant "statistic" (and miscalculate even that), and then behind some ludicrous (and incorrect) argument about not using "statements", and finally repeatedly bleat that argument while citing examples that actually contain statements.

>games that suck that display the award are deceiving game buyers--and your organization, by association, is assisting in that deception.

Let me get this straight -- again, without citing any examples whatsoever, you feel it's appropriate to state that my "organization" (whatever that is) is malevolently deceiving the public. Nice inflammatory hypothetical. How surprising that someone would feel the need to call you on it.

Of course it's possible that games won't live up to their potential, and for that reason, games that get glowing previews or other accolades such as the publication-specific awards that almost every major publication gives after the E3, may not actually be great games when finally released. But the E3 awards have had at least as good a track record as any publication has had with previews. Maybe no one should ever comment on a game's potential for that reason. But I don't think it's even possible to prevent folk from doing so, or necessarily desirable (although there are a lot of bad, unsubstantiated previews written) and I don't have a problem with providing commentary on what games are the most promising at a conference that facilitates doing so better than any other occasion, since the upcoming products are all available for such comparisons.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 12:33 pm:

>Yeah, but I can't think of a publication that hands out awards to unfinished games, either

Um, other than essentially, "all of them". CGW, GameSpot and PC Gamer all have their publication specific E3 awards. The only difference between them and the e3awards.com awards are that the latter awards are publication neutral, which you earlier agreed was an attractive trait

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:08 pm:

"Um, other than essentially, "all of them". CGW, GameSpot and PC Gamer all have their publication specific E3 awards. The only difference between them and the e3awards.com awards are that the latter awards are publication neutral, which you earlier agreed was an attractive trait"

Actually, the mags seem to be getting away from formally awarding prizes to games at E3. I could be wrong, but I don't think CGW or CGM had formal labels for games as "Best of" for anything. I don't know what Gamer did. They don't seem to have formalized their practices by convening a committee and voting, either.

I don't think the Critics Awards are horrible or anything -- just pointless. I find them a bit distateful because the smack too much of industry boosterism. We shouldn't be in the business of handing out awards to unfinished games. Let the game industry pat itself on the back if they feel a need to. Why should we join in?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Dave Long on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:42 pm:


Quote:

Um, other than essentially, "all of them". CGW, GameSpot and PC Gamer all have their publication specific E3 awards. The only difference between them and the e3awards.com awards are that the latter awards are publication neutral, which you earlier agreed was an attractive trait


Here's where you're doing exactly what you've taken Bill to task for. Gamespot gave awards for E3, but I didn't see anything of the sort in CGM or CGW. They had Top 10 Games of next year in the last issue of CGW, but it's not awards with a seal like this committee hands out (presumably for marketing?). I don't read PC Gamer anymore, but if they did awards, they're in that Deus Ex 2 cover issue. Anyone? If they didn't give specific awards, the online entities are the ones pushing this kind of coverage, not print. So all of a sudden "all of them" becomes limited to those on the panel at the site I linked above and probably a handful of fan sites.

I understand that your heart's in the right place here, but don't you feel kind of silly giving awards for something when you really have no idea how these products will turn out? Was Star Wars Galaxies playable by thousands of players? Do we have anything to go on other than a demo of a graphics engine? Yet this game was best PC game and best Online game. It wasn't even "online" so how can it be judged for that in any way?

Neverwinter Nights wins best RPG two years in a row? That's kind of strange. I'd think we should be questioning these awards even more due to that and the example above. When I look at the list compiled there, it really seems totally useless. Except as a marketing tool for the game industry...well, that big red award sticker will look pretty nice on the box of a released game.

This is what the gamers who've come to this thread are talking about. The E3 Awards look like a mouthpiece for the industry to use "journalists" as a tool to sell their products. It tarnishes other game editorial because no matter how much we like to believe we're all writing for separate publications, freelancing, whatever...we're all just "the press" to the gamers. We get lumped together. So a small selection of the lump then lumped themselves together to give awards that have no real worth other than as a marketing tool. Hence, we're all just a bunch of marketers with no integrity.

I think that's what is at the root of the original editorial in this thread. Some of us just don't like the association and feel that the awards aren't justified.

--Dave
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 02:48 pm:

>"I don't think [previews] are horrible or anything -- just pointless. I find them a bit distateful because the smack too much of industry boosterism. We shouldn't be in the business of handing out [opinions in previews of] unfinished games. Let the game industry pat itself on the back if they feel a need to. Why should we join in?"

