Discussing Games

In my opinion there are a lot of problems with the gaming scene, the gaming industry, and of course in many games themselves. The biggest problem in the first place is that there is too little serious discussion on those problems. There can’t be any improvement if no one talks about it, if no one is or seems even aware that there are any! So I guess I might just as well do the little I can and start.

There are so many topics to talk about, it’s hard to decide where to begin. I think some people also want to hear more specifics on why I think Devil Children isn’t a good game. I might just as well do a proper review of it then. But before we get to actually reviewing some games, we need a certain groundwork. One of the biggest faults of the gaming scene is its inability to properly review and generally discuss games. So first, we’ll take an in-depth look at those topics before we’ll consider reviewing anything. So, let’s get started with the first of what will hopefully become a series of essays.

(Warning: Lots of text and no pretty pictures)

Why are reviews important? Moreover, why are good reviews important?

A question so basic, some people will surely wonder if it’s even worth asking. But if you look around at random gaming sites and their message boards, it quickly becomes evident that many people don’t know the answer. Many people just don’t want to think long and hard about games. They just want to play. Which is totally fine. Gaming is a hobby, it should be fun.

So why bother at all? If you go to Mobygames and take a look at the number of games they have in their database, you’ll be presented with quite a number. 51907.
Let that number sink in for a moment. 51907 games are listed on Mobygames. I’m sure they missed one or two. Of course, that number includes games released for multiple systems and games released in languages none of us understand that’ll never be translated. Still, it demonstrates the dimension we’re working with. Let’s assume the average time to complete a game is 5 hours. Arcade games can usually be finished (not mastered of course!) in far less, other games usually take much longer. I think for an average, it’s a conservative number. Let’s also keep in mind that we only take the raw time to walk through a game from start to finish into account. The time needed to master a game in such a way to be able to do so might be much, much higher. So, how long would it take us to play “quickly” through every game ever released? Based on our estimates: 259535 hours. That’s about 10814 days. Or 29 years and 7 months. Ignoring boring shit like sleeping, eating, or even a social life (God forbid!) it’ll still take half a lifetime. So I think it’s pretty evident why we need a way to sort through all of that and decide on what to play.

But there are other ways than reading boring reviews, right? Asking friends for opinions, asking people on message boards, checking out demos and trailers, and so forth. Which leads us to the next important point. We’re not just looking for okay games, we are looking for excellent games. We have to hold our source for game suggestions to a certain standard of quality.

Now, it’s time for a short excursion. Let’s go back to our numbers. There are 51000 games and we have a finite amount of time we would like to fill with quality entertainment. Even if we only look at the best 1% of all games, that’s 510. That’s still 2550 hours of real quality entertainment or 106 days. If we play only the one very best of every 100th game! Extend it to the best 5% and we surely have enough to play for the rest of our lives. And that’s not even taking into account that there will be new games being released all the time. With me so far?

Ok then. Now, can anyone tell me why so many people are content with playing whatever mediocre shit they happen to come across, if there are so many truly good games out there? That’s the problem we ultimately want to address here. I certainly won’t settle for anything less than the best. That’s what my time is worth to me, what your time should be worth to you. If you are one of those who don’t care much about how they spend their time, consider this for a moment. Your lives aren’t infinite. Every second counts. Why waste it on mediocricy? You might have all the time in the world to kill when you’re a teen in school, but trust me when I tell you that this will change soon enough.

One valid complaint here is of course that the time spend on researching could have been used to actually play instead. That’s absolutely correct, no argument from me there! What we need to do is find a good balance. We should spend as little time as needed to find as many great games as possible. And that brings us back to the topic of a few paragraphs back – review quality. We made full circle! *Phew* Let’s grab a cookie and a glass of apple juice and take a deep breath. To summarize it in one sentence: We need good reviews to spot the best games with as little effort as needed.

Now I have to put up a stop sign once again and explain something at this point. I wish I wouldn’t have to do it, but many people just have problems understanding words in context instead of verbatim so I need to clarify or people will surely take this the wrong way. If I say “as little effort as needed” (note that I didn’t say “as little as possible”), I DON’T mean looking at a “Top 100 games” list or only glancing at the point scores of a bunch of reviews. We will get to the reasons for that in a bit when we define what a good review is and how to tell them apart from useless reviews.

