Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Check it out: Quarterdown.com

I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday containing a link and the line “a videogame website that doesn’t suck yet.”

He was talking about Quarterdown.com and, yeah, his comment was accurate. These guys are just starting out, so there isn’t a crapload of content to plow through yet, but that means you readers have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a budding gaming website and watch it evolve.

Get active and you might even help shape its future.

Anyway, while reading an article on the trouble with game reviews, I felt inclined to make a reply. The problem with me, of course, is that I can’t keep anything short. So, instead of trying to edit myself like any decent writer would, I decided to just let the rant flow and post it here instead.

Do me a favor and at least check out the article first. Afterwards, if you’ve still got some readin’ left in ya, head back over here and see what totally random stuff I had to say in response. Here it is:

Moving a little outside of what has already been said, I thought it might be worth mentioning the way most reviewers seem to approach their games. In the world of journalism, even for monthly magazines that have a longer build cycle, time is very, very short.

Many reviewers tend to tear open the package, pop in the disc, play for eight straight hours sustained entirely on Redbull and Doritos, fire up the laptop, crank out 2,000 words, send it to the editor and get ready for the next game. Most folks who write reviews are multi-tasking, writing several reviews at once as well as additional articles, features, etc. In short, they are swamped.

This all goes back to the time factor. Everyone wants to be the first to review something or, barring that, at least be in print and ready to read as soon as the embargo has been lifted.

When someone rushes through a game, no matter how much experience they have in the industry or how much they know about what, in general, makes a game good, I feel something has to be lost in the process.

You can’t properly experience Bioshock in a marathon, leaving no time to consider the game’s many questions and ideas. You just can’t. I also feel that particular game should only be played at night, with the lights off, but I’m pretty picky about that sort of thing.

Similarly (kind of), it often feels like games are being critiqued on the idea of certain aspects rather than their implementation. It’s like, with so little time to do the job properly, I get the feeling many reviewers are doing some quick research and playing long enough to get the gist of a title before writing a review, gushing over a certain feature but failing to mention big flaws and poor execution that pops up a few hours in.

I’m noticing more and more of these reviews where I can’t believe the person who wrote it actually played the title for any substantial period of time.

One review I read for Borderlands, for instance, spent a couple sentences describing what makes the game so unique, highlighting such crazy weapons as a shotgun that shoots pellets in a wave and a mission that has you fighting skags to recover a prosthetic limb.

Anyone who has played Borderlands will likely recall that mission is picked up at the very beginning of the game and that particular weapon is the reward for completing said mission. Call me crazy, but in a game packed with seven kabillion weapons, around a hundred missions and forty hours of gameplay, it just seems odd that these things, occurring so early in a game with more exciting weapons and memorable encounters, would stand out enough to earn mention in the review.

Maybe this is all just a difference of opinion or maybe I’ve just become too paranoid when it comes to modern game reviews. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

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