There, now we agree, heh.
Not to be glib, but I think inserting "previews" into your statement is an appropriate substitution. Previews probably have the greatest impact on sales of anything that the gaming media produce. Paraphrasing marketing material and glowing praise of incomplete features is commonplace in previews, and quotes from previews are regularly used in advertisements and on box covers. A significant portion of the gaming public buys games almost immediately upon release, before formal reviews are even available, after potentially being "deceived" by previews which turn out to inaccurately reflect the finished product. Previews have far greater impact on influencing purchasing decisions than any publication's E3 commentary or awards.

Yet previews aren't pointless (and neither are the awards), because they give readers who lack direct access to upcoming games with an idea of what people are impressed by -- readers clearly want that information, since previews are so popular.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 03:59 pm:

>So all of a sudden "all of them" becomes limited to those on the panel at the site I linked above and probably a handful of fan sites.

I haven't read any of the magazines' coverage of the show, but certainly CGW has, in the past, done a feature highlighting the games the editors thought were great (as well as disliked, although the "bad ones" list hasn't made it in every year) at the show. Didn't Gamecenter as well? PC gamer has either done its own or specifically referenced the critics' awards. If CGM doesn't/hasn't done it before, it's the only significant publication that hasn't (and they've participated in the critics' awards since the beginning, other than this year).

>The E3 Awards look like a mouthpiece for the industry to use "journalists" as a tool to sell their products.

The industry always uses gaming media as tools to sell their products. That's why they facilitate previews.

>It tarnishes other game editorial because no matter how much we like to believe we're all writing for separate publications, freelancing, whatever...we're all just "the press" to the gamers

That's how I feel that way about every lame preview or review I read.

>So a small selection of the lump then lumped themselves together to give awards that have no real worth other than as a marketing tool.

This is just a rehash of an earlier point raised by Bill. I clearly think there is value in describing (and as a gamer I would like to read about) the games that people liked most at a show where the games were all available to invite comparisons. I know that the awards aren’t "pointless" or "valueless" to all gamers, because before they existed, as a gamer I always wanted someone to do them, heh.

>Hence, we're all just a bunch of marketers with no integrity.

That conclusion doesn't logically follow your previous statement. If anything, publication-neutral awards that all the major pubs and site participate in should be perceived as being less susceptible to individual violations of integrity. Aside from that fact, it's routine to have some gamer post in the usenet about how 'magazine x' is being paid off by 'gaming company y', and how, as a result, gaming media all suck. Those sentiments are generally expressed in response to a review that the poster thought a magazine "blew". I suspect bad analysis, immature writing and lack of perspective when writing (which are obvious problems in this industry), are far greater factors in any negative commentary addressed at the press than any convenient summary of what a bunch of folk thought were the most promising new games, which is really all the awards are.

Maybe the awards shouldn't use "best of" (other than best of show, which is self-explanatory), and should instead use "most promising" [insert category], which might address your concern.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - 11:56 pm:

I'd just like to point out that I have personally never participated in the E3 awards, being opposed to the concept from day 1, and the only time people from our publication did participate was when I stepped down from the EIC chair. And not everyone at the magazine necessarily agreed we shouldn't participate.

Anyhoo, I actually think assigning "Most Promising" instead of "Best Of" would pretty much end the entire discussion.

But Desslock said: "Paraphrasing marketing material and glowing praise of incomplete features is commonplace in previews, and quotes from previews are regularly used in advertisements and on box covers."

...and the fact it's commenplace should bother a whole lot more people than it does. We shouldn't accept that behavior (not saying you do/are) or resign ourselves that "this is the way it is." We should all be fighting it at every stop, and I don't think the E3 awards are helping... did you read some of the write-ups of the award-winnners? Ick.

>>Yet previews aren't pointless (and neither are the awards), because they give readers who lack direct access to upcoming games with an idea of what people are impressed by -- readers clearly want that information, since previews are so popular.

I'd only argue that the awards single out certain titles as being measurably better, regadless of their state or the criteria used in their selection.

You could also counter that granting certain games covers does the same thing, but that's not quite as overt (unless you put BEST STRATEGY GAME EVER as your cover line, which sorta throws all logic and credibility out the window when talking about an unfinished product). And the cover serves one main purpose: to market the magazine to readers on the newsstand, which allows people to read ALL of the content (even the stuff not deemed "worthy" of being a marketable entity for a cover). Subscribers don't care what's on the cover.

Sadly enough, I bet that BEST STRATEGY GAME EVER issue sold... ugh, I get tempted every month to put WORLD EXCLUSIVE SCOOP on the oldest, moldiest articles because, well, everyone else does it.