Just asking around and why it doesn’t work

First, let’s look at the alternatives to reviews and where their problems are. It’s easy to see why trailers or other ads are useless to decide on which games to play – they only show us the most superficial aspects of a game. Unless you want to play a game because the chick from the trailer has such great tits, trailers are at best a way to do a little pre-selection, to find out which games might interest us from a story and setting perspective, but nothing more. I certainly wouldn’t put 60€ on the counter for a game I just saw some trailers of. Demos are a little better, but not the ultimate answer. Demos usually only show the beginning or an early chapter of the game, to introduce you to the settings and the characters and show you what the game mechanics are about. It’s already way more useful than a trailer since we actually get to try out the game mechanics and can make some guesses on how the game is going to play. Most games introduce more and more game mechanics over time later on though, so we rarely see enough to ultimately judge a game. And even if the game mechanics are completely revealed in the demo, you don’t know what the game makes of it. One example on how this can be misleading is World of Goo. If you only play the first few stages of the game it’s very likely you’ll be impressed. The presentation is slick and the potential for the game mechanics seems unlimited. But that’s the point, it’s only a potential. If you play through the full version you’ll notice that the game never manages to break past the possibility for greatness. Instead of taking the ideas the game introduced in the beginning and building truly engaging puzzles with it, the game just throws more and more idea fragments at you that never get used for anything but showing off that they exist. By the time you’re finished, you’re left wondering when the real game actually starts, since the entire game felt like a giant tutorial. The demo could not have told you that.

Asking friends for recommendations might score you a few good suggestions if you and your friends share the exact same taste in games. But how often is that truly the case? I can say from my own experience that even among people that play a certain game together competitively in a clan environment, beyond that one game they obviously have in common, they might prefer completely different games and even genres. And that makes it hit and miss if you’ll actually like a game they might recommend to you. Last and the very least, the internet and its various message boards and other communication platforms. A real hinderance here is the social component. Many people participate in discussions they know absolutely nothing about, just for the sake of being a part of  it. Asking any serious question on a forum will produce 75% useless crap if you’re very lucky, usually much more than that. You can then waste your time deciding which answers were actually helpful and which ones were useless. Problem is, it’s not always that simple. Unless you outright ignore all replies that weren’t properly reasoned, in which care you might end up with 2 useful posts out of 50. Have you ever tried asking for recommendations on a specific type of game you’re interested in? Let’s assume as an example you’re asking about turn-based strategy games with a SciFi setting. The first replies will be the very obvious genre classics that everyone knows anyway. Next up will be replies about turn-based strategy games that have nothing to do with SciFi, but that “you might like anyway” (it’s possible, but if I wanted that, I’d have asked for that), then general RTS games up to shooters that happen to have a SciFi scenario before ultimately people will suggest Tetris or Zelda. It doesn’t matter that those games would be completely off-topic, in the first instance, most users will see such a thread as a “me too!” thread and write down whatever crap comes to mind first. Now, don’t get me wrong. A forum is a wonderful place for many things, and I might really like the people who give me crappy recommendations otherwise. I’m just saying that, for the specific purpose of finding new great games to play, they are of limited value, if any (it largely depends on the key demographic. It’s easier to get serious answers about Japanese RPGs of the early 90s from Romhacking.net than from IGN. But that doesn’t negate the fundamental problems).

The biggest problem, again, is that most people can’t even articulate why a game is good or not. The recommendation of good games from someone who has no concept of what a good game even is, is completely worthless. If you ask for the best games in genre X, I guarantee you with 100% certainty that before long, people will start “recommending” games while saying at the same time that it’s actually totally mediocre and was just bearable enough to waste some time on. Some people have a skewed concept of what recommending something good means. It means recommending something NOT MEDIOCRE. It’s not a difficult concept, but it seems to be too much to handle for most people. Pointing that out to people who make such suggestions usually ends in cranky replies along the lines of “I just wanted to help”. Okay, cool. If someone asks for a hammer, do you give him a screw-driver? So in short, forget forums for getting game recommendations. You can get a long list of names that might be what you’re looking for, or they could be totally the opposite, sorting through it will be left up to you, which leaves you in the same position as before. Usually it’s just a waste of time.

How to actually produce something worthwhile

Let’s do it the right way then! So, how do we articulate why a game is any good or not? Now we’re finally getting to the part we were waiting for the whole time, how to properly discuss and ultimately review a game.

First off, do not review games of genres that you don’t know shit about. The most fundamental aspect of any game is its genre. It defines the rules under which we’ll look at it. Or would you rate a turn-based strategy game for its adrenaline factor? Action games have to be viewed under different aspects than strategy or puzzle games. It’s just a fact you can’t get around. I already hear the complaint “But what about games that defy categorization?”. The answer is simple, there aren’t any. If you take bullshit like Electroplankton, it’s simply not a game but a music synthesizer with a crappy control scheme just to name a common example. Games that mix different genres together have to be reviewed under the aspects of all involved genres. Naturally the chance to fail is higher here since there is much more stuff to mess up.
As I said, the person writing a review needs to have a firm grasp of the genre to be able to know what aspects to look for and how to interpret what he finds. A review, that was written by someone who plays the reviewed kind of game for the first or even just the 10th time, is utterly useless to everyone.

