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Game Dynasties and Entitlement to Good Reviews

September 17, 2011

So, I’ve always thought there was something fishy about the game review process, at least as far as major publications are reviewing game sequels from dynasties, such as Gears of War. Whenever a genuinely good game comes out, especially one that provides inventive or unique gameplay mechanics, the game developers tend to get REALLY big heads. It’s almost formulaic what happens next. The lead designers and programmers of the game milk the IP for a few sequels, and each sequel will garner scores in the high 80s and low 90s, until one or two of the guys behind the IP starts his own company and creates one-off remakes of the original blockbuster, often times just using a new graphics engine and obtuse game mechanics (that usually get in the way of the fun). I’m getting off track here. My point is, one great game usually spawns a dynasty of games that span the range of mediocre knock-offs to legitimate sequels – and game developers tend to get it in their head that their games automatically “deserve” a high score.

Case in point: Cliffy B being a little baby that people aren’t universally in love with Gears of War 3. Another, more historical situation is when Peter Molyneux insisted that /non-gamers/ would enjoy his game more than gamers. I don’t think there is even an intelligent argument behind that statement, it’s like saying that people that hate fruit would like apples more than people that enjoy fruit. !?

Beyond that, I’ve found that major “gaming magazines” tend to automatically dole out unreasonably high scores for dynasty or franchise games, even if the game is simply shitty. The only exception being if the game deviates from the formula of the original. Game reviewers at major publications don’t want innovation or change, they want a remake of last year’s hit – ad nauseam.

I kind of like it when game reviewers are willing to color outside of the lines, and call them as they see them.

Mind you, I have nothing against Gears of War 3 – I could barely stomach the first few levels of GoW1. I don’t really dig scrambling from chest-high-wall to chest-high-wall over and over while shooting from cover. As if we haven’t done that enough already in just about every shooter on the market. Thankfully even Yahtzee agrees. I get that Cliffy B had some kind of religious experience while playing paintball, as would anyone that doesn’t get enough sunlight to meet their body’s minimum vitamin K requirement, but making a futuristic shooter about scuttling between Jersey barrier to Jersey barrier is… unentertaining. I don’t really dig the whole “regenerate your health if you stand behind a barrier for five seconds” shtick either, even though it has become an industry staple. If given the time, I might give GoW another try – but that’s beyond the point of what I’m getting at. GoW seemed average to me, yet due to the fact that it was a franchise game created by the “gaming god” that forged the Unreal dynasty, it received (what seemed to me to be) inflated reviews.

P.S. I’ve reviewed this blog entry, and I think it was a coffee-fueled rant that really had no direction. Otherwise, all I’ve got to say is: thank you David Jaffe for providing one of the very few exceptions from my rant on game designers /expecting/ high reviews for franchise blockbuster titles, moreover for putting into words what I was trying to say MUCH more eloquently than I did.

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