Monday, May 11, 2009

Stinkaphonic (Update)

The e-mail after the Stinkaphonic post last week was very interesting.

First, here's some additional perspective on the Darkfall Online review by Ed Zitron. It's not the first time he's written a relatively savage review of an MMO. Check out his PC Zone Review of Roma Victor (published October 2008)--it's very similar to the Darkfall Online review in terms of sheer snarkiness.

Chris Rasco, who is Editor-in-Chief of Snackbar Games, sent me the link. He said that Ed had written reviews for the site for a few years , and that he was a friend. He also said that the developers of Roma Victor made the same charges about playing time. Here's an excerpt from his e-mail:
They did the same exact thing with regard to saying he didn’t play the game as long as he said. I’ve “known” Ed a long time, and while he can be harsh on games, he’s a very thorough reviewer and I always had his back. If he trashed a game, it usually deserved to be trashed. I don’t have facts related to either of these reviews first hand so I can’t prove anything either way in this instance, but I wouldn’t have kept him on our staff for so long if he had questionable integrity.

That's one perspective. Another one is provided by Dennis Willett:
I played Darkfall (about 30-40 hours) - and I thought when I read that review: what is this guy's problem? Yeah, there are things wrong with Darkfall, BUT there are a number of good things - and those seemed to be completely unrepresented (for example, how Aventurine is rapidly responding in real ways to player complaints, and - for the right type of gamer - how the gameplay can be very tense and engaging).

So there you go. Ammunition for both sides.

On the other issue mentioned in the original Stinkaphonic, the e-mail was tremendously interesting because the fault lines were so clearly defined. With no exceptions, people outside gaming journalism said that including the length of time a reviewer spent with a game was an excellent idea. And also without exception, the people inside gaming journalism said it was absolutely unworkable.

It's true that there are some hard stops built into gaming journalism: the pay for doing reviews, when builds are supplied, when reviews need to be published, the fact that some games really are shit and three or four hours is plenty of time to figure it out.

Plus, even if play time was included in a review, what's to stop a reviewer from just lying about how much time they spent?

That's all true, but it's also awkward, because I think the perception of most consumers is that reviewers have finished the games they're writing about. In games that can't be really "finished," I think they assume that reviewers have put in 20+ hours, at least.

J.R. (among others) sent me a link to a new feature at Joystiq called JoystiQuitter, and it's an excellent idea. Here's the description:
If there's one thing we hate about our new focus on reviewing games here at Club Joystiq, it's having to play games that we don't like very much. But then we realized: For every second we spend playing a game we hate/just don't want to play, that's another second we can't spend telling you about a good game, or putting hilarious captions on pictures of cats.

So, we'd like to humbly introduce Joystiquitter, where we tell you what we thought, why we stopped playing and just how long it took for the game to break our spirits.

I think this is a far more interesting idea than writing a straight review, and probably far more honest as well--we find out how long they played and why they quit.

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