This week we challenge commonly held assumptions about criticism, writers, review scores, finishing games and much more. So much more, in fact, we had to split the episode in half. Plus, if you're a Borderlands fan, get ready to hate us. Our quick hit is less than flattering. Featuring Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, and Tim Spaeth.
Tim Spaeth: Should critics be required to finish games? Should every critique serve as a buyer's guide? Should game writers be considered journalists? This week we tackle these and other myths of game criticism. Plus, we enrage the Internet by not loving Borderlands. The GameCritics.com podcast starts right now.
All aboard the podcast train, everybody! It's the GameCritics.com podcast, number 24, just a few days out from Halloween 2009. I'm Tim Spaeth. I'm your host. Our topic this week: the myths of game criticism. We've also a quick hit on Borderlands. Joining me for all this, the founder and editors of GameCritics.com.
Let's start with the aforementioned founder, Chi Kong Lui. Chi, how are you, sir?
Chi Kong Lui: Good. What's up, everybody?
Tim Spaeth: It's been a while since we've done the show, Chi. Do you feel nervous? You feel rusty?
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah, a little bit nervous, man. But it's good to get back on the wagon.
Tim Spaeth: It is. It is. I'm trembling, but I'm not gonna let that show. Also joining us, it's big Brad Gallaway. Brad, how are you, sir?
Brad Gallaway: Good, good. It's good to be back. absolutely. It does feel like it's been a while, but I'm gonna try to keep it together. Stay frosty. Do my best.
Tim Spaeth: We did take some time off. My wife had her tonsils out. She is tonsil-less, so that was a successful procedure. And Mike Bracken the Horror Geek celebrated a birthday last week. Mike joins us tonight. How are you, sir?
Mike Bracken: I am good. A year older and hopefully wiser, now that I'm 37. Which is fucking terrifying that I'm only three years away from being 40. Scary stuff.
Tim Spaeth: Halfway to 74.
Mike Bracken: Yes. That's scary, too. The over-under on me, though, is like 60, and I would bet the under if I were a gambling person.
Tim Spaeth: [Laughter] That's good. That's a lovely bit of optimism.
Mike Bracken: Thank you.
Tim Spaeth: Now it's Halloween, and you're the Horror Geek. What is Halloween like for a horror geek?
Mike Bracken: It is insane. I get screeners, I've got interview requests out the butt, I'm very busy. This is like Christmas for Santa and the elves, basically, if you're a horror geek. Busiest time of the year, very exciting, but also a little bit draining at the same time. I'm always sad when November comes, but at the same time, it's nice those first few days to not be running around like a madman.
Tim Spaeth: Well, we're thrilled that you've found the energy to join us tonight.
Mike Bracken: Aw, for you guys, I'm happy to be here.
Tim Spaeth: Well, as I said at the top, this week we are breaking down eight myths of game criticism—possibly confirming them, possibly debunking them. We've wanted to do the topic for a while, and, apparently, guys, we struck a nerve. We posted the eight myths on our forums. We got some great feedback there, but, Brad, you posted them over at your blog and the comments section was longer than I've ever seen it.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. I got a really good response, so I do wanna say thanks to everybody who reads my blog, and who took the time to chime in. We got some really, really good bits to chew on. So I'm looking forward to it.
Tim Spaeth: It's gonna be a very good discussion, I think. But before we get there, let's actually engage in some game criticism talking about Borderlands, or as I call it, Borderlunds. Very well-received, has Borderlands been since it hit store shelves this past week. Now, Brad, you and I are the two who've been playing it. You've been playing on PS3, I've been on XBox 360, so unfortunately we couldn't play together. I don't wanna ruin the surprise, but I think we both have a substantially different take on this game from the rest of the world. Let's make the Internet angry, Brad. Let's talk about Borderlands.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, and make the Internet angry. I'm looking forward to the backlash on this one, let me just say up front. And Tim, you may call it Borderlunds, I call it Boredomlands. That kinda sums up my entire review.
So for those who don't know about Borderlands, it's put out by Gearbox Software, who are responsible for some of the Brothers in Arms titles. Basically what it is is you pick from one of four assorted characters and you go into the Borderlands, which is this kind of vaguely post-apocalyptic brown area.
It's a first-person shooter but they've added some, I guess, role-playing elements. I kinda hesitate to really say that, because I think it's more lip-service than anything else. But basically you pick one of these four characters. You have different skills that each person can have. You kill enemies in the wasteland, you get experience, you power up these skills.
And the main hook, the big hook, the driving hook of Borderlands is that the developers claim from the start that they wanted to create a game that was kind of a mix between Halo and Diablo. And so their big twist to this game is that there's evidently, like, 17 kajillion different kinds of guns that you can pick up as you go and loot things. So you kill some guys, or you search some scrap piles, you pick up all these kinds of crazy guns: there's sniper rifles, there's revolvers, there's bazookas. And they all have different stats, different tendencies, different elemental focuses. So there's tons and tons and tons of guns.
And that's kind of the game in a nutshell. I have to agree with you, Tim, when you said that we are kind of the outliers on this, because, honestly, after playing the game, I think I gave it about 12 hours so far. So a pretty good thorough playthrough so far, and honestly, it just bores the shit out of me. I have a really hard time staying focused on it, I don't really like it very much, and I think there's not really a lot to really celebrate about this title, and yet it's getting really, really, strong, positive response—not only from the regular players, but also from the critical community. And I have to say, I'm a little surprised.
Chi Kong Lui: What are they bragging about, first of all, anyway?
Brad Gallaway: I skimmed Metacritic a little bit, and just from talking to people, the number one thing people say is it's so fun multiplayer. That's fine. I did play about three hours of multiplayer, and it didn't to me make the game any better. I was bored playing it single-player, and I was just bored with a friend on multiplayer, so I didn't really get what was so great about that.
Tim Spaeth: And not to interrupt you, Brad, but just to clarify for the listeners: the game is one long campaign that you can either play alone or with up to three friends. But it's the same set of quests whether you're alone or with other people. It's just that when other people join your game, or you theirs, the number of enemies increases, the difficulty scales depending on how big your party is. But it's the same set of quests in the game.
So, like you said, Brad, many people playing are doing so entirely in a party. That seems to be a big selling point and a great deal of fun for them. I've actually only touched the single-player, but anyway, we'll get to me. I'll let you finish.
Brad Gallaway: That's about it. All you do is you go and you shoot things, you pick up some guns, you switch your guns around, you shoot some more things, you level up. That's kind of the experience in a nutshell. There's not really a lot to it.
The story is a complete joke. It's kind of pushing the boundaries of truth-telling to say that it actually has a story. There's no real characters to speak of, the quests are given to you in these totally throw-away little text bubbles. You don't even really read them anyway, 'cause they don't mean anything and they don't affect anything. There's no real choices to make.
