Nice Kicks

3 Oct

Dan “Shoe” of former EGM fame has been giving readers of his Sore Thumbs blog (shared with co-former-EGM’r Crispin Boyer) a continuing behind-the-scenes look at the interactions between video game journalists and PR people. He even posted a letter from an anonymous game developer giving readers some perspective from the game maker’s side.

Now, Shoe is asking for us, the readers and consumers, to chime in on how we feel about the business of game journalism and public relations.

This request makes me wonder if I’ve drawn the same conclusion as Shoe and that he’s using us to illustrate his point, that point being that we the gamers are the most important part of the equation.

It makes sense. The entire video game industry exists for us because of us. Journalists write reviews so we can decide which games to buy and which to avoid. PR pays for advertising so we can see what’s out there and what’s coming. Without us, those guys wouldn’t have a business. So, why are so many deals behind the scenes that only hurt the consumer going on?

Starting on the game side, if the anonymous developer’s perspective is indicative of how most other developers feel, I’d have to say that most other developers have forgotten what it’s like to be a consumer.

Gamers don’t care if you put lots of time and effort into your game. We only care that the time and effort you put in pays off and results in a good game. Anonymous mentions Too Human‘s poor scores in his letter as being undeserved, but I think anyone aside from loot-lovers can tell that time and effort didn’t equal quality gameplay in Silicon Knights’ latest release. The game wasn’t horrible, but considering the hype, you can’t expect gamers to be satisfied with a title that caters to such a specific crowd.

I understand where anonymous is coming from, referring to the games he and his company make as their “baby”, but you can’t expect gamers to appreciate that point of view. That means you also can’t expect journalists to adopt your opinion.

I’d assume developers and PR share much the same outlook on the games they work with and that both get pissed when those games get low scores. It’s understandable that they’d get upset, but to blacklist sites and publications that don’t praise your game doesn’t just hurt the journalists but the gamers too. On the opposite end, PR and journalists working together on exclusive reviews is even worse for the gamers.

Anyone who ever thought an exclusive review was a good idea obviously doesn’t put the gamers first. Yeah, there’s cash for your site/magazine, but an exclusive review pretty much guarantees at least an 8. It also seems to assume that the PR people believe in the reviewer’s score as fact. Anyone of that belief no matter the circumstance is incredibly deluded and shouldn’t be in the business.

As an avid game fan and someone with common sense, I’m aware that review scores are in no way fact. When I see a score, I like to think that the reviewer is just giving in to tradition. I’m aware that we’ll never do away with scored reviews, but I really hope that most journalists are at least aware that their reviews are more important than their scores to us, the consumers.

Reading Shoe’s posts about how much business goes on behind the scenes based on scores alone, I can’t help feeling like the professionals don’t have our best interests in mind.

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