Circus Rambles - On videogamedunkey's latest
Why can't there be controversy about important things, like the fact that the health care bill up for vote will literally cause people to die, or the fact that the world is slowly disintegrating around us? Instead, today we have controversy over videogamedunkey's latest video, in which he discusses some of the problems with game critics.
Before you read any further, I would suggest you watch the video if you haven't already. It's only about eight minutes, and you too could get a chance to join the controversy!
Right, now that's out of the way:
Since a large amount of backlash seems to be coming from game critics who feel that Dunkey raised incorrect points, I thought it'd be fun to go through and examine some of these points, and see if they're really as horrendously awful as a number of Tweets would have you believe.
1. Gaming outlets are subject to inconsistent and decentralized opinions.
First big point: Gaming outlets such as IGN can have dozens of reviewers on staff. Each reviewer is going to have their own likes, dislikes, and thoughts on not just the games they're reviewing at the time, but on gaming in general. These scores tend to end up getting attributed to the gaming outlet itself and not to the individual reviewer, which means that there isn't really a consistent opinion within the outlet.
Okay, call me crazy, but...Why is this something to be angry over? Unless you put together a team of reviewers that all have the same opinions, this seems like an issue that has the potential to develop naturally. Nowhere in there do I see any blame for this specific problem being placed on the critics themselves, but rather on the gaming outlet system as a whole. I do not personally have any idea how this should be fixed, and Dunkey doesn't offer a solution either, nor did he ever promise one; he just presents it how he sees it.
2. Consistency of voice is important in game reviewing.
Second big point: "A critic's power lies in the consistency of their voice."
As part of this, Dunkey uses Armond White's reviews as an example. I will admit, I had not heard of Armond White before this, and for those who are in the same boat as me: He reviews movies. Now you know.
Dunkey sums up Armond White's reviews with "According to Armond White, everything that is good is bad and everything that is bad is good." Note, however, that he also explicitly states that this does not make Armond White useless as a critic, and also note that this opinion gives Armond White the very quality Dunkey just lauded: consistency of voice.
3. A lot of reviews read exactly the same.
Third big point: A lot of game reviews bring up the same points with relatively similar wording.
Considering that Dunkey uses actual quotes from actual reviews as sources here, I'm not sure how you can really argue with that. Nowhere did he say ALL reviews read exactly the same, just A LOT, and ALL and A LOT are different.
4. High scores are overused.
Fourth big point: Game reviews tend to overuse higher scores, mostly 7s, 8s, and 9s.
Yahtzee Croshaw has a quote that I like: "I don't believe a complex opinion can be represented numerically." I agree 100%. I don't giving numerical scores in anything, especially not reviews. I don't believe I can really sum up my subjective opinion on something with a number. Now, full disclosure: I do give scores for different parts of a game as part of my work for Anime Backgrounds. I do this because it is their established system and I have agreed to contribute to it. I'll admit that if it were up to me, I wouldn't do it, but I'm reviewing for them and so I do use the system. And I don't think anything is inherently wrong with using a numerical system to score games or books or anything. If it works for you, THEN DO IT! Score whatever you want with numbers! It literally has no effect whatsoever on how I live my life whether or not you use numbers to score something, or what kind of opinion you have on using numbers to score something, because it's your opinion and we all get to have our own opinions, and that's perfectly fine.
Okay, yes, I'm getting a little sidetracked. Aren't we all?
To Dunkey's point about higher scores being overused, I can't say I disagree with that either. I seem to recall, years ago, someone being fired because they gave a Kane & Lynch game a lower score. In the interest of fun, I also had a quick look at both Metacritic and IGN, and there are indeed a rather large amount of 7's, 8's, and 9's in their respective review sections. Dunkey brings up that perhaps reviewers are worried that they might alienate important contacts if they're too harsh on a game and thus might think a lot more carefully about what they say. When there are documented cases of this happening in the games industry, doesn't that sound like a valid fear a game reviewer might have?
5. The race to be the first person to review something leads to rushing.
Fifth big point: There's a prevalent desire among reviewers to be the first to review something, which naturally leads to reviews being rushed out, sometimes before the reviewer has finished the game.
As a writer, I can say with absolute certainty that time is ALWAYS a looming elephant in the room, pressuring us to get done RIGHT THIS SECOND if we want to amount to anything. The longer you take to get a piece out, the more likely it is that your piece will become irrelevant and go unnoticed. In today's Internet, that's not an option if you want to sustain your traffic. You need views. You need to be noticed. So you have to work fast. I'm not saying that everyone who works quickly is going to produce sloppy work, and neither did Dunkey. I can speak for myself, though, and say that if I'm feeling pressured for time, my work absolutely suffers for it.
Now, my opinion on this might be a little bit weird, because I have accepted the fact that I am a tiny drop of nothing in a giant ocean, and my marketability is pretty much zero. I am lucky enough that I don't have to be anywhere near as concerned about being first. I know that not everyone has the same experience, and I sympathize, because that constant race for time is like being in a goddamn pressure cooker without nearly as much delicious food. But Dunkey's right: "The best reviews are entirely subjective, but that doesn't mean you throw objectivity out the window." No matter how fast you're writing the review, you still have to build your case.
*takes deep breath*
So now that we've laboriously gone through all of these points, let's close with an extremely obvious statement.
VIDEOGAMEDUNKEY LIKES TO MAKE JOKES.
His first line of the video is "game critics fucking suck" and then he goes on to qualify this opinion, first with dripping sarcasm and screenshots of Youtube comments, and then with all the points listed above. I don't believe for a second that he actually thinks every game critic in the world sucks. I think he was using a joke to make a point, which is...you know, something he DOES. A lot. All the time. You could even say it's his thing. So yes, the video is full of jokes, but Dunkey has always used jokes for two reasons.
A. To get some laughs (which is sort of the point of a joke)
B. To prove a point
He's always done this, and he does it here too. And yes, some of his jokes are very easy to misconstrue, and he doesn't always go about them in the most sensitive manner. Sometimes he can be a bit of a dick. As someone who used to watch his League of Legends videos, he can absolutely be a bit of a dick. But he isn't saying that all game critics are awful. He's bringing up legitimate concerns with game critiquing in general and, specifically, the problems that have arisen from gaming outlets using so many different reviewers and putting them all in a competition that has the potential to limit what they say. He's doing what he always does: using a video to provoke discussion. And it'd be nice to actually have that discussion, without a bunch of people saying that Dunkey sucks because he doesn't like turn-based RPGs, or that Dunkey doesn't count as a reviewer because he hasn't played every single mainstream game.
I might have brought this up already, but I want to make it clear that I do not believe Dunkey is shaming freelancers with this video. I've watched the video multiple times and I don't see anything in there that is specifically targeted at shaming the group of freelancers as a whole. If it helps, I myself am a freelancer and I do not feel like I have been shamed, so take that for what it's worth.
Ultimately, I know that this is all just a ramble, and that, again, I am small potatoes compared to nearly anybody, much less Dunkey himself. I know that my opinion is not going to magically solve the latest and greatest Twitter controversy.
But let's remember, everyone: At the end of the day, Dunkey is expressing an opinion. I am expressing an opinion. EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS THEIR OPINION. And you don't have to care about anyone else's opinion. Heck, I'm expecting a total of maybe five people in the universe to ever care about this ramble, and I'm counting myself four times. But what I take issue with is people trying to put words in other people's mouths, or making comments about how bad the video is without having watched it first.
So in conclusion...let's all relax a bit. After venting for 1700 words, I certainly need to.