You're basically on one long, continuous grind. You just go out and you shoot stuff, you get some experience and guns, and you just repeat. That's really all it is in a nutshell, Tim. Do you disagree?
Tim Spaeth: No. In fact, I completely agree with you. It's less of a world and more of just a framework for questing. If you've played an MMO like a World of Warcraft, you know what the quests are like. It's "Go over here and kill eight of these things," and "Go over here and kill this guy" and then "Come back and get your reward." That works really well in World of Warcraft and I like it there. Don't care for it at all in Borderlands, and I think the reason is—and you kind of touched on it—it's a very lonely game. The world is lonely, I feel lonely when I'm playing, I'm filled with self-loathing as I'm playing, actually, because I'm so alone and depressed.
This is interesting. And I'm gonna bring another game into the discussion, briefly. I've been playing a lot of Red Faction: Guerrilla, which is a great game, by the way, and I spent a lot more time with it than I thought I would have. That game is kind of a GTA on Mars, and Mars, as depicted in that game, is kind of a wasteland—kind of a wateland in the reverse direction, though, as it's being populated.
But that game has people everywhere. It's an open world, and there's civillians, and there's miners, and there's people driving across the roads, and you have your members of the Resistance, and there's the enemy armies. There's people all over the place. What's so great about that game is, as you perform actions, as you perform these guerrilla strikes on the enemies, more and more Resistance fighters join you. They just show up and they fight alongside you, and there's a sense that what you're doing really makes a difference—not just to your allies, but to your enemies. Your enemies are chasing you, and they're fortifying defenses, and it's a really fully-realized, living, breathing, world.
To me, the sense that you're not alone is very important in an open-world game, and Borderlands misses that entirely. The only people around are the quest-givers. There's nobody else. There's a quest that says: "Go take out this gang leader who's terrorizing the population." But there's no population to terrorize. The cities are empty.
So, to me, it came down to the combat and the loot. The combat is competent. It's fine. It's nothing special, and as for the loot, I love loot games. I love Diablo and World of Warcraft and Titan Quest and I've already got my pre-order in on Torchlight, which is coming out this week. And obviously, you all know my absurd passion for Too Human. The loot in Borderlands is crummy. It's guns and grenades, but 90% of it is money and ammunition. And that's it.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. It's boring. It's really boring. I'm not as much of a loot whore as you are, Tim, but I do love my loot. I just have completed my second playthrough of Demon's Souls and the sole reason I played it a second time was because there was a couple sets of armor that I really wanted to check out, or there was a sword that I heard was really good. I'm certainly not above going after some loot. I love Diablo. I was like a Diablo freak when that came out, and I did all kinds of grinding to get some stuff in that game. I'm not averse to it if it's well-rewarded.
But in this game, I don't find that it is really well-rewarded. For a game whose entire hook is picking up guns and collecting guns, I'm sorry, but it's fucking boring. Allegedly, there's 17 million variations of guns, but really, there's only 6 or 8 different base types and then each one just has better stats than the other, and one has a lightening attribute and one has a flame attribute, or whatever. They're not really that different and, truth be told, they don't seem that different. They don't seem that special. Yeah, some are pretty powerful, and I've got a gun that can turn a guy into chicken nuggets with one bullet, which is kinda good for a chuckle, but it doesn't have the same immediacy or the same draw as getting a new set of armor or getting a sword that's on fire, or something. It just doesn't have the same caché.
Chi Kong Lui: That's like in an RPG, if all the weapons were only bow and arrows, and all you could do was get better bows and get better arrows. [Laughter]
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, kinda. And I don't even think it has anything to do with the fact that it's first-person and not third, because I've played a couple first-person RPGs where you get different armor. You can't see it, but you still get it. Even in those games it feels a lot different. I remember spending a lot of time with King's Field where you never see anything except the right hand of your character, but picking up a new sword, or picking up new armor was cool. In Borderlands, I'm like: "Pfft. Whatever. Another gun? This is just like the ohter three guns I just threw away." It doesn't drive me forward, and like Tim said, the combat is just competent. It's fine. It's just shooting. There's nothing fancy about shooting.
One thing I think that is interesting is that this game was in development since 2005, I believe, and if this game had come out four years ago, I think maybe my opinion would've been a lot different. But in this time that it's been in development, look at all the other incredible games that have come out since then. They've really upped the bar for what it means to be an open world game.
Much like Tim said, you need to have a world. You need to have a sense that what you're doing affects people, or that you're interacting with things or that there's something there. You don't wanna just be a lone character in this giant, barren, open space. It doesn't serve any purpose. You start the game with you and three other people on a bus, and when you get off the bus, the three other people disappear. You don't even talk to the other characters that were on the bus. It's kinda ridiculous.
Tim, do you feel like you're gonna push forward, or do you have any really positive things about the game that you think it has?
Tim Spaeth: No. Unless there's a gun that shoots motorcycles, or something amazing that happens in the next 5 levels, I will probably bail. What's disturbing to me about this, and we talked about this a few shows ago when we talked about the prevalence of co-op and games specifically designed for co-op, and Borderlands is exactly what I didn't want to happen&that a game I desperately wanted to play is really designed for multiple people to play. I have no intent to play this game multiplayer, and I'm getting the impression that, really, there's nothing here for me, and this is exactly what I didn't want to happen.
The thing is, all those other games I mentioned—Diablo, World of Warcraft, Titan Quest, Too Human—all perfectly playable as single-player games. It can be done. Borderlands just failed at it.
Mike Bracken: [sigh] Tim, someday we're gonna have to talk about Too Human.
Tim Spaeth: I know. I know. We'll have our Too Human three-hour epic.
Chi Kong Lui: So let me get this straight, Tim. You're saying it would be better as a multiplayer game, but your choosing not to play it as a multiplayer game?
Tim Spaeth: I have no idea if it would be better as a multiplayer game.
Chi Kong Lui: But if it's being sold as a multiplayer game, it's almst like you're not playing it right then. Which is sort of like the classic [unknown] playing Left 4 Dead.
Tim Spaeth: I don't have a group of people that I know that have XBox 360s and this game. For me, unless I wanna play with strangers, which I have zero desire to do, this is a single-player game for me. This genre of game has historically been very successful with both. They could have made it a good single-player game.
Chi Kong Lui: The game doesn't make it easier to herd strangers together to team up or anything to that effect?
