on Jul 21, 2013
I have realized that I need to change the way I think about “reviewing” games. For years my habit was to buy a AAA game, play through it a bunch of times, digest it, and then write thousands of words over the course of many weeks as I analyzed the experience in exhaustive detail. I didn’t always do that, but it was kind of the ideal. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this writing style was completely at odds with my playing habits.
It used to be that I’d buy five or six big AAA games a year. I only played a few because they were so expensive, and I played them so deeply because I wanted to wring value out of them to justify the price tag. Damn it, I’m kinda tired of Deus Ex: Invisible War, but I can’t get another game until March so I might as well play through it again.
I don’t play games like that now. Games are cheaper. Games are shorter. I play more indies. I play more games casually, or in short bursts. I’m more picky, and less inclined to stick with a game when I stop having fun. I have gifts, review copies, and Steam sales dropping titles into my queue, so I’ve always got something promising over the horizon. Tomb Raider is the first game in ages where I consumed a game in an absolute sense, exhausting its possibilities and fully exploring it mechanically.
I’ve been clinging to my old review paradigm as I shifted to this new approach to playing games, and the result is that I rarely review games now. I’ve been stuck in this mindset where you can’t review a game unless you’ve beaten it. It’s a natural reaction to the fanboy lineup of defense against critical analysis:
But screw that. I’ve said before that I’m not giving consumer advice. I don’t give review scores. I’m not obligated to finish a game if I’m not having fun. If your friend is talking to you at the proverbial water cooler and they say they’re not enjoying a game, you don’t grab them by the collar and scream that their opinion is COMPLETELY INVALID UNTIL THEY FINISH THE GAME. We play games to have fun and we talk about them to share our experiences. That’s it. Assuming you didn’t pirate it, then you don’t owe the developers anything.
“Journalistic integrity” isn’t slogging through a game whether you’re having fun or not and then trying to guess at what everyone else will think of it. Integrity – journalistic or otherwise – means being open and honest about what you played and what you thought.
I’m currently burning my way through a stack of games. Some games are getting days of attention. Some get a few hours. Some barely survive for five minutes. I’m going to just write what I think of each game, then move on. I don’t know if anyone will find these posts useful or interesting, but they’ll be honest, current, and better than a blank space waiting for the next Tomb Raider to come along.
So I’ll be doing some short reviews, is what I’m getting at.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.