PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Objective Game Reviews (part 3)

on September 13, 2014

Answers have been cut if they misunderstood question – ie, if the answer to 4 was referring to what they linked in q3, rather than the quote given in q4.

Some answers may have been merged – ie, where I’ve been given the same link/article/answer multiple times, I will just include link with a note of how many people answered with this in the format: [article](x5)

Some answers may not be included if they misunderstood the question – they may instead have moved to ‘bonus’ as a section. Will highlight if that is the case.

People are anon if they didn’t explictly say “call me x”. Email me again if you want to change that 🙂Anon referencing consistent within this topic, but not with others.

1. When you say “objective game reviews”, what do you mean?

Anon29: “I don’t think it’s an issue that journalists and developers have relations in a sense. I mean, asking how the family is? That’s fine. Grabbing a drink and dinner to discuss the industry? That again is fine. Where I draw the line in objective journalism is when a person in the industry is providing any sort of financial incentive to those they are reporting on or are providing products to be reported on. Sharing a household with, contributing to through patreon, and especially financially backing a project of a person you are supposed to remain as neutral as possible with is not okay. I understand that there are some blurred lines there and that things can get complicated, but when money is involved the way it has been there is obvious justification for the outcry we’ve seen. Where there is smoke…
I would also add that physical relationships between people are fine I think, I mean we are all adults here. Sex is fun! A journalist should however remove themselves from the story if ever called upon to write about the person they have slept with or dated. I mean, if a journalist had dated a dev and the relationship ended badly, would that dev feel comfortable with that journalist reviewing his/her product? To put it simply, remove the obvious conflicts of interest. If you can’t then you shouldn’t be writing about something that may or may not convince your readers to buy a product. Some people depend on these large personalities as the deciding factor when they buy a product and companies depend on the media to give them fair coverage.”


Anon30: “Objective and review is a bit of an oxymoron, since reviews are inherently subjective. What I guess people mean is “unbiased reviews” or atleast as unbiased as possible. Think that journalistic ethics would work wonders here. Simply disclose personal ties and/or pre-conseptions you might have of the game you are reviewing.”


Anon31: “All reviewers are going to have an opinion about a particular game — that’s the purpose of the review. What we’re against is biases shifting their opinion either for personal gain or to benefit a friend in the industry. If a reviewer gives Call of Duty a “10” because they have a friend in the development studio, then that’s bias. If they give Call of Duty a 10 because they think it’s a genuinely perfect game, then that’s an objective review. ”


@orichalcumroad: See final section for full answer.


Anon32: “Reviews that focus on the entretainment value of the game, without preaching to the audience how they should face the game from a moral or political perspective. Reviewers stating how much experience with the genre the game under the spotlight belongs to. Reviewers recognizing when they are being extremely passionate about something -either in a positive or negative light- and admitting personal views as personal. If they have any ties with the developer, disclose it in a clear way.”


Anon33: “When I say “objective game reviews”, I mean reviews that deal first and foremost with the quality of the game. Now, quality is a very broad term, so I’ll break it down. I think the best thing to address first in quality is the story/plot of the game. Is it creative, engaging? Does it appeal to a broad audience? Possibly a tiny hint/allusion to plot twists? These questions help the reader determine whether or not the game’s overall story will appeal to them, which will either encourage them to read on or to seek a game or review more suited to their interests.

After explaining the story, I think the next most important aspect of the game are its features. Does it have co-op play? If so, how does it integrate that into the story? Is the 2nd player simply a clone of the first player’s avatar, or is there some more flavour involved? Does it have more traditional multiplay styles? What can you do in the game? The third feature that I think matters to the audience are the mechanics. How does the game handle? What are the load times like? If it’s an rpg, is it free-roam? How are the controls? Is it a challenge to learn the controls, or are they fairly straightforward?

The final part is where the author can get into opinions. Did they enjoy the game? Was it fun? Did it effectively balance challenging players without major mechanic issues? Also in this part is where the author could disclose any social/political thoughts they had on the game, and to clarify that the views expressed in this part of the review are, more than the rest, the views of the author, not the company nor the consumer.
To me, that would be the ideal review format. It presents the game in a way that readers want in order to better help them determine whether or not to look into purchasing it, while also providing the author a way to express any concerns they might have about the content, without pushing those views to the forefront of the article.”


Anon34: “Objective in the sense as being untied to the ties we can have with those that pay for them, their friends/wives/lovers/besties/bros and so on and so forth. All reviews are subjective; most of us know it and I certainly do. But I want your honest opinion, without taint from relationships you might have with the creators or the advertisers or the financiers.”


