PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Objective Game Reviews (part 4)

on September 18, 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?

Anon38: “Everyone is going to bring there bias to a review. Taste is based on life experience and exposure. That’s why I supported Carolyn Petit’s GTAV review. I think the term “Objective” gets used wrongly in place of ethical. It’s unethical for someone to review a game or write or promote a game without full disclosure if they are friends of the creator, or have something to gain finically or if they are funding the game.”


Anon39: “Uninfluenced by money or favors or political agenda. It’s as simple as that. The concern of #GamerGate is that games are receiving rave reviews and a disproportionate amount of hype simple because the reviewer either is friends with the developer or has a political agenda that agrees with the content of the game. Take, for example, Fulbright’s Gone Home; it was hyped, it got 10/10s; personally, I liked it, it was a very touching story. But I’m under no illusion that it should’ve scored perfect on a game rating system, and the general consensus in the gaming community is that the hype was almost entirely politically motivated.”


Anon40: “I see “objective game reviews” as simply basing the review off of the merits of the game, rather than if you agree/disagree with the message it is conveying. For example, one of the more “controversial” games out there, “Gone Home” has been a dividing point. Giving the game a bad review simply because it’s “Pushing a Homosexual agenda” is wrong because your personal beliefs shouldn’t come into play. However giving it a bad review because the gameplay is “virtually nonexistant” is valid. Same as giving the game a good review for being “Progressive” is bad because it corresponds to your personal belief. However giving it a good review for having an engaging and interesting story is perfectly valid. However this strikes at the heart of the matter of review scores. Most critics lump all things together like “Story” and “Gameplay”. Again, how do you judge Gone Home? It has a stellar and touching story, but the gameplay is questionable at best. An “Objective” game review knows this and weighs the good and the bad without lumping it all together while throwing their personal beliefs into the mix.”


Anon41: “I want unbias articles and reviews. Reviews and articles written by people that don’t have a destructible agenda. I want a journalism that addresses issues from an unbias perspective. A transparent journalism that doesn’t censor or attack their viewers. From the past 2 weeks I saw a lot of journalism choosing a side of the recent scandal, reporting only bias articles while attacking and discrediting gamers. Journalism should be neutral. It should treat every issue from an unbias stand.  That doesn’t happen in the current bias, corrupted and filled with interest journalism”


Anon42: “I personally think it is impossible to write an objective review for a game. A review is always going to be biased towards the writers opinion of it. All I want for reviews, is that writers fully disclose any relationships they may have with the devs for that game.
With disclosure of relationships I mean:
a. Were they paid for it?
b. If they are getting paid for it, and they will only get paid if it’s a good review, I don’t want that review at all. If the payment will happen regardless of a positive/negative review, I’m fine with it.
c. Are they friends, family, lovers, … in other words: what connection do they have.”


Anon43: “Objective is contrasted against subjective. Much of what I see in “reviews” these days focus on the subjective. The message, the social impact, the nuances of how a character behaves and the meta surrounding the game. By contrast, little is said in the major publications about the objective facets of a game. The quality of core mechanics, the responsiveness of controls, the depth of customization, even things like the number of tweakable settings (which the lack of have ruined many games) are often glossed over.”


Anon44: “There’s been quite a bit of talk about this point, and I think it’s kind of a misnomer. Part of the initial catalyst for this movement was a powerful perception of those reporting on games having a personal or financial interest in the games they review. A review, in it’s very nature, is subjective once it gets beyond game mechanics. There’s really not an issue with someone saying “This game is fun!”, there’s only an issue if they’re saying it’s fun because they have an ulterior motive.”


Anon45: “I’ll answer all in one: I think asking for objectivity is ridiculous, hell, even scientists and historians speak from a perspective, not only that, but forced objectivity would take away from some critics (Yahtzee, for example). While writing this, Totalbiscuit twitted this and I (mostly) agree: “I find that people are not looking for objectivity in this industry they’re looking for transparent subjectivity. We suffer perhaps a deficit of both. Bias is extremely useful to the consumer if it is properly disclosed, it gives a vital frame of reference to help others form their opinion”. I do believe people are looking for objectivity in a conscious manner (because positivism is apparently the most ingrained ideological current in the internet), however they are actually asking for “transparent subjectivity” (as he said). Besides that, I don’t have much to add.”


Anon46: “I have no strong opinion on this matter except to say this: it seems silly to expect perfect objectivity in the review of games. Perhaps there was a time in the past when that was valid but games have developed into an art form in their own right and people’s reactions to a piece of art are (by definition?) subjective.”