Tim Spaeth: Well, you have matchmaking and you have drop-in drop-outs, so I could start my game as a multiplayer game and strangers could come in and play with me. One thing that I know the multiplayer doesn't do, though, is control the loot distribution. If you kill an enemy, loot flies off of them, it's a free-for-all. Anybody can pick it up. The odds of me playing with somebody who's respectful of the fact that it's my game, and are they gonna have a discussion with me about what gun we pick up? What are the odds of that happening? It's XBox Live. To me, it's not worth even trying.
Brad Gallaway: To kinda piggyback on that, Tim, I definitely get what you're saying about games that have a really strong multiplayer aspect can also—and, in fact, should—also be fun and playable for the single-player. 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.
I did play three hours of multiplayer, and like I said at the beginning, it wasn't any more fun. It didn't get better for me, and when I was playing, the thing that kept coming up was that me and the person I was playing with were both talking about other multiplayer games that we had played that were better and more fun. We had talked about Resident Evil, we had talked about Left 4 Dead, we had talked about Gears of War. We were just saying: "Man! Those games were a lot more fun than this. Why are we playing this? Why are we playing Borderlands when we could be playing one of those?" I couldn't disagree.
Even though this game has been designed primarily to be a platform for multiplayer, it's still not a very good game. I just don't care. This game has issues any way you slice it, single or multi.
Chi Kong Lui: I'm starting to notice a trend as well: that any game that has multiplayer, which, inevitably when you get four people together to do anything is fun. So that's why you're getting all these high, high marks, unfortunately. It's kind of getting a little ridiculous that anything that puts four players together gets an automatic pass, it seems like these days.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, yeah. It's like open invitation to party and everyone has a good time, 'cause the four editors of such-and-such magazine are in the same room between the hours of 9 to 5 and they know each other, and they make jokes. That makes anything fun. That makes checkers fun. That makes making sandwiches fun. That makes anything fun. So I can't really give Borderlands any props for that.
Tim Spaeth: Damn. Well, fortunately, Torchlight coems out this week, which will have to be my loot game for 2009, getting tons of pre-release buzz, and I will say: no multiplayer whatsoever. Which, again, perfect for me. Because as I've said on this show many times, I hate people.
Mike Bracken: You and me both.
Tim Spaeth: Anything else we wanna say about Borderlands before we move on?
Brad Gallaway: Nah. The last thing I would say was that, again, we've said this four times already, but I still am somewhat surprised at the positive numbers it's getting. Looking at what we got, it's really empty, very barren, very basic-feeling game, and, to me, this game has just skated through the reviews, so I'm a little bit taken aback by that. But I'm sure some people out there will love it. I'm sure we're gonna get hate mail about this when my review goes up. I'm sure I'm gonna love the comments thread that's gonna grow off of that one. But my opinion is that it's not a very good game. At all.
Tim Spaeth: You know, this is the second time this year you and I have taken on the Internet.
Brad Gallaway: What was the other time?
Tim Spaeth: Well, the first was the reverse scenario, when we rallied behind Bionic Commando.
Brad Gallaway: Oh yeah. I love that game. That game's good. I was actually thinking about that the other day: "Man! What a great game."
Tim Spaeth: Well, that's it for our Borderlands quick hit. Let's move on to the big topic now: Game criticism myths. We've wanted to do this topic for a while now, and as we bandied it about, we thought of maybe a thousand things. We managed to narrow it down to eight myths.
"Myth" may not be the best word. You could probably describe these as "beliefs," "problems," "ethical challenges," "rules."
Mike Bracken: Misconceptions.
Tim Spaeth: Misconceptions, yeah. All good words. We've posted these eight items in the Show Notes so you can follow along, or perhaps host your own show at home, and use those as an outline.
The way this will work is, I will read a myth, and then we will discuss. How many years combined game criticism experience do you guys have?
Brad Gallaway: Just full-on writing reviews, not playing games in general?
Tim Spaeth: Absolutely. Full-on being a game critic, if you had to combine your years of service.
Mike Bracken: Almost 11 years.
Brad Gallaway: I got ten years.
Chi Kong Lui: I think I'm at 11 myself, as well.
Tim Spaeth: Wow. So, close to 35, although not quite. That's pretty impressive. I would say that kind of pedigree…Are there three better people on this planet to discuss the topic? I don't write reviews, not because I'm taking a stand. It's because I'm lazy. But for the purposes of this conversation, I will play the role of the consumer and the devil's advocate.
Brad Gallaway: Are they one and the same?
Tim Spaeth: Sometimes they are. In fact, frequently they are, as we will see. So if we're ready, let's begin. I should mention, I will also, where I can, throw in the many comments that we received from our listeners and readers. So we'll do that as well as we go.
So let's start with number one. Myth number one. Everybody brace yourself and hold on. "Critics should be required to finish games before writing a review." Go.
Brad Gallaway: I'm gonna have to say no. No, I don't think we are required to finish games before writing a review. I know that everybody on the planet has an opinion about this, and out of all the questions that we tackled, I think this is probably the biggest hot-button issue. But honestly, games are their own thing. They're not books, they're not movies, they're not music, anything like that. So it's kind of a different [unknown] from the get-go.
If you're playing a game and you just don't like it, you can put six hours into it and you're just not feeling it, there's no reason to continue. A game is there to entertain people. It may be there to introduce you to some new ideas. It may be trying to do a lot of things, but if a game is painful to get through, and it's just bad, you don't need to do any more than that.
It's kinda funny, because if you have 20 hours of a bad game, nothing that comes in the 21st hour is gonna make those 20 hours good. It's not. The reverse is also sorta true, well, I guess maybe it's the opposite. But if you play 20 hours of a good game and the last hour is bad, it's still you had 20 hours of a good game. The majority of it is really nice and enjoyable and fun and well-produced and whatnot.
I just don't see the relevance. In terms of games like RPGs where the story is the most crucial thing, I think that's probably the one exception. If I was to review an RPG, I would definitely play it all the way through unless it was terrible.
But the funny thing is, it only seems to become an issue when people don't like the review you've written. If it's a good game and you're praising it, you give it a nine, nobody cares you didn't finish the game. They're ready to slap you on the back, send you flowers, make you a sandwich, whatever. It's only when you've written a bad review of a game they like and they're trying to stick something up your ass is when they start bringing up: "Oh! You didn't finish the game. You can't talk about it." Like our opinions don't matter. What do you guys think?
Mike Bracken: My attitude about this mirrors your own, although I will admit, during the course of the ten or 11 years I've been doing this now, I have only written a review of a game I haven't finished less than ten times. The most recent—and it bugged me—was Persona for the PSP. The only reason I was cool with doing it is I played Persona on the PlayStation, so I basically knew what we were getting into when I started it, and I knew how the story was gonna go.
I totally understand where everybody's coming from with this "I don't have 60 hours, with a deadline, to play through a game" and there's a good point made about this doesn't even consider: "Okay, if I beat the main single-player element, what about multiplayer? What about online mode and all these things?" I understand where everybody's coming from with that.
