Summary: Previews are never critical, and reviews are totally by the numbers. Video game magazines should grow a spine.
That being said, some quotes:
Apart from a few scolding incidences where old scores are settled via poor previews, such as with the now rather old Red Faction 2, sequel to a game which many magazines ran previews on their covers with such exultations as “Move over Half-Life!” only to have to then quietly do a one page review of the terrible final product tucked away at the back of the publication, most previews are sugar coating.
For one publications do not want to tick off their PR contacts who probably won’t be sending them further preview or review copies if the publication trashes a game at preview time.
Compare and contrast with this:
Having been eating my young for the past 979 words you’ll note that I haven’t named the names of magazines, websites or otherwise for obvious reasons. Apart from libel there is the issue of burning my bridges, and I do want the option of being able to work in the videogame town again at some stage myself, and I daresay this piece being dragged out in a few years will not do me many favours with all but a few.
You all suck because you kowtow to the PR people, but can I have a job please?
It all comes down to the clueless public getting what they deserve, with a sprinkle of clueless wannabes, like a certain podium lover, who thanks to the web can now spread their ignorance to the world and even further diluting what little credibility the profession has.
Contrast that to articles about computer gaming publishers: always critical, complaints are by the numbers (they’re all h00rs, big-names developers own them, etc.), and the writer is typically spineless.
I guess Mumenschanz there wants critical previews - which is sort of impossible. What are you supposed to do, take off points for parts of the game that aren’t finished yet? And big-time previews are for big-time games, which should be looking good.
Although, I guess TomChick proved the “by the numbers” part, those numbers being 7-9, specifically. I don’t see reviews being kowtowing or havering overall, among the more credible sources, anyway. But, like, whatever, shut up and go play some games, dipshit.
I think the worst part of it all is when you do write up a “different” review, one that - God forbid - strays more than 10% from the gamerankings score, and every nutjob under the sun emails you about it. There is apparently no greater sin in the game industry than not scoring within 10% of gamerankings. Pity the writer if he likes a game that’s in the 70s and gives it a 90, or vice-versa, or uses something from beyond that mystical scale. From the unknowable depths of the internet, fanboys and haters will emerge and unleash their righteous wrath, “heathen! how darest thou assault mine sensibilities by not bowing before our lord and savior, Godrankings Consensus! thou shalt be smitten off teh face of teh earth for thine sacrilege!”
But honestly, as bad as I feel about all that, one thing makes it better. No, not the paycheck. Nor even the fact that I play games for a living. Go pick up a car magazine sometime. Now there’s a miserable bunch of writers.
For me the real kicker is where he also says he won’t name any good examples.
This also means that I can’t name the names of the rather decent publications, blogs and even one or two mainstream writers and publications which manage to do a decent job and push the envelope somewhat
Unfortunately this is not funny, it is far too true. The games industry is so incestuous, constantly recycling the same people in different positions, if you start pissing people off you quickly end up in a situation where there are people with grudges against you at positions with multiple companies where they have a say in hiring. In fact I’ve experienced this myself - I won’t go into details but there’s been at least one case where I am 99% certain that one person’s personal feelings torpedoed what would have been a sure thing, and several where people were surprised by a given hire or promotion, because they expected personal feelings to win out over objectivity.
I speak from observation of the dev/publisher side of it, but I am not aware of anything about the gaming press that would cause things to be different there.
People like to criticize previews for not being critical, but how can you criticize an incomplete product? The only thing you can criticize is the concept.
The press does a lot of previews because readers want them. It becomes a no-win situation since readers get excited about a game from the preview and then invariably it doesn’t live up to their expectations when it ships.
I do think the press is often guilty of one big sin – cover blurbs that sensationalize the game. Usually, the actual previews are more even-tempered, but that blurb declaring that game X will “rock your world” or is the “best shooter ever” tends to be what is remembered.
I agree, Mark. I don’t get the hate people have toward previews. The purpose of a preview is to get you excited about a game. The writer can’t criticize it because the game isn’t finished. If he said “well, the character animations aren’t great” and then they are fixed, he has misrepresented the product. All he can do is say, here are the features, here is how they are supposed to work, and here is how cool it will be if it does work. Yeah, sometimes they go too far with the last point. But done well, a preview is fine, and it should be getting the game hype.
Also, you do sometimes read previews where potential flaws are mentioned, but even then the writer has to admit (if he is professional) that those flaws could be fixed before launch.
The purpose of a preview is to get you excited about a game.
I dunno, I read previews to get some solid information on a title I haven’t heard of before or one I’m interested in. I don’t consider their primary purpose to ‘get me excited’.
Of course, it would be unfair to completely rip into the game in an unfinished state, but often enough I get the feeling someone’s talking about to-do features as if they were already in the game - up, running and working. Also, sometimes there’s a huge flaw where common sense should tell you that there’s no way that one will be fixed before the release even if someone claims otherwise.
Yeah. An ancillary purpose for print gaming mags is an opportunity to read ads for upcoming games - or ones that have just been released - and dig on the quotes. Do they contain words or phrases such as “may be,” “looks to be,” “could very well,” and the like? Yeah, how about them quotes for that stupid, busted-ass DW Bradley game?