The official Journey review FAQ

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Last week, I reviewed Journey. If you gauge an article by the quantity of comments in the comments section, it was Quarter to Three’s most successful article. If you gauge an article by the quality of the comments in the comments section, it was Quarter to Three’s least successful article.

In case some of the people who posted comments stuck around, I thought I should answer some of their questions and address some of their concerns. But rather than wade into the morass of comments, I present it here as a FAQ for the Journey review.

After the jump, everything you always wanted to know about the Journey review and weren’t afraid to ask in expletive riddled language

Q: Aren’t you the guy who gave [insert game here] a [insert low rating here]?

A: Yes, that was probably me.

Q: Why did you give Journey a 40%?

A: I didn’t. Quarter to Three uses a five star scale. One of the reasons I avoid percentage ratings is that too many people associate it with grade school, where anything below a 70% is a failing grade. Any scale where only the top third of the ratings is considered acceptable is a broken scale. Which is fine for children doing multiple choice questions about The Scarlet Letter, isosceles triangles, or the capital of France. But adults evaluating entertainment should be afforded the full range of any ratings scale.

Q: Okay, why did you give Journey 2 stars?

A: At this point, I would refer you to the actual text. Ratings or scores are the least interesting part of a discussion about an opinion. But basically it comes down to me putting Journey a notch below the middle of the scale, which would be 2 1/2 stars. Hence, 2 stars.

Q: Why did you give [insert game here] a perfect score?

A: Again, I would refer you to the text of a review. I would also like to point out that I take issue with the idea of a perfect score. That implies a perfect game. I’d rather call 5 stars what it is, namely the “highest score”. That’s a much less loaded way to express how a reviewer uses his highest score.

Q: Why isn’t your review objective?

A: That’s not how I write. Furthermore, I would argue that’s not how a review works. To me, a review is one person articulating his experience with a movie, a book, an album, a game, or whatever. That person will bring his own voice, context, and even baggage to the review, none of which is “objective”. If you want objective reviews, try IGN. I hear they’re very good at that sort of thing.

Q: Did you even play Journey?

A: I played it one and a half times. My name on the Playstation Network is tomchick, and you’re more than welcome to examine my trophies (please don’t laugh at my pitiable showing in Dark Souls). You’ll see I got a trophy called “rebirth” for starting a second playthrough. Which I eventually abandoned, hence my assertion that I’ve played it one and a half times.

Q: Did you write that review just to get hits?

A: For the most part, I couldn’t care less how many hits we get on the site in general or a review in specific. In fact, until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even follow that data. The only reason I follow it now is because sometimes someone in PR wants the information. As for revenue, I don’t make a single cent based on traffic. Quarter to Three is supported entirely by people who click its ads or who use the donate button. I suspect none of the people angry about the Journey review did either of those things.

Q: Are you just being a contrarian because Journey is a popular and critically acclaimed game?

A: Often when I review a game, I don’t have a sense for whether it’s popular or critically acclaimed. Furthermore, I don’t really read videogame reviews. But more to the point, I feel that if I were simply being contrarian, you would know by what I write. Even if you disagree with something I’ve written — and I welcome that, by the way, as my point is never to sway someone — I would hope you can tell it’s an opinion I honestly hold. The worst thing you could think about something I write is that I’m lying.

Q: Do you hate indie games?

A: Not at all. I loved Bastion, Space Pirates and Zombies, Eufloria, Din’s Curse, Gratuitous Space Battles, Echo Bazaar, and Tidalis, as well as the artsy games I listed in the introduction to the Journey review.

Q: Do you hate popular AAA games?

A: Not at all. I loved Arkham City, Bioshock, Saints Row, Portal, Uncharted, Battlefield 3, Resident Evil 5, and pretty much everything with the words Ratchet and Clank in the title.

Q: Didn’t you hate Starcraft II, Forza 4, Skyrim, Gears of War 3, and Uncharted 3?

A: No, a little, no, not really, and somewhat.

Q: Are you qualified to review Journey?

A: Absolutely. What’s more, I’m qualified to review genres other than the ones I play most often (shooters, turn-based strategy games, RTSs). As long as I’m not misrepresenting myself or my perspective, as long as I have some context and experience with a genre, I feel my opinion is valid and informed. For instance, I don’t play fighting games online or in competitions, but as long as I’m clear in a review that I’m a casual single-player guy or a messing-around-with-friends-locally multiplayer dude, I’m fully qualified to write about fighting games. A reviewer doesn’t have to be good at a game, or even particularly invested in the genre. He just have to have enough context to understand it. Which is why I’m not qualified to review, say, Madden 2012. I don’t know a thing about basketball.

Q: Metacritic or Gamerankings shouldn’t list you. How do I get you delisted?

A: You’re more than welcome to complain to the aggregates, and I’m sure they would value your feedback. Believe me, I’m surprised they list me, too. But that’s because I’m surprised they list many of the reviews I read. So, okay, I exaggerated up there when I said I don’t read game reviews. Sometimes I do, and often I’m aghast that this stuff helps determine whether developers get a bonus. The aggregates are only as good as the information fed into them, and I would encourage you to help make sure they’re getting the best information.

Q: Isn’t it true you got fired from [insert publication here]?

A: You can’t technically fire a freelancer. But you can kill his article and then never hire him again. Close enough, right? So you could say I’ve been “fired” two and a half times. The first time was at Gamecenter in 2000 for my Deus Ex review. The second time was at Gamespot in 2003 for my Master of Orion III review. The half time was last year at Gamespy, and it only counts because it was a matter of the editor and I agreeing to part ways. This was the result of the editor 1) holding back my Age of Empires Online review because it did’t align with Metacritic, and 2) inserting text into my Dead Island review that I didn’t agree with. So there’s all the dirty laundry on my supposedly controversial career as a game reviewer since 1994. I also once got fired from a production of Neil Simon’s California Suite at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. True story.

Q: Say, aren’t you a failed actor?

A: You could put it that way. Among the things I’ve done in Los Angeles are delivering sandwiches and acting. Creatively speaking, they were equally gratifying. As an actor, I have had the honor of personally frustrating Joss Whedon, Allison Janney, and Rob Lowe. I have a Kevin Bacon number of 1.

Q: You went to Harvard?

A: Don’t think I haven’t heard that question before, usually when I do something stupid like misremember how long division works. I have a master’s degree in theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School. I was never a member of the clergy, despite having the same last name as Jack Chick. My interest was in the Hebrew Scriptures (often called the Old Testament, which is slightly insulting to Jews) and I planned to study the Koran as well. Unfortunately, Muhammad and his followers didn’t have the common courtesy to learn English and I had already sapped about 90% of my brain power learning Hebrew. I figured that was enough school for one dude’s lifetime.

Q: Suck my dick, fag.

A: That’s not a question.

Q: Will you suck my dick, fag?

A: That’s pretty clever.

Q: Ha ha, you didn’t say you wouldn’t suck my dick, so you’re a fag.

A: Also not a question. And when you write this way in a comments section, you’re not doing the game you’re “defending” any favors. I’ve spoken to people who really like Journey and who feel very differently than me. If a neutral third party were to listen to our conversation, he would conclude that Journey fans are thoughtful and articulate. If a neutral third party were to read your comments, he would conclude that Journey fans are juvenile homophobes with bad grammar and a deep seated insecurity about their own opinions. When you advocate a position on the internet, you are serving as its representative. Journey deserves better than you.

Q: Your mother loves fags.

A: Yes, she does.