Every week, the reporter Joe Klein writes a column for Time magazine. In October he opined, favourably, on Barack Obama's performance in the second presidential debate. A letter to the editor took exception to the editorial:
We read Joe Klein's "The Obama Surge" in my English class [Oct. 20]. We had heard about Klein's bias towards the Democrats, but this column took it too far. There was not a single complementary remark about McCain or a single negative one about Obama. Klein also noted that McCain seems awkward because of his physical impairments. This was insulting and, I believe, irrelevant to voters. McCain has sacrificed far more for his country than Klein ever will.
I admire the author for finding the time to write this letter between complaining about video game reviews on the internet.
Imagine an opinion piece which discusses a recent game in terms that are unilaterally positive. The article focuses on one abstract element of the game, setting or atmosphere or art design or something. Whatever, it's a theme that really resonated with the author, who then wants to explore it in detail. While liberal in its praise, the piece is not exhaustive, and very intentionally doesn't mention any of the game's well-known flaws -- things like crashes, framerate issues and AI problems. Taking these alarming omissions into account, is this opinion piece ethically suspicious or merely irresponsible?
Apparently you present your evaluative thoughts on a game in any format more sophisticated than "played 3 hours of mirror's edge last night... like the music... combat sucks... more soon, xoxo" some people are going to equate it to a review. They view the article through the conventions of a review and bizarre standards of objectivity, impartiality and fairness as upheld by a constituency of impotent watchdogs. Where the original article was never supposed to be definitive, now people are reading it like it has pretensions towards being the final word on the matter. The expectation of a review is that it should cover all the good and bad points about a game, presumably in an objective, expedient and unpretentious style that educates the reader on whether or not to buy it. It should assess all the major areas: graphics, sound, story, fun, replayability. It should note all the bugs, loading times and sub-par animations. Even though those qualities are pretty irrelevant to your thesis if you want to write about the game from any perspective other than usability or hardware, the article described above still transforms from what you liked about the game to you very conspicuously leaving out everything bad about it. If everyone knows the game has a big crashing problem and that's not mentioned in the "review"? The publisher must have sent a whole truck of cocaine and hookers to explain that travesty of justice.
What about the piece has really been invalidated though? Its value as a consumer report? Maybe so if the problem in question was particularly egregious, but we're not even talking about actual reviews. Is the only thing gamers look for in any kind of critique product details? Are there really people who think the only possible purpose of criticism is to better inform the customer or the voter? I didn't think I wrote reviews anymore but apparently I still am writing someone else's shopping list. I don't understand exactly how appending your personal take on a game with some conventional wisdom about crashes is supposed to be helpful. Given the overwhelming tone of the piece, whose mind is that going to change anyway?
Maybe all these reviews and articles really should be written in the aggressively neutral, zero sum tones of a Wikipedia page's "critical response" section, something onto which anyone can project their preferences. Ideally, though, you want to write about games in interesting ways that engage readers regardless of whether they like the game, whether they've played the game or have any interest in the game. It should transcend basic responses to specific and technical points.
To offer a dissenting opinion, I don't believe anything I just wrote.