Blog DragonsCrown00

Published on August 7th, 2013 | by Christian


The Internet Sucks – Part 1

I remember back before Polygon launched, they had a huge run up to their launch with tons of hype and even a documentary about the making of a video game website.  It was absolutely ludicrous, but amid all of the pretentiousness and the inevitable letdown that came with finding out they’d made basically another video game site, one interaction with @Polygon on twitter really stuck out in my mind.  I don’t have the energy to dig up the exact tweet, but the gist of it is that @Polygon were tweeting about their revolutionary new review scheme, which to me sounded basically like every other reviewing scheme that has ever existed.  That was exactly my reply, and I was surprised when I got a reply back saying they weren’t aware of any other site that was prepared to retroactively go back and change scores if deemed necessary, if a game didn’t age well, or if Arthur Gies’s fried egg had two yolks in it that morning or whatever.   My takeaway from their response was that they were confirming just how meaningless scores were, a thing I have discussed in the past, and they had chosen to do so in a very obtuse fashion.

They’ve had some pretty controversial scores since then.  I guess people on the internet weren’t happy with Polygon’s score for The Last of Us (7.5), which by all reports is the Citizen Kane of video games; whatever that means. I didn’t see, nor do I have any intention of going to look at what is probably a complete shit-storm of a comments section under Phillip Kollar’s review for the game.  To be honest, I didn’t even read Phillip’s review.  Review’s are purchasing advice for people who are unsure of whether or not they should buy game, and I never had and still do not have any desire to purchase The Last of Us.  Maybe I’ll get around to playing it when it inevitably comes to PS+.  It just doesn’t look that compelling to me.   Now that I think of it, I very rarely read reviews at all.  Usually I just buy whatever games I’m interested in, and sometimes that works out great and other times they go on the pile of barely played or in some cases totally unplayed games that is my ever-growing now insurmountable backlog of shame.  However, I realize that not everyone has the luxury, desire, or requisite poor impulse control to just buy all the games they want, and that some people go to reviews in order to help them make a purchasing decision.

Getting to the point: I’m not going to sit here and say reviews are useless, even if I think that review scores are.  I do sometimes read negative reviews for games I’m interested in so that I can see what people didn’t like about them, but not to argue with reviewers about whether or not they’re doing their job right.   What I am going to say is that the response to low scores, as was the case for The Last of Us and now very sadly Dragon’s Crown, is completely ridiculous.

People on the internet: there is no need to shit all over the comments section of every review or article that doesn’t align with your already fully formed opinions.  Just because some games writer didn’t like your dream game doesn’t mean they’re casting aspersions on you personally.  We don’t all like the same things.  If you’re going to take the time to comment, why not say something nice about the game you’re a fan of instead of just tearing down other people’s opinions and slinging insults?

Games writers: you are doing this to yourselves.  I find it very hard to believe that a room full of industry veterans the likes of which Polygon has assembled could ship a review out like the one for Dragon’s Crown expect anything but a shit storm.  To not even preempt it in the text of the review seems dishonest by design, as if maybe there were hopes that  by having a contrarian opinion and stirring up  controversy you might get more page views.  If that’s not the case, it’s at least very short-sighted.  There was no other way this could have gone, and I find it extremely disingenuous when I see members of the press act all indignant and surprised at the response they get whenever they rattle the cage that is “the internet.”  They are Bart Simpson, grabbing that electrified cup cake over and over and over again.  It is never not electrified.

It’s unfortunate that so much of the online discussion about this game now is centering around the score assigned by Polygon.  Danielle Riendeau’s review is well written and informative. Although I don’t agree with some of her criticisms, it reads like what I expect from having played a few other Vanillaware games. So it is too bad the given score does the text a disservice by acting as a lightning rod for ass-hattery rather than encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions from the text. Even ATLUS PR stopped by to say it was a good review, but also somewhat slyly added that readers should form their own opinion rather than engaging in shit-slinging contests in the comments. Danielle is entitled to her opinion, and she has a platform to express it, but that platform has some pretty obvious issues that need to be addressed before we can elevate the discussion.

