Good Night, Good Luck

Good Night, Good Luck
To Hear Ourselves Review

Russ Pitts | 17 Jul 2007 08:32
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"I don't know you at all," Krahulik recently told The Escapist. "I don't know what kinds of games you like. I don't know how good you are at games. I don't know what you want to get out of a game. I don't know if you played the game because you wanted to or because it was laid on your desk. I don't know if you rushed through it because the review was due on Monday. I don't know if you only played the first two hours. I don't know you."

And yet millions of gamers still turn to print and online reviews to decide what to buy.

"[Reviews] are still, by far, the most popular articles in the magazine," According to Jeff Green, Editor-in-Chief of Games for Windows Magazine, who calls reviews and previews the "meat and potatoes" of game journalism.

And Green and his readers aren't alone. The developers are reading reviews, too.

"I try not to [read reviews]," says Warren Spector. "But, hey, you know, I'm human. I always end up giving in."

Nokia producer Scott Foe reads them too. "Obsessively!" he says. "There's an entire industry dedicated to judging your work - people who put food on the table by measuring your pecker for all the internet to read - you want to pay very close attention to the yard stick. That can literally be years of your life that those journalists are measuring. Take a second to ask yourself: What do the last three years of your life measure up to?"

For many developers (and journalists), three years can be a lifetime - or a career. But what happens when that three-year review comes in and the notes scribbled in the margin indicate your "pecker" needs a little work? As much as it hurts to see a project you've labored over for years criticized, when it's fair, it's fair. While it's true people often have differing tastes, people also make mistakes. Convincing a developer to own up to them, however, can often be like forcing a horse to drink.

"The games press is not your enemy," writes "Gazunta" at Angry-gamer.net. "Contrary to what you might have been told, the people reviewing your game actually want to see you succeed. Nobody wants to play a bad video game, much less people who spend all day playing bad video games. Most members of the games press are people who enjoy telling people about good games they got to play. Hopefully your game will be one of them."

Foe tries to remain sanguine about criticism: "When faced with negative opinions," he says, "it's always important for you to focus on problems that the reviewer is highlighting, not solutions that that the reviewer is suggesting. (Henry Ford often joked that if he had listened to his customers, he would have built a faster horse.) There's nothing more heartbreaking than when a reviewer of your work is both critical and correct - but there is also no one force more conducive to progress."

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