Hell, everyone had the exact same WORLD EXCLUSIVE SCOOP on The Sims Online in their August issues... oh wait, PC Gamer's WORLD EXCLUSIVE SCOOP was in their September issue. Shameless... It's borderline lying to readers, though it's actually true that every article in our publication is indeed exclusive in that the same text cannot be found anywhere else.

Ugh. I hate hype, I really do. And I feel I have to hype to compete because, well... it works. BECAUSE READERS ARE COMPLETE AND TOTAL... er, great, wonderful people.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 12:07 am:

I think I've seen that suggestion before around here...Most promising would more accurately reflect the intent. Yes, quotes from previews are often taken out of context, and that's too bad. There's nothing we can do about that. But I think it's more commonly known that quotes on the box are often taken out of context than it is that the "Best of E3" award is based on incomplete games. "Most promising" is far more...well, honest, in my opinion. Publishers might be far less likely to put a "Most Promising of E3 1999" sticker or their game then a "Best of Show - E3 '99" sticker, too, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Kevin Grey on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 02:22 am:

"Gamespot gave awards for E3, but I didn't see anything of the sort in CGM or CGW."

The recent issue of CGW with Simsville on the cover rated Star Wars Galaxies as Game of Show and ranked nine other games.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 02:35 pm:

The writeups for the awards were embarrassing. Here's a sample:

"If you were at E3, you probably experienced the crush that was Nintendo's booth. If not, suffice it to say that breathing and moving were purely impossible as ten thousand people tried to fight their way through the crowd to catch thirty-second glimpses of the GAMECUBE, Nintendo's little purple wonder. Countless hoards were seen sprinting through the expo every morning when the floor opened to get one more look at Nintendo's latest -- and, perhaps, greatest."

Bullshit. I was there. The Nintendo booth was crowded, but I walked right and had no problems seeing games. This might as well have been written by Nintendo PR.

"Going into the room, most journalists were only mildly enthused by the idea of LucasArts building a persistent-state Star Wars universe. But coming out of the demo, journalists couldn't stop talking about Star Wars Galaxies…for days on end. LucasArts, in partnership with Sony Online, the creators of EverQuest, revealed a game that is epic in scope, rich in potential, and simply breathtaking to look at. Set across a span of time that encompasses all the Star Wars movies, the game will have 8 playable species and just about anything else you can think of."

ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN THINK OF!!!!! COULDN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT FOR DAYS!!!!!!

On MGS 2: "An already legendary blend of stealth, strategy and all out action; a clear winner."

LEGENDARY!!!! Why should they even bother to release the game? It's already a legend!

Yeah, the awards sure a great thing...for the game companies and any critics who hope to catch on with game company marketing departments.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 04:24 pm:

I'm not going to defend those write-ups -- that shit is embarrassing, but completely consistent with the manner previews and other E3 coverage that were released during the exact same time. For example:

>>Nintendo's little purple wonder. Countless hoards were seen sprinting through the expo every morning when the floor opened ..
>Bullshit. I was there. The Nintendo booth was crowded, but I walked right and had no problems seeing games.

Here's an exact quote from CGO's coverage (http://www.cgonline.com/features/010517-f1-f1-pg2.html):

"Oh, and about the stampede? The Computer Games booth is located right across from Nintendo's huge spread, and when the gates opened this morning, a veritable flood of people swarmed across our carpeted reception area heading full-steam for the unveiling of the GameCube console. It was indeed a sight to behold."

That's almost identical to the write up for the awards. So apparently the CGO folks didn't think it was bullshit, and felt the need to mention the phenomenon even though they don't cover console games.

You also criticized the write up of MGS 2. Here's what IGN wrote:{http://ps2.ign.com/news/35165.html,http://ps2.ign.com/news/35165.html}: "The most stunning presentation of any game that we saw at E3 was without a doubt Metal Gear Solid 2. The sheer scope and awe with which Hideo Kojima and his team have approached MGS2 is truly unbelievable, and though we thought we had played MGS2 with the demo, we were so wrong. The MGS2 has once again stunned us, and we are once again on our knees praying to Kojima-san and his heroic team"

That imagery is goofier than the "legendary" comment. Here's Daily Radar: Game of Show: Metal Gear Solid 2 "by far the most exciting game we've ever seen." {http://www.dailyradar.com/features/game_feature_page_763_1.html,http://www.dailyradar.com/features/game_feature_page_763_1.html}. Pretty nice quote for a box cover, even though it's describing an incomplete product. The comment was actually written in 2000, when there really was nothing to see -- even the E3 awards ruled the game ineligible then.

