The Story Doesn't Matter

 Pages 1 2 3 4 NEXT
 

The Story Doesn't Matter

Sometimes there's no winning when reviewing a game.

Read Full Article

Certainly explains the absence of anything regarding the ending in all the launch-day reviews and I had figured it went like that, but it still doesn't explain why, after the controversy picked up steam, the entirety of the gaming "press" unanimously took a shit on the fans who hated the ending. "...the ending went over your heads!", "...must never be changed!", "...dangerous precedent!", "...artistic integrity!" and "...setting back gaming as an art form!" they all went...

I'm glad that you pointed out how the story isn't always really relevant when you review a game, and that it's the actual gameplay that matters, considering that there's usually more time put into fine tuning it.

However, I will make the argument that in RPGs the story does matter to a certain extent. The story has to be at least a little decent to get yourself invested enough to roleplay. Either that, or it has to be well told. I'm perfectly okay with a bad story as long as it's well told. I haven't played ME 3 yet, but I assume the latter is the most true when it comes to the story = Meh, but well told.

But I'm still glad that you pointed out that there's more factors that goes into reviewing a game rather than analyzing a story. You can have a good story, but if you have craptacular gameplay in your game, it can really ruin the experience (*cough cough* Force Unleashed *cough cough*).

I'm loving your logical, honest pieces Shamus!

I also think presenting a story in a review (especially game reviews) can be dangerous.
Say I wrote a Mass Effect review, and stated that I found it moving, emotional, funny and the romantic options were deeply touching, those statments relate to my playthrough and can be different for each and every person to play the game.
Hell on my second playthrough with a different Shep and a different love interest, I didn't find the romantic interactions to be as touching or special as my first playthrough.

Shamus asked a question,

Someone recently asked me why the fan reaction to the Mass Effect 3 ending was so intense, while journalists seemed to barely notice it.

and then answered it. Thoughtfully, eloquently, and concisely.

That's so nice. And surprisingly rare.

The answer does, though, again raise the question: why do we, as gamers and consumers, so frequently succumb to marketing pressure to buy new games as quickly as possible?

I know some of the answer myself, as someone who often buys games later: it's incredibly hard not to get parts of a popular game "spoilered" for you if you wait if you have any interest in keeping up with game-related media, and harder the longer you wait.

Also, your friends are playing the same games, there may be various incentives offered by retailers, and we (pardon the presumption) just seem as an audience to have a sort of ego stake in being on the cutting edge, whether it's in hardware or software.

But, man, do we end up taking a bath on this tendency with a disturbing frequency, from being treated as unpaid beta-testers for games full of bugs to being charged extra for DLC that people getting the "game of the year edition" six months down the road will get for the same price we paid for the bare-bones edition.

And Shamus' points regarding what is and isn't in early reviews just seems to add fuel to that fire.

I know you were trying to defend game journalists but reading this makes me trust them even less. I would rather read "reviews" from people like you.

I love your articles (and your blog). I can post this when someone wonders why critical reaction is so different to the fan reaction of something.

Mr.Tea:
Certainly explains the absence of anything regarding the ending in all the launch-day reviews and I had figured it went like that, but it still doesn't explain why, after the controversy picked up steam, the entirety of the gaming "press" unanimously took a shit on the fans who hated the ending. "...the ending went over your heads!", "...must never be changed!", "...dangerous precedent!", "...artistic integrity!" and "...setting back gaming as an art form!" they all went...

Agreed. I was never annoyed by the launch-day reviews not mentioning the ill-conceived ending. But the way the majority of the gaming press reacted to the fan criticisms was just terrible. I still don't know why they decided to be quite so condescending. It was very unprofessional.

See also: multiplayer shooters being evaluated on the merits of their tacked-on singleplayer mode.

Your reasoning for the lack of critical and journalistic outrage over the ME3 Ending seems to largely boil down to the fact that reviewers have a tough job and hard and fast deadlines, which makes it difficult for them to delve into reviewing something so time-intensive as story. While the pressures of the job are doubtlessly true, and your point about mechanics being easier to critique than story makes a lot of sense, I'm not sure that I entirely buy the argument that reviewers should be given leeway for missing a major failure of a game just because they didn't have enough time to fully explore it.

