We continue debunking The Myths of Game Criticism in the second half of our two-part series. Do we live in constant fear of Twitter putting us out of business? Are games so spectacular now that the average score really is 8 out of 10? Do publishers send strike teams to our homes and force us to change scores? We set the record straight. With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim "Five Point Scale" Spaeth.

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For your reference, the eight myths we discuss are:

  1. Critics should be required to finish games before writing a review.
  2. The goal of a "proper" game review should be to inform the reader as to whether they should or should not buy a game.
  3. Those who write about games are not journalists, rather, should be considered "enthusiast press" or simply "games writer."
  4. There is no difference between a "review" and a "critique".
  5. The explosion of blogs, podcasts, and Twitter has rendered formal game reviews obsolete.
  6. Individual game critics and review sites are under constant, unrelenting pressure from publishers to change scores.
  7. Game scores are often purposefully tweaked to either generate controversy or avoid it.
  8. A reader should not need to be familiar with the author of a review in order to derive value from it.
  9. NINE? There's a ninth myth?! Listen and find out!!

Topic and Game References:

Please send feedback and mailbag questions to podcast (at) gamecritics (dot) com.

Tim Spaeth

Tim Spaeth

Cleveland native Tim Spaeth grew up in a happy household – a household with a father whose major client happened to be an Atari games distributor. This led directly to Tim's first nickname: "The kid who got Atari games before anyone else." Indeed, he knew Pac-Man and E.T. were colossal bombs weeks before the rest of the world, and the resulting celebrity brought him great pleasure.

Through the years every aspect of Tim's life has been touched by gaming. He mastered typing thanks to Space Quest, honed his poker skills on The Sierra Network, and learned to hate after a particularly traumatic game of Tecmo Super Bowl.

Today, Tim lives in Chicago with his three kids and strives to find that perfect balance between family, career, and Warcraft. He enjoys broadcasting, martial arts, rock and roll, growing and shaving his beard, singing show tunes to the homeless, and losing at Mario Kart to his lovely, talented, and amazing girlfriend.

In late 2008, Tim became the producer and host of the GameCritics.com Podcast, and he's thrilled to be bringing GameCritics' unique editorial voice to a brand new medium.
Tim Spaeth

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26 Comments on "GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 25: Myths of Game Criticism – Part 2"

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Chi Kong Lui
Guest

The transcript was actually done much sooner. My apologies for not posting until now.

Mike Bracken
Guest
[quote=Vince]Sorry if I came off as harsh Mike. I certainly wasn’t targeting anyone here specifically with certain comments. Sometimes it feels like though that a review can take a view point that others can take a another stance on and want to argue some finer points. And I’m not really even talking about me, just a general “I’ve seen this happen” kind of thing.[/quote] It’s all right–I didn’t take it as combative, but I was a little puzzled by some of the statements. I think this is an interesting example of how, while we may have these opinions that we’ve… Read more »
Vince
Guest
Sorry if I came off as harsh Mike. I certainly wasn’t targeting anyone here specifically with certain comments. Sometimes it feels like though that a review can take a view point that others can take a another stance on and want to argue some finer points. And I’m not really even talking about me, just a general “I’ve seen this happen” kind of thing. And I guess I didn’t come across correctly, as your rebuttals were really in line with what I was trying to convey. I suppose I don’t get to quit my day job to become a writer.… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest

[quote=Vince]But it doesn’t really matter because in the end you are just reporting your personal experience and you don’t care if someone else will have a different experience.[/quote] Not at all. I find other people’s experiences particularly fascinating. Its one of the reasons I created the site. Sharing our individual experiences collectively expands our appreciation of art and its what I believe is the true purpose of criticism.