My issue, though, is personally, I prefer to beat a game before I write about it. I don't hold everybody else to that standard. I don't expect everyone else to do it, because I know there are deadlines and people have huge game review schedules that they're piling games on you at different times of the year and all that. But just from my own standpoint, I do like to finish shit because I have seen games—God of War, for example. I love the first God of War. Those last two levels are terrible: the Hell level and Hades with the platforming and all that. Now, If I hadn't finished that game, I would probably give God of War a 9.5, but those last two levels definitely deduct from my overall score for that game. That's what scares me about not finishing a game before I write about it.
Chi Kong Lui: But the thing that gets me the most about this complaint, though, is that the reason they're making this complaint, and it's often in reference to movies and books. They always say: "Would you write a review of a movie you didn't finish watching or a book that you didn't finish reading?" And this is the classic mistake of people comparing games to movies to books or whatever. It's a completely different medium.
Not only the fact that a lot of games take 20-40 hours to complete, but even more importantly, everyone's gameplay experience can be different from one another. Even if we all arrive at the same destination, we all took different routes to get there. It's just this bizarre notion that if we all spent X amount of time with a game, we'd all come to this accurate conclusion about something—which, again, is not the point of what reviews are supposed to be, anyway. We're not supposed to try to come to some universal consensus as to what is exactly great or bad. We're all coming to our own personal consensus of what the game is about. My main issue with it, it's not looking at games as its own medium, as we always are complaining about these days.
Mike Bracken: That is actually a fantastic point, Chi. I'm absolutely blown away by that, because you said something that hadn't ever really occurred to me like that. Yeah, games are interactive on some level and even if we all get to the end, that doesn't make the experience the same. Wasn't there just some article a year or so ago about how most gamers don't even finish 20% of any game they're playing anyway before moving on to the next thing? If you're not gonna finish the game, why should I have to finish?
Chi Kong Lui: Well, they're holding us to a higher standard.
Brad Gallaway: That's very true. Take for example Muramasa, which I just reviewed recently. I got lambasted in the comments section of the review. Games are interactive, like you guys said, and you don't just sit down and watch a movie. You don't just sit down and turn the pages of a book. You really have to get into it. You have to get engaged. You have to think about what you're doing. On some level, you have to enjoy it, because if you don't enjoy it, it's gonna become torture.
At the very least, you have to be intellectually interested, even if you don't like the gameplay. You'd have to be hooked into it on some level, or else you just can't get through it. For me, playing Muramasa was like punishment. It was so boring and it was so shallow and it was so antithetical to what I really like in games. I stopped playing it after three-and-a-half or four hours and I had seen all I needed to see.
But I got so many comments from people, and I'm not saying that their opinions are wrong or invalid, but it's very clear that they're different kinds of players. These were the players who really liked grinding through these really simplistic battles over and over and over and over, and who really liked watching these repetitive backgrounds scroll by and not really having anything to do.
If that's your cup of tea, cool. No skin off my nose. But this is my view. This is my particular take on this game. This is my feeling after playing games all these years, and this is what I have to say. Nothing about what I said was wrong, but it flew in the face of so many people who were afraid to hear this other viewpoint.
It kinda made me question why they're even reading the review in the first place. Nothing that came at the end of Muramasa would've ever changed how torturous that game was to me. In that case, I feel like I was well-justified to stop it before I finished it, with the caveat being that I admitted it.
I think that's maybe one thing that people reading reviews these days don't really take into account. I can count on one hand the number of sites on the internet who actually say whether or not they completed a game. It may be kind of a recent thing, but we do it for every game. You don't like what I got to say, fine. But at least I'm up front about it. I'm not trying to hide anything. I'm not trying to lie about it.
Mike Bracken: Yeah. And it amazes me, and this is not to pick on IGN or anything like that, but if you think the guys at IGN are playing through every game that they review in their entirety, you're incredibly naïve.
Chi Kong Lui: Right.
Tim Spaeth: Actually, Mike, I'm glad you mentioned that. One of the comments on Brad's site came from Sid Schuman who is the former senior editor of GamePro, and he took a more practical approach to this, and I'll quote him here. He says:
It would be ideal to finish all games, but the logistics would be agonizing. With the exception of CGW from back in the day, I don't believe any well-known publications mandate that their reviewers finish games prior to review. Some games require 20, 30 or 40 hours of playtime to complete the core quest. Add in dozens of other reviews, competitive posting times, and you've got one hell of a logistical challenge ahead of you. Wouldn't call it impossible, but it's very daunting and would require a massive staff.
He goes on to say that he thinks it's okay for an experienced game reviewer to review a game he didn't complete. It's not ideal, but it's also not a sin.
Chi Kong Lui: All right. I agree with the "ideal" part. I think as with Mike's example, with God of War, it helped his opinion on the matter. But I don't believe it's a hard-and-fast rule, where the opinion's completely invalid just 'cause they didn't finish the game.
Mike Bracken: And the thing with God of War is, okay, so the last two levels suck. Like Brad said, though, God of War's still a great game. It's just maybe not quite as great as I thought it was if I hadn't played those two levels. But te game before those two levels is so fantastic that you're disappointed that the last two levels suck, but they don't ruin the experience for you. If you didn't play them, it wouldn't change the overall review drastically.
Chi Kong Lui: All right. All right.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, I wanna agree with that, too. I don't mean to be flippant and I'm certainly not saying that I don't think it's important to finish games, because honestly, my track record for finishing games is really up there, too. I definitely finish the majority of titles I review.
But yeah, the role of the reviewer as it pertains to this "finish or dont finish?" question is: What is the game like, in general? Reviews are not supposed to hinge on one specific cut-scene, or on one particular twist to the story. You're looking at the big picture: Is this game fun to play? Is it well put together? Does it have a social context? Does it mean something personally? You gotta take the big picture, and if you play something for ten hours, you see ten hours out of a 30-hour game, you're gonna have a pretty good idea of what the game is like and what it's about. Any review that hinges on what the ending is is just a bad review. It's not a well-thought out review.
Mike Bracken: I just wanted to throw this out here as someone who covers film and things like this, that—and this isn't a review thing so much—but when you write screenplays and you're trying to break into the business or you write a novel and you're trying to get an agent or a publisher, you basically have five pages to convince these people that your work is worth looking at or considering. If you don't do it in five pages, you could have a fantastic book after that point, but you have to get these things going. It's entertainment right from the beginning.