@WolfSaviorZX: “I don’t think I ever used the word “objective” but many may have used it. I simply want reviews that based the game review on the experience of other games in it’s genre and of other games on the platform so it’s somewhat fair. Reviewing a first person shooter requires if not actually comparing it to other shooters at least having a concept of what is a “First Person Shooter”.”


Anon35: ” a. Not coming from someone who’s friends / sex partners / otherwise intimately connected with the developer in such a way as to create a conflict of interest. This should go without saying.
b. Content that does not push a social or political agenda, but stays focused on the game in and of itself, and helps me decide whether I would like to spend money on it. Nothing more, nothing less. If a journalist wants to say something like “Ladies, there are a bunch of strippers in this game, so if that bothers you, don’t play it” that’s fine, because it’s a decision-making criterion that I have no doubt some people use.”


Anon36: “I found this as a weird starting point for questions since it worried me that you had misunderstood. While this has been a concern about “what can be objective” for a while, I’ve never considered it part of our main concerns. Far more articles covering news remaining neutral. In this sense I would like for reviewers to discuss the features of a product by saying what it is, then saying how they feel. It’s not a massive worry to me, but too many do start with introducing an idea and entirely framing it around an opinion calling it good or bad, then dismissing it, rather than saying what it actually means. I can understand situations where it’s harder, like art style. Art style “being good” is hardly an objective feature, but I’d like to hear why. What does it mean to other matters?”


nomuru2d: “Basically, if you have had a hand in any part of the development of a game, including financial backing, covering it in a review would not be objective. The textbook definition of the term means not having any sort of emotional attachment to a subject when initially discussing it, meaning no prior involvement bias. Financially backing a game’s development would mean that you had a great amount of emotional investment in the project.”


Anon37: “A review that is not peppered with an agenda to further an ideology. A review that is free of personal bias against personal hang ups. Putting in personal commentary about social hang ups have no place in a video game review. It is like when people poorly rate a videogame on amazon because they bought the Xbox One version and they have a Playstation 4. Their frustration about ordering the wrong console version has NOTHING to do with gameplay, graphics, re-playability, or story. “


2. Do you think reviewers with very obvious biases against certain genres – ie, like Yahtzee  + MMOs – have a role in game reviews?

Anon29: “There have been some reviewers and YouTube personalities in the industry that are very biased against certain genres. As someone that appreciates reviews and opinions on games from these personalities I would have to say that I usually just refrain from taking a review too seriously if I know they have in the past been overly critical of the genre in question. That said, I think that removing those biased reviews from the meta of reviews is a bad idea because the aggregate represents the game in its whole as viewed by the community. It is exceedingly important to have varying opinions on a game and I can’t stress this enough. Perhaps a person wants to get into MMO’s eventually but can never find one they like, if they see a reviewer that has been biased in the past come out as being a fan of a new MMO then perhaps that person will try the game. Negative and biased reviews certainly can be a positive.”


Anon30: “I think a good reviewer could. Same as with music and movies, even if it isn’t a genre you like you can still recognize talent and hard work.”


Anon31: “Sure, as long as the reviewers are clear in their reviews about why they liked or didn’t like a game. It’s also the responsibility of the website in question to make sure the reviewer is appropriate for the game. Yahtzee is less of a reviewer and more just general criticism; he’s not giving number scores. ”


@orichalcumroad: See final section for full answer.


Anon32: “Not in reviews per se. Yahtzee does comedy reviews and he’s very open about his biases and uses them for certain effects. They have a place in games media for sure, but not for “official stance”-kind of reviews, I think.”


Anon33: “I do think reviewers with obvious biases do have a role in game reviews. Bias is not an inherently bad thing. It can help a reader see something from a different perspective. The issue is when the bias is made the focal point of the review, or when the author is not upfront about their personal bias. That is when gamers start to take issue.”


Anon34: “Yahtzee wears his bias on his sleeve. Plus, his reviews are generally done so for humour rather than for actual critical value. And he makes this fairly clear from the start, which is why it’s fine. If you know Yahtzee, and a lot of us do, you know that his reviews of MMOs should always be taken with a touch of salt. In short, I’m fine with bias, so long as it’s fairly clear.”


@WolfSaviorZX: “I think it may be a bad decision to let someone who hates let’s say “Trading Card based games” to review a game if they don’t plan on at least trying to judge the game based on other games of the genre. Maybe the criticism of reviews is sometimes transferred entirely based on the reviewer at hand when it’s just as much management’s fault in many of these gaming websites.”


