PixieJenni talks GamerGate with both 'sides'

Objective Game Reviews (part 7)

on October 6, 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?

Anon71: “report the facts on a given subject, without bringing subjective bias into the mix. The fact that you have an opinion on a subject is unavoidable, but clearly distinguish your opinion with facts. ”


Anon72: “An “objective” review to me is one that contains the facts. For example, what engine a game is on, who was in charge of which aspects of the project, how will this game run on X console, what will the FPS be like for base PC systems vs. high end ones. Questions that are based in hard fact and people want answered. It may sound boring, but it’s real viable information without the flair.”


Anon73: “An “objective” review is one free of entangling associations. If you’re reviewing a game, and have received any sizable benefit from someone associated with the developer, or have an association with someone involved in the development (be that personal, romantic, financial), that information needs to be disclosed.”


Anon74: “This has been something that I believe people haven’t been using the proper terminology for or haven’t elaborated on properly which has lead to confusion for some and appears to be the case with you, Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. My biggest issue with Game Reviewers is Disclosure and/or transparency. If Writer X is a patreon of Developer X then Writer X should include a disclaimer that they’re a patreon of Developer X when reviewing or discussing Developer X’s Game. If Writer X has donated to a kickstarter or a service similar to kickstarter of Developer X’s game then Writer X should include a disclaimer when reviewing or discussing Developer X’s game. Same disclaimer applies to Writer X in the case that they wish to write a piece about Developer X themselves. Under no circumstances should Writer X write about Developer X or their games if they’re romantically involved. My issue with Reviews and these websites isn’t so much objectivity as it is disclosure and transparency. The issue of Objectivity is I believe that some feel that writer’s are writing pieces about Developers and their Games with which they have both emotional interests (i.e. friendships, etc) and financial interests (i.e. patreon, etc) because of those interests, which is a belief I would agree with. A simple Disclaimer would go a long way and remaining transparent by not trying to hide financial investments (i.e. setting what patreons you’re a patreon to, to private). There was a picture recently floating around with the person’s identity being suppressed so that’s my reasoning for that last statement if you happened to be confused by it.”


Anon75: “I think the problem is that people take the word “objective review” and compare it to objectivity in philosophy but I wouldn’t count those two as the same. In journalistic terms it means a fair review not hindered by personal bias or personal gain. I think this is the hardest thing to do as a writer. A review where the writer covers all the facts and where he has no intimate/monetary relationship with the person/people who created or published the Game. That doesn’t mean you can have friendly relationships with developers or publishers, of course not, you need those, but those friendships go on “pause” when the review is written. But this would also be considered to be an ethical issue, which in my opinion is just as, if not more important than objectivity.”


Anon76: “Reviews will never be objective, because reviews are always about personal taste. But when the majority of gamers dislike a game, and the game is almost unanimously praised in the media, than something is wrong. Just some examples where there is a huge discrepancy between the average “critic” score and “user” score:
Dragon Age 2. http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/dragon-age-ii
Diablo 3: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/diablo-iii
Company of Heroes 2: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/company-of-heroes-2
Total War: Rome 2: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/total-war-rome-ii

And some examples where the averages are almost the same:
Risen 3: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/risen-3-titan-lords
Divinity: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/divinity-original-sin
Firefall: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/firefall
Wolfenstein: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/wolfenstein-the-new-order

Reviews need to explain why something is good or bad. When 1 person reviews 2 games, he/she should use the same standard for both games. There is a video somewhere of Gametrailers.com on Youtube somewhere. In that video the game “Uncharted” is said to be repetitive and has no innovation, while the game Call of Duty is getting praised even when there is no innovation between the games. How is that possible? Unfortunately I cannot find the video on Youtube.”


Anon77: “Personally I don’t care, because I usually go by user reviews and actual gameplay video footage on youtube, or wherever I can find them, on whether the game actually works. So what I actually look for in gaming news, has little to do with game reviews. Because I look at multiple views on it. My issue on this point is more with the false advertising in Trailers, like Aliens; Colonial Marines, and Watch_Dogs, which didn’t quite show the game as it would actually be. ”


Anon78: “The main problem is that Reviews are already under the pretense of being objective, from a buisness perspective metacritic is a very important website (for instance Obsidian did not receive additional funds from zenimax/bethesda due to being one metascore short of their goal, with lots of the critics criticising the bugs (zenimax was in charge of bugtesting). This brings up many problems, for once metacritic works on the idea that if you gather lots of opinions and average them out you will end up with something close to the truth. On the other hand the reviews are done within 1 week or so prior to the release, which explains why every MMO gets a great score (an MMOs quality is measured in how engaging the endgame content is, most reviewers haven’t even reached that part upon submitting their review).
Ultimately numbers are objective, opinions are not, and they attribute an opinion a number which is a flawed premise.”


