PAX East 2010: Why Journalists and Developers Hate Each Other

PAX East 2010: Why Journalists and Developers Hate Each Other

image

An early PAX East 2010 panel highlighted the grudge match that often goes on between developer and journalist.

In one of the first panels of PAX East 2010, a selection of representatives from both the development and journalism sides of the videogame industry got together to hash out their problems. With journalists depending on developers for content to write about, and developers depending on journalists to let the world know their games exist, it would seem like a universal understanding could be worked out for the betterment of each. This is sadly not the case, so why can't developers and journalists get along?

From the developers' points of view, simply, journalists can be a**holes. Jeff Green, former Computer Gaming World Editor-in-Chief and the host of the panel, once wrote that he thought a rotting dead rat in a shoebox was a better value at $20 than the game Mistmare, but this type of comment isn't necessarily the problem according to Harmonix publicist John Drake. Instead, he feels the problem is that he has to deal with many journalists that might not have qualifications, yet still "have a website and are crazy."

In his joking comment is an inkling of truth. He notes that some reviewers can write things that are factually wrong, but the audience doesn't necessarily understand this. Other reviewers might be trying to make a name for themselves by trashing a game, while Irrational Games' product development director Tim Gerritsen can't stand when a reviewer will state that he/she "normally doesn't play this type of game." In Drake's opinion, he'd rather have a somewhat lower score at the bottom of a well written and well thought out review than a perfect score from a reviewer that put in no effort.

From the journalists' points of view, it's often a challenge to deal with developers that can be unreasonable. Ideally, a game should be played to completion, but according to G4 news editor Patrick Klepek and Wired's Chris Kohler that just isn't realistic all of the time. If a game like, say, Final Fantasy XIII isn't fun for the first 20 hours, than it's unreasonable to expect the average reviewer, or even the average videogame player, to stick with it to the point where the experience becomes more positive. While Klepek says the full completion of every game is "the goal," as long as reviewers explain in full detail the portion of the reviewed game that was played, a review should be able to stand, within reason. Kohler also points out that it can be difficult to work with developers that have a "lack of respect for reviewers," sometimes seeing game reviewing as "a hobby [reviewers] get paid for."

Ultimately, both developers and journalists agree that the audience is a major factor in their battle. Kohler notes that even a well written review with a poor score can help sell a game, as some people may read about gameplay aspects that a reviewer hated and think they sound fun instead. However, the audience doesn't have to read the text of a review, and is fully within their right to stop at the score. As such, the entire panel agreed that "Metacritic scores can go f*ck themselves."

What I got out of the panel is that review scores may be the true enemy here, but obviously they are a necessary evil as readers usually demand them. In a world filled with thoughtful reviewers, and an audience that will read a thoughtful reviewer's text, the people of the development and journalism worlds might end up holding hands someday.

Permalink

Still, a review is a subjective opinion, so stating that "I usually don't play this type of game" is a reflection of how the game is perceived by the non targeted audience. Seems like a good tool for the developers to utilize rather than to hate them for.

I think this should be a great article write up about review scores. Maybe the Escapist has a deadline for that?

Anyway, I thought that publishers and journalists are public enemies, not developers. I recall the entire Dan Hsu debacles about editorial integrity.

If anything, people should read more into the details instead of the scores.

Well, why not just stop sending out review copies until they drop the scoring aspect?

"Metacritic scores can go f*ck themselves."

Hell yes. If you think reviews are better off with scores, I hate you.

I remember reading about 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl' and seeing some metacritic type numbers setting the game at around 72 or so. But the writeup spoke about a horror FPS set in an irradiated wasteland, with rival factions and mutants, and stunning scenery.

Writeup = evocative = fired-up imagination. Sold.

Although, to be fair, most metacritic scores that I've seen are coupled with a Pros and Cons section, I think.

I don't think of Zero Punctuation as a serious game review, really. I think of it as a well- informed gripe- fest done hilariously well. And in that vein, it's all good.

I think its the same no matter what you link it to. They will always have a stand-offish kind of relationship, just due to thej obs they do and the people they work with.

Journalists in general dont seem to be ever liked if they are doing a story on you/your organisation.

But, it is there job to report the truth (most the time)

Dorkmaster Flek:
If you think reviews are better off with scores, I hate you.