Audiences aren't patient enough to wait until eight hours in for the main game to really kick into high gear. Granted, we're reviewers and it's a little bit different, but the same principle sort of applies in that it's not fair of you to expect me to sit around for five hours to wait for the game to get good. If you can't make it good from the beginning, then people aren't gonna play it. And that's fine. That's how it should be. But expecting people to play it on the off-chance that it might get better is a fault on the developer's and those people's part. Not the reviewer.
Brad Gallaway: You nailed it.
Chi Kong Lui: It's just not realistic. It's just not realistic.
Brad Gallaway: Totally. This is kind of off the topic here, but in terms of writing, I don't know if people who listen to this podcast know, but I'm an aspiring writer and I would say you don't even have five pages. You've got one page, sometimes two paragraphs. If you can't nail it in two paragraphs, who cares if the next 300 pages of your book are great? I totally agree with you that it applies. If you can't make your game interesting to me in the first four hours, then that's a fail. It's a hardcore fail, no matter what comes later on.
Tim Spaeth: So let's move on to myth number two, and that is this: "The goal of a proper game review should be to inform the reader as to whether they should or should not buy a game."
Chi Kong Lui: To me this is like one of the great myths of game reviewing of all time, in my book at least. I think this is perfectly exemplified by something that I complained about a lot when it happened: when the TV show X-Play reviewed Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.
They basically at the time just sort of lambasted the game. They hated it. I shouldn't put words in their mouth, but to me it was pretty clear that they had a strong distaste for this game, they disliked it on many levels, and then, bizarrely, they still gave it a three out of five. The justification for it was: "Oh, someone out there is gonna still enjoy this game." [Laughter]
That to me was just, first of all, kind of nuts. The ironic part about it was, the next review they did was another niche game—Dynasty Warriors: Empire Six—and then they proceeded to give that game a two out of five or whatever. It was a much more negative review. But yet at the same time, they didn't use the same excuse of: "Oh, well someone else is gonna enjoy this game also." This is definitely true, because it's Dynasty Warriors. They've already had six or seven iterations and countless other variations of that genre.
So therein lies the whole fallacy of that whole argument of how you can actually review games for other people. You can't. If you did, every game on the planet would be getting a decent score because every game is targeted at somebody, and someone's gonna always enjoy it. [Laughter] Really, there's no point in doing that, if you ask me. What do you guys think?
Brad Gallaway: Yeah, totally true. You can take any game—any game. It doesn't matter. Any game on any system. It can be the Jaguar. It can be on the Virtual Boy. You pick any game in the history of gaming, and there's somebody out there who that's their favorite game. No matter how bad it is. That crappy-ass Jaws game that came out where the shark needed to find keys for a door or whatever. It was stupid. Somebody out there, that is their favorite game.
Like you said, you can't review with the express purpose of saying: "This game is gonna be worth it" or "This game is not." We've just been talking about Bionic Commando, which I think was an awesome game. I loved it. I thought it was really good, I thought the story was interesting, I thought the end segments were really great. In my mind, everybody who owns a 360 or a PS3 should've bought that game. Of course, they didn't. The game tanked. The studio went under. I don't wanna say that it went under because of Bionic Commando. The studio's no longer there, there was no profit turn. But if you had read my review, I would've been like: "Hell, yeah! You gotta buy this game. It's a great game. Support this game." But of course a lot of people didn't agree with that.
And conversely, I was bored to tears by the most recent Grand Theft Auto. I thought it was boring, tedious, terrible. I'd be like: "No one should buy this game, 'cause it's crap." But it went on to sell 50 million copies. How can you possibly recommend that somebody spend 50 or 60 bucks on something? You can't.
Chi Kong Lui: Well, the point is that these so-called game reviewers or game critics, they supposedly are writing for everybody on the planet. [Laughter] But it's not possible.
Brad Gallaway: So, Chi, you covered Asia, I covered North America. Mike, you wanna cover…Africa?
Mike Bracken: Yeah, that'll work. Wait. Why'd you give me Africa, you racist?
What are you trying to say?
Brad Gallaway: Let's not even go there, dude.
Tim Spaeth: So here's a counterpoint. This comes from joetbd, who is a new poster at the GameCritics forums. He says that information about whether you should buy or not buy a game
has to be part of the equation. Maybe not 100%, but it has to be part of the mission of a review, to inform people that are considering purchasing the game. A lot of people, still look game reviews, when they want to know if something is good enough to buy. A lot of us are so obsessed with games (we are familiar with all the game information resources), that we forget how "normal people" approach finding a game worth buying. Remember a lot of mothers still ask their local Gamestop clerk "my son is 12, what should I get"?
Chi Kong Lui: That's fine if our site was called Consumer Reports. It's not. This is the main problem with the world today, is they just don't understand what criticism is about. There's this huge confusion between consumer information versus art criticism.
Mike Bracken: It's because the words "review" and "criticism" have become synonymous, whereas in the past there was more of a divide semantic-wise. A review was something that was sort of like consumer information, where criticism had more to do—going back to film—with the French guys in Cahiers e du cinéma who were creating auteur theory and stuff like that. Even now, the guy who does movie commentary in your local paper is a movie reviewer. The guys who write at the college levels academically and in film magazines are film critics. People just don't get that there's a difference anymore.
Chi Kong Lui: Right. And to be fair to the guy who wrote that comment also, games are still very much viewed as products, and until games are more artistic as well, people won't view them as art forms that deserve to be criticized as art.
Brad Gallaway: Very true, very true. I do wanna give a shout-out to the moms who go into GameStop looking for games for their kid at Christmas and birthdays. I sympathize with that. I totally do. I see it every time I go into GameStop or whatever, and that is a fact of life, so joetbd is certainly correct.
But I think in that case it's really tough to say, because if you just look at some aggregate score or you just look at a number, that doesn't really tell you anything. It doesn't tell you anything about the game, what it offers. It doesn't tell you about the preferences of the person you're buying for, it doesn't tell you about the specific aspects of the game itself.
There's so many other factors that go into whether you should or should not buy a game. To me, the best thing that you can do is actually read what this person has [written], and if it makes sense to you, then go with your gut. Just going off a number and looking for a thumbs up or thumbs down, buy it…It's still gonna be just as hit-or-miss as if you picked something at randomoff the shelf.
Mike Bracken: For me personally, I don't know if I'm a game reviewer or a game critic. I don't make this big distinction, and I think both things are valid. I like to read pieces sometimes that just tell me what a game is about, what its features are, if they work or not, and whether I should spend 50 or 60 dollars on a game.
Even when I write about a game maybe in a more critical way, I still always try to keep that information in there. But at the same time it's like: Why does it have to be one or the other? That's what I don't get. Everybody wants to talk now about: "Well, I don't believe in reviewers or any of that anyway."