Anon79: “I think I could best sum it up as “Tell what you think it is, not what you think it should be or others want to hear.” While in general constructive feedback is more useful, I believe that for critics (no matter if restaurant, film or video games) it’s sub par to destructive feedback. Also a review should not be influenced by personal or financial ties to the product or it’s creators. Just akin to jury duty the reviewer should be as impartial as possible. If no impartial reviewer can be found there should be a big disclaimer at the beginning, not some fine print at the end.”


Anon80: “Objective means to be able to say if a game is shit and not feel beholden to anyone for having an opinion. Games Journalism won’t do this and it’s in YouTube’s hands now.”


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

Anon71: “once again, bias is almost avoidable, but one should never alter facts to fit preconceived bias and clearly state your bias to let reader make up their mind on whether your opinion is valid despite your bias.”


Anon72: “In terms of reviewing, I disagree, especially in your example. I believe that such a review should be marked as “entertainment” as Yahtzee is certainly very entertaining, however to say that he is providing a fair and comprehensive review of a video game a gamer should take to heart and use to make a decision in purchasing a game is far fetched. But entertainers can certainly be influencers, but the difference is we *know* they are, as opposed to being labeled as “reviewers.” It doesn’t seem like much, but it is a solid difference.”


Anon73: “Certainly, so long as that information is made apparent. Yahtzee makes it clear that he has a distaste for “mmorpgers” and “spunk-gargle-wee-wee,” often (if not always) within the review itself. A lot of games are niche products and that plays into how they are reviewed – high-granularity simulators (“dad-games”) aren’t for everyone, and if you’re not “into” that sort of thing, that’s a relevant piece of information in your review that should be disclosed, same as if you were a food critic reviewing steakhouses while being a vegetarian. ”


Anon74: No answer given.


Anon75: “Of course, the comic relief! There is plenty of opinionated reviewers out there. I wouldn’t want a world without people like Yahtzee. And most of the time the viewers/readers know what they are getting in to when watching the review. Not to mention these reviews are usually the funniest to watch because people get so passionate about gaming that they get genuinely upset/disappointed. That is the beauty of gaming. Whether you’re a reviewer or a viewer/reader you can relate to one another because we’ve all had similar experience when gaming. And that doesn’t mean they cannot review the facts as well. But the same as with “objective reviews” there should be no intimate/monetary relationship with the person/people who created or published the Game they are reviewing. (Ethics)
The weird thing is that when people get “famous” on the internet, their opinions start to matter to people, just like how movie/music start opinion seem to matter. The problem is that these opinions can influence people, and it should be explained that these are nothing but opinions to reduce that risk. But sadly it’s true that there are a lot of sheep and parrots out there in the world.”


Anon76: “Reviews should be unbiased.”


Anon77: “I see Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation video’s more as entertainment than actual full on serious review. He just does a hilarious job of cutting it down to 5 minute videos. But as a role in being actual reviews, I would say obvious opinion pieces. But does this also mean his reviews about games that are not MMO’s are biased?”


Anon78: “If nothing else there should be at least two reviews, one from someone inside the genre/niche who can go in depth, and someone who is not familiar with the genre to rate the accessibility, letting someone who hates turn based rpg judge an tbrpg is a pretty stupid idea, unless you do it consistently.”


Anon79: “Of course Yahtzee has a role in game reviews. He is (as far as I can tell) an equal opportunities asshole and takes the piss out on nearly every game. (I think one can count his favorable reviews by using one six sided die). (Also I like him especially for being refreshing political incorrect so often).”


Anon80: “Just like there are people who prefer Candy Crush Sage to Warcraft MMO There is room for all types of reviewers.”


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

Anon71: “ironically  I am not a big consumer of gaming journalism, I am a consumer of news in general, and the recent rash of gamers are dead article jumped out at me.”


Anon72: “I’ll use Half-Life as a bit of an example, as it’s my favorite game. Here would be a sample opening paragraph for this game review. “Half-Life is a First Person Shooter science fiction game developed by Valve, released in 1998. The game was eventually ported to PlayStation 2 in 2001 by Gearbox Software and later in 2013 to OS X and Linux. It was created on the GoldSrc engine, which was heavily derivative of the Quake engine. The game was penned by Marc Laidlaw, and composed by Kelly Bailey. The game received three sequels, Opposing Force (focused around an enemy grunt), Blue-Shift (centered around a security guard named Barney), and Decay (which features two female protagonists in co-operative style play.)” From there, it could discuss various aspects of production, technical aspects, and other information on the developer and publisher.”