In my opinion, a broad, general review of a game that only covers the basic gameplay elements and mechanics is a waste of both the writer's and the readers' time. If anything, game reviews need more "nitpicking," not less. If, while playing a game, you find some little quirk or plot element that continues to bug you throughout your playing experience (or in this case essentially negates your previous 100 hours of story decisions), chances are that 1) you're not the only one and 2) the people relying on you for an appraisal of the game probably want to hear about it.

In a normal career if you present a cursory and incomplete report and give the excuse of "well I didn't have enough time" or "this is the best I could do because I was busy," chances are you're going to be looking for a new job rather soon. Even if these excuses are entirely truthful and do in fact justify your incomplete work, that does not excuse you from your responsibility of doing a thorough job. And I doubt the intention of game journalists is to marginalize the importance of story in gameplay; if it's an important part of the game, I want to hear about it, regardless of your time constraints. It's easy for me, having no experience with their career, to give some general (and obviously naiive) advice like "work harder on the review" or "spend more time on the game," but honestly, that's what they're being paid for. :/

The fact that the single glaring flaw in ME3 was largely ignored by most game journalists does not, unfortunately, make me pity their lot in life, but instead makes me question, if not their integrity, their dedication to their craft. And even if we excuse reviewers for all of these reasons, how do we explain those people writing weeks after the fact who still miss the point (like Yahtzee and Bob) whereas journalists like you (even if you don't consider yourself one, I do) are able to perfectly capture and explain why fans are truly angry with such a great degree of tact and detail?

Anyways, it's almost eerie how exactly you matched my reaction-over-time to the ME3 ending.

Misleading title is misleading.
But thanks for responding to the disgruntled fans like they actually HAVE a brain. It's still hard for me to believe Graham used the Prequels of all things to back up his point AGAINST taking art away from its creators. And Movie Bob spent so much time complaining about Star Wars and Transformers, but as soon as disgruntled fans try to actually DO something when they feel a franchise is being trampled on, THEN all of a sudden we're being "entitled". Maybe we SHOULD have a "Retake Back the Turtles" campaign, just to piss him off.

Wow, err...I went in expecting more of the gaming press circlejerk, but that was a good article on an aspect of this that a lot of people aren't considering. Something for both the more extreme haters and BioWare's retarded "the reviews validate everything!" party line to chew on.

That said, if this were the only cock up in the press's coverage of ME3, game journalists everywhere would look a damn sight better than they do at the moment. Their fucking appaling behaviour lately dwarfs this one fairly understandable shortcoming.

Mr.Tea:
Certainly explains the absence of anything regarding the ending in all the launch-day reviews and I had figured it went like that, but it still doesn't explain why, after the controversy picked up steam, the entirety of the gaming "press" unanimously took a shit on the fans who hated the ending. "...the ending went over your heads!", "...must never be changed!", "...dangerous precedent!", "...artistic integrity!" and "...setting back gaming as an art form!" they all went...

A lot of those people (like MovieBob) haven't even played the game, and literally have no idea what they're talking about.

This is very accurate.. I was wondering why Yahtzee had so little to say about the ME3 ending with this huge outrage, and the very obvious flaws Shamus brought up in his blog, and this seems to hit it on the nail.

Also, what do the people read who actually care about the story? Personally, I don't buy games on launch date, but I feel sorry for those who bought a game for $60 looking for a great story/ending, only to be disappointed the way all those ME fans apparently were.

Here are the facts: reviews said how it's the great and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

There are only two reason they would say that:

1. They are retarded.

2. THEY ALL GOT PAYED TO GIVE A POSITIVE REVIEW!

Seriously, who would buy this game if any major reviewer were to say how the ending destroys the entire trilogy and makes you feel empty and dead inside? NO ONE!

It's so fuckin' obvious what happened in those reviews. There is no justification.

I write reviews and features for a small games website. It's not my job, I started it as a student and I still do it voluntarily as does the whole team, but I do hope that in the future it might lead to something more concrete.