>Yeah, the awards sure a great thing...for the game companies and any critics who hope to catch on with game company marketing departments.

If you're going to make a generalization, a more apt one is that "previews are great for game companies and any critics [sic] who hope to catch on with game company marketing departments".

But both generalizations aren't accurate. I agree with what Steve said -- the gaming media should try to do better with previews, or any descriptive commentary (including those write ups you quoted) of unreleased games. But that doesn't mean the idea of the awards is flawed. I suspect you can find similarly silly write-ups on most sites' coverage of the show, or other previews of those games, especially on console sites/publications, which tend to write in an over-the-top, childish (in my opinion) manner.

There's bad previews and bad award write-ups, and it's inappropriate to use the awards as a lightning rod to criticize the practice of praising upcoming, incomplete games in ridiculously glowing terms without concurrently recognizing that those practices are widespread, and arguably considerably more damaging in contexts like previews, throughout the industry.

Like I said at the beginning of this message (and what an adventure it's been), I completely agree that it's inappropriate to make wild claims about unreleased games -- that's a practice that should be criticized. But frankly, it has little to do with the awards, and certainly doesn't invalidate the idea of the them.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 04:26 pm:

>COULDN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT FOR DAYS!!!!!!

That actually is a good description of how people who saw Star Wars Galaxies were reacting, by the way.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 04:42 pm:

It was true that people, in the morning, were packing the booth. Particularly the first day, when the doors opened there was a collective "whoo hoo" and people literally ran through our booth to Nintendo... of course a few stopped by to grab an issue, which was nice. (We ran out on the last day after giving out about 15,000 copies.) Most just knocked stuff over.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 05:57 pm:

"There's bad previews and bad award write-ups, and it's inappropriate to use the awards as a lightning rod to criticize the practice of praising upcoming, incomplete games in ridiculously glowing terms without concurrently recognizing that those practices are widespread, and arguably considerably more damaging in contexts like previews, throughout the industry."

Yes, breathless prose describing games in progress is a real problem if the gaming press wants to be taken seriously as a watchdog for the consumers. That's why the idea of formalizing a committee made up of press members to hand out awards to unfinished games bothers me. I don't see any good defense for it, especially the "everyone else is doing it" defense. It's hard to take the E3 Critics Awards as anything but a marketing vehicle for the game companies.

Where does the money to fund the awards come from, btw? The judges get paid a stipend, don't they? Who pays for the website? The "About" section of the site doesn't really say much about the awards. It simply refers people with questions to email them to committee members.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Desslock on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 07:14 pm:

>I don't see any good defense for it, especially the "everyone else is doing it" defense.

That's not a defense I've raised. I've said several times why I think the awards are worthwhile -- because gamers are interested in hearing what people liked at the show. That's the only "defense" necessary, and only one I've mentioned.

But there's no reason for the descriptions in the awards to use flowery, overdone language -- that's a practice worth criticizing, but it's not a practice that has anything to do with the awards (other than there may be some examples of that practice in the winner descriptions) -- it's a practice widespread in this industry, particular in video game magazines. That's the "everyone is doing it" point -- it's a valid criticism, and one I've raised in the context of previews, but it has nothing to do with the purpose of the awards.

>It's hard to take the E3 Critics Awards as anything but a marketing vehicle for the game companies.

It's hard to take most previews as a vehicle for anything other than getting potential purchasers excited about games - but, like the awards, that's not the purpose of previews, even if it's a result. Companies are always going to take positive copy from "press" and use it to market products - that hardly means that the press are solely producing that writing for the press marketing, even if that's an incidental, or indirect, result. The awards were created because gamers, including myself, were interested in seeing them.

>Where does the money to fund the awards come from, btw?

There is no money associated with the awards.

>The judges get paid a stipend, don't they?

Absolutely not.

>Who pays for the website?

There are no real costs. It was originally hosted by UGO, and someone there slapped up a basic webpage. I think Aaron Loeb either moved it to the Imagine servers or just set it up with an ISP.

>The "About" section of the site doesn't really say much about the awards. It simply refers people with questions to email them to committee members

I'll answer any additional questions anyone has.

Stefan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 07:43 pm:

>>Yes, breathless prose describing games in progress is a real problem if the gaming press wants to be taken seriously as a watchdog for the consumers.

That's sorta irrelevant. Individual publications should be concerned about this, not the general "press." There are plenty of fawning movie critics out there who provide wonderful quotes for every crap movie in existence, yet some still retain a "serious" tag because they produce "serious" articles or work for "serious" publications. Same with the music biz, or sports writers, or even political writers.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 09:08 pm:

">>Yes, breathless prose describing games in progress is a real problem if the gaming press wants to be taken seriously as a watchdog for the consumers.

