Friday, April 23, 2010

Bad gaming journalism

I've talked about how horrible professional reviews are. Now it's time to turn an eye to mainstream journalism.

I read this on some Yahoo blogger's page. Why players don't finish games.

According to the lead in, "only 30% of players finish games they start." Apparently this statistic comes from a developer.

First of all, what the fuck does this even mean? If you're to take it at face value, 30% of gamers finish every game they play, and the other 70% never finish a single game. Another, more realistic meaning might be that only 30% of players regularly finish games. Third, and most realistically (but it's probably not meant this way) is that in the population of gamers, 30% of games that get started, get finished.

Second, what does it mean to "finish" a game? Nowadays this line is completely blurry. Beat the last boss on easy? Get every trophy or achievement? Depending on what you want to call "finishing" a game, you can make this statistic as low as you want! And speaking of definition, they don't even say what a GAME is! You might think it's completely obvious, but how these guys define "game" can have a huge impact on a statistic. Is Solitaire, for the purposes of this survey, considered a game, for instance? Is a game with no ending (Space Invaders) a game? Are arcade games games?

Third, who is the sample here? Joe, who closed out his solitaire game because his boss walked in the room? Timmy the 6 year old who picked up Halo and walked around the room? It's impossible to have any idea what this statistic means without knowing the demographic from which it came.

Soo....right off the bat, we have a mainstream, professionally produced piece of work that is based entirely off an ambiguous statistic.

So other comments.

1. Games are too long.

This quote caught my eye:

"A hidden secret of the industry is that a lot of games are that long in an attempt to prevent you from buying competitor’s titles. That means there’s often a bit of filler in those lengthy, beefy games."

This from some suit of some shitty yet powerful company. Really? Because last time I checked, many gamers play more than one game at a time. Aside from that, this is one of the stupidest business strategies I've ever seen. "Hey Dave, how can we ensure our game is #1?" "Make it 300 hours long so the player won't buy other games!" Gee, how about making your game BETTER?? Does this really suggest that game companies, instead of trying to make good games, are instead trying to make games that prevent you from buying other companies' games? While I played Warcraft, I only bought a few games. You know why? It wasn't because I was spending 6000 hours with WoW. It was because console games generally suck now.

2. Games are too hard.

Yeah, we've seen this one before. Another ridiculous quote:

Early levels are designed to be fairly easy, but because it’s considered normal for players to not finish a game, developers will ratchet up the difficultly so high on later levels that it discourages all but the narrowest of audiences
Um, sure. Whatever you say, boss. It also says "Players don't want to play levels over and over again, especially on easy." Yeah, sorry, if you're stuck on easy mode of God of War III, you need a new hobby. Again, I think people have a skewed notion of what a "hard" game is. It's getting to the point where it seems that if you die, the game is hard.

3. It's not worth the effort.

There are many ways you could spin this, but I think the way the author spins it is very archaic. He acts as if stories in games are something NEW that are used to engage the player. He also acts as if accomplishment is not enough reward; that, no matter how good the game, in order to really feel complete in the experience, the loose ends need to be tied up. This reminds me of the scene in Stand By Me where Gordy tells the story about the pie eating contest. When he finishes this entertaining, creative story, the other boys cheer, and then Teddy goes "And then what happened?" It's meant to convey Teddy's stupidity and shallowness, which is exactly what gamers exhibit when they say something like "Great game, but the ending sucked," implying that a great gaming experience was ruined by lack of a happy ending (so to speak).

The last two are kind of silly, "The definition of cool keeps changing." What does this have to do with gamers not finishing games? I really doubt gamers stop playing games because the main character is no longer the hot playground topic. And "too many other distractions." This Sternberg character says "Yeah, 5 years ago we had all the time in the world to waste away, and now we are BUSY." Is that even worth commenting on?

I shudder to think of the implications this has for the gaming industry. We have fucking top level executives, CEO's and directors spewing this shit. If you think writing an article based on some fucked up, useless statistic is lame, wait till you see the games these jokers are designing based on them.

I figure I'll mention some reasons why *I* don't finish a game:

1. The game fucking sucks. How's that for a reason to stop? Broken control, boring, too easy, all these reasons can fall under the heading of "THE GAME SUCKS." How about that, Mr. Chris Morris, writer at Is that a good enough reason to stop playing a game?

1 comment:

  1. You need to go to some sort of anger management counseling.