You don't need me to tell you whether you're gonna like the game or you should buy it or not. Most people know what they're going to buy. I don't get why people want just reviews that tell you: "Buy this" or "Don't buy it." Or why other people freak out if you don't tell them whether to buy something. It doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't seem like something that's either this or this. Why can't it be both?
Chi Kong Lui: Right. Right. As you say that, I think it has to do with the maturity of the medium, really. That doesn't happen in other entertainment media like films and books. I don't think any book critic or movie critic worth a grain of salt says at the end of their review: "Go see this movie. Go buy this book." They just don't.
Mike Bracken: Some of them do, though. That's the thing—I hate to draw these lines of distinction about what something should be or shouldn't be. I think every critic is different—or reviewer, or whatever you wanna call us—so you're definitely going to have these different ways of approaching how you're writing this stuff. I just think it's weird on thei audiene's part that they want to pidgeon-hole all of us into doing things a certain way—for writing distinctly for them.
Chi Kong Lui: Right. I got you right there. Yeah. I agree with that.
Brad Gallaway: The pitfall of this, too, is: okay, let's say that we do. Let's say that, okay, I love Bionic Commando. I stand by Bionic Commando. I think it's great, and I say: "Buy it. 60 bucks of your hard-earned cash? Yes, worth it."
And then you go and buy it and you're like: "Well, this game sucks. I don't like the story, I don't like the controls, the guns aren't any good and I can go anywhere I wanna go. This game blows." You gotta put up with that kind of stuff, too. We're screwed if we do, and we're screwed if we don't. You make a recommendation that somebody doesn't like, personally I hate that. I hate making somebody waste their money or feeling like I made somebody waste their money.
So I'm really hesitant to even do that in the first place. I know how hard it is to earn money, especially in this economy. It's pretty rare that I will feel confident enough about a game to say to anybody that anybody should buy this game. You just don't do it. I don't, anyway.
Mike Bracken: The funny thing about that, though, is it's like…That's kinda part of the gig, I guess. That's how I look at it. I feel badly if someone goes out and buys something because I said it was great and that they were gonna like it, and then it turns out they hate it. But at the same time, part of my reason for doing this is to tell you: "I really like this" or "I really hated this, and I think you're going to like it or hate it as well." I don't know. I feel like I owe people who read me a little bit of that.
Chi Kong Lui: That's fine if the reader reads Mike's review, disagrees with it, and didn't get the same experience, but accepts that on some level, that's what a part of the whole collective experience of entertainment is. Rather than having a different experience and say: "Oh, well that guy's a fuckhead, and he's just wrong," they should just accept it and respect everyone's opinion and different view. That's what part of living in this world is today.
Brad Gallaway: Well, Chi, I think you've just pointed out that having respect and acceptance is probably missing from a lot of people who read game reviews.[Laughter] Rather than saying: "My goodness! I think this critic and I have a different view on this game, but I respect his opinion." I never get that. "I date your mom, and you're gay, and I hate your reviews, and you suck and you shouldn't do reviews." That's what you typically get.
Getting back to your point, Mike. I did wanna say that don't you think that by writing up your honest thoughts and feelings about a movie or a game or whatever, that that in itself should be enough emotion on your part to inform a person whether or not they will like it too? Rather than having a hard "See it" or "Don't see it"?
Mike Bracken: Yep. That's very true. I can totally get behind that. My problem is, I think that—and this is because I'm cynical and I think it's actually the truth anyway—most people don't read the fucking reviews anyway. They go to the last paragraph and the score, basically.
Chi Kong Lui: Right.
Mike Bracken: I would love to live in a world where I didn't have to put a number on anything, or I didn't have to spell out anything in the conclusion. You could just read the body of what I had written and come away with it and know how I felt. But I just know people don't do that. That's your one place to kind of get them.
Tim Spaeth: What do you say to the guy who looks at two reviews you've written. You gave this review an 8, you gave this review a 7. "Oh. You're telling me that if I'm gonna buy one of the two games, I should buy the one that you gave the higher score to." Are they hopeless? Do you just say: "Off with you"?
Chi Kong Lui: I say: Go read the review—that's the whole point. Go read the review. These are not absolute truths, they're opinions. In order for what you want to have happen, Brad, which is for us to be honest, people have to accept the fact that reviews are opinions, and we're not trying to establish some kind of universal standard of what's quality and what's not on some sort of scientific level. It's just not what we're trying to do.
Mike Bracken: Off on a little bit of a tangent away from that: [The problem] is not so much the guy who looks at the eight and seven reviews and says "Go with the eight," but the asshole who writes in and says: "How did you give this game an eight and then blockbuster triple-A title that came out two years later a six?" Like somehow these grades are relevant. Something that came out two years ago that might have been an eight at the time, that automatically makes it better than the game that came out currently, that drives me nuts.
Tim Spaeth: As we move through the myths, there are some game score-related myths towards the end of our list. We're kind of saving those towards the end, so we will definitely get back to that.
Maybe this isn't our responsibility, but I feel like games are $60 consumer entertainment products. I feel like somwhere there needs to be some sort of guide that can help people decide if they should buy this or buy that. I think game demos go a long way toward that as well: an opportunity to try the game before they buy.
Chi Kong Lui: Don't get me wrong, Tim. I'm not saying that people aren't supposed to get that information from reviews. It's sort of a little bit ironic that that is the purpose that reviews serve, but the actual review itself should not be that. [Laughter] Does that make sense? Do I need to explain that?
Tim Spaeth: No. I think that articulates what we're trying to say probably better than anything, so I think that might be a good thing to end on. Let's move on to myth number three. Is everyone okay? Everyone's doing well?
Mike Bracken: Super.
Chi Kong Lui: Getting fired up.
Mike Bracken: It's contentious in here tonight.
Tim Spaeth: Tempers are flaring. Myth number three: "Those who write about games are not journalists—rather, should be considered enthusiast press or simply games writer."
Mike Bracken: This is a good one. I like this question a lot, because I'm not 100% sure where I stand on this issue, except that I have said numerous times that I don't think the creature known as a "games journalist" actually exists. I think that slapping the word "journalist" on what a lot of us do is a great disservice to actual, real journalists who cover wars and politics and things of that nature.
Dude, we write about fucking video games, man. I write about film—I don't consider myself a "film journalist," even though I cover film news and shit, I'm "a guy who writes about movies" or a "film reviewer" or a "film critic," whichever one you wanna pick. But I am not a fucking film journalist. I didn't go to college and graduate from a journalism program. I'm not covering hard news. But "enthusiast press" sounds so retarded at the same time. Call me a "hobby writer," or something. That's the only way it can get any more insulting.