On message boards you often read about the sentiment that reviews of “experts” are crap anyway since they would be useless to anyone but other experts or enthusiast players. The point is usually raised in the context that gaming journalists would suck, and it would be so much better to just ask forum friend John Doe about his opinion on games. WOW. To stop iodiocy like that from spreading is one of the reasons I’m writing this stuff. Now most gaming journalists do suck, but for reasons that are completely different than those fools believe, but we won’t go into detail there now.
The thing is – a review can’t be deep enough, which makes experts the only people qualified to review games. With expert, I don’t mean professional here as in someone who gets paid for writing stuff, those people can still be idiots, but people who familiarized themselves with the topic of discussion so in-depth that they can glimpse the complexity and how the various elements interact with each other. I realize this is a very abstract concept, so let’s fill it with some life.

Take for example the real-time strategy game Dawn of War II. Compared to the standard genre formular, defined by pioneers like Warcraft or Command and Conquer, there are quite a few differences, like a focus on individual units and the exclusion of any base building. Can you tell how these (very fundamental) changes affect the game mechanics compared to other RTS games and why? What the developers might have wanted to archieve by changing it? If you have no clue what I’m even talking about, you should never ever be allowed to write a review about RTS games since you have no clue how the mechanics of the genre even work. More than that, you shouldn’t even recommend or advise people against getting any RTS game. That’s the really important point here. If someone asks on a board about recommendations and you have no clue about the genre, don’t join that discussion, you can only do harm.  What’s the harm here? You shouldn’t dissuade people from good games that you didn’t like just because you didn’t understand them properly. And you shouldn’t make people waste their time on medioce games that you thought were good just because you didn’t know there were much better games in the genre. Now those two aspects about DoW2 I mentioned are only very basic and obvious changes. For a good review, I’d expect deeper knowledge about the game mechanics. Especially in multiplayer games, the reviewer needs to be proficient enough to spot and explain balance problems. The balance is probably the most important aspect of any multiplayer game, if all your review says is “The units of the different fractions look differently” something is very, very wrong. Leave reviews to people who know what they are talking about, PLEASE. You need to understand a game before you can judge it. It’s so very simple, it’s hard to swallow that it seems to be an alien concpet to most of the gaming scene. It’s not about elitism, it’s about basic common sense. Would you ask a carpenter on which health insurance to get? Would you ask the barber about medicine for that nasty cough?

A game’s experience is made up of the interaction of various individual aspects. There are broad things like the presentation, the sound and music, the story and characters, and of course the game mechanics. And each of these things in itself is made up out of various intertwined parts. The keywords here are interaction and intertwined. You can’t look at any aspect of a game individually, it’s just a useless waste of time. You might have heard of the proverb “Larger than the sum of its parts”. This is especially true for games. Thus, when reviewing, one needs to understand how the cogwheels turn each other. Only that way, you can identify where the transmission isn’t working smoothly and moreover, why. And those whys are important. I know you aren’t charged with “fixing” broken games later on, so why bother thinking that much about it? – By explaining the reasons why something does or does not work, it serves as proof for your assessment that anyone is free to think through for themselves. That way, the readers can make their own, informed decisions on whether to accept the point or not. If you just write “The item forging system doesn’t really work” the reader has absolutely no clue how severe the problem is, if it bothers him during playing at all, or if it’s maybe a “theoretical” problem and ultimately, he’d probably just ignore the warning altogether.

One last thing. Everyone perceives/plays games differently. So even if there are obvious flaws in a game, it’s possible someone might enjoy it anyway since the aspects it is affecting aren’t in his focus while playing that much. That’s why a review should be first of all descriptive of the game. It should explain all relevant aspects of the game in such a way that the audience can ultimately draw their own conclusions about the game being in their personal 1% of all games or not. Which is also why super “scientifically objective” scoring systems with an “accuracy” of three internal decimal places are absolutely retarded rubbish. Essentially, there are exactly three possible ratings for a game: Good, Mediocre and Crap. If someone puts a good game at the top or in the middle of personal “Good” list of games is up to that person alone. A review shouldn’t need to bother ranking games in such level of detail, the differences between two games even from the same series are too great to give that kind of rating with any semblence of credibility.

Final thoughts and outlook

Whew, this got quite long. The next time you see a discussion on your favourite gaming board about the best games in whatever genre, hold on a second and reflect if you’re qualified to answer. If you are, awesome, go for it and don’t forget to make it a really helpful post with a few lines on why each game in your list is being recommended. People will thank you for it! If you don’t, move on and post in some other thread, there are usually enough to chose from. Hint: a message board is not a graded test. No one will think any less if you if you don’t reply in all threads. A single really stupid reply can quickly push you down to the bottom of the social hierarchy though. Consider it.

