May 06 2010

The Other Side of the Critic’s Coin

Well folks the prodigal son has returned and I come with stories of the other side. As many of you may know I recently became a professional game journalist and for as enjoyable a job as it is it does have its faults. The one I’ll be discussing today is the dilemma of courtesy versus truth.

As a member of the press I have the unique opportunity to ask for review copies of games however my site is still only a minor speck on the window of the internet so only small independent developers are willing to send me copies right now. This can create an interesting problem as often the person I talk to in order to get my copy is the same person who made the majority of the game. When the game is good I can let them them know the review is up and tell them of my personal biased enjoyment of the game completely off the record as a journalist but it’s when the games are bad problems can arise.

I recently had to do a review of game which was bad enough to receive a two star rating called “Gentlemacho” which had an interesting presentation and concept but was ultimately very flawed. The person I dealt with to receive my copy was the creator of the game who was very polite, prompt, and an all around professional about the matter. Those of you who understand basic foreshadowing are five steps ahead of me right now and have figured out that I feel pretty bad about slamming their game the way I did. My personal feelings about the creator are not something I can let influence my reviews though.

It’s an interesting internal conflict one faces when a lesson they’ve had taught and reinforced to them their entire lives (in this case “if you have nothing nice to say you should shut the hell up”) is in direct opposition to what is right in that scenario. You have to learn how to be objective without just becoming cruel because if that happens even good games that do deserve praise have their reviews end up sounding like they were just were just barely good enough to not be considered garbage.

As I move forward in my career I look very forward to reviewing more games and honing my critical eye but I doubt I’ll ever truly feel remorseless about a really bad review. I just have to remember that behind every game are people who put days, months, and sometimes years of their lives into it and it would be disrespectful to them and to my readers if I didn’t give a fair and unbiased review. It’s important to remember blowing smoke up someone’s ass is only going to end up hurting their ego when the truth comes out.

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