"Games writer" I guess works well. I don't think we have a proper term. "Journalist" is such a loaded word, man. Once you start tossing that around, there's all these expectations, and I think there are a couple guys who are technically game journalists. Is it Dean Takahashi who writes for the San Jose paper that has written a lot of stuff about Microsoft and things like that? I think he's a games journalist if there was such a thing.
Even the guys who write for the magazines and stuff like that I don't think are fucking journalists. To call us that is to give us a lot more power and importance than we truly warrant. I don't know how you guys feel, so please, feel free to jump in.
Brad Gallaway: I would agree with you, Mike. I don't call myself a journalist. I call myself a games reviewer, because I basically review games. That's kind of what I do. I didn't get out Webster's Dictionary or anything, but to me a journalist is someone who follows a story, investigates news, breaks interesting bits about the industry or brings infformation that maybe pertains to people but isn't exactly a review, per se. They're interviewing or they're talking about trends or they're examining the big picture about the world and things like that. That's kind of what a journalist is, in my mind.
I would say we have a couple of games journalists. I don't think that I am one. I don't think that we really do a lot of journalism kind of pieces at our site, and that's fine. I don't think that you need to be a games journalist in order to do good work, or to write interesting pieces, or to do something that that has value. I think we do great reviews, but I would really, really hesitate to call myself anything other than a reviewer. And I do agree that "enthusiast" sounds way wanktastic. That's like you're wearing coveralls in your mom's basement, and you've got 14 different windows open on your computer and you're doing stuff.
Mike Bracken: "Enthusiast press": those are just two words that just don't go together.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. Those are the yahoos that show up at E3 with their business card and it's a torn piece of notebook paper with their name on it. That's enthusiast press, okay? You can't [unknown] for a business card, you're an enthusiast.
Mike Bracken: And the other point that I forgot to make here is that journalists tend to follow a code of conduct and ethics. I don't think any of us really follow the journalistic…If you're getting flown off to play a game at somebody's press junket and they're putting you up and all this stuff, then you're not a journalist. [Laugbhter]
Chi Kong Lui: You're not a very good one, at least.
Mike Bracken: You're not a credible journalist. There are a lot of problems with calling most of us who do this "journalists."
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. I think it's fine to settle on a middle ground or an intermediate territory where we're aware of what's going on, but we're not doing journalism. We're just not. And I think it's okay. I don't think anybody needs to look down on us. We don't need to be ashamed or embarrassed. We don't need to feel inferiour. I think it's great to be a games reviewer. There's nothing wrong with that, but I do definitely think there's a line between reviewing and journalism.
Chi Kong Lui: Yeah. I wanna draw a distinction between a journalist and a critic, 'cause we're not saying "critic" anywhere here, really. We define "enthusiast press" or "games writer." To me, a journalist reports and provides context to facts. A critic, to me, is someone who seeks to expand our appreciation and understanding of art. To me, it's completely two different things.
Mike Bracken: Yeah, definitely.
Brad Gallaway: Well said, Chi. I agree.
Mike Bracken: Very nicely done.
Chi Kong Lui: Thank you. I wrote that down. [Laughter]
Mike Bracken: Yeah, it's a crazy thing. I think the whole "journalist" thing for gaming stems from the gaming community's constant and all-pervasive inferiority complex in relation to things like film and music criticism and stuff like that. These other established art forms have journalists who cover them, and guys who are serious and make careers out of it and stuff like that. And gaming is so new that you just get the feelin that everybody who covers games has an inferiority complex. That what we do isn't perceived as important yet, so if we call ourselves "journalists," it somehow makes it more important and makes our work more valid. And I hate to see us go down that path.
If we reach a point where we have people who are worthy of the title of "game journalist," then I'm all for using it. I agree we have a couple now, but, for the most part, we don't have games journalists.
Tim Spaeth: There is an interesting comment on your blog, Brad. It's from a user named Sami. And he says just a quick sentence:
"Bloggers are truer journalists than big site reviewers."
Which, enh. 99% of bloggers are commenting on press releases and coverage on other websites. I can't get behind what he's saying there.
Chi Kong Lui: I think that comes from the notion that these days bloggers are breaking a lot of news, but that doesn't necessarily make them journalists. They're breaking news but they're not fact-checking. They're wrong more than half the time, I'm sure.
Mike Bracken: That's a really romantic and idealistic view of blogging. I would love if it were true, but I don't think the reality is.
Brad Gallaway: The nugget, I think, of what he's saying there—and maybe I'm reading something different into it than what he means—but I kind of agree with that in the sense that bloggers are not beholden to the powers that be. They're just voices out there who are saying what they wanna say because they wanna say it, although I don't quite think that's journalism. It kind of does give them a different energy than the big review sites. Sometimes I would be more inclined to believe someone's blog post than I would something that came out of IGN or somebody who's running banner ads for the game they're reviewing.
Chi Kong Lui: Although, an interesting tangent there: the FCC now requires that all bloggers disclose when they get free gifts before they write about it. That's certainly the prevailing feeling—whether that's actually truth in practice, hmmm. Why did the FCC need to step in?
Brad Gallaway: This is a tangent, too. Personally I'm glad they did that, because I've been doing that for a while, claiming games review as a business expense. You have to claim that stuff anyway, so I have no worries whatsoever. My stuff is on record and I'm clean. I will be sleeping well at night. I have no worry.
Mike Bracken: I'm screwed.
I'm kidding. Nobody cares about what I say.
Tim Spaeth: Not true, sir. Not true at all. Well, I think we've put that one to bed. I think we're comfortable with that. That's gonna take us to myth number four. We've talked about this a little bit. I'm not sure how much more there is to say, but let's see what happens. Myth number four: "There is no difference between a review and a critique."
Mike Bracken: This is, again, like the "journalist" or "enthusiast press" or "games writer" argument. It's a little bit semantics. The same thing with "critic" versus "reviewer." I think we kinda covered this. The reviews, to me, are always more of a Consumer Report-type thing, where they go through almost a laundry list of: Gameplay, Graphics, Controls. They've got a little list of things they're gonna cover in it.
The critiques are always, to me, a little more thoughtful, maybe a little more abstact or maybe willing to look at maybe one tiny facet of the game and magnify it into something much larger so that you can make contextual relationships between the game and other arts or things of that nature. But, again, that's my definition of them, and I don't think there's necessarily a universal definition, and your definition could very well be different.
But I think when you get into "critique," it implies that it's a little more sedrious, maybe almost scholarly or academic. Reviews seem to be more of the consumer product review type thing.
Chi Kong Lui: I agree, Mike, that it's semantics. It's funny: I looked up both words in the dictionary for unrelated reasons, and in the defintion for the word "review" you'll find the word "critique," and in the defintion of the word "critique" you'll find the word "review."
