Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Are Game Critics Overly Harsh?

I don't think I can call myself a 'game critic', even though I have criticised games for not doing things right, or being incredibly frustrating or completely unfair (I've used that last one a lot), I'd rather heap praise upon a game than criticise it (unless I feel it deserves it) and as such, I'd much prefer to be called a gaming enthusiast. However, when it comes down to it, and a game critic does give a game a bad review, is it fair to say that sometimes they can be far too harsh?

Let us say you were made to create a game, but had a lot of things going against you, like, for instance it being the very first game you develop, or time constraints and what have you. When you finish the product, it doesn't come out quite the way you wanted it to and thusly receives a bunch of negative reviews. You'd feel pretty hard done by, wouldn't you? Imagine having all the work you've just spent the last 2 or 3 years on being paraded in public and roundly criticised. That wouldn't feel too nice, would it?

Obviously, reviewers can't and shouldn't take into account the many obstacles the developer had to overcome when they were trying to create a good quality game and get it out onto the shelves. All reviewers can do is work with what they play and in no way should the developer's problems influence the reviewer's overall opinion of a game, because it'd be the average gamer who suffers - having to spend their hard-earned on a game they don't like - as critics can hold a lot of sway with gamers, and can sometimes decide if a game sells well or not. Some game reviews, however, don't really influence how well a game does. Even though GTA IV got relatively universal praise, I doubt that that had much effect on how that particular game sold. GTA IV is an incredibly well established franchise, so what happens when a fledging developer puts out a new IP only for it to get completely derided in the gaming press? It'd hit the games' sales and would affect the developer's future a hell of a lot.

To be honest, I'm not too sure what I'm getting at. Maybe it's that I feel new developers should be helped along the way when they first start. They should be nurtured and cared for until they finally have the confidence to take off their metaphorical training wheels and go it alone in the big bad world. Maybe even smaller, or indie developing houses could get the same treatment? Surely it would only benefit the industry if this were case? So, maybe critics and reviewers and the like should tread a little more carefully around a game from a new developer. Like I said, their final judgment of the game ought to be the same as if it'd come from a major developer. Conceivably, the onus is simply on the developer itself, maybe even the publishers? Whomever the responsibility ultimately falls upon, I don’t envy them at all.