Now bring on the hate! I’ll decide about continuing with this line of essays depending on the reactions to this one. Possible future topics to write about include:

  • PC gaming and DRM
  • On casual games
  • Why JRPGs suck
  • On graphics and why they matter
  • Sequelmadness vs. Innovation – Is there really an adversarial relationship?
  • On the retro cult (might be integrated into the JRPG one)
  • Gamers are jerks and how it should be taken into account for game design

I might also take requests if you have an interesting topic I should comment on 😉 Over and out, until next time.

35 thoughts on “Discussing Games

  1. Todd

    Wow, that was incredibly in depth and well written. You have finally put into words what a large number of us sane gamers have wanted to say for years. Please, I would love to see the rest of these essays. (Although I hope you don’t plan on bashing “all” JRPG’s in that essay, as there are a few really good ones out there, despite most of them being “mediocre” and “crap.”)

  2. KaioShin

    Don’t worry Todd, I was once a big fan of the genre after all so I do know where it’s undeniable strenghts are and any debate on a topic without hearing “the other side” would be pretty worthless too. The title for that potential text was chosen purposefully provocative. And after all “Most but not all” would be a bad start for a headline 😉

  3. PiccoloZimGir

    i agree that reviewers aren’t that much reliable.most game reviews,especially the ones scored rock-bottom low,are reviewed by gamers who doesn’t know anything about the game or are too “unskilled” for that game.example would be the monster hunter series.IGN always give it a score so low that most people would just turn away from this game except for the people who knows the ins and outs of the game.Sadly,people rely on these reviews from these so-called “reliable source” just because they have been in the game reviewing business for the longest time.

  4. Morphix

    I would love to know your opinion of ”rip-off” games. Games that are just clones of good games but manage to be total crap.

  5. God is an Astronaut

    You know man, on theory you are right, but, and you might disagree with me here, i do not believe there is such a thing as objectivism. I’m sure you can tell if you like a game, but telling if someone else will like it is a long shot.
    Trying to write an informative review in from an objective point of view is all nice and shiny until you realise that even the way you express yourself will give different impressions to different people.
    There are tons of parameters. You can’t call a game “good” or “bad” and be over with it. What is the definition of a “good game”? One you enjoyed? One that fits some “objective” criteria? I’m sure you’ve spent half your life playing jrpgs like many of us, but that doesn’t necessarily make you, or anyone with years of expertise (not directed to you personally :P) able to write a review that will make everyone understand if they’ll like the game or not. On the contrary, if you’ve played tons of similar games before, you’re less likely to be impressed by a game that follows genre stereotypes, there is a good possibility you’d find it tiring. That doesn’t make it a bad game though. It’s bad for you but for someone else it might be darn good. One can definately state his _personal_ and totally subjective opinion on the matter of a game quality, and such opinions have different value coming from someone with experience, someone without, and someone who has burned half his life with the genre.
    Sure, you can’t write a review on an RTS if it’s the first time you’ve played one. Or even the tenth. But on the same time, how can you do it if it’s the 100th? How long before you mechanicaly repeat over and over the same things, how long before you do things just because you have a deadline to meet.
    I’m part of a local (greek) website about cinema (well mostly about cinema) and us members’ common thing is we all _hate_ movie critics. They just don’t seem to really care about films. They can’t see them as a simple viewer. More often than not they cannot really enjoy them. I once attended a press screening on behalf of our site and, to my horror, 2 very prominent cinema critics who were sitting behind me, not only never stopped chatting casually during the whole film, they were smoking inside the theater and telling each other jokes and laughing.
    Now i’m not saying professional or semi-pro video game reviewers have reached these levels of degeneration, but imho we’re not that far off. So in terms of game reviews, for me it’s down to fan reviews only.
    I’m no stranger to reviewing things, from films tv series and anime series to video games. It is such a hard thing to do a review in a helpful and informative way that i simply gave up trying to say how good something is and back it up with arguements. I never liked squall lionheart’s personality or any character for that matter in ff8 and the entire plot if what make me think of it as the worst ff of the psx era. Other people think of it as the best, citing exiting scenario and interesting characters. So what can you do?
    Only thing I could personaly do in a review, is simply state my very personal opinion, and hope that my readers get to know me enough to be able to gauge it. And the most helpful thing for me in reviews, is actually comparing aspects of the game to other games, ones which I have experience of.

    Wow this post was really a mess so far, more like a rant rather than a structured and organised responce, it’s just that it is very late here (5:21 in the morning) and I thing I understand where you come from, and what you are trying to communicate, even if I’m sceptical about some things.