From a historical standpoint, they really do mean the same thing. But I think from part of game culture today, there's sort of as code now that a critique, as you said, implies that it's more "New Games Journalism-y" or just a more serious, thoughtful review.
Tim Spaeth: Wasn't the tagline of GameCritics for a while "Smart reviews for serious gamers"?
Chi Kong Lui: That's correct, yes.
Tim Spaeth: Why use the word "review" and not "critiques"?
Chi Kong Lui: 'Cause I didn't wanna come off like a wanker, I guess.
Mike Bracken: Exactly. "Critique" is a loaded word.
Tim Spaeth: Good answer.
Brad Gallaway: A lot of people would debate the success of that tactic.
Mike Bracken: It was one attempt, anyway.
Chi Kong Lui: The interesting thing, Tim, now that you bring that up: I'm a big marketing guy. I know how these things come across. But the funny thing is, we do strive to disguise our critiques as game reviews. So that's why a lot of the more serious guys out there kinda hate us, because they think we're trying to be like everybody else. But that's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to make our critiques more palatable for the general population.
Brad Gallaway: It's a difficult middle ground. I think you're exactly right, Chi, because we may not have published it on any aspect of the site, or we don't really talk about it in the open or on the boards or anything, but yeah. We do think about connecting games to culture and having deeper meaning and symbolism and different things that go into games.
But you start talking about that stuff too much and you lose a big part of your audience. It's kind of a joke that we had, that "ludology" is kind of a bad word or at least a very boring word, and whenever we hear that word, all the sudden all the red lights go off and we're like: "Uh-oh! Don't say 'ludology,' 'cause it's gonna get boring in here!"
Mike Bracken: That's where Bracken tunes out.
Brad Gallaway: Yeah. That's where Bracken goes and he watches one of those movies that he got in the mail today.
Mike Bracken: Yes.
Brad Gallaway: But we do think it's important, and we do try to kind of sugar-coat some of that stuff. You drop a little bit of knowledge or a little bit of something to think about, but you still have to couch it in such a way that normal people will read the whole piece. You can't start throwing out all these academic terms, because the people who read Ludology Breakdown are people who already know about it and probably know it better than you do. There's not really a lot of point in trying to serve that audience unless you are an intellectual and wanna write on that level.
I think our whole mission is just to bring that to more people and to broaden it a little bit. To talk about those things, but to talk about it in an accessible way, and to make it approachable.
It's really tough to secure that middle ground, because you risk losing people if you get too lofty, and you risk pissing off the intellectuals when you bring it down to earth too much. We get heat from both sides—from the top and the bottom—but we do what we gotta do. Hopefully we're moderately successful, sometimes, I hope.
Tim Spaeth: From the opinion of someone who just reads and doesn't write reviews, I don't care what you call them as long as it's a well-written piece with something interesting to say. Call it a ham sandwich. It makes no difference to me whatsoever. [Pause] So I'm going to start calling them ham sandwiches!
Chi Kong Lui: Speaking of the L word, by the way: my favorite podcast moment is still when Mike said "the L word" and everyone else said: "What's that?" and Tim said: "Lesbians."
Tim Spaeth: That was the last time I was funny on the podcast.
Mike Bracken: "Ludology," or as I like to call it, "The art of taking all the fun out of gaming."
Brad Gallaway: Seriously. "The art of making games boring."
Tim Spaeth: All right. Have we put this one to bed? There was one comment—I can't find it in the list—that says:
A review has a score. A critique does not.
Mike Bracken: I wish that were true.
Chi Kong Lui: Semantics again, yeah. Semantics.
Tim Spaeth: Totally. All right. Well, gentlemen, that takes us halfway through our myths. We have four more to go, and I'm talking with my production staff here, and they are suggesting that we turn this into a two-part episode. What do you think?
Mike Bracken: Cheap ploy for extra hits.
Tim Spaeth: It really is. I mean, we're kind of ending on a cliffhanger.k
Mike Bracken: Yes.
Tim Spaeth: What I'm gonna do is edit in a gunshot, and it will leave the impression that one of us has been murdered. But we won't say which one.
Mike Bracken: Excellent.
Chi Kong Lui: Was this brilliant idea from Felipe?
Tim Spaeth: Well, Felipe and some interns collaborated on that. It's the best I could make out, 'cause none of them speak English. But I think I got it mostly right.
Mike Bracken: They pantomimed "gun"?
Tim Spaeth: They did. Hopefully they weren't just winking and pointing at me. They could've been flirting with me, for all I know. I don't kno. It's very strange. They're removing their shirts.
So, let's do this: We will pause now. We will take a week off. We will record part two in one week, where we will cover four more myths. Now, in those myths, we're going to talk about game scores—that's going to come up a couple times. We're going to talk about blogs and podcasts and Twitter. We're gonna talk about familiarity with the author of reviews. So lots of interesting things still to come, just not enough time this week to do it.
So let's reconvene in one week, and we'll wrap up our myths of game criticism talk. Does that sound good, guys?
Mike Bracken: Sounds fantastic.
Tim Spaeth: All right. Let's then do my standard closing nonsense, where I tell you that you can listen to this show in a number of ways. You could go to the iTunes Music Store, you could go to the Zune Marketplace, or you could listen right off the GameCritics.com homepage. That's also where you can leave some comments on our message boards, or you can leave comments through Twitter: our name is @GameCritics.
So I want to thank Mike and Chi and Brad—not just for this show, but a lot of people don't know that this month actually marks the one-year anniversary of the GameCritics.com podcast.
Brad Gallaway: Wow.
Mike Bracken: Who would've thought we'd ever make it this far?
Tim Spaeth: It's hard to believe.
Mike Bracken: Those first shows were so awkward.
Brad Gallaway: I'm actually surprised Tim stuck around, honestly. I thought we'd be on our own by now.
Tim Spaeth: Well, you know, that was the original plan: shoot myself to superstardom and then bail on you, but the superstardom never quite gelled. I will say that our last episode—our Atlus show—was the highest-rated podcast we've done. More listeners than any other show. So we're clearly headed in the right direction.
Brad Gallaway: Nice, nice.
Mike Bracken: Well, I'll try not to fuck it up.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah. Keep it cool, guys. Keep it cool. We're not gonna do a retrospective, but I just wanted to acknowledge the occasion and let you guys know that this has been a wonderful year. A lot of interesting things happened this year. I procreated. Brad, you procreated. Three of our XBoxes died. That's a lot of stuff packed into a year.
Mike Bracken: It has been quite the year.
Tim Spaeth: Yeah.
Brad Gallaway: Very eventful on many levels.
Tim Spaeth: So with that, why don't we wrap it up? Let's hear some music, and we will reconvene again in one week to finish up the myths of game criticism. Until then, I'm Tim Spaeth. Good night and bonne chance.