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Dan Hsu Needs To Finish What He Started
Published on May 8, 2007 By iTZKooPA In Gaming
As I mentioned in my previous blog/rant Denis Dyack addressed some huge issues that are harming or at least holding back the game industry. He and Silicon Knights learned first hand at last year's E3 (and the final E3) how unforgiving and pointless the press could be when they looked at their latest project, the Xbox360 title Too Human. When asked if he thought the press was too harsh he went the other way, wishing their was more objectivity in the gaming press. Again I whole heartedly agree with the man.

With the exception of took Microsoft's Peter Moore to the whipping post over missed promises from the Xbox360's launch. Although some people viewed the interview as rude, Hsu did what any true journalist should do, he asked Mr. Moore the tough questions that needed to be answered. Hsu came off as rude but in this nerds opinion he needed to. He had to prove to Moore that he was 100% serious and wasn't going to let up just because of Moore's standing. Moore for his part took the interview in stride like a true professional realizing after only the third question that this wasn't a fanboy who drank his promises as if they spilled from a golden cup. Unfortunatley since this point in late 2005 the game industry's press has basically went back to its resting state.

I wish the sweeping changes that Hsu mentioned would happen, so does Dyack, but they won't. The consumer's of said media are basically negligent to these background dealings so why would these companies break their stride? The changes will have to be pushed through by NEW companies and individuals who believe in journalistic integrity. A radical shift for any current standing organization and a wake-up call to anyone who ignores it.

Now I did promise in my past rant that I would touch upon how I approach reviewing, and honestly I feel that its a much better approach than most companies make at the moment. First and foremost, if you haven't played through at least the main campaign of the title, beginning to end, then you have no right to review the title. I understand that with the sheer amount of new titles coming out nowadays its tempting to just get a flavor of the title and then dive into the review but that leads to a disservice to everyone involved. A reviewers credentials, as well as their publication, will crash and burn if repeated positively reviewed titles end up being duds after the first few hours and gamers end up picking up half-baked titles that will then have the chance to become half-baked franchises. Too many times I have seen reviews which just cover the opening hours of a title and call it a review. This is NOT a review, I would liken it to an extended preview at best.

Secondly, as my beef with movies critics, STOP reviewing games which you won't like. If you hate turn-based strategy titles and hardly ever play them you have no right to be reviewing the latest and greatest from Intelligent Systems. Not only do you lack the knowledge of what to compare the title to but you are already predisposed to give a bad score. Don't like console FPSs? Then don't review them, odds are you still won't like the new one. This can go both ways as well. A reviewer could just be a die hard Zelda fan and never think that their can be a bad title in the series, this would be up to the editor or chief-reviewer to watch out for. GameInformer covers their ass pretty well by providing readers with a quick second opinion from another reviewer. At least they seem to understand my point.


My last beef is the arbitrary scores. I understand that people are bent up on hard data, I am a mathematician by training so its how I think as well, but you can be creative about your recommendations. Word of mouth SHOULD be the biggest contributor to a titles sales, something that marketing should be trying to promote. It should be obvious that if I hearken a title to the likes of Diablo and Dungeon Siege, games which sold well enough to establish successful franchises, as I did with Titan Quest, you can be damned sure that I felt the title was a sure fire hit for anyone who is into the given genre.

So how does one deal with all these misgivings and still manage to pick up solid titles? Use resources of course. Sites like Metacritic.com and GameRankings.com (although now owned by the same company) are a good way to avoid bad reviews. They average the scores across various publications which help weed out anyone who may be violating my second pet peeve in reviewing. The first rule is more difficult to filter out. The best way is to just retroactively check the review after YOU finished the title and make a judgment call. Did the reviewer hit key points throughout the title or did they just seem to review the first half of the title? If they failed, then try to make a mental note to avoid anything from them in the future. As for avoiding scores, goodluck. I don't know a single website or magazine that DOESN'T post scores in some manner. If you are as annoyed by the arbitrary points system (ie Gamespot taking points off the amazing Mario Kart DS because it didn't use all of the systems functionalities) as I am then just keep your ear to the ground. Query friends you trust for their input, check out forums that cover the specific genre and hit chat rooms and the likes. Heres to hoping for some independent-no-strings-attached-publications in the near future.

Comments
on May 08, 2007
Secondly, as my beef with movies critics, STOP reviewing games which you won't like. If you hate turn-based strategy titles and hardly ever play them you have no right to be reviewing the latest and greatest from Intelligent Systems. Not only do you lack the knowledge of what to compare the title to but you are already predisposed to give a bad score

i disagree. a review or critique is valid from ANY PERSPECTIVE. the reviewer does owe it to the audience to be upfront about his / her perspective so the audience can fairly "review the review."

most things that TRULY "hit it big" in this world do it becuase they appeal to those who don't habitually hang in those tight circles. harry potter isn't megahuge because only kids into stories about witches read the books. they appeal to kids who don't normally read those types as well as adults who usually wouldn't be caught dead reading something that is marketed to children.

michael jackson's thriller isn't the all time seller that it is because only fans of bubble gum pop bought it. the album went from being just another top 10 record to it's immortal status in part because of rock and heavy metal fans. and for many of em, it was , and still is the only pop record in their collection.

pac man appealed to people who didn't play video games then. it was revolutionary to the industry not because hard core gamers liked it, but because all those who refused to play before found themselves "waka-wakaing" all day long.

just 3 examples that are commonly known. i'm sure you will think of your own.

finally, while makers of products, especially niche products, appreciate that their core audience buys their product, they also kind of expect that or at least count on it to remain in business. they know the real success comes when they can appeal to people who before wouldn't give that product a second glance. a review by someone who is outside of that circle and may reach that untapped market is most welcome, i'm sure. no one wants to be reviewed negatively, but i'm sure the game makers , who are in it to make a buck in the end, like that their product at least caught the attention of a wider audience. and those reviews usually won't affect the opinions of the hard core players, that are already 1/2 way sold, at least, going in. In fact, like you seem to do, it makes their hard core fans "circle the wagons" which is good for them. so that "outside" review can be good for the gamemaker despite the actual review.
on May 08, 2007
I guess I should have been a bit more clear. I did not mean that you should never review outside your areas of enjoyment but instead you should note what your particular interests are. Your examples are certainly valid, any piece of media that gets a review along the lines of "as you know normally I HATE fantasy/FPSs/Star Trek but this entry is so well done as to tear me away from my norms and open my eyes."

Products do not need to be massively popular to be profitable as evidenced most dramatically by Apple, which has had analysts predicting their demise for years (although now the iPod has basically brought them out of that niche stage). Again I see your point though, that isn't how you make the big bucks

Still the biggest problem is the corrupt press and the backdoor dealings they do to get ahead.
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