I happened to get the review of ME3, and whilst I didn't have the problem of a release-day deadline (I reviewed my own purchased copy, since we've only just started to get EA sending us review copy, and very rarely at that), I did come across some significant problems. The ending controversy was well underway by the time I was writing the review, but I felt that any review that sought to discuss the ending would be riddled with spoilers and thus would not be the best thing for someone to read as consumer advice.

So my own solution was to write a standard review, taking in mechanical aspects of the game as well as the story, but preface it with a promise to follow this up with a feature dedicated to the ending. This feature was published yesterday, effectively acting as an optional supplement to the main review, published last Friday. The result was a 9/10 for the game itself, but also a supplement that tried to justify that score, and the tone of the review as a whole, in light of the discussion on the ending.

Do people think this was a good solution? I'll link to the website if people ask, otherwise I'll probably be in breach of the Escapist's rules on advertising in the forums.

It's also funny how all these people are quick to forget that the precedent has already been set by Bethesda with Fallout 3. They changed the original ending with paid dlc.

I don't know but it seems to be a flaw IMHO if we just discuss the technical side of things. It would be like if people just talked about the editing, lighting and audio quality in films rather then the plot, characters, soundtrack and the like. We are in a young medium so I suppose it's natural to be like this but I think we should colelctivly strive for something better, something more. As we are doing a disservice to the future if all we can talk about is how the game function mechanically.

jez29:
I write reviews and features for a small games website. It's not my job, I started it as a student and I still do it voluntarily as does the whole team, but I do hope that in the future it might lead to something more concrete.

I happened to get the review of ME3, and whilst I didn't have the problem of a release-day deadline (I reviewed my own purchased copy, since we've only just started to get EA sending us review copy, and very rarely at that), I did come across some significant problems. The ending controversy was well underway by the time I was writing the review, but I felt that any review that sought to discuss the ending would be riddled with spoilers and thus would not be the best thing for someone to read as consumer advice.

So my own solution was to write a standard review, taking in mechanical aspects of the game as well as the story, but preface it with a promise to follow this up with a feature dedicated to the ending. This feature was published yesterday, effectively acting as an optional supplement to the main review, published last Friday. The result was a 9/10 for the game itself, but also a supplement that tried to justify that score, and the tone of the review as a whole, in light of the discussion on the ending.

Do people think this was a good solution? I'll link to the website if people ask, otherwise I'll probably be in breach of the Escapist's rules on advertising in the forums.

Seems like a pretty sensible solution to me. And I think a lot of games journalists are beginning to adopt something similar. I'd be interested in having a look at the website. Just drop me a private message with the link, that would be cool.

Fair enough, I was never angry at the reviewers anyway. I'm a little miffed that many people I enjoy reading and listening to keep telling me I'm somehow a moron for thinking bioware should fix it, but whatever.

I agree with your points.

Mr.Tea:
Certainly explains the absence of anything regarding the ending in all the launch-day reviews and I had figured it went like that, but it still doesn't explain why, after the controversy picked up steam, the entirety of the gaming "press" unanimously took a shit on the fans who hated the ending. "...the ending went over your heads!", "...must never be changed!", "...dangerous precedent!", "...artistic integrity!" and "...setting back gaming as an art form!" they all went...

And... so? Those are all valid counter-arguments. If you want to moan about the press insulting you in some way, go nuts, but cite proper examples (and no, saying something went over people's heads is not an insult). At the minute you're just moaning about the majority of them embodying a different opinion.

(Likewise, it's more interesting to counter popular opinion. If every Tom, Dick and Harry's yelling the same thing, for a couple of different reasons, then its far more interesting to write a counter-piece.)

And I think we can all agree by now that the ending is intentionally a mind-fuck of contradictions, impossibilities and inaccuracies. It's far more far-fetched to suggest they lost all writing capabilities for the final 10 minutes then it is to consider the most popular theory doing the rounds - not that that doesn't then introduce other problems we should be worried about, like the fact that there is really a portion of the ending seemingly missing (although if that really is where they're ending it, and the DLC rumour is wrong, then I can understand that, even if I'd prefer it done differently). But it at least makes what's there an intelligent and thematically cohesive piece of writing.