    I totally agree about whatever you said on forum-querying et al, and in fact with most things you said. You just have to accept imho that it’s all but impossible to write a review that will give an accurate impression to all possible readers, veterans, casual gamers, new enthusiasts and tired old geezards who find flaw in almost everything and refuse to be excited anymore like me 😛

    Before I finally shut up and go to sleep a couple of hours, I think you’re onto something here, and would love to read more from you on the subjects that you mentioned. Apologies for any linguistic atrocities on my part, english is not my first language ^^,

    Cheers, Kostas.

  6. God is an Astronaut

    PS: Just a couple of days ago I started a new playthrough of ff8, even though it is my least favourite one. Says something about a) quality of modern games b) factors that make us like a game or not. (Nostalgia and being accustomed to some concepts for e.g., I will never get used or like a system like ff12)

    Cheers²

  7. KaioShin

    God is an Astronaut: Note that I didn’t use the word objective anywhere 😉

    I tried to highlight that point in my essay, but it might not have been clear enough. A review should be first of all descriptive, on a bare facts level. How do the game mechanics work? A mature reader can then form his own decision if any problems in the system would bother him or not. There is a lot of room for personal interpretation, I never tried to ignore that fact. That’s also why I say there are only 3 types of possible ratings, good, bad or mediocre and anything more would be useless. Rating two similiarirly good games against each other is objectively impossible and can only be done by every reader for himself, since everyone puts a different amount of weight on various details.

    btw: Thanks a lof for the comment, if the text interested you enough to write a response at 5 in the morning I consider my mission fullfilled 😉

  8. cody

    I would go onto “why jrpgs suck”. I’m interested to see what you think because I quite like the genre. I used to be strictly rpg but I’ve branched into FPS and some others lately and it’s hilarious to see some comments rpg fans throw around “mindless shooter”, etc…When in reality shooters are just like rpgs in that they differ between each other greatly. MW2 is garbage compared to its predecessor, and a game like battlefield bad company 2 CANNOT be compared to MW2 because they play completely different. This brings me to JRPGs and why imo they still hold water for me.

    Their gameplay is usually imo varying. The FF series as “mainstream” as it is right now (yeah, it’s VERY annoying running into indie kids/people who have some kind of vendetta against anything successful because they don’t like popular stuff? Seriously get over yourself) is one of the only long running rpg series that continuously changes how their games work. Junction, materia, materia fusion, gambits, class, fusion of everything (ff13), sphere grid, etc…You don’t see that in WRPG. I love ME, I love Fallout 2, I love Fallout 3, I love KOTOR, but the thing with wrpg is that they literally fall into the same lull that people complain about jrpgs.

    Cliche (I hate this word with a passion. Almost everything is built off an archetype. As much as you like that wrpg character, he’s just as cliche as that jrpg one. Maybe not as cheesy, but still just as cliche). Cliche is a terrible argument anyways, but I digress…Besides cliche though, WRPGs biggest downfall (*IMO*) is that the gameplay is never really that…varied. I don’t get any new system, I don’t get any new gameplay mechanics, I don’t get anything that’s so new that it’s going to hook me to the game. There’s LOTS of wrpgs out there I bet no one has heard of because well…they’re pretty generic in that they don’t change up their gameplay. That’s my biggest fault with the WRPG genre, and why I will keep playing JRPGs.

    I could give 2 shits about story. Lunar 2/grandia (I use these as examples) are good examples of games that despite driving through a a cliche mudpuddle still have great stories. This is because storyTELLING is (once again *IMO*) is more important than actual story. I talked about this in the above, but you are NEVER going to get out of the archetype. Persona 3/4 for examples literally thrive off these archetypes.

    In the end we’re growing up, and our views are changing. Will I still like jrpgs years from now? Who knows…I’ve been in a lot of genres lately (which is a good thing), and there are a lot of fun games out there. I guess my final point is that (regarding jrpgs) JRPGs don’t suck, you just don’t like jrpgs.

    I remember reading your last post about them awhile back and you brought up a good point in that you’ve literally burned yourself out on them. Now that I’ve started into FPS territory I can see that MUCH MUCH MUCH easier. It’s easier to burn yourself out on an FPS than an RPG.

    Also I like a lot of your points, but you kinda got around on yourself in the first part with the “The biggest problem, again, is that most people can’t even articulate why a game is good or not. The recommendation of good games from someone who has no concept of what a good game even is, is completely worthless.” part and ending with the “opinion” game part. I think you covered it up with the ending where you explain some people can still manage to get through it, but that itself too is a problem in the way you word it because a problem for one person isn’t a problem for another (I’m not talking technical, I mean as if you shed the grinding in a negative light in your review, but someone else loves grinding).

