There are people who spend forty hours a week working to come up with new ways to entice you to pony up for the latest game. They devise ads, arrange interviews, and provide “exclusive” previews. They spam the world with HD screenshots, release trailers, and concoct a sugary blend of lies and exaggerations to go on the back of the box. They work to calculate the precise degree of cleavage a game needs to show in order to attract the male gamers without alienating the female ones. They hunt for new and different ways to get your attention and shove their game into the fickle spotlight of gaming journalism. These people work in marketing.
All of this is done in pursuit of one simple goal: Getting you to give up your sixty bucks. And at the end of the week the people in marketing get the same paycheck whether you like the game or not. These people aren’t evil. They’re just doing their job.
AAA games get all the praise they need from trained professionals, so I really can’t comprehend the intensely defensive attitude that some players take towards games. Last week I had my rules for not pissing off the fanboys. They were satire, but a lot of people agreed with point #2 – that you shouldn’t have an opinion on a game until you’ve played it. This is a horrible and self-destructive attitude to take. As a consumer, it’s your job to be discriminating with what you buy. You worked for your money (I hope) and so you owe it to yourself to be careful where you put it. And that means forming on opinions on things before you pay for them.
And just to make things clear: The point of the article last week was to show how a fanboy will dismiss any criticism. You either went in with preconceived notions or you didn’t know enough about the game in the first place. You’re either overlooking the awesome story or you’re judging a game on the story when you shouldn’t. You either ignored the graphics or you made too big a deal about them. You either skipped the multiplayer or focused too much on it.
No matter how someone expresses their dissatisfaction with a game, a fanboy will be there to let them know they’re doing it wrong. The whole “don’t judge a game without playing it” is just one of the tools they use, and it’s just as invalid as the others. Case in point: Yahtzee’s SSBB review. He played the game even though it wasn’t his thing, and people slammed him for being “biased.” (Yeah. That’s what a review is for, you know?) If he had ignored the game some fans would have slammed him for not giving the game a chance, for being afraid to try new things, or for being “unprofessional” by not reviewing a particularly popular title.
The people who agreed that you shouldn’t have an opinion on a game were quick to point out that you could miss out on a game you would love. Hey, if you just decide you don’t like a game you haven’t tried you could miss out on something good! This is true, but it’s not nearly as bad as paying good money for a bad game. You can always buy a game later if you change your mind, but you can’t ever reclaim the money and time you sunk into a title that wasn’t any fun.
And for those of you sticking up for the idea that you can’t hate on a game without playing it first: How many of you played FarmVille before you concluded it was the videogame equivalent of stomach cancer? How many read Twilight before decrying it as an offense against both women and vampires? I’m not saying you need to play FarmVille or read Twilight. I’m saying it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude you won’t like something without needing first-hand experience. It’s good for you. The people who argue against this are just fanboys who don’t care if you’re happy with a game or not, they just want to shut down criticism of their beloved.
Judging entertainment isn’t some special skill that only a professionally trained reviewer can do. It’s something all of us do, all the time. You do it when you pick one movie over another, one TV show over another, one edition of D&D over another. You gather as much or as little data as you need and then you spend your money. Reviews are an important part of that data-gathering process, but nobody knows as much about what you like as you do.
If you can honestly say you have no opinion on a game you’ve never tried, then I’d encourage you to put your brain to work and see if you can sort it out. Do you like the genre? The developer? The previous games in the franchise? No? Then it’s okay to hate the game. Don’t apologize to the fanboy idiots. Just go ahead and hate the daylights out of the thing without playing it. Your opinions are your own, and you don’t owe the game itself anything. Not even a “fair chance.” Put your money on a game you know you’ll like.
Goodness knows the folks in marketing would be happy to make a few suggestions.