Anon35: No answer given.


Anon36: “Yes, and I would like more people to admit it. A big problem I have with game reviews is the person will judge it entirely on their opinion and make that the conclusion, without stopping to consider “I may not like this, but would other people, and if they do, what kind of people?” And similarly vice versa. Or I would like to see this problem solved by entire publications all sharing their contrary opinions.”


nomuru2d: “I believe that reviewers with anti-genre biases ultimately do more harm than good, unless it’s played for exaggerated comedic effect like what Yahtzee typically does.”


 Anon37: “Does this happen? I am unaware that that is a problem.”


3. Can you give me an example of what you consider to be an “objective game review”?

Anon29: “I honestly do not believe that a journalist/reviewer can be 100% objective so I will not scour the interwebs for an example in games media. I know these people are not robots. Humans have feelings, they get involved and sometimes emotionally invested in the culture. But if there is any kind of legitimate relationship emotionally, financially or otherwise I feel that it should without a doubt be disclosed. ”


Anon30: “Basically any review by Totalbiscuit. He is usually levelheaded and fairly objective. Picked this one more or less on random.


Anon31: “See answer to #1. Basically all of the reviews IGN gives. If a reviewer has a personal interest in making sure a game gets a particular sore, then that’s not objective. In fact objective/subjective isn’t necessarily the right language to talk about reviews. Partial/impartial is better. ”


@orichalcumroad: See final section for full answer.


Anon32: “I consider ProJared and Matthewmatosis reviews to be consistently fair. I don’t think you can be “objective’ about games since every gamer experiences something different. Intent of fairness and honesty is what counts for me.”


Anon33: “off the top of my head? No. However, I don’t think anyone denies that good, quality reviews exist.”


Anon34: “Most of Total Biscuit’s work is good for this, especially stuff towards the more current period. I’d also say the stuff regarding Jim Sterling is good, as is most of Erik Kain’s work is good for this. I’ve generally not felt misled on their work.”


@WolfSaviorZX: “Like I said I don’t think people have been using the right term. This is more or less the “Language Game” because as you know our language isn’t as simple as having words with one single definition and their may not be a word to describe the type of game review people are actually asking for. I think I use the term “Fair Game Review” for the time being. If you want to look at extreme examples of “Unfair Reviews” of games just look at meta critic user reviews and the main reason there is even a need for professional reviews. If someone has the objective of making a video game look bad or the console of that video game look bad, I think many would agree that’s unfair.”


Anon35: No answer given.


Anon36: “Not sure I can off the top of my head. Although given that The Escapist often gives a summary similar to point 2, I’d say they can be good about it. Although they are sometimes hampered with the theme of the article often boiling down to a central opinion that it can easily use for an eye-catching title, bending it around that.”


nomuru2d:No answer given.


Anon37: “Resident Evil 6 on Gamespot. A popular franchise was given a low score (4.5) much to the frustration of the fanbase that loved it JUST for being a Resident Evil game. The review was pretty clear why the game failed to get a higher score and it wasn’t because something in the game personally offended the reviewer. It was all about gameplay, story, and game mechanics. “


4. Do you think that this is a neutral/objective statement about a piece of media, or an example of bias and opinion? Explain why please. “The most novel thing about [this piece of media] is how lumpy, labored and relentlessly episodic its narrative is.”

[PixieJenni note: this line is an extract from Godfrey Cheshire’s review of The Notebook via www.rogerebert.com. The paragraph it’s taken from in full is:

“The most novel thing about “The Notebook”…is how lumpy, labored and relentlessly episodic its narrative is. If one went into it knowing nothing of its origins, the film’s lack of dramatic structure might suggest a singularly inept screenwriting exercise that somehow made it into production. In fact, it’s close to impossible to imagine this movie being made had it been based on an original screenplay rather than a well-regarded novel, “Le Grand Cahier,” by Agota Kristof, a Hungarian who writes in French.”]

Anon29: “I do not feel this statement is biased on its own. At face value it is just a statement. Opinions are great, we all have them and games media personalities especially can show excitement or disdain with the best of them. However, as an example if the person that made that statement was recently in a bad relationship with the developer of the software in question then perhaps his/her review shouldn’t hold the weight it would had he/she been neutral on a personal level.”


Anon30: “Really hard to know what he/she is trying to say. Is it supposed to sound “edgy” or is the narrative supposed to feel “lumpy and labored”? I see nothing wrong about liking a game for its estetics. Again, disclosure. “I, me personally, like the way it was narrated even if it was reletlessly episodic. You can skip it but then you will miss much of what the game is trying to convey.””


