The Destructoid Assassin’s Creed 2 Debacle

Just recently there seems to be a lot of complaints about Destructoid. Predictably, a lot of it is centred around Jim Sterling who happens to be one of my personal favourite internet video games writers. So here’s my thoughts on the subject, feel free to disagree but know that you’re probably wrong.

Most of the recent furore has been instigated by his Assassin’s Creed II review. He gave the game 4.5 out of 10. That was significantly lower than many of the other professional sources and he got all sorts of abuse from people who thought they knew better. It got personal. People assumed that because he hadn’t re-affirmed their pre-conceptions of how a game should score he was just trying to be difficult. Of course, the tired old “you’re just fishing for hits” accusations were thrown like a shitty nappy at a wire fence. It was amusing to watch people who had little to no experience (and a complete and utter absence of sensible arguments against the many points he raised) writing in his comments section like they knew better.

Now, I haven’t personally played the game in question but I have read several reviews and the feeling I get from all of them (the perfect scores and the average scores as well as Jim’s fairly negative score) is that it’s a promising game that uses a few cheap tricks to string out its longevity and has a couple of problems with polish and control. The perfect scores comment on the negative points and choose to completely gloss over them, the positive scores comment on them but see them as forgivable and Jim found them to be too much to put up with and obviously felt that they ruined the experience for him. I think that, perfect scores aside, that all falls in to the scope of objective appraisal leading to a difference of opinion. Basically it seems to score higher if you’re willing to forgive it a bit more. Which is fine.

There was a whole storm of abuse in the comments of Jim Sterling’s review which ranged from the uninformed and misdirected to the downright ignorant and abusive. In the space of one comment people accused him of purposefully down-marking a big-name game just for hits (which is a favourite accusation of the unintelligent comment-troll) and then criticised his high-scoring review of Modern Warfare 2. Apparently they couldn’t see the irony.

It occurred to me that there were three very important considerations being missed by the people who were criticising him. The first was that before hitting enter on your keyboard maybe you should consider that the guy you’re about to commit libel against might just know more about the subject than you do. He is a professional with many years of experience behind him. You’re not. The second is to give a thought for how eloquently you are putting forth your side of the argument. Shouting and using personal insults might make you feel like the big guy in your bedroom but to everyone with a single ounce of sense you look like a fool. The third and final important consideration that people missed was that perhaps Jim Sterling’s style of writing is flying completely over your head. Maybe you’re missing the jokes?

Of course, he’s had his defenders but the criticisms still come on all his recent stories. People refuse to let it go. Even in the total absence of a coherent argument against anything he said. The argument will rage on with one side shouting repugnant personal abuse and the other side claiming (wrongly, as it happens) that “reviews are just one guy’s opinion”. It seems like the same argument will go on forever.

The only hope we can have is that journalists like Jim Sterling can weather the storm of abuse from the vocal ignoramuses and continue adding a bit of variety to the world of video game writing. The alternative is a procession of PR-led, overly positive games reviews that add nothing to the discussion but one more voice in a choir of compliance. I think that would make for a very boring landscape of video game writing.

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