OT: I guess I've not really considered that before. Personally, any reviews I look for are restricted to RPS - they reflect the sensibilities I'm most interested in (a game's themes, writing, etc - basically, what other reviews tend to push aside).

People seem to think that all reviewers should apply to them, or that there should be a degree of coherency between all reviewers, and that anyone offering a different view is a dissenter or has been paid off (not to say that those are impossible occurences). Best policy: find a publication which most often considers the aspects of games you most often consider, and stick with them.

I agree with your point about scoring too (yet another reason why its pointless): how the hell do you reflect what you might consider to be a poor ending in a score? Do 5 minutes, no matter how important, really destroy the rest of a 30-hour game (all of which you loved) and drag it by the balls from a 9/10 to a 2/10?

Clearly, though the story absolutely should be a major part of any review, it being a major part of the experience of playing the game. Why do games bother with characters and stories if no-one really cares? Actually, I'm not be facetious with that question - I genuinely wonder. Very few games have a story sufficiently above the level of crud for it to be worth my while listening to anything anyone says in the game. They seem to be there more for the purpose of evoking popular cinematic tropes than as a significant game element.

I understand your point about why reviews ignore the story. And it's really little good complaining about it. Game reviewing is a job not a craft. Reviews need to be out on day one or else it's a job someone else will be doing. Game reviewers are under the same pressures as film reviewers but they're dealing with something more multi-faceted and much more time consuming.

Ultimately, if you insist on buying a game on day one, you take your chances. There will be bugs yet to be patched, the game may easily have serious flaws that have evaded the reviewers and it will never be more expensive than it is today. If anything comes of all this craziness, I'd like it to be a shared understanding among the gaming community that day one purchases are basically stupid and repeatedly rewarding publishers for treating us like idiots is our own fault.

Adam Jensen:
Here are the facts: reviews said how it's the great and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

There are only two reason they would say that:

1. They are retarded.

2. THEY ALL GOT PAYED TO GIVE A POSITIVE REVIEW!

Seriously, who would buy this game if any major reviewer were to say how the ending destroys the entire trilogy and makes you feel empty and dead inside? NO ONE!

It's so fuckin' obvious what happened in those reviews. There is no justification.

Well, I thought it was a great and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, even if it had a crappy ending. Thanks for calling me retarded for having a different opinion. :/

Mr.Tea:
Certainly explains the absence of anything regarding the ending in all the launch-day reviews and I had figured it went like that, but it still doesn't explain why, after the controversy picked up steam, the entirety of the gaming "press" unanimously took a shit on the fans who hated the ending. "...the ending went over your heads!", "...must never be changed!", "...dangerous precedent!", "...artistic integrity!" and "...setting back gaming as an art form!" they all went...

Well, I have my own theory. It is because of responses like this:

Adam Jensen:
Here are the facts: reviews said how it's the great and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

There are only two reason they would say that:

1. They are retarded.

2. THEY ALL GOT PAYED TO GIVE A POSITIVE REVIEW!

Seriously, who would buy this game if any major reviewer were to say how the ending destroys the entire trilogy and makes you feel empty and dead inside? NO ONE!

It's so fuckin' obvious what happened in those reviews. There is no justification.

That they are getting mad with fans. When people directly insult you and call your integrity into question, it is a little hard to keep a level head, don't you know. Sadly, this is not even unique. There was a guy in the ME3 review thread who kept trying to tell Susan that she was payed off and had her integrity compromised. This drew ire both from her and Andy. Hell, look at the DA2 review, or any review of any major game in the last couple years. You will have people screaming "PAYED OFF!!!" left and right.

I understand the logic of, "the first thirty hours were good, it's not fair to condemn it for the last ten minutes."

On the other hand, a story without a decent ending is like a house without a roof. The rest of the house might be fine, but the roof is kind of important.

BreakfastMan:

Hell, look at the DA2 review, or any review of any major game in the last couple years. You will have people screaming "PAYED OFF!!!" left and right.