Anon73: “Yahtzee is a good example, because (to my knowledge) any biases are disclosed. Similarly, mrbtongue on youtube and Campster’s Errant Signal series (while I disagree with some of his opinions, I acknowledge that he has the right to hold them and that there is, again, to my knowledge, no financial or personal incentive for him to propagate them)”


Anon74: No answer given.


Anon75: “I have quite a few, but they are from a Dutch website, www.tweakers.net. They review anything tech related, even games. And their reviews usually consist of multiple pages where they put the tech through different types of benchmarks and tests to see if the product functions as advertised. Then they compare it to several other brands of the same type of product and then finish it up with a conclusion. As for game-only reviews on gaming-only websites, I really tried thinking of some last night but I have seen so many reviews that they kind of become muddled. And usually for a game I watch almost all reviews out there to get a better picture of it. I think the fact I cannot remember a truly objective review already says enough in my honest opinion.”


Anon76: No answer given.


Anon77: No answer given.


Anon78: “that’s really not possible, my best guess would be posting pure gameplay footage from a speedrun (so it’s someone who really knows how to play the game and can show off how you can efficiently play it) but that’s not what role reviews fulfill, watching a video would be much longer than reading through the entire review.”


Anon79: “[Could only offer good examples in German]”


Anon80: “Go look up Totalbicuit on YouTube.”


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.”]

Anon71: ” I think it would be difficult for me to evaluate the statement you provided without seeing the supporting facts.”


Anon72: “This is an opinionated statement. No facts are stated here, this is an observation on the creative processes of another’s work. Another might find this work, “slick, effortless, and cohesive.” The last part “relentlessly episodic” could be a statement of fact if a game was split into chapters, but “relentlessly” implies a tirelessness, perhaps even stubbornness on the part of the developer to do so.”


Anon73: “I feel that additional context and elaboration on the statement would be required, but generally speaking, taken on its own it is definitely an opinion, but I would not categorize it as bias.”


Anon74: No answer given.


Anon75: “That sentence is a bit too generic to decide what it is. It needs a bit more context before one can say that. Why is it lumpy? Does it load a lot? Why does it feel labored? Is there input lag? The episodic remark could make it seem objective because that is stating a fact but the other words are easily misinterpreted with the wrong information. So I cannot answer this one in all fairness. As it sits there it’s just a collection of buzzwords.”


Anon76: “The statement has opinions. Nothing wrong with opinion in reviews. But the opinions should be explained. For example, why does the reviewer think it is “lumpy”.”


Anon77: No answer given.


Anon78: “As I understand it, the reviewer in question is “mocking” the game for being inconsistent in it’s narrative or very abrupt, but this quote might be out of context here, and the reviewer is liking a piece of media that is fairly generic but uses a lot of narrative jumps akin to woyzec (which is in it’s defense a fragment). As stated before this is not objective and objectivity would not be asked for in a review if they were not being rated and a rating is ultimately a number, numbers are absolutely objective”


Anon79: “If the person writing it believes this and is only influenced by their believes it is as well objective as neutral”


Anon80: “This is a shit question and should be removed. I’m not wasting time with it.”


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

Anon71: “GAME: a physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure – Merriam Webster
Other people might define game differently, but I think majority of people should agree with the above. So the main thing I would expect (despite the fact I already claimed I am not really a consumer of gaming journalism) is whether the review is about whether a game satisfy that definition. Whether its pleasurable(gameplay, music,narrative), and to some degree, whether the rules (game mechanics) add or detract to the pleasure. I also prefer it if the reviewer are somewhat familiar with the subject at hand, having little experience or no respect for video game yet feel like you can comment upon it automatically make me feel like you are pushing an agenda rather than starting a discussion in regards to the game.”


Anon72: “A good review covers various aspects of gameplay mechanics, a plot summary, discussion on the composer of the music and various styles of music heard throughout the game (Jazz, Techno, EDM, J-Pop, whatever.)”


Anon73: “It depends on the genre. Some games are just a set of mechanics that constitute a neat toy, and so that should be the focal point of coverage. Conversely, I feel too little attention is given to narrative in games and titles with some seriously bafflingly awful stories inexplicably get a pass. Generally, unless we’re talking about something like Super Meat Boy or Gunpoint, the quality of the writing needs to have greater weight in a review”


Anon74: No answer given.


Anon75: “Gameplay mechanics: This has to be in any review as this basically defines what genre the games belongs to. Platform game, adventure game, RPG, Third person Shooter, First person shooter etc..

