Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game journalism and experience

In most professions it is better to get served by somebody experienced. A car mechanic with years of experience will find out what's wrong with your car faster than the guy who just started. But I was wondering whether game journalism, blogging included, is the exception to this rule. Somebody who has been reviewing games for years will probably fail to be enchanted by a new game, and fail to convey it's magic to a new player. Instead he'll endlessly compare features to previous games, or even fall into the trap of claiming that all games were better before.

I did read a review of Battlefield 3 which even for me was completely unreadable. Minor changes of weapons compared to previous versions were discussed in great length, while rather fundamental questions like "is this game fun for a new player" remained unanswered. And what game journalists and bloggers said about Star Wars: The Old Republic wasn't all that much better: Endless comparisons to World of Warcraft, lots of consideration of how long it would entertain the hardcore veterans, and very little about whether it is a fun game for new players.

I think many professional game review magazines would produce better reviews if they kicked out all their veterans and hired people who have experience in writing, but not in gaming. Somebody who can make a meaningful statement about the quality of the art of Dear Esther instead of ranting how this "isn't a game". Somebody who can be still convey the magic of playing a new game, even if it is a sequel, without just offering comparisons to games the reader might not have played.

If you traverse the MMORPG blogosphere you might be excused to believe that the market is in a terrible state right now, with only bad games available. But in fact the only problem is that the veterans got jaded faster than the developers could innovate. For a new player it would be wonderful time right now to start playing MMORPGs, because there are a lot of great games out there, and more of them on the horizon. It is just that the "oh, new, shiny!" excitement has left the people writing about these games which makes them appear less great today in print than they really are.

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