It’s 2013, and the world of video games is more vibrant and innovative than ever! Just kidding. Apart from the few yearly bright spots here and there, games are still a stagnating cesspool of cookie-cutter characters, hilariously bad writing, and bland gameplay aimed exclusively at children (both real and emotional). I feel the same way about modern video games as kids who saw Back to the Future II and are now 36, working dead-end IT jobs and wondering where those hoverboards are at. Except in my case, I’m wondering where my games with complex narratives, meaningful choices and interesting mechanics are. Yeah, I never saw Back to the Future. There’s hoverboards in there somewhere though, right?
You’d think games writers the world over would take it upon themselves to shame developers and publishers into, you know, actually pushing video games forward, but I don’t think there’s ever been a time where this has been the case (at least not since Gore Vidal’s scathing Super Mario 3 review). Unless you’re twelve years old or are into “Gamer Culture” (two things that should never be mutually exclusive, but sadly always are), you should know by now that all major games journalism outlets are meaningless fluff factories at best and sycophantic mouthpieces for games companies at worst. So without further ado, let’s cut the ribbon on the Infuriating Games “Journalism” Hall of Fame!
1. Any IGN Review of an AAA Title
Is your game from a major developer/publisher? Is it open world/an FPS/from Bioware? Does it feature a bland tough-guy protagonist who has almost as much personality as the guy from Doom? Does your game display the minimum acceptable standard of competence in its design, i.e. does it work when I put the disc in? Then congrats on your 8/10 or better from the brain trust at IGN.com! It’s “journalism” like this that keeps games stagnating; I can’t wait for Black Ops 3: More Corridors’ inevitable near-perfect score due to its “thrilling gameplay.”
I say this as a dude who loved the first two Mass Effects: there is no way on this earth, or any other planet of blue alien babes, that Mass Effect 3 deserved more than a 5, a C, a 50%, a participation ribbon. Reminder: Casey Hudson, lead designer, from this interview, on ME3’s endings:
“At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.”
And of course, what we got at the end of Mass Effect 3: choosing between ending A, B, or C. Casey, I can say exactly how many shitty endings that is: three. Here, have a 9.5 for your troubles you irascible little scamp you. Hey, why are you throwing it out, that’s an “Amazing!”
It’s not like I even hate too much on the Hud’ for over-promising and under-delivering. I just hate how IGN didn’t call it out, and left it to the fanbase to (rightly) complain about it until Bioware shit out some half-assed “extended ending DLC” that didn’t address anyone’s complaints. But under-reporting glaring flaws in games and awarding huge scores to them is par for the course for IGN and review sites in general, and by this point anyone into “Gamer Culture” (ugh) has been trained so that they know anything getting below an 8 is utter trash.
2. Most Kotaku Articles
All praise to Gawker Media for unleashing the Rudy of games blogs onto the world! Plucky, annoying, and always completely insufferable, Kotaku prides itself on being the voice for real gamers worldwide, but the signal-to-noise ratio is so low it sounds like Merzbow.
Even so, a million articles about cosplay and what aspect of Japanese culture Brian Ashcraft is starry-eyed over this time aren’t as bad as articles like “Difficult Video Games Are Like A Certain Kind Of Sex.” Do yourself a favor and don’t click that, unless you enjoy feeling the urge to hurl yourself in front of the nearest bus. This article and others like it sum up everything wrong with gamers and “Gamer Culture” (ugh). Do gamers really need to filter every aspect of their lives through their favourite hobby, which, when you get right down to it, is really just defining your whole being around blatant consumerism? No, says Kotaku’s reader base, we’re different from literally every other consumer in this capitalist terrordome – after all, we’re gamers.
3. AV Club Gameosociologolicalic Society or Whatever
Not content with having just one yawning void of pasty commenters regurgitating unfunny jokes and defining themselves through their media, The Onion AV Club started a sister “Society” just for games! Ooh, “society,” sounds classy! Full disclosure: I was all prepared to shit on the Society just for calling itself that, but then I noticed that the reviews don’t have scores! Joy of joys!
The rest of the site’s pretty much what you would expect from people who intellectualize old episodes of Dawson’s Creek: stuffy articles about the importance of “artier” games like Journey and constant hagiographies of their bottomless well of commenters, who coincidentally write content for free. “Dr. Flim Flam” isn’t apparently enough of a Keyboard Genius to figure out he’s being suckered.
But hey, I’m willing to forgive a lot for a site provided it doesn’t pander to the Kotaku and IGN crowd, and actually takes games to task for being juvenile trash, when we all want them to soar, like the hoverboards we all know they are.