Industry veteran David Braben, the man most recently responsible for Kinectimals, has spoken out about game reviewers. In a blog over on Develop, he questions the difference in taste between a writer and their audience, calling into question the old adage: “it wasn’t aimed at me, and so it must be bad.”
Naturally, here at TheSixthAxis we like to be as objective as possible with our reviews: developers and publishers have spent considerable time, money and effort bringing the game to market and you guys, the buying public, will be the ones spending your money. Or not.
“As developers,” says Braben, “we all like to bemoan the odd game review from time to time – because games are close to our hearts, and increasingly our wallets both in terms of sales and Metacritic-based incentives. Most reviews are targeted at what are often called ‘core’ gamers; people like us that follow games avidly, and are very experienced at playing them. ”
“A problem starts to occur when the audiences’ tastes differ significantly from the reviewer’s – or developer’s – own tastes. This is becoming more of an issue as our industry matures to include a great many people outside this group – particularly so if the group targeted is not just this ‘core’.”
Braben mentions some key Nintendo games: Animal Crossing, Nintendogs, and asks why the reviews are “noticeably lower” than their quality might suggest, because the reviewer didn’t think the game was for them. “This attitude makes sense if the audience for the review is effectively the same as the reviewer themselves, but for a review on TV, on a website for kids and adults, or in the mainstream media, it does not.”
“Just as it is difficult to develop games for a different audience, it is difficult to review them too,” he says.
He then says that the overall effect for this difference in taste is “about 10 per cent” but says he’s “delighted” by the mature response by the games press over Kinectimals, which we scored a solid 7/10 – reviewing the game for the audience intended: kids.
Braben then mentions Achievements and Trophies, and says that they’ve been a “curse” for a “small minority of hurried or irresponsible reviewers” as they’ve been caught out scoring a game when only having played it for a limited period of time. “Most reviewers are excellent at what they do, and it is a very hard job with, frankly, little glory,” says Braben.
He’s right. If a game’s massive, like Gran Turismo 5, it’s difficult to assign a score, something we still have yet to do – it’s not always possible to 100% a game even after weeks.
“As an industry, there is something we could do to recognise this – effectively a Metacritic for reviewers. The best reviewers give spot-on reviews pretty soon after a game is released. They do not wait to see what others say, but nevertheless consistently come very close to the final average score. There could be a prize for the best each year.”
It’s an interesting blog, and one certainly worth reading.