That's sorta irrelevant. "

I disagree, unless you do not want to be taken seriously as a consumer advocate, in which case I really don't see much point to gaming journalism at all, save as an additional marketing arm for the game companies.

"There are plenty of fawning movie critics out there who provide wonderful quotes for every crap movie in existence, yet some still retain a "serious" tag because they produce "serious" articles or work for "serious" publications. Same with the music biz, or sports writers, or even political writers. "

I disagree again. I can't think of one person I know who takes comments by "the critics" seriously. In fairness, lots of people do; it's like Willie Lohman buying his refridgerator model because it had the biggest ad in the newspaper. The best case scenario involves people finding critics whose views they trust (i.e., critics who like the same kinds of movies they do), and trusting only those critics. To say that the cinematic press has anything approaching respectibility as a JOURNALISTIC institution would be, I submit, just plain wrong. If the gaming press wishes to ape the movie critic model, that's their option, but I don't think anyone's holding a gun to their collective head about it. Mainstream news publications offer reasonable reviews of products and services. Even the automotive press, not exactly a paragon of impartiality, manages a modicum of consumer advocacy. The cinematic press (forgive me if this is the wrong term) proved earlier this year that not only can they be bought, but that they expect it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Supertanker on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 09:58 pm:

"To say that the cinematic press has anything approaching respectibility as a JOURNALISTIC institution would be, I submit, just plain wrong."

While that certainly is true for the E!/Entertainment Tonight/Extra media blowjob contingent, it is not true of the entire press. There are plenty of credible film critics in the world. As Roger Ebert put it, he has the world's shortest resume: Winner of a Pulitzer Prize.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Wednesday, August 1, 2001 - 11:16 pm:

>>I disagree, unless you do not want to be taken seriously as a consumer advocate, in which case I really don't see much point to gaming journalism at all, save as an additional marketing arm for the game companies.

I was speaking of "the press" in general, not specific media outlets or about me personally. While I may strive to be a "respectible journalist(tm)" and advocate, the fact others do not have any desire to act this way is irrelevant to me because there's nothing I can do to change their behavior.

>>I disagree again. I can't think of one person I know who takes comments by "the critics" seriously.

Based on your anecdotal evidence, I guess the entire press can all go home now.

But seriously, if you or others don't take comments by "the critics" seriously, this is a complete non-issue. You're effectively saying whatever we say or do is irrelevant, regardless of how we say or do things.

>>If the gaming press wishes to ape the movie critic model, that's their option, but I don't think anyone's holding a gun to their collective head about it.

But how writing about games fundamentally different than writing about movies? It's an entertainment field without measurable "data" to formulate "reviews." It features a topic of zero importance in the general scheme of things; no one "needs" to see movies or play games. Yeah, people take them seriously, and they're serious businesses for a lot of people (myself included), but there aren't exactly gaming issues of grave importance to most people's day-to-day lives. I find it hard to get too worked up over most issues; if you saw some of my mail over things like minor balance changes in Diablo II, oy vey... it's as if George Bush raised their taxes by 50%. Now that would be a serious issue; your barbarian not being quite as powerful as it used to be is not.

>>Even the automotive press, not exactly a paragon of impartiality, manages a modicum of consumer advocacy.

In what sense? So they go after "safety nazis" and promote cars with lots of horsepower and low gas mileage (haven't read them in years, maybe there are new issues); how is that different from game magazines' advocacy for fewer buggy games? And is Motor Trend on the same level of advocacy as Road & Track? Does the long rumored/alleged "collusion" between Motor Trend and the automakers taint all other publications?

I sorta laughed at George Jones' goodbye editorial at CGW (sorry) when he seemed proud of how they took a stand on saved games. Is that an advocacy issue? What is a good one? (Seriously.)

>>The cinematic press (forgive me if this is the wrong term) proved earlier this year that not only can they be bought, but that they expect it.

Certain elements, sure. And certain gaming press are/will be likely the same way. And then there are others that retain some measure of credibility.

Anyway, being Time Magazine is a noble goal and certainly something to strive for, ethically speaking, but I'm under no illusion that we're covering anything more than entertainment, not world politics. Even Time and Newsweek have slight tonal shifts, editorially speaking, when they cover the "arts." They loosen up, they hype pre-release (games or movies)... in a sense, I'd like to think some of the game press is already their equal (or superior) when it comes to how they cover the entertainment biz.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Anonymous on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 11:04 am:

"...I'd like to think some of the game press is already their equal (or superior) when it comes to how they cover the entertainment biz."