That they are getting mad with fans. When people directly insult you and call your integrity into question, it is a little hard to keep a level head, don't you know. Sadly, this is not even unique. There was a guy in the ME3 review thread who kept trying to tell Susan that she was payed off and had her integrity compromised. This drew ire both from her and Andy. Hell, look at the DA2 review, or any review of any major game in the last couple years. You will have people screaming "PAYED OFF!!!" left and right.[/quote]

In fairness the DA2 review was baffling. Now I sincerely doubt that Tito was paid off but that review was awful, like a complete refusal to mention DA2 glaring faults. So yes crying corruption immediately is wrong but some reviews are well crap, like completely incompetent.

Capthca: mend fences

@numbers: I think a lot of reviewers do take these things into account. However, not in the way you might expect. It is very safe and easy to produce media with soundtracks, art and story that seem "decent" simply by sticking to a general "trend".

The issue is, all the media that follows this safe principle, will end up looking and feeling very similar, and thus it becomes impossible to actually distinguish them based on these criteria, unless it obviously fails. When you read a review with a good score, and art or soundtracks aren't discussed much, that just means that this game doesn't "offend" this taste.

On the other hand, if you really care for innovation or exceptional quality, most reviews won't help you much. There's simply no place on a numeric scale, for a game that many people might find exceptionally good. Why? Because in those cases, there's usually at least as many people who have a different taste, and who will hate it for the same reasons those other guys loved it.

The story is similar. I'm active in game-development on a small freeware game, and personally I'm someone who cares a ton about consistency and good story-telling. On the other hand, if I bring those points up to the community of that game, I will be shunned. Yes, they will absolutely hate me for it, because they don't nearly have the same requirements towards consistency that I do, and they will view any discussion of it as a waste of time.

Does that mean I'm right and they're all stupid? No. Does that mean I'm being silly because I don't agree with the masses? Hardly. It just means that there are different tastes, and sometimes to make a small group of people with unusual taste happy, you have to make your game absolutely awful for everyone else.

Neither are there many game developers who would take this burden on themselves, nor are there many reviewers who aim to make money by appeasing niche communities.

I'd just prefer "reviewers" not insulting people who hate the endings and asked for better ones as "drooling idiots", "entitled brats", "Mountain Dew-chugging nerds" (according to Yahtzee, IGN, and The New Yorker).

FORBES has been the only website to analyze it from a business perspective; happy customers are good business after all.

I have a problem with reviewers who realized a large portion disagrees with their opinion and decided to retaliate with name-calling and petty insults instead of opening up the floor to a rational discussion.

Trishbot:
I'd just prefer "reviewers" not insulting people who hate the endings and asked for better ones as "drooling idiots", "entitled brats", "Mountain Dew-chugging nerds" (according to Yahtzee, IGN, and The New Yorker).

FORBES has been the only website to analyze it from a business perspective; happy customers are good business after all.

I have a problem with reviewers who realized a large portion disagrees with their opinion and decided to retaliate with name-calling and petty insults instead of opening up the floor to a rational discussion.

Indeed, I mean this is actually really interesting, in that we are actually discussing the unique ability of video games to have a do over. This is fascinating and should be discussed and if that mean some people say no we shouldn't then good. But just flinging about insults is pointless

Adam Jensen:
Here are the facts: reviews said how it's the great and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

There are only two reason they would say that:

1. They are retarded.

2. THEY ALL GOT PAYED TO GIVE A POSITIVE REVIEW!

Seriously, who would buy this game if any major reviewer were to say how the ending destroys the entire trilogy and makes you feel empty and dead inside? NO ONE!

It's so fuckin' obvious what happened in those reviews. There is no justification.

Or maybe they just didn't think the ending was that bad. I know, shocking right?

I personally didn't think it was very good, but at the same time it certainly hasn't inspired as much bitterness in me as it has many other long running fans. Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion, but anyone would think the game disk had ejected itself during the end credits and physically assaulted the player judging by much of the fan reaction. It was bad sure, but was it really that bad? I can think of far worse endings to games I've liked, such as the game that you've taken your profile name and avatar from.

So yeah, when someone is only given time to play one of the endings, and even then not given too much time to think about it, I can see how it could pass muster with them.

P.S. Shamus, thank you.

The cool part about Mass Effect, is that you PLAY the STORY. The story changing with the players literal button inputs. You can't hide behind, "Some people don't care about story" Its simply not the case for this game franchise. That is the game. The professionalism game people (whatever you choose to call them) dropped the ball by using straw man arguments and generally misrepresenting people who complain about the ending as entitled...blah blah blah all that crap.

