Monday, July 5, 2010

Do we judge a game differently just because it's niche?

So after another reviewer wrote a review for the game Trinity Universe, some debate sparked, because it's a "niche" game. People seem to think he should have held the game to different standards when reviewing it. It seems rather silly that just because a game is niche, different rules should apply. I think it's necessary in a review to write that a game is an acquired taste and it will only apply to a certain fanbase. Obviously, when the game was in development, it was targeted to that demographic. If the game succeeds for the fanbase it targets, does that mean a reviewer should score it based on that or the fact that the game would ultimately fail for anybody else who played it?

I think, as a reviewer, to be objective and fair, it's important to make it known that you're dealing with a game that will appeal to a certain fanbase. Do I think the game's flaws should be overlooked because of that, however? No. Am I writing my reviews purely for a niche fanbase? No. My goal as a reviewer is for anybody who reads my review to get an idea of the game and see if it's their cup of tea. A review being purely objective is impossible, because it's my opinion, and I can write very darn well what I please on a game. (Obviously, I'm still reeling from the July 4th celebration - freedom!) At the same time, I explain to people exactly what I didn't like about certain aspects of a game. I do this on purpose. For instance, I straight up admit many times in reviews that I am not patient, and therefore, if you are similar, you will dislike this part of the game. However, I'm saying this because I fully know there are patient people out there willing to put up with this flaw.

Now, people can argue that Trinity Universe succeeds because it is there to please the fanbase it targets. But here's the thing - as far as the rest of the gamers go, it won't please them. As a reviewer, it's my job to state that and not push somebody in the wrong direction. If I gave a higher score to a game just because it was niche, I would be steering others in the wrong direction. Have no fear niche fanbase, I've got you covered, I'd always straight out list whether or not you'll eat up the game. As far as Trinity Universe is concerned, I previewed the game. I played some hands on at E3, and I found it to have its charm. I also realized when playing through it that it was not a game I'd pick up and play on my own. The battles were a little too slow for my liking and, to add insult to injury, frequent. But I really enjoyed the characters from what I played, so I put up with it a little. I knew Trinity Universe would no doubt appeal to certain fans. I knew I was not the target for this game. However, the fact that it had charmed me a bit, I knew those the fans that the game was targeted at, would enjoy it. But that doesn't mean I would inflate my score. I'd make all of this known, however. Remember, earlier when I mentioned the battle system was too slow for my liking? I'd without a doubt take that into account when grading the battle system. The battle system would get points because it's more than button mashing, but, at the same time, a high encounter rate with long winded battles isn't going to get praise or points on that.

I've always been more for writing reviews than previews. I feel my personality can shine through more in a review than a preview. Trinity Universe is the first time I felt differently. I was glad I wrote the preview and not the review. In the hands-on preview, I was able to just list my impressions and what the game was about, and I didn't have to attach a score to it. Since there was no score attached to it, people read the content and judged themselves if what they read was for them. But as soon as we had a review go up where somebody scored it poorly (even though they stated this game was to target a specific group and said that the group will probably enjoy it) the internets went up in arms. I don't really invest all that much time into what others have to say about what I say when review a game. Honestly, certain people will defend games (even ones poorly received by almost everyone) until the end of time. If reviews piss you off that much and you're going to buy the game, regardless, what's the point in even reading them? It's OK by me if you don't invest in what I have to say. But what really pisses me off is when people try to take what I say and discredit it based on your own bias. People constantly complain about reviewers not being objective. Honestly, that's a fine line; a review is an opinion, so therefore it's impossible to have objectivity flowing through it the entire way. Secondly, the hardcore fans, who sit there and complain about the review, aren't objective themselves. Attack reviewers for not being objective, but then make arguments for why they are wrong without being objective yourself... this all seems quite silly to me. You're a fan of a niche game, of course, your own judgment will be just as clouded. My favorite is when people make assumptions and twist my words around to fit their opinion. So and so didn't play through the game, because they didn't list this part. No, I did. I just chose to word it that way not to give spoilers.

To finally sum up this long rambling, I just want to say that as a reviewer my job is to point out what a game does well and and what it does poorly. That is entirely what I do in my reviews. I think anybody can respect that and look at the flaws and good parts and judge if a game is for them. I really wish I didn't have to attach my score to a review, because it seems people are so hung up on that instead of the content. I'd rather you judge yourself since your tastes may be different from mine. But then people don't read it when there is no score attached, so it's impossible not to score something. We are obsessed with scores it seems. So, here's what I propose: next time I or any other reviewer give something a score you don't like, read for yourself why and make your own judgments on whether or not you'd like the game in question. We all have different opinions and different tastes - let's stop punishing others for those and be content with our own judgments.

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