Someone's opinion is different to yours so you "hate" them?

Maturity with a capital M right there.

OT: I can see the reasons for both parties dislike for one another, but I must admit I didn't think it was that bad. Having said that, I only watch stuff (interviews, previews, etc.) from more well-known sites (the Escapist, PC gamer, IGN, etc.) so I guess developers are more at ease with people from those publications - not least because they've probably met them a number of times before.

Reviewers aren't magic-beings, they're just players like the rest of us. If they play Mass Effect 2 and think its hideously dull, that's what they're going to write.

I have been wondering for so long why developers can love Zero Punctuation and even written in thanks for recieving the Zero Punctuation "Treatment" (See Extra Punctuation: Dark Void) when he tramps their games into the dirt. It is because he is one of the only reviewers that write intelgently and the only one that can also make it funny. The whole "he has tripled sales within hours of a review" proboly has helped a bit as well.

Pimppeter2:
Still, a review is a subjective opinion, so stating that "I usually don't play this type of game" is a reflection of how the game is perceived by the non targeted audience. Seems like a good tool for the developers to utilize rather than to hate them for.

I gotta disagree with you there. There is not a review in the world that would make me even consider buying a sports title. Or a racing game. I don't care if GT5 gets the highest Metacritic score ever I won't be buying it. So if a review came along that was made by someone like me who has no interest in these types of games the review will just confirm what I already know. That this game is not for me (which is different from being bad). And at the same time would turn off potential buyers while the comment section turns into troll central. If it isn't thier cup of tea or they have burned out they shouldn't be behind the keyboard. Not in a proffesional sense anyways.

Take any major release, look it up on Metacritic and read all the reviews. Some of them are absolutely horrid.

I look at scores, but I would absolutely love if they all went away. It'd give the good reviewers a lot more freedom with their text, not being concerned that it "doesn't read like an 8"

Metascores, gods how I can't stand these. Especially since it simply doesn't make any damned sense. I remember reading one one site about Metascores and they had all these questions like "Why did you say I gave it an 8 when I was giving it a 9?" and the bit on how the get the scores sounded like some sorta excuse to not bother reviewing the games and just slapping a number on them.

I don't like seeing a game based on a "score" in that sense. When Nintendo Power did their Players Pulse back in the late 80's (when the magazine was still good), they often showed what games were most popular from a variety of standpoints, including your average gamer, your pro gamer, and businessmen who are somehow involved in the process.

Take Portal, for instance. It's a great game and almost everyone who has played it seems to think it's the best thing since sliced bread. What's the Metascore? It's the lowest scoring game on the damned Orange Box, despite a lot of people claiming it was better than most of the games on there (subjective, I realize). I mean even Yahtzee said it was incredible and he threated to stab himself in the eyes if he ever said it again.

Oh, and let's not forget that Metascores CHANGE meaning that it isn't just initial scores, either. A game could go from a high/low score to the other end of the spectrum later on with little to no explanation for it.

...but I'll say one thing that I thought was gonna get mentioned here and it didn't: I thought a lot of journalists disliked developers because they keep being secretive, and vice versa because they give everything away. I like being kept in the dark about a few things when it comes to games, especially the plot. But on the other hand I'd at LEAST like to see something of the gameplay to get me into whether or not I'm even interested.

Look at Legend of Mana. If I'd seen how it played, I'd never have bought it. Was a huge disappointment. On the other hand, Sakurai became something of the devil when he went and SPOILED a major plot point in the untranslated (at the time) Mother3 game for the GBA. Which Nintendo keeps a stance on EarthBound titles which just boggles the mind, and I know it's in part due to the problems we have today with copyright laws...

I think most of the problem is what my friend and I call "reviewer syndrome." This article layed alot of it out. When its your job to play games and you have a new one sitting on your desk every week your experience with games is not going to analog to mine. Big story driven RPGs simply can't be reviewed in full by your pro-journalist among the other games upcoming on the horizon. This is understandable but the scope of the review needs to reflect it. Criticizing the story when you've not seen its fruition is pretty low unless what your citing is a repetitive string of cliche dialogues, but you need to be specific or just be quiet, if you wanna call it a well written review. This doesn't mean you can't review the FF13s of the world but limit your review to what your qualified to talk about. Talk game system, graphics, the stuff you actually saw.