By whining so hard about the "artistic integrity" you are treating your legitimately upset audience like the 10 year old kids you desperately want them to not be.

But everything aside, if story doesn't matter, why the HELL do all these "pundits" (seriously?) have such a hard time with the idea it might get changed?

Trishbot:
I'd just prefer "reviewers" not insulting people who hate the endings and asked for better ones as "drooling idiots", "entitled brats", "Mountain Dew-chugging nerds" (according to Yahtzee, IGN, and The New Yorker).

FORBES has been the only website to analyze it from a business perspective; happy customers are good business after all.

I have a problem with reviewers who realized a large portion disagrees with their opinion and decided to retaliate with name-calling and petty insults instead of opening up the floor to a rational discussion.

But some of them were drooling idiots, etc. and people tend to focus on the worst of everything, just like you did right there. The discussion was already rife with name calling and petty insults long before the pros ever got involved. Creating an organised movement stepped rather heavily on any debate that might have been going on. The whole thing became binary - them and us - no subtlety, no intelligence, no value, just the repeated assertion of two opposing positions. You know, politics.

Trishbot:
I'd just prefer "reviewers" not insulting people who hate the endings and asked for better ones as "drooling idiots", "entitled brats", "Mountain Dew-chugging nerds" (according to Yahtzee, IGN, and The New Yorker).

FORBES has been the only website to analyze it from a business perspective; happy customers are good business after all.

I have a problem with reviewers who realized a large portion disagrees with their opinion and decided to retaliate with name-calling and petty insults instead of opening up the floor to a rational discussion.

Bear in mind probably half the correspondence your average game reviewer has with the rest of the gaming world will be butt hurt fanboys berating them for disliking a game/not liking a game enough/liking a game/not disliking a game enough/getting some minor detail about a game wrong, I think I can understand why they are inclined to assume the worst when it comes to fans.

This doesn't make them right of course, and their response has indeed been almost as hyperbolic as what they're critisising. However, it's all a matter of perspective and were I in their shoes I hate to admit I'd probably jump to conclusions and just accuse everyone of being spoiled too.

Edit: The way I see it, It's kinda like the boy who cried wolf. This time around I believe fans do really have a legitimate reason to be angry, but when internet/gaming fandom (Bioware fandom being a front runner) has such an infamous reputation for throwing shit fits over just about anything, can we really be surprised when people in the industry don't take fan rage seriously, even when there does turn out to be a good reason for it?

disappointed:

Trishbot:
I'd just prefer "reviewers" not insulting people who hate the endings and asked for better ones as "drooling idiots", "entitled brats", "Mountain Dew-chugging nerds" (according to Yahtzee, IGN, and The New Yorker).

FORBES has been the only website to analyze it from a business perspective; happy customers are good business after all.

I have a problem with reviewers who realized a large portion disagrees with their opinion and decided to retaliate with name-calling and petty insults instead of opening up the floor to a rational discussion.

But some of them were drooling idiots, etc. and people tend to focus on the worst of everything, just like you did right there. The discussion was already rife with name calling and petty insults long before the pros ever got involved. Creating an organised movement stepped rather heavily on any debate that might have been going on. The whole thing became binary - them and us - no subtlety, no intelligence, no value, just the repeated assertion of two opposing positions. You know, politics.

Oh, I'm fine with people disagreeing. More than fine. But if you disagree, don't do what Yahtzee and IGN did and just outright call everyone who disagrees an "idiot".

I'm a game designer myself AND a fan of video games. I can see both sides. I want what's best for the industry, and taking an "us vs. them" stance is bad for everyone. But I have a problem being insulted for my opinion by "professional" reviewers who get PAID to say the crap they do. They resort to fanboyism and trolling when I would like the industry to act like the paid professionals they claim to be.

I'll just put this here for reviewers. Hopefully Mr. Young will do an article on this double standard.

WRPG: Save the world = best story ever made
JRPG: Save the world = JRPG cliche would not play again

 Pages 1 2 3 4 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here