Anon31: “The statement is subjective opinion.”


@orichalcumroad: See final section for full answer.


Anon32: “I personally don’t like judging games too much on the narrative aspect. The use of adjetives is excessive but it really doesn’t say much about the game. I can’t say if I find it unbiased or not, but indeed sounds lazy and generic, like something Adam Sessler would say. It indeed seems to have a certain bias towards themes and narratives (much like Sessler’s work) and I don’t particullarly like that. I like gameplay talk or at least how gameplay and themes interact with each other. The kind of oil-and-water approach the sentence suggest does not convince me.Maybe I’m reading too much into it.”


Anon33: “see above.”


Anon34: “It’s hard to say; ideally I’d have to read the work to say the critique is fair or not. In truth, I’ve played a few games that could be said to do that. However, I’d have to say it’s not terribly neutral in one sense, there’s no justification or greater context to it. On the other half, it doesn’t presume judgement. As I said before, it largely depends on the greater context, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying yay or ney on such a small snippet.”


 @WolfSaviorZX: “I think it’s opinion but if you just said “TV shows are for the most part Episodic” that would be a factual statement would it not?”


Anon35: “I think when people say “objective” or “neutral”, what they really mean is “genuine”: wherein you as the reader have a reasonable degree of confidence that the reviewer’s actual intentions are in line with his expressed intentions. Reviewers are supposed to be giving people information they can use to make an advance decision about how to allocate their time and money. It’s generally obvious when a reviewer’s primary intent is to preach at the reader about a cause with which he identifies. So in that context, yes, your example is neutral or objective in the way those terms are being used.”


Anon36: Misunderstanding around q4 (assumed relation to point 3, removed for ease)


nomuru2d: No answer given.


Anon37: No answer given.


5. What would you like to see covered in a review ie gameplay, mechanics, story, music, fun, narrative, etc.

Anon29: “Give me the press releases, the sneak peeks, the reviews, the ratings, the polarized opinions, give me all of it! But have some integrity please. As said above multiple times I don’t expect you to be critically neutral, I expect you to be personally neutral with the person or company you are talking about.”


Anon30: “All of the above. I want to know if the game is worth my time and money. “


Anon31: “I want a reviewer to tell me if the game is good or bad, and why it is good or bad. I don’t like ambiguity or “it just feels right” kinds of language in reviews. A good reviewer will know how to verbalize their feelings and opinions. ”


@orichalcumroad: See final section for full answer.


Anon32: “Mostly gameplay, design and how the other elements of the production interact with them in order to attempt to create someting fun/entretaining and to wich degree this has been achieved under the writer’s perspective.”


Anon33: “I guess I answered this question when I answered your first question.”


Anon34: “All of the above. I use a review to guide me on what to purchase, I want to know if it works. If it’s fun, if the narrative is interesting, or if the mechanics are bland. If you wish to highlight some issues such as cultural issues that’s fine, but I’d rather you cover it in a separate article and briefly mention it during the main body of the review. Keep it out of the start, the end and of the score and it should be okay in my books.”


@WolfSaviorZX: “I don’t care what is stated about the game in a game review as long as the statements have some factual origin or at least there is an argument that could be made. “There are turtles in Super Mario Bros for NES”. “There is sexism in Super Mario Bros for NES”. “There is Ice Cream in Super Mario Bros for NES”. The first statement is basically a fact although you could argue they might be “Koopas” they are generally describe to be turtles in it’s manual. The second statement may or may not be factual but at least if evidence is presented than I don’t have a problem with it being in a review (more about this later). The last statement is just false because no matter how hard you look you aren’t going to find ice cream in the game for example. Now the main issue is how taking these things and turning it into a Review Score. “Super Mario Bros has violence in the game, this is a negative”. “Super Mario Bros has turtles in the game, this is a positive for the game”. That I think is the main issue, using something from the game to justify it as a negative. “


Anon35: No answer given.


Anon36: “The “gameplay, mechanics, story, music, fun, narrative” you suggest sounds good enough. What they mean separately, whether they mesh. If they can describe what specifically causes the fun. I can understand someone simply describing music as “uplifting” or “somber” but to describe gameplay as such without a explanation would be quite the problem. And describing if gameplay is fun in a conceptual sense or a mechanical sense. i.e Is this fun because robots, and if you like robots you might enjoy this. Or the pacing of the gameplay ensures building to moments of great satisfying relief etc.”


nomuru2d:  “The general idea of what should be covered in a review varies from person to person, but I find that the general review gives a brief summary of story, followed by going into near-equal discussions of the gameplay, mechanics, music, narrative, and other aspects; with ‘fun’ being interspersed throughout the review and ultimately summed up in the closing lines. I say near-equal because some aspects of a game shine brighter than others, which is where ‘fun’ comes into play.”