The average professional reviewer comes off as a bit spoiled to me, or in some cases, spoiled rotten, then again I've always thought of yahtzee as an entertainer first(a hilarious one), and a reviewer second. But to the point having a steady stream of new games blasting down the pike at you makes you prone to throw a game out at the first sign of resistance. Yahtzee did this to mirrors edge, after his prediction that the game would be akward and unenjoyable he confirmed his thoughts when the game released. Citing the first person view to make the jumps overly difficult, and a need to look down at your feet. I can't relate to this fact at all, since by the end of the tutorial level i had a pretty good guage going for when I'd hit the edge of a rooftop, and died to misjudgments maybe twice from that point on, and even those were on jumps that were literally impossible, I'm just hard headed.

Point being the game prepared you for its rules pretty well, and I think his main issue was he came in prepared to rag on that. Yeah the story is pretty thin, and as such theres not much to the characters, but the gameplay was a blast. But yahtzee is a busy man with alot of games on his table, he didnt have time to get any good at the game that he already knew was going to suck.

Now yahtzee is not alone in being a reviewer that tires of endless FPS releases where you run around grey/brown areas with shallow characters and repetative gameplay. But he and a few game mag reviews I read gave Mirrors Edge a damning review. Now such a review won't kill off the mainstream hits like your Halos and Modern Warefare games, and it just makes the fanboys buy it harder, the guy that buys every new shooter is enough to keep these games afloat. But a game like mirrors edge is crippled by bad press. I'm no socialite, and I know 3 people personally that blacklisted the game after yahtzee's review, or one in GameInformer. Shame on them of course for not trying the demo and forming thier own opinion, but Game reviewers need to realize theyre just as big a threat to creativity in the game market as greedy publishers and fanboys.

To be totally honest I somewhat think the game reviewer is a bit of a relic. A demo definitly gives me a more objective look at the game, and a subjective view of it that actually matches my taste, and demos are pretty readily available on Xbox live, and I would assume PSN, and... It occures to me I've never checked for demos on wii... However I say somewhat for a reason. As the occasional demo is misleading. Case in point, Too human. Demo made it look good, but the real game punished my choice of class, treated me to as much time watching a death screen as playing, and gave me a perplexing gear system that gave +to stats that the game and its manual offered no explaination for. Sure some were obvious but not most. So I say let the reviewers live to perhaps protect us from the Too Humans of the world, but have a sense of responsiblity for how you shape the gaming landscape.

If you hate the buggy sonic games, bland FPSs, and "ultrabad" 3d action games(stop calling them God of war clones, it wasn't the first, it wasn't what put the genre on the map, its a fine specimen, leave it at that), then think twice before you deep six a unique title that you don't have the time a regular gamer would put into learning/enjoying it. Your not gonna kill Halo(for the record I like the series) by calling it mediocre, its customers were mostly already on board, but were it not for the valves track record, a bad review was all that stood between great success or obscurity for Portal . When I'm in a card shop full of fellow nerds, and I try to talk about how cool half life 2 was, and they tell me it sucked, orange box was only worth it for portal, I smell tool. I love portal, and alot of what made it great was valves design philosphy for teaching players the rules and emersing them in the game. If you like portal better, fine, but telling me you think half life sucked just make so little sense. This was where reviewers did us a favor, they gave portal a chance proper and tools bought the game. So next time a gem like portal or mirrors edge comes along, take more than 10minutes to learn to appreciate the game, rather than throwing it to the wolves, or enjoy basking in a rain of Dante's Modern Basketball 2k11

I've never cared about a score except if the review that spawns it matches the sentiment of the number. It's always seemed like someone trying to tell me my opinion about something I haven't had exposure to. I'll take a friends word over a reviewers score anyday.

The truth is game reviews matter, the scores matter because it decides which reviewer are worth reading. Too many reviewers are kids who know nothing or really stupid nerds who way over-rate games and are fanboys.

If you are not over 25 years of age you should be banned from reviewing games. That's how I feel about it. Too many reviewers are reviewers with no gaming history. Many of the highest scoring games have "fanboy landslide errors" in their ratings. The real fact is that as game development costs and time went up the core gaming experience has been getting more shallow and they focus on the easy games to make that will make them the most money - like first person shooters.