Oh my God ... you can't mean this. Even you can't be this deluded.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 11:19 am:

>>Oh my God ... you can't mean this. Even you can't be this deluded.

Do you read Time and Newsweek's "game" coverage, which often involves pre-release games? Their reviews of movies, books, and music? Their celebrity fluff pieces?

So when I say game magazines are on that level, it's not a particularly ringing endorsement.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 05:59 pm:

"But seriously, if you or others don't take comments by "the critics" seriously, this is a complete non-issue. You're effectively saying whatever we say or do is irrelevant, regardless of how we say or do things."

I take critics seriously, once I know they are serious people. Don't forget that you have, on the whole, a more savvy audience than the movie critics. You need to consider your audience. Anyone can go see a movie, or play a console game. They are designed to be as accessible and mass-minded as possible. PC gamers, by definition, are a more specialised group. We're not talking about people forced to use a computer at work, who then never use it at home, but regular folks who are comfortable and reasonably at home using a computer. Y'know, the ones who buy games. Not necessarily geeks, just folks. The Springer-esque atmosphere of movie critics, with their exclamations and catch-phrases, does not play so well with those folks, methinks. Sure, it makes good box copy, but it sells more holiday shoppers than regular gamers, I'd wager. Odd you'd forget that.

"But how writing about games fundamentally different than writing about movies? "

That's your job to figure out, pal, not mine. Be an ape, or be a visionary. One road is easier, sure.

"In what sense? So they go after "safety nazis" and promote cars with lots of horsepower and low gas mileage (haven't read them in years, maybe there are new issues); "

You should go back and check them again. You might find they've become much more consumer-focused in the last decade ;-)


"I sorta laughed at George Jones' goodbye editorial at CGW (sorry) when he seemed proud of how they took a stand on saved games. Is that an advocacy issue? What is a good one? (Seriously.) "

The second sign of the apocalypse! We almost agree on something (laughs). You want a good issue? How about Johnny Wilson going both-guns blazing after Origin when he realized what Ultima IX was going to be? How about Jeff Green IN PRINT calling Sierra a bunch of sleazbags (sic) for Football Pro 2000 and a few others? In a more laid-back sense, how about the old Dumpster Diving section in CGW, where they listed cool games at discount prices, compared to the current price of a recent stinker that you should avoid? All of these helped consumers. To a lesser extent, George always struck me as a likeable guy that never quite got it, from my point of view. He was right, though, about save games. I love Diablo 2. But I never made it through the jungles, because I game before bed, and couldn't stay awake long enough to get between teleport pads to save. A cause of concern for gamers everywhere? Nah. Probably not. But it did ring a bell with me, and people like me (both of 'em, probably).


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 09:04 pm:

>>Don't forget that you have, on the whole, a more savvy audience than the movie critics.

Hmm, I don't know about that; you might think that reading message boards, but you don't see my e-mail.

It depends on the critic and the publication. Do the masses read David Ansen of Newsweek or James Bernadelli or Premiere? Were readers of Pauline Kael less savvy?

>>Y'know, the ones who buy games. Not necessarily geeks, just folks.

Methinks you're talking about game magazine readers from five years ago, not today's.

>>The Springer-esque atmosphere of movie critics, with their exclamations and catch-phrases, does not play so well with those folks, methinks.

Which magazine has the highest circulation, and which gets the most box quotes. Here's a hint--they're the same magazine. Here's another hint--it's PC Gamer.

>>Be an ape, or be a visionary. One road is easier, sure.

How about a visionary ape, or is that an ape visionary?

>>You want a good issue? How about Johnny Wilson going both-guns blazing after Origin when he realized what Ultima IX was going to be?

Hmm, so you think we should be dictating how games are made, that they should follow our own personal tastes? If I recall, his issue was that it would be a Tomb Raider clone, which it wasn't (and never was). He was juding it by its graphic look, not how it played.

And in all honesty, I don't really want Johnny Wilson designing my games. I don't think his tastes reflect my own. God help us if game publishers let the press design their games. The creative people should, I dunno, be creative and do their own thing, even if it seems counter to the expectations of gamers'.

Hell, would we have most major leaps in game design if everyone played it safe and listened to exactly what "gamers" wanted?

>>How about Jeff Green IN PRINT calling Sierra a bunch of sleazbags (sic) for Football Pro 2000 and a few others?

