Friday, 18 March 2011

'Putting On' Your Game Face

(These observations are like liquid and will probably change over time)

I wonder if most writers, at present, write about this gaming culture because they are trying to justify it? Or because they love it so much? 

I often find myself having to convince other people why I believe games are so important to our culture. We have to have that pressure valve. That form of release, that doesn't involve actual physical injury (maybe in just a few cases). 
If we didn't have the distraction, we would go mad or sink into depression. 
Games provide a sense of achievement through wish fulfilment. Even when life is becoming a grind. You still can get a little back by defeating a particularly difficult Boss or Stage. 

To some this might seem like an even greater waste of time but it is the accomplishment that gives the gamer back control. Even if it is just in his own mind. Isn't that where we all really live? 
In our own head-space. 
We perceive the world through our own rationalizations. 

The following morning a person might feel like they are back in the saddle again, steering their own path. 
Games do give a lot back to a player's state of mind. It's what the person does with the realization that is important in this life. 
Should they take the feeling and bolster their confidence, apply themselves that little bit extra because they have renewed appreciation of their abilities?

Or will they just over-indulge and get really fat? 

Games are there to be enjoyed. By the same token, they are not a replacement for your life. 

It may appear that I have over emphasized the importance a little. But they do have a big psychological impact on us. 
We have always had games, in their many different forms, we always will. 
Because we need them. They stimulate our minds. Increase our capacity to solve puzzles, read maps, encouraging us to think and engage our imaginations.

Even the best and most enjoyable game is a distraction and should not be abused. It's purpose is to grant a few hours of fun and escapism. Any more than that and you rob the game of it's magic. It becomes dull and boring. And so, in turn, does the player. 

I guess my point, at long last, is that they are necessary to us, to our culture. 

Now, reviewing a game. That is strange to me. Surely everyone's experience of a game is decidedly different? 
You would have to know that person well to gauge whether you would take as much from a game as they do. Or their writing should at least reflect themselves as completely and honestly as possible. 


Magazine publication has been on a decline recently, due to immeasurable amount of coverage on the internet. 
Its faster, cheaper and more convenient. 
That is not to say it is entirely better. 
Some online game reviews are just as guilty of generating hype for an upcoming release. 
No doubt funded by the game's publisher to get our mouth's watering.
This is a practice as old as the circus. 

I myself prefer to read printed magazines but this can be costly. 
Recently I have registered with (mainly to get access to their game walkthroughs) but also because they offer fairly decent reviews of games. Or at least lengthy :)

They come in a range of different formats, text, video, screenshots, the whole lot! 
So you can judge in your own mind, if what you are seeing is a clanger or not. 

I thought to mention this writer's review of GHOSTBUSTERS: The Video Game. 
He has a personal stake in this game being good, because he is a massive fan of the movie. 
Is he biased? Overall I felt he gave a balanced review. 
And this game has a very targeted audience. 

I would say that even if I personally didn't agree with the opinions of a New Games Journalist, 
I would trust their writing more. After all  they are not trying to sell me anything. They're just recollecting exploits in context to the form. 
They loved a game and want to share that experience -

I have always wanted to play SYSTEM SHOCK, even more so after reading this article 
(above link)
When I think of my own journey playing BIOSHOCK, I see the similarities between the games. 
The continuation of a theme. 

BioShock box art containing a Big Daddy

You are an altered human, pressed onwards to your goal by a disembodied voice. You are merely a pawn. Manipulated to suit their vile deeds. Ultimately you must face them to gain your freedom. 

The similarities of these games and the works of Ayn Rand are well reported.
Half-length monochrome portrait photo of Ayn Rand, seated, holding a cigarette
Andrew Ryan.png

Ayn Rand = Andrew Ryan? Polar opposites maybe?

From what I have read online, there doesn't appear to be a fixed rate of pay for writing reviews for games but I consistently read that writers supplement their income with other work. 
So it can't be paying out that well.


One of the main pitfalls of being a Game Reviewer is time. You cannot hope to keep up with the flood of continuing releases. 
Some games, especially RPG's, require 50+ hours of gameplay to fully explore their hidden realms. 
And to give an accurate account,under such close scrutiny, is a very unnerving prospect. 

For example:-

Whether it is by the publishers - Often paying for advertising space, on paper or cyberspace as guarantee of a positive assessment of their new game.  

Or by the fans themselves - They will know when they read a poor review and if the writer has been entirely honest in his critique. And they are blisteringly unmerciful to the culprit. 

A great example, which also forms another type of game writing is the webcomic - 
Penny Arcade
Arms Aren't Even That Cool

If you follow the link above Mike Krahulik aka: "Gabe" reveals a stinker of a review. 
Which is then parodied in their web-comic. 

Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins are about the only success story I can find regarding Game Journalism. 
Originally PENNY ARCADE was funded solely by donations. After some great advice by their business manager Robert Khoo their income comes from a combination of advertising and merchandise. 


I realize the pressures facing a game reviewer. If you want to earn money, your going to have to peddle their wares. 
We, as consumers, need to know that we're getting our money's worth. The crux is whether that information is entirely accurate. Or objective.
 A ranking system makes sense, as a gauge of quality, but it often doesn't match what the reviewer is saying about the product. 
So it leaves you (the consumer) in limbo. 

I have to say that reviews of games, I have played recently, have had very confusing ratings. 

The reviewer picks the game apart to then to give it a 8.0?! 

What is this rating system for? It seems rather arbitrary. 
Maybe their palm was crossed with silver. 

I can see why some gamers find sequels repetitive but when it is a continuation of a story, it would be pretty insane to change everything half-way through it. 

At the end of the day we all interpret games in different ways. So its very subjective. 
I tend to ignore film reviews and prefer to make my own mind up, now with games, I'm favouring that opinion even more. 
It is better to make your own decisions based on your own experience. 

Try it yourself, you might like it?


(I knew I'd forget something)

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

Also a published writer, he gives the most cutting reviews I have ever heard. 
More often than not, hilarious and acerbic insults are born here.

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