The real issue is game quality and not reviewers, developers have to solve the problem of : Low quality content, or content who's quality is all over the map (FF 13 beginning vs end), cut their production costs and start working on tools to algorithmically generate content or AID in content generation.

As gamers we want the most awesome experience possible with the most stuff packed into a game, with a good round of complex options at our disposal for decision making.

In the last decade games have been getting simpler and being dumbed down and the core of games is being hollowed out to try to recoup development costs by casting as wide a net as possible, but this is going to kill the core fanbase of games, the one's who bring regular revenue to the industry.

I've considered taking up a new hobby since many developers seem hell bent on cutting corners and removing staples of past games (final fantasy 13 I'm looking at you). Even the vaunted God of War 3 was a let down for me they spent too much money making the game over the top and not really adding more meat to kratos character, God of War 3 suffered from "Warrior within" effect of Prince of persia sand sof time trilogy, where they took an awesome character from Sands of time in the first game and ruined his character for "marketing decisions".

I felt kratos character was a bit bastardized in God of war 3 and they made up too much random shit because they gave up nailing who kratos was. Kratos comitted suicide at the end of God of War 1 and Athena saved him that means Kratos really regretted the decisions he had made and that having slaughtered so many people and his wife and child weighed so heavily upon him that he literally could not go on.

That aspect of Kratos was just practically eliminated in God of War 3 and it really ruined it for me.

the entire panel agreed that "Metacritic scores can go f*ck themselves."

That's funny, because the only review score I would ever attach any value to is a Metacritic score. Individual reviewers all have their own stupid opinions, so I can never trust them, but with Metacritic scores it evens out.

I have no idea why this is the case, but looking at the tons of games I played, and their metascores, there is a better correlation there than with any individual reviewer. Metacritic scores are great. They allow me to weed out games I don't want to play with a decent amount of reliability.

That is usually followed up by a quick reading of a few of the most negative reviews, to see what is bad about the game. If it turns out that most of the complaints about the game are things I don't mind, or am willing to put up with, then I try the game.

The only real problem is that Metacritic allows games with only five reviews to have an entry. Out of the Park Baseball 2007 is the second highest ranked game on the pc games list, because only reviewers that love that kind of game would even bother with it, and so it got five raving reviews. It's obvious that the Metacritic system can only work if it has enough data to go by.

Not G. Ivingname:
It is because he is one of the only reviewers that write intelgently

That's debatable, not because Zero Punctuation isn't often quite smart, but because they can't be called well thought out reviews. Quite frankly I've always gotten the impression that the reason developers like ZP is because they know they can't take them seriously.

*prepares to be flamed by all the ZP fanboys*

Xocrates:

Not G. Ivingname:
It is because he is one of the only reviewers that write intelgently

That's debatable, not because Zero Punctuation isn't often quite smart, but because they can't be called well thought out reviews. Quite frankly I've always gotten the impression that the reason developers like ZP is because they know they can't take them seriously.

*prepares to be flamed by all the ZP fanboys*

Zero punctiation is not really a "game review" it is a show about: "here is the flaws in your game expressed in a funny way".

Few gamers decide purchases directly from reviews anyway: They either rent the game, borrow it from a friend, play a friends copy, or pirate it.

hyperdrachen:
I think most of the problem is what my friend and I call "reviewer syndrome." This article layed alot of it out. When its your job to play games and you have a new one sitting on your desk every week your experience with games is not going to analog to mine. Big story driven RPGs simply can't be reviewed in full by your pro-journalist among the other games upcoming on the horizon. This is understandable but the scope of the review needs to reflect it. Criticizing the story when you've not seen its fruition is pretty low unless what your citing is a repetitive string of cliche dialogues, but you need to be specific or just be quiet, if you wanna call it a well written review. This doesn't mean you can't review the FF13s of the world but limit your review to what your qualified to talk about. Talk game system, graphics, the stuff you actually saw.

It happens a lot. I honestly believe GTAIV scored so highly because reviewers only played it for a few days. I loved that game for the first week but then got thoroughly bored of it and never played it again. I never passed the middle island. I think if more reviewers had been given a month with the title the scores and reviews would change.