How is that different from us calling it a travesty and giving it a 1-star review? (Despite it being recalled and refunded.)

>>In a more laid-back sense, how about the old Dumpster Diving section in CGW, where they listed cool games at discount prices, compared to the current price of a recent stinker that you should avoid?

We have a new bargain bin section, though I do like the idea of comparing it to a current game... picking some modern equivalent... hmm...

>>All of these helped consumers.

Every review helps consumers. Even the positive ones.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 10:53 pm:

"It depends on the critic and the publication. "

You are mixing your arguements. Before you talked about overall press, now individuals. Glad you see my point, tho.

"Methinks you're talking about game magazine readers from five years ago, not today's. "

I don't know that, and I don't think you do, either. Casual folks aren't motivated enough to send you mail. Only the hard-cores or the passionate-about-my-niche people do, generally. That means that your expertise is limited to feedback from the lunatic fringe, who always have their say, and kids, who have the time and passion to focus on emailing you. Nice. When CGW ran that Vampire cover a couple years back, and posted the mail, it wasn't the cores writing in. The mail messages were from the casuals, who were peeved that their "family" computer mag had a busty wench on the cover.

Also, about your email and messgae boards, I don't frequent message boards, other than this one. Don't fret; given that this board is mostly populated by writers, I don't count them as a typical population sample.

"Hmm, so you think we should be dictating how games are made, that they should follow our own personal tastes? "

Nope. Johnny did call it a Tomb Raider clone, but if I remember correctly, his main point was that the game was not what Origin was advertising it to be. Truth in advertising is a good thing, I generally feel. So far as preaching, which is what the Ultima tear might have been, it was done in editorial, which is expressly there for his opinion (and yours).

"How is that different from us calling it a travesty and giving it a 1-star review? "

The obvious reason. If a batch of, say, baby formula is bad, but only gets mentioned in a baby formulas review section instead of the general news, only those folks following that niche would see the problem. A little dramatic, but the big point was that Sierra was putting out a number of bad (meaning buggy and unplayable)titles at that time, I seem to remember, and was only grudgingly giving in to issue recalls and other assistance. A general warning about the company in the news section was a lot more valuable than a bad review of a single game.

In general, gaming magazines seem to have grown much more complascent in recent years. I haven't seen the articles about WW2OL or AO, but considering the "well-it's a MMOG-they're all like that when released" talk I've been hearing, the reaction is not going to be anything like the stinging editorial rebuke it ought to be.

"Every review helps consumers. Even the positive ones. "

We weren't talking about reviews. We were talking about the differences between movie reviewers and games magazines. Also about previews, which I don't really like, personally. I think they make for unreal expectations for a game, particularly when juicy early features are dropped later on in development.

"How about a visionary ape, or is that an ape visionary?"

Have a banana, Cornelius.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By MikeJ on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 11:08 pm:

"Casual folks aren't motivated enough to send you mail."

but then ...

"When CGW ran that Vampire cover a couple years back, and posted the mail, it wasn't the cores writing in. The mail messages were from the casuals"

You are a master of logic, banana-man.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 11:47 pm:

"It depends on the critic and the publication. "

You are mixing your arguements. Before you talked about overall press, now individuals. Glad you see my point, tho.

"Methinks you're talking about game magazine readers from five years ago, not today's. "

I don't know that, and I don't think you do, either. Casual folks aren't motivated enough to send you mail. Only the hard-cores or the passionate-about-my-niche people do, generally. That means that your expertise is limited to feedback from the lunatic fringe, who always have their say, and kids, who have the time and passion to focus on emailing you. Nice. When CGW ran that Vampire cover a couple years back, and posted the mail, it wasn't the cores writing in. The mail messages were from the casuals, who were peeved that their "family" computer mag had a busty wench on the cover.

Also, about your email and messgae boards, I don't frequent message boards, other than this one. Don't fret; given that this board is mostly populated by writers, I don't count them as a typical population sample.

"Hmm, so you think we should be dictating how games are made, that they should follow our own personal tastes? "

Nope. Johnny did call it a Tomb Raider clone, but if I remember correctly, his main point was that the game was not what Origin was advertising it to be. Truth in advertising is a good thing, I generally feel. So far as preaching, which is what the Ultima tear might have been, it was done in editorial, which is expressly there for his opinion (and yours).

"How is that different from us calling it a travesty and giving it a 1-star review? "

The obvious reason. If a batch of, say, baby formula is bad, but only gets mentioned in a baby formulas review section instead of the general news, only those folks following that niche would see the problem. A little dramatic, but the big point was that Sierra was putting out a number of bad (meaning buggy and unplayable)titles at that time, I seem to remember, and was only grudgingly giving in to issue recalls and other assistance. A general warning about the company in the news section was a lot more valuable than a bad review of a single game.