There are a lot of other elements to this drama, including what in my opinion is an uneven focus the review has on the portrayal of some of the game’s female NPCs, some of the inherent problems with criticizing art as being harmful, and the impracticality of doing that on the open stage that is the internet, but that’s a story for next week.  I’m tired now, and Dragon’s Crown is sitting here on the couch waiting to be played.


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4 Responses to The Internet Sucks – Part 1

  1. Blog Re: Games says:

    Great text overall, Christian.

    I’d like to point out something in light of this passage:

    “Games writers: you are doing this to yourselves. I find it very hard to believe that a room full of industry veterans the likes of which Polygon has assembled could ship a review out like the one for Dragon’s Crown expect anything but a shit storm. o not even preempt it in the text of the review seems dishonest by design (…) [or] at least very short-sighted.”

    I just looked over Danielle Riendeau’s track record on Polygon and her Dragon’s Crown review was the second she ever did there, the first being Deus Ex: The Fall for the iOS just a few weeks before.

    Note that I’m not trying to diss *the reviewer*. I just find it ludicrous that in a week with only two somewhat high profile releases – the other being Pikmin 3, which actually isn’t very big either – they did entrust Dragon’s Crown to a newcomer, and a woman at that. Again, not saying that she isn’t competent enough to do it, just pointing out that it isn’t standard practice with *newcomers* and *freelancers*, women or not. Usually the established reviewers “fight” for the biggest games and the rest has to deal with the lower profile ones.

    I cannot help but believe this was intentional. Not only as clickbait, but also to misdirect the shitstorm to someone else but the editors. Of course they’re also getting flack from the intahwebz, but this way they can say “see, it was written by a woman and she got bothered by it, it’s her right, you’re being misogynist”.

    This feeling is reinforced by what GameSpot did. They could have entrusted the game to Carolyn Petit or Heidi Kemps. Both would most certainly comment on the art, and Heidi in particular certainly would write a terrific review, even if I probably wouldn’t agree with her take on the art either. But Carolyn is under fire from the GameSpot community (and with reason, I believe) for trying to see sexism and prejudice under every rock around, and if they gave Dragon’s Crown to her, no one would take her criticisms, even the valid ones, seriously. So they gave the game to Peter Brown – which rarely does reviews compared to the other editors – who basically said the same Carolyn would say, including a somewhat negative opinion on the art.

    And staying on that topic, GameSpot’s review is another example on your take about scores:
    “So it is too bad the given score does the text a disservice by acting as a lightning rod for ass-hattery rather than encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions from the text.”

    Peter Brown’s review was scored 8 despite the criticism on the art and the repetitiveness of the game being very, very similar to Daniele’s review, just less emphasized. And that review didn’t get even a fraction of the flack the Polygon one had.
    Which just goes to show that you’re absolutely on the spot (pun intended) about how the real problem is the score, and that Polygon probably knew very well this would happen.

    • Christian Christian says:

      Thanks for the feedback and also the additional commentary. I don’t really take Danielle’s gender into account when considering her response to the game’s art, because honestly I’ve seen way more men getting bent out of shape about it than I have women. Obviously you’re right though, and people on the internet are going to attack a female reviewer on the basis of gender every time there’s a disagreement, which is unfortunate. I can see Dragon’s Crown being given to a newer reviewer or freelancer on a site because while it enjoys a high profile among the hardcore enthusiast crowd, it’s still a relatively niche game with a very narrow target audience. This makes it even more strange that many sites have latched onto the game as some kind of poster child for industry wide sexist depiction of women, because the game doesn’t represent the width of the industry, but is in reality just a smile slice of it. I’ll get into that some more next time.

  2. dalenorth says:

    Nice read!

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