    Interesting to see anyways, I’ve been having discussions with a friend of mine, and it’s been interesting. It started off with a “MGS isn’t that good of game” comment he made which led to me asking, what do YOU consider a good game? Which led to him being speechless because any game he picked I could probably find something to knock it down to a “mediocre” game along with MGS. In the end it’s ultimately what you think of the game yourself. Don’t follow those mobs believing a game is god’s gift but in return it’s VERY important to remember not to follow that opposite mob spreading the word that this game is the devil reincarnate. If you like something, you like it, it’s a good game to YOU and ultimately that’s all that matters. Not what the troll thinks (yeah that guy who hates anything “mainstream”), or that rabid 10 year old fanboy who thinks cloud is the coolest!, or that cynical bastard who just likes to put every video game in the gutter.

    I’m very sorry about he garbled mess I typed in here btw. I literally just went off what I was thinking atm and I just finished finals so I’m feeling a bit brain dead.

    PS completely agree on “gamers are jerks”. Go to gamefaqs and watch the hate OOZE out of the message boards. My personal favourite are the guys against religion when they have no fucking clue what they’re talking about (no you do not hold a valid argument against religion if you’re a 16 year old adolescent just thinking off the top of your head. Obviously it’s good to be pessimistic and question everything around you but when you don’t have backing or any actual knowledge regarding what you’re ranting against…)

  9. cody

    damn I wish I could edit my comment, but I just wanted to add if there’s anything I wrote but you actually covered, please let me know because I might have missed things. Like I said my brain feels like pudding atm.

  10. Kilik 64

    To be honest, I’m very interested in reading your essays (I don’t think you’ll mind if I call them that) on all of those topics, but that’s just the game designer in me who’s looking for a reason not to do programming homework. Well, with the exception of the sequel vs. innovation essay since that’s more an issue with business executives not wanting to take risks with the company’s money as opposed to game designers not being able to come up with anything. (I’ve sat in on upperclassmen discussing their projects and possible ideas before. Because they have no restrictions on what they want to try to make for class projects, they come up with some crazy cool shit).

    I would go with the JRPGs suck post next, simply because you’ve been talking about it already, and putting it off but still mentioning it will just get on peoples’ nerves.

    P.S. Please let me know when you start working on the casual games and graphics essays. The Wii is a no-brainer to appear in those papers, and I actually wrote a paper on the Wii last fall. Some of my research led to some discoveries that I think you may find very rather interesting.

  11. KaioShin

    cody: Couldn’t agree more on MW2 being 10 steps back from MW1, that’s actually also the game that lead me to the observations for the “Gamers are jerks” article.

    On JRPGs, let’s wait until I’ve actually written that thing 😉 I want to approach the topic from multiple angles, so it’ll hopefully cover the problems/strenghts in all individual aspects, as I see them of course, there is no one truth there. The stuff I wrote in the retirement post was incomplete and very superficial, also influenced by a lot of emotions that needed to vent. I’ll definitely pick up one point you mentioned though: The diversity in battle systems compared to WRPGs is actually a symptom of the genre’s biggest weakness, not it’s strength. You’ll have to wait for the actual essy before I present the whys and whatnots though.

    Kilik 64: I’m glad you’re so interested. I’ll keep the offer in mind, I’m always interested in research. I’ll send you an e-mail to the address you used for the comment when I get to that article. Next up is probably really the JRPG one, just to get the inevitable behind me.

    Tom: Alright, if you feel so strongly about it, there won’t be a DC review.

    Morphix: I dunno what’s to write there. A bad game is a bad game, if it was based on a stolen idea or not. If I say that it’s lame to copy a game and fail in the process, would that be news to anyone? Thanks for the suggestion though.

  12. Morphix

    Well I’m sure the rip-off thing will come out in the ”jrpgs suck” post. Because they are all the same.

    JRPGs are like books to me, all made of the same thing, you will like it for the story. But it’s all paper in the end.

    P.s : English is not my firt langage so if someone gets angry because of my choice of words well, I don’t care.

  13. Efop

    I think the problem is that most people who are games are just that…gamers. They are not programmers, editors, etc. So when people try to discuss problems they can only give their opinions on what sucked or was not cohesive as opposed to why things were bad or why things did not work as it should have.

  14. Kilik 64

    Except you really don’t need to be a programmer to discuss games. To do an at least decent job of informing people on games, all you really need is an open mind, experience in the genre of the title, and some attempt at being fair/unbaised.

  15. Iggy

    Oh wow, all of this reads pretty familiar. Looks like Kaioshin is reading the same shit on game theory as me.

  16. DustMan

    my problem is that those “excellent” games are just mediocore in my eyes. since 1999 in which “perfect dark” was released, there was never a game that “far” exceeded(or exceed in general) my expectations.

    less than 1% of all games would i rate “good” let alone “excellent”

    whenever i play a game i have a gazillion of things in mind that could be improved and if they would be realised…. hell would break loose, because everyone would quit their job, social contacts and life necessary things because of this awesome games that sprung out my imagination.

    gimme a skilled gaming company and i would end humanity >:)

  17. Kilik 64

    Perhaps the problem is just that you’re nitpicky and have standards that are too high. Because if you are always on the lookout for things wrong with a game when you play, I don’t see how you get any enjoyment out of them.