Back to FFXIII I wont be buying it as I dont feel I should have to play a linear repetative game for 20 hours before getting to the good bit. Life's too short. If I'm doing something I don't enjoy inorder to have fun at a later date then I'm probably at work. If a reviewer has played for 10 hours and in that time the story has been bland and disjointed with unlikable charecters then he/she should be able to say that.

I'm not going to comment on the strength of story in FFXIII as I've not played it. Im sure its well polished and the reviews I've read say it is the best thing since sliced bread. It's just not for me.

Ricardo77:

Xocrates:

Not G. Ivingname:
It is because he is one of the only reviewers that write intelgently

That's debatable, not because Zero Punctuation isn't often quite smart, but because they can't be called well thought out reviews. Quite frankly I've always gotten the impression that the reason developers like ZP is because they know they can't take them seriously.

*prepares to be flamed by all the ZP fanboys*

Zero punctiation is not really a "game review" it is a show about: "here is the flaws in your game expressed in a funny way".

Few gamers decide purchases directly from reviews anyway: They either rent the game, borrow it from a friend, play a friends copy, or pirate it.

I'd agree with you that Zero Punctuation isn't a review show, except that it's presented as such. If you ever read the comments on his videos, a large part of his viewers think of it as a review show. It's also not a "point out the flaws show", as he occasionally praises games that are worse in most aspects than the games he trashes. He praised Assassin's Creed and Gears of War 2, both of which were ok but not great, and Silent Hill 2, which is a great experience wrapped in a pretty terrible game, and No More Heroes and Killer 7, which are clever and fun but significantly flawed. And he praises these games while criticizing games like Smash Bros Brawl, apparently on the grounds that he has no friends, The World Ends With You, which he hated because it was Japanese, Bioshock, because it's similar to a game most people have never played, and Torchlight, because you have to click too much.

omegawyrm:

I'd agree with you that Zero Punctuation isn't a review show, except that it's presented as such. If you ever read the comments on his videos, a large part of his viewers think of it as a review show. It's also not a "point out the flaws show", as he occasionally praises games that are worse in most aspects than the games he trashes. He praised Assassin's Creed and Gears of War 2, both of which were ok but not great, and Silent Hill 2, which is a great experience wrapped in a pretty terrible game, and No More Heroes and Killer 7, which are clever and fun but significantly flawed. And he praises these games while criticizing games like Smash Bros Brawl, apparently on the grounds that he has no friends, The World Ends With You, which he hated because it was Japanese, Bioshock, because it's similar to a game most people have never played, and Torchlight, because you have to click too much.

But you notice how he _always_ points out the flaws in games, that is the predominant theme in every video he makes, even if he has poor taste in games to some extent he will usually still point out it's flaws that he can find and attempt to milk it for laughs.

That is predominantly what the show is about the flaws he finds to comment on, and then try to make the audience laugh.

Ricardo77:

omegawyrm:

I'd agree with you that Zero Punctuation isn't a review show, except that it's presented as such. If you ever read the comments on his videos, a large part of his viewers think of it as a review show. It's also not a "point out the flaws show", as he occasionally praises games that are worse in most aspects than the games he trashes. He praised Assassin's Creed and Gears of War 2, both of which were ok but not great, and Silent Hill 2, which is a great experience wrapped in a pretty terrible game, and No More Heroes and Killer 7, which are clever and fun but significantly flawed. And he praises these games while criticizing games like Smash Bros Brawl, apparently on the grounds that he has no friends, The World Ends With You, which he hated because it was Japanese, Bioshock, because it's similar to a game most people have never played, and Torchlight, because you have to click too much.

But you notice how he _always_ points out the flaws in games, that is the predominant theme in every video he makes, even if he has poor taste in games to some extent he will usually still point out it's flaws that he can find and attempt to milk it for laughs.

That is predominantly what the show is about the flaws he finds to comment on, and then try to make the audience laugh.

Yeah, you're right. I'm primarily just frustrated by all the people I know who take everything he says as word of God. I really love video games, in all their forms, and I just feel like Yahtzee is part of a movement in gamer opinion that makes me very uncomfortable.

 

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
Registered for a free account here