California Literary Review

The Dialogue Tree

A Video Game Blog

An Early Resolution, and How the Stars Align.

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December 14th, 2011 at 3:04 am

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Hey there folks! Its been . . . a while since the Metro City Reform Committee was last called into session. I wish I could say it was due to something exciting. Like time continuum paradoxes I run into due to my future self warning me of upcoming apocalyptic events which I then spend the rest of the week preventing with an assorted cast of misfits including my best friend who has a dark past, a smart-mouthed female love interest, a token minority character with sage advice, and a lovable, but incredibly well trained wiener dog named Socrates who always shows up in the nick of time!

Socrates and the Zoo Robberies of Next Tuesday

Socrates can also go undercover. Why just last week he had to dress as a giraffe to crack the case of “The Zoo Burglars from Next Tuesday!”

But alas, no. I won’t say that this doesn’t happen, but it isn’t what has caused this lapse. It also hasn’t been because I haven’t had much to say, as my roommates, friends, and the people who give me funny looks on the street can attest to. Rather it’s been a combination of taking care of personal stuff that isn’t relevant to the subject of gaming, and the simple fact that the constant marathon of games since October have been rather time consuming. Dark Souls was particularly so, and proved (fittingly) a bit soul destroying as well, and that was followed immediately by Batman: Arkham City, and shortly thereafter by Modern Warfare 3 which then led to Skyrim which proved . . . well let’s just say I still haven’t done everything in the game yet and I’ve easily logged over two hundred hours into that beast . . .

Arrowed

. . . and almost as many arrows were lodged in my body. Much to the chagrin of the town guards.

More than that though, is the simple fact that I feel this blog has strayed from its intended purpose. Or, to be more accurate, that it hasn’t had one.

I meant for the Metro City Reform Committee to be a place where I could air various thoughts about video games and hopefully create some semblance of, well, I guess a philosophy about them. To define recommendations and rules by looking at smaller or larger trends in games and the community that makes them, in order to figure out exactly what constitutes good design in gaming, make a few suggestions on how to improve upon bad trends, and to answer some of the nagging issues that erupt in the medium.

I know it’s just a blog, and would simply be a reflection of my own personal tastes and history, but ideally it was going to be a philosophy based more on logic, acute observation, and analysis rather than simple emotionality or instinct. A philosophy that could (ideally) inspire a methodology for those that agreed with me, if not for future designers who have far more talent than myself, then perhaps at least other reviewers of games. Grandiose and a bit presumptuous, I know. But hey, if I didn’t have some sort of long term goal with it, I probably wouldn’t do this at all.

angry commenter

Cue insulting comment on how I shouldn’t be “doing this at all”, etc. etc.

Looking back at the last year of articles, a lot of the time I have been sticking to this goal. Mostly, anyways. However, I also began breaking the other tenet I wanted to maintain: I wanted to keep these bursts of ranting rulification short, concise and to the point. In this I’ve, quite frankly, consistently failed. Most of these articles go on WAY TOO LONG.

So I’m making an early resolution this year; I’m going to start treating this blog as just that: a blog, and put out more content, at a quicker pace, and in much shorter doses. I’m going to drop most of the “committee” trappings in favor of turning this into a more direct forum. Most importantly I’m going to try to keep it entertaining, or hopefully at least, interesting, and coming at you once a week, every week, and ideally on Wednesdays (which is when this post goes up).

Really, that’s about it.

Well, except for one more thing.

It’s about the game reviews, and how I rate them. More specifically, it’s about the “score” I give games and the star system I use to do so.

These guys right here.

The way I figure it, if I’m going to use this forum to mandate policy (if ineffectual policy) on game design, I might as well make my own review policy clear to anyone who cares (which probably isn’t that many, but at least it’s now on record).

The five star rating system CLR uses, and thus the same one I use, is pretty standard when it comes to reviewing a lot of other media. Movies, books, music, restaurants, cars; you’ll find most publications rate these subjects using a similar rating system. But I think for games and most gamers, it’s something of an anomaly. Especially since most “gaming only” publications rate on a different curve than how the 5 Star system breaks down here.

As many have pointed out before me, game reviews and especially the scoring system used for said reviews, are often . . . problematic. The basics are thus: most game reviewers receive a lot of corporate pressure from game publishers to rate games highly or possibly not receive pre-release games to review, and they rate on a scale based on the American Public Education system, where being in the 70th percentile is considered “average”. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned pressure (and high fan expectations) what’s become the actual average for game reviews seems to usually be in the 80th if not 90th percentile.

This is ridiculous.

Fist off, about the curve. I think I’ll let Calvin explain my thoughts on this issue:

I feel anything worthy of being in the 70th percentile is pretty damn good. Which is why the median, both for myself and in the 5 Star system, is set right where it should be: in the middle. Or basically, 2 and a half stars. Though I’d say the aggregate average quality to expect out of games put out by major publishers is closer to a 3 stars.

Secondly, the main reason you’ll never have to worry about me giving a game a rating better than it deserves: I don’t get these games any sooner than anyone else (at least not yet). It’s one of the main reasons the reviews for games generally come out the Sunday after the game comes out. I have to actually play them after all.

The other main reason is simpler though. I write these silly little reviews by a very simple motto:

“Honesty above all else.”

That’s it. I promise that I’m never going to give any opinion that isn’t my own, and as well researched and with as much depth as I can make it. I also promise I am beating each of these games to their end, or if they have no real end (such is the case with Skyrim) at least put a hefty amount of time into them. If I ever put out a review on a game that I haven’t “beaten”, I’ll be sure to point out that it wasn’t worth beating and it probably isn’t worth your time, but I haven’t had to do that yet.

Of course, it’s my hope that the readers of this site already understand that this is the case. I think you folks do. You’re a smart bunch, that’s why you’re here. It’s also my hope that most of the folks reading the reviews here don’t care as much about the silly little stars that hang above a review as to the actual text in the review itself. Again, I think most of you guys get that.

But for the folks that don’t, well I hope that clears things up. Also, why are you reading CLR? I bet you’d be happier somewhere else, right?

ANYWAYS . . . Seeing that this ended up as a mission statement more than anything truly interesting, I’m going to make it up to you later in the week. Because I want to keep talking about a little game I can’t get out of my head.

And why it’s biggest problem is also the biggest problem in gaming as a whole.

See ya soon!

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