  18. Brave Exkaiser

    “JRPGs are bad”? No, not really. The genre is just subject to Sturgeon’s second law, just like every other genre.

  19. DeepSleeper

    That’s great and all, but I don’t intend to make a career out of my games. I play them to have fun. I trust the opinions of people who are having fun with their games. Objectivity does not exist, nor should it. It’s an emotional field.

  20. viluc RAHL

    Hmmm… interesting topic, personally, and this is just my opinion. The games that are the “best” for any one individual are the ones that they liked first in any particular genre.

    For example my first rpg game played was Chrono Trigger, which I think is probably one of the best rpg’s ever made, my second rpg was bg2. For me chrono trigger and bg2 can never be beaten. I have played sooo many rpg’s now, but none of them can make me stay up the night just to see what happens next and explore every nook an cranny.

    This pattern of first good game from a genre as my favorite applies to every game style I have ever played, i.e. first shooter=half life 2=best fps. Now I know and I mean I KNOW, that these games are probably not the actual best games from those genres but none the less, for me they are.

    The only time these days that I find a game truly entertaining is if a.) I an replaying an old favorite with mods lol or b.) when a old genre is reinvented with truly amazing results…. for example assassins creed, I admit it’s not the best game, but if you want to be an assassin for a couple of hours who owns people, then that game will satisfy.

    I also realize that not every person is the same, and a lot of people have vast differences in things that they like even in the same genre of gaming. I cannot play childish rpg’s no matter how good the fighting system, or how great the story, if the protagonist is under 16 I can’t play the game. Recently I couldn’t even play chrono trigger just because it was too “kiddy”.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that all those game reviewing websites (personally I use 2: IGN and gamespot for cross referencing) actually do good reviews. In most cases they review the most important part of a game… the game-play. Now bare with me, I am a guy who loves a good story, in fact i can’t play games with stories that don’t suit my tastes. However I decide for myself if the story is good. All the reviews for a game do for me, is tell me if I will enjoy the game-play and if I will like the artistic direction of a game (for me graphics don’t matter so much, just the artistic value of the graphics, I don’t really care how good crysis’s graphics, are for me all gba srw games have a better artistic style than crysis ever will etc).

    Feel free to dissect my little speech and criticize me, I love discussions (I am a psychologist xD) and I love seeing a problem or argument from multiple perspectives.

    BTW this site is amazing and I am truly grateful that there are people out there like the people that run this website, it makes the world a slightly better place

  21. KaioShin

    viluc RAHL:

    If you look at the underlying reasons on why most people retain the first games they play as their favourites (I don’t dispute it’s the truth) it’s a matter of experience. If you watch a typical shounen super power anime for the very first time as a teenager, it will blow you away. People as old as you performing inhuman tasks, fighting scenes that push the limits of imaginations. How great would it be to smash a giant hole into a mountain with your bare fist? But that’s the first time. After you watched the 20th shounen show you realize they all build on the same elements. Oh, they just blew up a planet *snore* Your viewing experience severely kills your enjoyment. It’s the same for games really. It’s never as good as the first time again.

    However, this is not an issue that affects discussing games. You might not find a game to replace your all-time favourite, but you can find new ones all the time that play in a similiar league of awesome. I know I do. And the more you are aware of such effects the more you can disregard them when reviewing. As I said in the essay, for reviews the most important requirement is experience. Until you get tired of something even the most mediocre stuff will seem great to everyone. A reviewer needs to be beyond that stage so he can accurately put a game into the context of the genre and truly distinguish between the mediocre ones and the shining examples on how to do the genre right.

    Which is also why one shouldn’t give a shit about people disagreeing with negative reviews. In 9 out of 10 times they just don’t know better because they are lacking the experience.

  22. Kyros

    I think my elitism detector just broke…
    Don’t make comments if you are not an expert, don’t make reviews unless you know everything about the genre, don’t play games unless they are flawless. That would just lead to empty forums, empty communities, and a world with no video games at all.

    Before playing a game i first check profesional reviews, then other gamer’s reviews, youtube videos, and read forums about the game, then i can decide if the game is worthy of my attention.

    However i’m not looking for perfection, if the game is mildly interesting and keeps me busy for a couple of day, i think it’s good enough.

    If you think that your time is too precious to waste with an average game… i think you picked the wrong hobby.

  23. Iggy

    @Kyros
    If you dislike elitism, you are lucky not to know the original essays which inspired KaioShin. He is already kind of tame compared to their author.

