Friday, May 08, 2009
The reason I don't rate games
There is a huge fight going on between Eurogamer and Aventurine, after Eurogamer rated Darkfall 2 out of 10. In response chief developer Tasos Flambouras (I'm not kidding you, that is his real name!) from Aventurine posted a reply saying that the reviewer only spent 2 hours in the game, and thus wasn't qualified to judge it. Eurogamer replied that Aventurine faked or misread their server logs, because the reviewer had spend 9 hours in the game, and now they plan to do a second review. But at least Aventurine managed to divert the attention away from the arguments of the review. So much more fun to discuss over incompetent game reviewers!
If that review had been posted by a blogger, and not given a rating, it would have been rather unremarkable. It is an opinionated rant from somebody who obviously hates the game, and that is a writing style which is quite frequent in the blogosphere. But it isn't actually lying, just putting too much drama towards Darkfalls existing and very real flaws. But as that article appeared in Eurogamer, and put a horrible score on Darkfall, it caused a huge outcry. The author could have written exactly the same review mincing his words, and given the game a fairer score, Keen proposes 4/10, and it would have looked more like game journalism.
But this is why I don't write for game sites, and I don't rate games. Don't you hate these official game magazines and sites which rate EVERY major game between 6/10 and 9/10, and you really need to read between the lines to find out what the author liked or disliked? What games you like is an intensely personal thing (watch Paul Barnett on that subject), and there simply is no way to judge it objectively. In defense of Darkfall, syncaine calls Free Realms a gay simulator, but the simple fact is that Free Realms would probably have been a better game for that Eurogamer reviewer, while Darkfall is a better game for syncaine. Reading somebody's rant about a game that he doesn't like can be quite informative. Even better are posts from people who *would like* to like a game, but are struggling with the game's flaws (Keen's blog is excellent for those kind of posts). But carefully measured, emotionless pieces of pseudo-objective game journalism are as useless as fanboi posts to understand a game you haven't played yourself.
Darkfall can be a great game in specific circumstances, which necessarily include being part of an active guild. Under those circumstances it has features few other games offer, like your actions having potentially serious consequences. I can fully understand some people liking these unique features so much that they are willing to overlook some other obvious flaws of the game, like the skill system. And I understand that as a consequence of game design some actions have to be cumbersome in the user interface: It makes sense that looting is so complicated in Darkfall, because it prevents you from looting stuff quickly in a danger zone. But the average gamer entering Darkfall unprepared, and looking for a solo game, is likely to have a strongly negative reaction not unlike the Eurogamer reviewer. So how can you possibly put a score on a game like that? Posting just the negative drama review sure looks a bit unfair, but you certainly wouldn't want some Darkfall fanboi writing that review, glossing over all the bad parts, and giving the game a 9/10 score. And some bland compromise with neither emotion and some average score isn't going to tell the reader much about the game either. You're much better off reading a bunch of blogs spanning a wide range from haters to fanbois, and at least you'll know what to expect if you decide to buy the game. Whether you'll ultimately love or hate this game, I can't tell you, because it depends a lot more on you than on me. So, no game rating from me.