Anon37: “Gameplay, mechanics, story, music, fun, narrative, re-playability”


6. What do you think the difference between an op-ed and a review is (if any?)

Anon29: “There really isn’t much of a difference. I think most within GG recognize that, at least I hope so.”


Anon30: “An op-ed leaves more room for personal thoghts/opinions.”


Anon31: “An opinion piece typically concerns controversial subject matter (like gamergate), while a review typically concerns goods or services (like games). ”


@orichalcumroad: “A weird place, to me, for starting, because I think Reviews of any sort fall into the category of Op-Ed piece, and don’t have the same expectations of objectivity that I expect from news reporting. They are, in a very real sense, the opinion of the reviewer. I would prefer reviewers be required to disclose if they were given gifts or paid for the review by the creator of the content, but reviews, to me, lose their value if treated as objective.  Gaming can be art, and because of that, critics should not be restricted to how they choose to review said art.”


Anon32: “Reviews are meant to inform the player with the most honesty and fairness possible. Reviews represent the stance of a publication on a game. Op-eds showcase unfiltered opinion and don’t have to be informative. They don’t necessairly represent the publication’s stance but thend to go with the editorial line of the platform. ”


Anon33: “I suppose the difference between an op-ed and a game review in this industry would/should be that any social/political concerns raised by a game’s content should be a small part of the body of a review, not the central point. As for op-eds, I guess I don’t mind an op-ed so long as it’s clearly noted as the author’s opinion, not necessarily fact, nor the company’s opinion. It would also be preferable if there were more examples of op-eds with opposing viewpoints from the same outlets. Gamers get a bit leery when we see op-eds saying the same thing on multiple gaming news outlets. Not enough disagreement, not enough evidence of an environment open for dialog and discussion.”


Anon34: “I’d use an op-ed to talk about issues related to cultural critique. To explain some issue that isn’t much news related, to invite a dialogue on a contentious issue. Or even to just share a love on a specific flavour. For instance, what really convinced me to get into paradox games was a series of articles describing a Westeros mod for the game ( I apologise for the spelling, I don’t read the books/watch the show much). It convinced me to pay more attention; with encouragement from a friend it convinced me to give it a shot.
A review is good for this as well, but in a more value for money sense, and for areas I’ve generally already established some form of taste. In short, I use op-eds to guide me to what new to try out, and reviews to guide me in an old stomping ground. They both serve a purpose, but it is not the same purpose.”


@WolfSaviorZX: “The main difference is how consumers/publishers use a review compared to an op-ed. A review is used to grade a video game regardless if we like that fact or not. An op-ed on “Why Super Mario Bros is pushing a communist message to children” doesn’t grade the game. Whether that op-ed should be on a game journalist site is a whole different issue but I think people should stop attacking the person who wrote the op-ed or review (or at least stop acting like that person doesn’t have a right to their opinion) and focus on the people who are suppose to be in charge of this so called “Professional Game Journalist/Review Site”.
I’m not an expert in this field and don’t claim too, but have been reading/watching reviews since I was very young all I can judge reviews too are the reviews that came before it or along side it. I think that’s why many fear these political reviews becoming the norm. You can always say “It’s ok to give this game a negative because it has feminist ideology as the basis to it’s story” because you can point to another review that says “this game is a negative because it’s sexist”. If game reviews become a game of political tag-a-war I don’t think it would be a good thing. Anyway I hope I at least you have an idea as to why I’m cautious and interested in game reviews and why they are important to me.”


Anon35: No answer given.


Anon36: “I think the difference is an op-ed shouldn’t necessarily have to care if its opinions aren’t backed up, because it can act more as talking to the audience than dissecting the subject.”


nomuru2d: “A review is supposed to be purely analyzing a subject for what it is without too much emotional attachment, allowing for a neutral ground for discussion. Op-eds, on the other hand, basically end up as “THIS SUCKS AND HERE’S WHY YOU ALL SUCK FOR LIKING IT” or “I AM HYPED FOR THIS GAME AND I WILL FULLY TELL YOU WHY YOU SHOULD BE TOO” without letting the actual subject speak for itself.”


Anon37: No answer given.


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