Story: A Quick introduction to the story and main protagonist without spoilers of course.

Graphics: Basically this can also belong to the technical aspects but I think the reviewer can tell his/her audience that the game is colorful/grey/drab/monochrome, trying to be realistic or if the art style is more like a cartoon/painting, if the art style influence gameplay (visual puzzles etc or games like limbo/contrast where the gameplay relies on shadows/color.

Techincal aspects: What are the system requirements (PC gamers)? Does the game suffer from software glitches? Does the game have v-sync issues? Does the game have frame rate issues? Is it a bad console port (PC gamers)? Does the game offer plenty of options to toy around with? Does the game allow modding (PC Gaming)? Does the game run significantly better on any of the console platforms (I leave PC out because that will always win)? This is the hardest part of the review in my opinion because the writer is going to have to filter the important information here or run the risk of having an hour long review.

Music/sound: Who composed the music? What type(s) of music will you find in the game? Is the sound design any good(Sound effects etc)? Does sound play a role in creating a certain atmosphere in the game? How is the sound quality overall? Etc.

Narrative: Is it based on true stories or experiences? Is there an underlying message the creator is trying to convey? Narrative basically requires the reviewer to contact the developer and ask him these questions unless this is explicitly explained in the story of course. For this I wouldn’t even mind if the reviewer gave his opinion on the matter and compare it to the dev’s, that would be very interesting to read as it tells you a lot about storytelling and how to convey a message in a game.

Fun: I think this is where objectivity in the philosophical meaning takes a bit of a back seat. This is where the reviewers opinion actually matters. Did he/she enjoy his time with it. Did he think it was funny? Did it touch him emotionally? Was it scary? Etc. In the end, fun is highly subjective so you cannot ask a reviewer to be either. This shouldn’t factor into the actual review score (If the writer even has a score system) though.”


Anon76: “Gameplay/mechanics, story, music, graphics”


Anon77: “All those things. But with a slight disclosure. In terms of story and narrative for instance, it’s always going to be biased; If for instance, I’m not a horror fan, my review of a horror game would obviously be much different than that of a horror fan. There’s also bias in ignorance here as well, because as someone who’s not a fan, I might not even know the meaning of “jump scares” or other “horror mechanics” used.”


Anon78: “If possible I would want every aspect covered, but if the reviewer (or analyst) has very good understanding of one mechanic, or narrative, then there is no problem with mainly focusing on that point, it becomes a problem when lots of critics all focus on the same, you would expect this field of analysis to become oversaturated and wither quickly, normally, because people would get bored of everyone analyzing customisation in a game and noone talking about kinaesthetics.”


Anon79: “The points the reviewer thinks are best and worst in a game, also everything else they think to be noteworthy.”


Anon80: No answer given.


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

Anon71: “my personal definition would say that Review is about specific, but op-ed is more about an idea. So something like Review, this game is good because it fits ABC of generally accepted idea of what a good game is. Op-ed The current ABC of generally accepted idea of what a good game is stupid, we should expand it to D because of 123.”


Anon72: “An Op-Ed is fine as long as it is explicitly marked as such. I also have no problems with a review having an Op-Ed section in it, as long as it is shown that this is the opinion of the reviewer and that “your mileage may vary” on these topics. Much like Yahtzee hates MMOs, that is his stated Op-Ed opinion, and that others who do enjoy MMOs may rate a game higher on that basis.”


Anon73: “For example, if I were to review Spec Ops: The Line, I would talk about the outdated and occasionally annoying mechanics, the serviceable but tiring gunplay, the outstanding writing and voice acting, engaging soundtrack and powerful narrative, and strongly recommend a buy. If I were to write an op-ed about Spec Ops: The Line, I would talk about its approach to implicit assumptions in game narratives, the dissonance between player and character, how interactivity opens up new avenues of approaching symbolism, and what the game says about/for the AAA modern military shooter genre.”


Anon74: No answer given.


Anon75: “An op-ed is and article written as an opinion by a writer not affiliated with the magazine/website he/she writes for while a review is an article that does represent the Magazine and parent companies. In my opinion an op-ed is more a blog where as a review is more of an actual article which is well researched and fact checked and is backed by the magazine/website and its sponsors/partners.”


Anon76: No answer given.


Anon77: No answer given.


Anon78: “I am not a native english speaker, doees op-ed refer to open editorial?Sorry, but I am not familiar with these.”


Anon79: “An op-ed is a subjective piece, where the writer is free to write about anything they want in any way they want, where they can try to bring a message across. If an op-ed contains allegations they should still be backed up by evidence though. An op-ed is the place for “Telling how something should be””


Anon80: No answer given.


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