Anon47: “reviews that are free of nepotism and political agenda. I’m not naive about advertising dollars and reviews, but as free as possible.”


Anon48: “I don’t necessarily believe there is or could be such a thing as an objective review, as we are all subject to our own biases. I’m more concerned with disclosure of personal relationships the reviewer might have. I want a good review to an earnest endorsement of a fun game that the reviewer enjoyed, not them helping a friend or associate underhandedly for potential gain.”


Anon49: “Basically just that. The definition of “objective” is to not be influenced by personal feelings. If a reviewer reviewed a game of their close friend 10/10, that’s pretty suspect, but doesn’t necessarily mean that the game ISN’T 10/10 in their eyes. Again, it is just a little fishy and it IS worth noting that the two people are close friends.
All that said, this brings me to a point that I know you’ve been pushing. Letting “personal feelings” influence reviews don’t necessarily mean the reviewer and developer are friends. There are rabid fans of franchises like Zelda, Mario, Final Fantasy, CoD. So of course a fan of a series is going to review ANY game in that series more positively than they would any other game. Or at the same time will review it extra negative if they feel it does a disservice to the franchise (See Metroid: Other M). So I guess I should clarify that it has to do with personal and financial relationships between developers and reviewers, not to do with fandom of a series (although most reviewers will usually say something along the lines of “I’ve been a fan of Final Fantasy ever since I played Final Fantasy 6 on Super Nintendo back in the 90s” so that people get their perspective anyway).”


D.A: “True objectivity is unobtainable. Every reviewer will critique a game based on their own subjective criteria or the mandated criteria imposed upon them by their employer. When people ask for “objective game reviews”, I don’t believe it’s a request for a universal grading system but a call for the removal of external elements that may affect a game’s final score. This includes bias towards developers, publishers, genre, platform, character qualities, social commentary, etc.

Since it’s impossible to determine whether or not a reviewer allows these elements to affect their review, there’s been a call for these biases to be stated upfront; hence the debate over Patreon funding and personal relationships between reviewer and the product’s creators. Listing all of these biases is unfeasible and frankly uncomfortable for the reviewer. I understand that the video game journalism industry is most likely short-staffed, making it very difficult to find a reviewer with as few connections and biases as possible towards the product they’ve been assigned to critiquing. This is an issue that may be too late to address, which is why readers are frustrated and seemingly making unreasonable demands. Employing a diverse video game journalism staff is definitely worth the effort, but I believe it’s been too narrow-focused on gender, race, sexual preferences, and place of origin. The pool must be expanded to include reviewers with differing political ideologies, religions, ideals, etc., even if these qualities may seem too radical or offensive to the majority in the gaming industry. A more diverse mainstream reviewer pool will satisfy those who feel their beliefs are underrepresented, even if these people belong to a social class that is considered the majority elsewhere in society. True objectivity is unobtainable, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be strived for.”


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

Anon38: “Sure, but they would best be serving the consumer by not reviewing the types of games they don’t like. It’s like a music reviewer that hates anything but acoustic music reviewing the new aphex twin. It just doesn’t make sense. ”


Anon39: “Somewhat. I think as long as it’s generally widely known, barring outright disclosed, it’s acceptable.”


Anon40: “I believe so, so long as this bias is disclosed. It would be like asking a Sushi Chef to make a medium rare steak. They probably won’t get it right but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad chef, you just asked them to do something out of their specialization. The problem arises when they don’t disclose that they dislike that genre as a whole. For example see IGN’s review of “Double Dragon NEON”. A critically acclaimed game that was bashed by this reviewer who didn’t like many aspects of the “beat ’em up” genre.”


Anon41: “No one is obligated to enjoy everything there is in the market. I don’t see how not liking a specific genre can discredit a specific journalist. A good game is a good game despite each preference. If anything, if a review doesn’t like MMOs then maybe they should avoid reviewing those games if they think their personal and bias opinion will have a strong impact on the game review”


Anon42: “Yes, I think they do, as long as they make it clear that they’re not a fan of the genre. If the review is negative, people will know that it might be because they’re just not a fan. And if they say the game is actually decent, that will tell people that it’s not just because he’s a big fan of the genre.”


Anon43: “Perhaps. Its difficult to say. On one hand, someone heavily critical of a given genre may catch something people who love the genre gloss over and are forgiving about. However, a reviewer who does not care about a given genre is likely not educated in the details to see more than ‘just another RTS’ or ‘just another FPS’. It’d be like someone who adores high intellectual movies reviewing made-for-TV romcoms. They CAN do it, and may be appreciated by some people, but its likely not going to appeal to the audience that movie is aimed at, because its going to focus on many aspects of the movie that the fan of the genre just doesn’t feel is important.”