Mike Bracken
Guest
[quote=Vince]I would like to see some discussion over the distinction between a review and a critique, and to a lesser extent how one differentiates from a professional game reviewer and a blogger.[/quote] I don’t know that we could give you a satisfactory answer. This sort of ties into the whole “games journalism” thing–there’s no real indicator of who’s a pro and who isn’t. I’ve seen people making a legitimate living writing about games who have no business doing so, and people who’re brilliant who only post on a blog or message board. So, earning a living is out. I know… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=Richard Naik]This kind of reminds me of the “so bad it’s good” argument for movies, but that doesn’t really apply here. I can’t recall ever enjoying a game I considered to be bad, and a game might be super-cheesy but it’s still “good” if it pulls it off well. The best example I can think of for this is the newer Ninja Gaiden games. [/quote] The point I was trying to make is that while a lot of gamers cite “fun” as the most important criteria for judging a game, they are still making unconscious qualifications about what makes one… Read more »
Vince
Guest
I see that alot of talk is going on about the fun versus good, which is subjective and difficult to quantify. So I’m not going to go there. Yes, I have friends who find some games extremely entertaining which I have no interest in at all. Like sports games (and sports in real life). And fishing (also in real life). B-O-R-I-N-G. I would like to see some discussion over the distinction between a review and a critique, and to a lesser extent how one differentiates from a professional game reviewer and a blogger. To me, the context of the word… Read more »
Richard Naik
Guest

[quote]So if we enjoy Triple A titles, that’s considered “good”, but if we enjoy “bad” titles, that’s still considered “bad”?[/quote]

This kind of reminds me of the “so bad it’s good” argument for movies, but that doesn’t really apply here. I can’t recall ever enjoying a game I considered to be bad, and a game might be super-cheesy but it’s still “good” if it pulls it off well. The best example I can think of for this is the newer Ninja Gaiden games.

Chi Kong Lui
Guest

So if we enjoy Triple A titles, that’s considered “good”, but if we enjoy “bad” titles, that’s still considered “bad”?

Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=ckzatwork]The reaction you had, Chi Kong Lui, with the mighty Yoko Ono is fairly common among people. The normal listener tends to be less receptive regarding more adventurous music. Music is probably the only area where transgressive aesthetics are ostracized to a intolerable level by unprepared spectators. This is something that still puzzles me, because we have accepted that painting, poetry and film, for instance, can include vanguardist/experimental techniques to wrap the auteur’s ideas. Maybe it’s because music is more invasive than other art forms. You can’t control sound. You can’t shut it off.[/quote] Of all mediums I think music… Read more »
Tim Spaeth
Guest
[quote=ckzatwork]Is it me or Tim has this really sexy voice?[/quote]Guys, if we could keep the discussion centered around ckzatwork’s excellent analysis here, I’d appreciate it. 🙂 Moving on, some additional fun facts about Episode 25: Deleted Scene: I edited out a lengthy discussion about 5-point vs. 10-point scales. I took the side of the 5-point scale, which I prefer, and was soundly beaten to death by Chi, Brad, and Mike, who offered many excellent reasons for maintaining a 10-point scale. I don’t agree with any of them, but as longtime listeners know I’m functionally retarded and couldn’t mount a decent… Read more »
ckzatwork
Guest

I swear that I’m inserting my nickname in the name box. 🙂 My browser is going mad.

ckzatwork
Guest
The reaction you had, Chi Kong Lui, with the mighty Yoko Ono is fairly common among people. The normal listener tends to be less receptive regarding more adventurous music. Music is probably the only area where transgressive aesthetics are ostracized to a intolerable level by unprepared spectators. This is something that still puzzles me, because we have accepted that painting, poetry and film, for instance, can include vanguardist/experimental techniques to wrap the auteur’s ideas. Maybe it’s because music is more invasive than other art forms. You can’t control sound. You can’t shut it off. We have different perceptions of what… Read more »
Richard Naik
Guest

Sounds like fun vs. good and the merits of multiplayer-centric games could take up whole podcasts themselves.

Alex R
Guest
Obviously for AAA, “mainstream” titles, enjoyment is going to factor into how good a game is, because yes, they are generally meant for entertainment first and foremost. But the same is true for most other forms of mainstream entertainment as well. I see this question as one generally for indie games and the like. Smaller games like those by Tale of Tales (The Path, Salome) aren’t necessarily fun in the usual sense, but they are generally interesting, thought-provoking, and good art. Although, on the flip side, there are plenty of games that are generally recognized as “bad” that some people… Read more »
Mike D
Guest
[quote]As a listener of atonal/serialist/dodecaphonic/experimentalist music, I disagree with your perception of melodic structure. The difficult phrase you mention may lack what what is commonly referred as harmony, but will connect with the listener that has the knowledge to interpret what is being played and, consequently, will be”pleased” by it in the same way you are while listening to something from the romantic period. People do care about this. In fact, if it weren’t for all those abstract post-modern composers, things like minimalism, rap and techno would not be around. Oh, and no, art is not entertainment.[/quote] When I say… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=Anonymous]As a listener of atonal/serialist/dodecaphonic/experimentalist music, I disagree with your perception of melodic structure. The difficult phrase you mention may lack what what is commonly referred as harmony, but will connect with the listener that has the knowledge to interpret what is being played and, consequently, will be”pleased” by it in the same way you are while listening to something from the romantic period. People do care about this. In fact, if it weren’t for all those abstract post-modern composers, things like minimalism, rap and techno would not be around. Oh, and no, art is not entertainment.[/quote] Funny you brought… Read more »
quietID
Guest

