Reviewing One’s Experience

So Batman: Arkham Knight is a flaming pile of excrement, right? Well, only if you’re playing the PC version. Otherwise, the game runs fine and looks great. Should those negative review scores be revised, then? When WB and Iron Galaxy squash all the bugs, should we demand critics re-evaluate the game?

With this weeks latest controversy over a game release, I began thinking about an old idea of mine. When does objective criticism and personal experience become a factor in a game review? A game cannot cater to every specific customer at once, but we see fans demanding such a thing from writers.

The constant stream of, “No way this game is a 5,” and “Too much batmobile. 7/10,” are just pathetic. At the same time, maybe we should be seeing more objective takes on current games.

While I used to be all about leaving personal experience out of the equation, I’ve shifted my viewpoint in more recent times. Unless a game has actual game breaking bugs (Which Arkham Knight does on PC), you can’t truly call it a bad game. If it makes even one person happy, then it has not failed.

Even made me question humanity. I’d call that a win.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of critically panned games. Binary Domain is a brilliant shooter, but most reviewers couldn’t be assed with it. Long Live the Queen is a charming text-based adventure, but critics didn’t find a lot to love. Goat Simulator is also quite shat on, but I love how hilariously stupid it can be.

My friend is also quite fond of WWE 2k15 on PS4. We both agree the game is a horrible, broken mess, but the glitches produce some of the most outrageous moments we’ve had in a long time. There isn’t another game out there where Sting can do a split in mid-air while Hogan gets stuck inside the ropes.

I’m getting tired of seeing people complain about review scores, as well. If someone personally feels that a game should be rated a 5, you don’t have any right to refute them. You don’t have to agree, but to shout that they are wrong is ludicrous.

The 10 point scale for reviewing has long been abused. Critics will give average games a 7 and that tilts the scale in a negative way. Now anything below a 7 isn’t worth looking at, which means that 7 is actually 5 and 5 then becomes something like a 3.

I believe that has more to do with how ingrained school grading has become in society, but it still leads to a misconception about the quality of a game. It also does nothing to inform a reader if the game is any fun.

I remember when GamePro still existed. They used to grade games in 4 different fields; Graphics, Sound, Control and Fun Factor. A game could get low marks in the first three, but Fun Factor was ultimately what most people were curious about.

Ah, memories.

Even if you end up hating a game after grinding away at it, the fun you had when you first popped it in should be worth it. If you live your life regretting the decisions you make and looking to strangers online for confirmation, you’re doing something wrong with your life.

What truly tipped in into this line of thinking was the end of 2011. I was eagerly waiting for games like Uncharted 3, Saints Row: The Third and Duke Nukem Forever. Those all quickly became my least favorite from their respective franchises, but it also taught me a thing about believing in reviews online.

At the end of the day, the only person who will know you best is yourself. You cannot rely on someone’s opinion when making a purchase. You should obviously reference a review to gauge any glaring errors in playability, but some person who has never met you is not a good indicator of something you may like.

Why should I care if some random jerk thinks my favorite game is trash? Unless he is threatening game developers or personally assaulting my family, I don’t know why his thoughts should impact mine. I like the damn game and that is that.

This may be a bit sidetracked, but I just wish people would learn to use reviews for what they are; opinionated viewpoints. They are one person’s account of how they saw the game. If you typically agree with that person, then the review might just be for you.

Yeah; this guy.

So at the end of the day, I believe personal experience should weigh more in a review score. Instead of trying to remove any trace of humanity from a piece, inject more of your own belief into it.

As indie game writer Rob Marrow told me, “Of course I’m bias. I don’t like this specific type of game.” You can’t always get what you want. Learn to deal with that.

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Labyrinth Legends if a Thing

I beat Labyrinth Legends the other day. It was a fun little game with some decent controls and puzzles. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but Sony giving it away for free on PlayStation Plus was nice. I feel bad not giving the developers $10 for the game, since I did enjoy it.

Funny thing about the game: I cannot find much about it. There is no Wikipedia entry. The developer’s website has maybe a paragraph about the title. GameRankings only has seven listed reviews. I can’t find any advertisements for the game. Apparently nobody cares about this.

So what else can you say about a game when even its developer doesn’t care? This is an old problem in the games industry that hasn’t changed with the shifting times. Konami should know firsthand how bad no promotion or attention can be. Destructoid’s own Jim Sterling is the only reason that the game Blades of Time is recognized around the Internet.

When it’s already difficult to get a game made, why would you simply coast along and hope your game does well? Since I actually enjoyed Labyrinth Legends, I would have gladly promoted the hell out of it. I’d make some videos on YouTube, maybe do a Let’s Play. Anything would be better than the situation now.

This just makes me think about the recently released Remember Me. The game is already facing an uphill struggle as it stars a female protagonist, but I have not seen a single promotional teaser for the game. Focus groups and developers claim that games with female leads do not sell, but then fail to promote them properly.

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Even a demo would have been nice. It hurts when the review scores are coming with some negativity and not many people have even heard of the game. What are you supposed to do to rectify your reputation when you don’t care?

I still refuse to believe how terrible Konami is about PR. They constantly delay games without notifying even retail outlets and issue press releases for demos that were released two days prior. If a game from that company doesn’t contain the words “Metal” and “Gear” in the title somewhere, then you’d be hard pressed to actually know it existed.

Even Silent Hill gets shafted. While the HD collection was trash, longtime fans were super pumped to be getting re-releases of beloved gems. Maybe if Konami gave a crap, we’d have HD versions worth owning and more people would recognize that survival horror was still a genre.

Then we come to Nintendo with the Wii U. The adoption rate of the console is beyond miserable. The Wii even managed to outsell its HD brother last month. Not many people understand that the console is actually different. I don’t see any commercials trying to persuade consumers, either.

We have random PR gibberish and made-up phrases like “asynchronous gameplay” that mean nothing to anybody. Nintendo is simply resting on their laurels and hoping the Wii U explodes like its predecessor. Why bother putting more effort in?

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It’s not just the Wii….we promise.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I genuinely care about gaming. I love these companies for their past successes and want to see them succeed. I’m tired of playing good games and having no one to discuss them with. Why am I the only person that seems to know about something?

Even just having a person recognize the title I’m talking about would be huge. I may not know every movie ever made, but I certainly know enough about the casting or directors to at least have a conversation with another human. When I discuss gaming, though, I get blank stares.

I want more people to appreciate and form opinions about my hobby. I want the developers in the games industry to prosper and get their games recognized. More importantly, I want funny, quirky little games like Labyrinth Legends to do well.

So, I urge everyone to give that game a shot. It plays like a modern version of Gauntlet, except without the 50 floors. The game has bright, cheerful graphics and a very brisk pace. It feels great and is nice.

I just wish more people actually knew about it.