    And yes, these people would actually prefer a world with empty forums, empty communities, and a much smaller number of games available. But actuaaly they are already creating this small world for themselves, inside of their ivory tower, and in fact enjoy the existence of all the condemned low-life communities and forums beneath them, as their existence is prerequisite for them to indulge in their illusion of superiority and extravagance.

    I can’t really disagree with their arguments, but I can disagree with their spirit. For your information, their world view is founded in nihilism, natural selection, and the pleasure they get from exerting power over others, virtual or real. I guess that tells the average person enough to avoid them.

    I hate the idea that we may one day grow up to become grumpy old men like them as much as you do. Stay idealistic as long as you can, pal.

  24. Kilik 64

    http://www.veterangamers.co.uk/blog/?p=554

    Thought you might find this interested, and might motivate you into righting that JRPGs sucks. *glares*

    Also, some somewhat related articles. Warning, watch who is around you when you click these links. Sankaku Complex is not always the most… worksafe website.
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2010/06/10/final-humiliation-final-fantasy-xiii-now-5-94-off/
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2010/05/14/bioware-final-fantasy-xiii-definitely-not-an-rpg/
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2009/12/21/bioware-jrpgs-are-stagnant/
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2010/06/12/jrpgs-in-decline-they-were-not-popular-to-begin-with/
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2010/05/26/ff12-writer-they-said-rpgs-dont-need-a-storyline/
    -http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2010/01/06/square-enix-final-fantasy-may-be-developed-in-the-west/

  25. Lv

    Next FF sucks not JRPGs

    if you don’t like it don’t play with that… simple don’t you agree ?

    don’t throw shit for nothing

  26. KaioShin

    Kilik 64: Thanks for the reads. I’ll write something soon. There have been a lot of “JRPGs are dead” articles lately, maybe I’ll start by doing a little link collection and compare all the articles to look for common grounds.

    The next upcoming news first will be something special and I don’t want to steal it’s spotlight. Gaming metaphysics will have to wait after that. 😉

  27. ATG

    Very concise. I’m impressed. There are actually still people in this day and age who can appropriately contextualize several paragraphs in succession. With the exception of a few very minor typographical errors (I think only three or so), it’s almost perfect. ^_^

    We seem to agree closely on several points, only you’re a bit more objective than I am. It’s very important to be familiar with the genre you’re reviewing. You can maybe write a review like, “Dude, ‘game x’ is good. You gotta try it,” but that’s just like saying, “Dude, weed is good. You gotta try it.”

    Of course, some will naturally say, “Dude, everybody knows weed isn’t good for you.” Well, that’s the point. You can’t say everybody knows “game x” is/isn’t good for you without saying why, and to better explain why, you need to know about the shit you’re talking about. It won’t guarantee people will like the game–in fact some people may hate it when they realize the mechanics involved in playing it. At least then, fewer people are going to be expecting to play, say, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms X” thinking they’re just playing a longer version of “Dynasty Warriors 4: Empires.”

  28. Ex

    Another option ignored here: fan-created video playthroughs of various games. These are a powerful tool of insight into the game, as you can quickly flip through an entire game and examine its mechanics in actual play.

  29. Pata

    Oh boy.

    Another overwrought elitist “article” on video games.

    “Ok then. Now, can anyone tell me why so many people are content with playing whatever mediocre shit they happen to come across, if there are so many truly good games out there? ”

    This sentence in particular gets me. What it really means is:

    “How DARE people enjoy stuff I find mediocre or bad! They must be ignorant!”

    In the end, here’s all that needs to be said on whether a game is worthwhile.

    Did I have fun playing it, yes, or no?

    Reviews are worthless, 99.999% of them being bought and paid for, opinions of other people are only good as a suggestion.

  30. viluc RAHL

    reviews definitely are not useless… how much would it suck if every game you bought you knew nothing about, except the developers telling you its awesome 0_0

    reviews allow you too see if the game will be fun to play, I’m not an elitist or anything I don’t just play games people say are good, a reviews most important aspect is saying what the game play is like… even if the reviewer thinks its shit you might love it, the review allows you to make that decision

    and to be honest with you, all you people who claim not to be elitist how many of you played daitanka on pc? none probably, do you know why? cause it’s complete shit

    At the end of the day, the longer you play games, the more picky you will get. There is waaaaay too many games to play them all, so you have to pick carefully which ones you want to play… =)

  31. Kyros

    There is huge difference between a game that is objetively poorly done, and a game that doesn’t meet your very particular standards. The whole “Jrpgs are dead” comment comes from this idea.
    I wouldn’t play a bad game, but my idea of a “bad game” is very different from yours. I have found that people this days no longer knows what a really bad game is.

  32. r9ro

    Took the good parts, ignored the lame parts. Don’t wanna waste time talking about it. Basically the first half of this was the best.

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