Splitting a genre so cleanly between multiplayer action game and single player campaign seems daft, sure there are games like Warhawk and TF2 which are purely online experiences. You’re never going to get people criticising those games because they’re only online experiences, it’s blatant, and they would be stupid, but I feel that pigeonholes things too much. If to be critically accepted you need to fall into this nicely made box, well that’s just crap. That limits creativity and in my opinion is one of the problems with todays industry.

Anonymous
Guest

The above posts were not supposed to be anonymous. 🙂

ckzatwork
Guest
[quote=Mike D]The whole “fun vs. good” thing kind of obfuscates the fact that no matter how “good” something is on some artistic level, no one is going to care if the game isn’t enjoyable. To me it’s sort of analogous to listening to a virtuoso musician play some impossibly difficult phrase that has no melodic structure — it might be a tour de force of superhuman skill, but it’s boring to listen to. Video games are, like it or not and as with all the arts, a form of entertainment. [/quote] As a listener of atonal/serialist/dodecaphonic/experimentalist music, I disagree with… Read more »
Mike D
Guest

The whole “fun vs. good” thing kind of obfuscates the fact that no matter how “good” something is on some artistic level, no one is going to care if the game isn’t enjoyable. To me it’s sort of analogous to listening to a virtuoso musician play some impossibly difficult phrase that has no melodic structure — it might be a tour de force of superhuman skill, but it’s boring to listen to. Video games are, like it or not and as with all the arts, a form of entertainment.

ckzatwork
Guest

Is it me or Tim has this really sexy voice?

Great series of podcasts! And I couldn’t agree more with the predictable inflated scores being attributed all over the mainstream review sites. You really standout for the best reasons. Keep up the good work!

Chi Kong Lui
Guest
[quote=Zolos]Sometimes there’s a game which is much more than the sum of it’s technical parts. A game that for some reason, difficult to explain in a quantitative way, is a good game. And i am not talking only about multiplayer games. I am afraid i cannot explain it in any other way. Personally i had this experience with Kane & Lynch. I think Tim might be having the same experience with Borderlands.[/quote] Bracken described how we look at different “aesthetics” which isn’t to say that its purely technical, but I agree some games have that “it” factor (or perhaps style)… Read more »
Brad Gallaway
Guest
>>>Brad, do you mean that a game has a single-player mode that sucks while focusing on multiplayer (like Left 4 Dead) has failed? Or do you mean that a game with no single player whatsoever (like Team Fortress 2) has failed? I posted a big, long response to this question somewhere on the boards, but basically i think we need to create a new genre: action platforms (terrible name) or something equivalent. basically, if it’s an empty-ish structure, a platform that needs live players to work and function (ala TF2 and others) then it needs to be in its own… Read more »
Zolos
Guest

Great podcast as always guys.

I do have an objection though to myth 9 (i think) where you talked about whether a fun game is also a good game.

Sometimes there’s a game which is much more than the sum of it’s technical parts. A game that for some reason, difficult to explain in a quantitative way, is a good game. And i am not talking only about multiplayer games.

I am afraid i cannot explain it in any other way. Personally i had this experience with Kane & Lynch. I think Tim might be having the same experience with Borderlands.

Richard Naik
Guest
“It’s kind of a personal opinion of mine that any game that requires other living people to be fun is a game that’s failed. You can have your multiplayer, and multiplayer can be a big part of it, but if it’s not fun by yourself, there’s problems there.” -Brad Brad, do you mean that a game has a single-player mode that sucks while focusing on multiplayer (like Left 4 Dead) has failed? Or do you mean that a game with no single player whatsoever (like Team Fortress 2) has failed? I’ll give on the first explanation, since Left 4 Dead… Read more »
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