Anon44: “If an author is particularly critical a certain genre of games, that’s fine. Criticism will help the game industry as a whole, especially if his criticism helps to recognize issues within a genre. So let’s say this author is known for hating MMOs, decries their very nature as being a threat to their preferred single-player storyline epochs or some such thing. And then let’s say he comes out in support of Star Wars: The Old Republic because of the amazing storyline for each individual character. That will only speak to how amazing a game is for his audience, especially for those that follow him because of shared preferences.”

I’ll answer all in one: I think asking for objectivity is ridiculous, hell, even scientists and historians speak from a perspective, not only that, but forced objectivity would take away from some critics (Yahtzee, for example). While writing this, Totalbiscuit twitted this and I (mostly) agree: “I find that people are not looking for objectivity in this industry they’re looking for transparent subjectivity. We suffer perhaps a deficit of both. Bias is extremely useful to the consumer if it is properly disclosed, it gives a vital frame of reference to help others form their opinion“. I do believe people are looking for objectivity in a conscious manner (because positivism is apparently the most ingrained ideological current in the internet), however they are actually asking for “transparent subjectivity” (as he said). Besides that, I don’t have much to add.


Anon45: As above


Anon46: As above


Anon47: “If a person has a particular interest/expertise in a genre (RPGs, sports or whatever) they should absolutely write about it. A person who dislikes FPSs shouldn’t be playing FPS, let alone reviewing one. An exception would be “I normally hate FPS but this one is awesome!””


Anon48: As above.


Anon49: ” I think that all reviewers have certain TASTES and sure, biases for whatever reason(s). It’s human nature. “


D.A: “Yes. I don’t believe any reviewer should be dismissed entirely for their biases. A consumer always has the right to select what they may or may not agree upon. For instance, if a reviewer has a history of disliking MMOs, the consumer will want to know this bias ahead of time. The issue is with how the consumer is made aware of this bias. If it’s unknown, the consumer will feel as if they were deceived if they eventually come to realize the bias. If it’s known, the consumer will have the confidence they need to pick apart the review on their own terms. Gamer Gate is a result of many unknown biases suddenly coming to light and the collective anger over the perception of being lied to.”


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

Anon38: “Again, it’s goes back to ethics more than objectivity for me, personally. ”


Anon39: “Going by my reference to Gone Home in question 1, http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-08-15-gone-home-review is a good review.”


Anon40: “I don’t believe TRUE objectivity exists in the current review format. While objectivity is something that is important to strive for (being as unbiased as possible is the very nature of a journalist) it is impossible for anyone to be perfectly objective. However this doesn’t mean we should stop trying. ”


Anon41: “A specific one? Can’t remember to be honest. For me, a good review consists of valuating a product from an unbias perspective. Talk the positives and negatives aspects about said product from a fair perspective. Not overly glorifying the product if said product doesn’t have enough qualities to be glorified. We constantly see average games receiving 10/10 from mainstream media, games that are bashed by gamers and critics that don’t have an agenda. It’s no secret that payed reviews exist. Don’t forget how a Gamespot employee was fired because he gave a bad review to Kane and Lynch. A game that was being advertised by Eidos on Gamestpot “


Anon42: “No, I can’t. Like I stated before, I do not believe there’s such a thing as an “object game review”. But, let’s say there is, even then I wouldn’t be able to. After everything that has gone down recently, I have no clue which sites I can trust and which ones I can’t. I know there’s a list going around with #gamergate supporters for websites that are ok, but I personally feel that we don’t really know.  If anything, I’d tell you that my boyfriend could probably give me an “honest” review, since I know he is not getting paid, he’s not friends with any gamedevs, they’re not in his family, and he’s certainly not having sexual relationships with them either.”


Anon43: “Unfortunately, its been years since I found a review that really seemed objective. Back in the days of the in-print gamemags I’d see them regularly. Nowadays, they’re few and far between.”


Anon44: No answer given.


Anon45: As above


Anon46: As above


Anon47: “http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/02/07/dead-space-3-review


Anon48: As above.