In general, gaming magazines seem to have grown much more complascent in recent years. I haven't seen the articles about WW2OL or AO, but considering the "well-it's a MMOG-they're all like that when released" talk I've been hearing, the reaction is not going to be anything like the stinging editorial rebuke it ought to be.

"Every review helps consumers. Even the positive ones. "

We weren't talking about reviews. We were talking about the differences between movie reviewers and games magazines. Also about previews, which I don't really like, personally. I think they make for unreal expectations for a game, particularly when juicy early features are dropped later on in development.

"How about a visionary ape, or is that an ape visionary?"

Have a banana, Cornelius.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By MikeJ on Thursday, August 2, 2001 - 11:52 pm:

You said this already, smart guy. And you didn't even correct your spelling of "complacent."

Way to work a message board. Mr. "Kazz". !!!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Michael Murphy (Murph) on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 12:37 am:


Quote:

I haven't seen the articles about WW2OL or AO, but considering the "well-it's a MMOG-they're all like that when released" talk I've been hearing, the reaction is not going to be anything like the stinging editorial rebuke it ought to be.




No? Read Tom Chick's review of WW2OL. Here, let me help: Click here!
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Steve on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 10:37 am:

>>I don't know that, and I don't think you do, either. Casual folks aren't motivated enough to send you mail.

Well... I suspect I know a little more about our readers and the feedback we receive. It's a mix of hardcore and casual, and you can tell pretty clearly by the comments.

>>Nope. Johnny did call it a Tomb Raider clone, but if I remember correctly, his main point was that the game was not what Origin was advertising it to be.

How were they advertising it versus how it turned out (and by advertising, was this literal advertising or preview promises)?

It wasn't an action game by any stretch, and never was. It was a bug-filled mess, but it was as "action-y" as Ultima VII (which had real-time "click on the screen" combat).

>>A general warning about the company in the news section was a lot more valuable than a bad review of a single game.

How is an individual column less of a niche than a review? Based on survey data, more people read each review in our magazine than any individual column. Maybe that's a failing on the part of the various columnists, but if I don't like, say, Tom Chick's style or tone, I won't read his column. But I will read a review.

(By the way, Tom's column in our October issue attacks Westwood for leaving units out of Dune... in a bizarre twist, the facing ad proudly states that folks that pre-order the game from certain mail order companies will get an extra unit.)

>>In general, gaming magazines seem to have grown much more complascent in recent years. I haven't seen the articles about WW2OL or AO

No arguments about complacency (which is due, I suspect to reader feedback that says MORE PREVIEWS!!!! MORE REVIEWS!!!!), though I'm not sure if it's a matter of being more complacent than just not growing up. A lot of people talk about the "glory years" of the game magazines, but if you really go back and look through them... ick.

But I do think some of us try to do some of this more than others. We have a big news feature on those disastrous launches in our next issue and, well... an editorial about it.

>>We weren't talking about reviews.

We were talking about being advocates and serving consumers, and I think reviews do both.

>>I think they make for unreal expectations for a game, particularly when juicy early features are dropped later on in development.

I wish that wasn't a minority opinion. Without previews, we're history.

The problem is if we put "EXPOSED: COMPANY X AND THE GREAT GAMING RIPOFF" on the cover next to PC Gamer with "DUKE NUKEM FOREVER: THE GREATEST GAME EVER, and 20 other games that will BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!", we lose because newsstand buyers are younger and less interested in anything "serious." Subscribers are over 30 while newsstand buyers are like 18 and younger. Trying to make a magazine that satisfies the needs of both groups ain't easy.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Mark Asher on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 01:12 pm:

"Subscribers are over 30 while newsstand buyers are like 18 and younger. Trying to make a magazine that satisfies the needs of both groups ain't easy."

I've got it! Put a sexy vampire on the cover!

Oh wait....


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 06:44 pm:

"I've got it! Put a sexy vampire on the cover!

Oh wait.... "

No kidding. I couldn't believe all the hoopla over that.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By kazz on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 06:48 pm:

Sorry, didn't realize I posted that one twice.

"Way to work a message board. Mr. "Kazz". !!! "

Do you want to actually contribute something here, or just bray? It's a wide-open discussion at this point.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message  By Jason McCullough on Friday, August 3, 2001 - 08:18 pm:

Good lord, the webpage for this thread is up to a megabyte now.


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