Anon49: “Sure. I’d wager that 99 out of 100 reviews on sites such as GameFAQs.com (which contain reviews submitted by the USERS of the site) are objective. I doubt that many of the members even KNOW developers, much less have close relationships with them. I can’t prove this for fact, but in my time there and my interactions with many of the prolific reviewers, that is the case. These people aren’t ones who go to conventions, talk to developers, go have a drink with them, befriend them, etc. Now, they may have good buddies who make obscure Indie games, and they will submit a good review for them, but again, that’s 1 out of a hundred (if that). “


D.A: “As discussed, I don’t think there’s any review that can be classified as “objective.” I can say a review that explicitly states the reviewer’s biases via an addendum at the bottom of the page or a link to their profile with professional history, associations, and beliefs will help towards creating an “objective” atmosphere.”


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.”]

Anon38: “Again, I’m not sure pure objectivity is a reasonable thing to ask for. ”


Anon39: Referred to review given in q. 3, not this one.


Anon40: “It depends greatly on the context it is framed in. For example, the work where the quote comes from, Godfrey Cheshire [PixieJenni note: I like the people who googled this!], he goes on to explain himself. He states about how this narrative makes it so the story is difficult to understand if you come in knowing nothing about the story. This is neutral and objective as he elaborates on that point, showing HOW he is criticizing the story’s pacing. Now if he said the narrative was lumpy, labored, and such simply because he disagreed with the message of the story, THEN it is bias.


Anon41: No answer given.


Anon42: Referred to q. 3, not this one.


Anon43: No answer given.


Anon44: No answer given.


Anon45: As above


Anon46: As above


Anon47: “Sounds fine to me, as long as it comes from an erudite writer, who knows what they are talking about, and not just someone trying to sound clever.”


Anon48: As above.


Anon49: “We can’t really tell just from that statement if it is “objective” according to my definition. If the reviewer has a relationship with the developer/producer/writer, then it may not be objective. They may be reviewing based on their like for their friend, not for the movie. All that said, the statement, in a vacuum, is not an opinion. It seems to be reporting facts on the narrative. It does use words that have different connotations (for example “novel” is usually a good thing and lumpy/labored are usually bad… But I think the reviewer is talking about an actual novel… or Notebook anyway >_>), but all in all, that seems to just be reporting how the movie/game/whatever flows, not their opinion on it, although they do use words to express distaste.”


D.A: “It’s an opinion. Bias may have certainly played a large part in this reviewer’s statement, but it’s unknown without further context and knowledge of the reviewer’s past critiques, history, and affiliations. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this statement because it’s not neutral or objective. The reader, however, would prefer to analyze it with greater confidence so they may formulate their own response. This is the push towards objectivity that will also encourage reader trust in a reviewer and their review.”


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

Anon38: “For me, a good review starts with the mechanics of it, how well it works. I guess this would be the most objective part. Do the controls work, ect. Then of course, the person would give their opinions based on their view. Comments about story and such are probably going to be subjective to a degree, no matter what. ”


Anon39: “When I write user reviews, I cover gameplay, story, and audio like any other good review, but I also include challenge, which I consider to be an important factor in games, and tedium, the absence of which I consider to be an equally important factor.”


Anon40: “Gameplay is the most important thing to review in my opinion. Mechanics is only important if it brings something new to the table. Music is hard to judge other than “Does it fit” with the gameplay. Story and Narrative should be covered very minimally to let the player take away what they will from it and discuss later with other players. Fun is a pure opinion, which is fine, but so long as the statement is “I had fun with it” and not simply “It is fun”.”


Anon41: “All I want from a review is an unbias, agenda free analysis. I know that a review, for the most part, is the personal view of the person reviewing it. It’s the reviewer personal opinion and that is fine. I just want that opinion to be based on the journalists personal experience and not influenced by much money that reviewer is going to get if he gives it a positive review. I want a reviewer that is agenda free, from political views or monetary incomes.”


Anon42: “Gameplay, mechanics, graphics, story, music. Fun is something that can’t exactly be reviewed. The reviewer will be biased either way, so to say if the game is fun or not, would make the review even more subjective. However, I don’t expect reviewers not to tell me what they thought of it. I think maybe at the end of a review they could put a little personal opinion section, seperately from the review.”


Anon43: “The mechanics side of the game appeal to me, personally, more than anything else. A game needs to be engaging to play mechanically and stimulate me on that level. Aesthetics of a game is also important, like graphics and music, as well as a strong story, are also appreciated, but are not nearly as desired as the game itself being engaging. You can have amazing writing put onto the most boring mechanics, and it’d be a boring game to me. I read a book to enjoy literature. I play a game to enjoy mechanics. As a side note: Fun is a very subjective thing. Its really difficult to gauge what is ‘fun’ in measurable terms, because what people find engaging is different from person to person. Telling me you found the game “fun” is not as useful as telling me how complex it is or how well it controls.”


Anon44: No answer given.


Anon45: As above


Anon46: As above


Anon47: “All of the above. Also, details about singleplayer and multiplayer modes, (like how long is the singleplayer campaign and will I get my money’s worth?) How is the dialog, the voice acting? Is it distracting? The more information, the better able I am to decide if it’s a good value for the money.”


Anon48: As above.


Anon49: “For all games, there are a few things I want to know, although some are more important than others. In a turn-based strategy game, clunky controls won’t kill the game as they would kill a real-time strategy game. But in either case, I’d like to hear about the controls. In an RPG, I’m looking for a killer story more than I would be looking for it in a game like Dynasty Warriors where story IS involved, but the focal point of the game is beat-em-up style action. And games like NHL or MLB The Show HAVE no story. So it really depends on the game, so there is no real formula I want when reading a review. I guess more than anything, I want to know what a “day in the life of playing” the game contains, how it feels (fun? annoying?), how it looks/sounds, and a good idea of what I’ll be doing.”


D.A: “Anything that the reviewer deems worth covering. Most of the frustration over reviewers these past few years is due to an over-emphasis on social commentary and its ability to drastically alter a review score and consumer perception. This has led to the belief that the gaming press majority has taken on an agenda to aggressively push forth ideas that are not necessarily fact. Social concepts are also far more removed than the more objective, technical aspects of video game such as gameplay, mechanics, and sound design. Relatively speaking of course, since all of these qualities have no means of being quantitatively measured. Readers desire a more balanced approach in critiques, for the sake of themselves as consumers and for the sake of the developer’s creative freedom.”


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

Anon38: “A review is a consumer guide. Is this game worth the money? An op-ed is pure subjectivity (which is fine within itself) that should not be presented as a review because it’s function is not as a buying guide. ”


Anon39: “I consider an op-ed any article that hypes or denounces games based on aspects that have no relation to its worth as a game. Saying “X game is bad because there are guns in it” and then going on to list reasons why guns are bad is an op-ed, because it is clearly charged with the writer’s political views on guns. Saying “X game is bad because the AI is terrible” and then going on to list instances of how the AI is terrible is a review.”


Anon40: “The primary difference between a review and an op-ed is that one is started with a stated, clear bias. For example, ProJared did a review of the newest Monster Hunter game. He states VERY clearly that he loves that series. As a result, he was speaking with his own opinion, showing he is familiar with the flaws of the game, that he is aware of it’s shortcomings and is judging it purely as his opinion and not with the mindset of a traditional review.”


Anon41: “Like I said, its hard to have a review free of personal views or experiences. A review is the personal experience that a reviewer had with said product. I don’t mind that. I just want an opinion free from, again, agenda, political views or influenced by publishers that try to push favorable reviews.”


Anon42: “An op-ed is going to completely be based on the writer’s opinion. With a review, the writer should try their best not to let their personal opinion bias their review of the game. E.g if the writer doesn’t like the genre of music (e.g classical) he might complain about it in an op-ed. In a review however, they can’t. They can say the music is too loud, or too quiet, but that’s it. They can’t really comment on the fact that it is classical, and therefore bad.”


Anon43: “First, I want to say there should be space for both. A review, however, should focus on speaking about a game in comparable terms to other games. How is it’s writing against other titles? Its mechanics? Its graphics? Sell me on the game based on if its doing better than X, or steer me clear if its worse than Y. Things that make a ‘Game’ a ‘Game’. An Op-Ed is more of an artistic critique. How does this game change how one thinks? How does the game effect a person on an emotional level? How is a game making intriguing social commentary in a way that’s new and refreshing? How does it stand on an artistic level? These things, while perhaps an important factor for some, does not effect how much a ‘game’ a ‘game’ is.”


Anon44: No answer given.


Anon45: As above


Anon46: As above


Anon47: “A review is answering the questions: is this a good value for the money? Does it work well? Is it beautiful? Is it addictive? Is it compelling?
An op-ed is answering the questions: what is my opinion and will you change yours to be more like mine?”


Anon48: As above.


Anon49: “Only the author of the piece. An op-ed CAN be a review, but a site like GameFAQs is more of a “letter to the editor” (submitted by readers)”


D.A: “Ultimately, as everything can be classified as opinion, there is none. Technically speaking, one can say a review would have an arbitrary score whereas an op-ed would lack one, but this difference is minute in my opinion.”


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