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Apropos nothing in particular (apart from maybe Syl’s post about armchair designers over three months ago – nothing like being current with the blogosphere!) some words I try to live by when thinking and chatting about games…

1. Forget labels. Are you enjoying yourself? Some gamers, or at least some bloggers, get caught up in dogmatic stances and judge games solely on whether they are sandboxes (whatever the hell that means), or on their business models, or on what type of PvP is or isn’t allowed. At the end of the day, though, games are entertainment and the real criterion for judging a game is whether I feel entertained playing it. Those other items might have some bearing on whether you enjoy the game, but seriously, are they really absolute deal breakers? Do you honestly believe that a buggy, unbalanced, amateurish sandbox game with full free-roaming ganking should be praised above and beyond a perfectly-executed, thrill ride of a polished theme park PvE game just because it’s a sandbox (or just because of the ganking?)

2. The answer to the question above is subjective. What I like isn’t necessarily what you like. What appeals to Tobold doesn’t always appeal to Syncaine but that doesn’t automatically mean either of them are absolutely wrong. I have my own criteria for whether I’m likely to enjoy a game. A game that doesn’t meet those criteria may not be for me, but may well be for others – both WoW (in its current form) and EVE are cases in point.

3. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, why are you here? It’s OK to recognise flaws in a game – ideally, whilst recognising that those “flaws” may just be features that appeal to other people more than you. I don’t ask that any discussion of a game ignore those flaws. However, if the flaws degrade your enjoyment of a game to the point at “this game is crap” … go play something else and just forget about this one. It will be better for all concerned. If the game really is a stinker (as opposed to just not appealing to you, personally) then most of the other players will do likewise, which is a far more effective signal to the developers than some embittered whinger hanging around the forums like the smell of week-old roadkill.

4. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a hater, fanboi or troll. However, some are. Those three terms are thrown about very loosely as a means of dismissing anyone whose opinion someone else agrees with. After all, it seems that many regular forum posters are so lacking in human empathy and/or simply so far up their own arses that anyone who disagrees with them must be completely wrong. Someone who criticises a feature or points out a flaw isn’t automatically a hater – that term is reserved for roadkill guy from point 3. Likewise, someone who actually likes a feature that you don’t isn’t automatically a “fanboi”, which can only describe someone who rabidly defends every single thing about the game and would do so whatever the devs did. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen such a creature in real life. And a troll is someone who deliberately makes controversial statements with the specific intent of causing an argument and outrage. Someone who happens to honestly disagree with you isn’t trolling. Even someone whose opinions are regularly at variance with the majority isn’t trolling. Someone who goes out of his way to stir arguments up, and who will always post to throw oil on troubled fires, however, is.

5. You get what you pay for. Games, especially MMOs, are expensive things to create and run, and I think it’s fair that the people who make them expect a reasonable return on the money and time they plowed into them. If they’ve made a wildly successful game that millions of people like to play, I would say it’s fair for them to make an unreasonable return on their money 🙂 So I judge a game from the perspective of a customer who pays his way. In subscription games, that’s easy enough to do – I’m either getting sufficient entertainment for my monthly payment, or I’m not. For F2P games it’s a bit harder. I would still use the subscription game as a yardstick, though – look at what the F2P game would be like if you paid $10 to $15 per month, and decide if that game experience is worth your while. I’ve no sympathy for the free player who whines how horribly restrictive the game is if he won’t pay one red cent towards its upkeep and development. However, I also don’t appreciate greedy developers who give significant advantage to those paying well above a subscription rate – or to put it another way, I judge whether a game is “pay to win” based on comparing whales to those who pay a reasonable amount; I don’t regard restrictions on freeloaders in the same category.

6. Rule #2 notwithstanding, there IS such a thing as a bad game. Some things aren’t a matter of judgement. Auto assault had horribly bad net code that made my character rubber band all over the place when I got out of my car. Some games have clunky interfaces, dull gameplay, or severe balance issues to the point where picking the wrong class is a “gotcha” rather than a valid choice. Neverwinter has the worst voice acting I’ve heard in my life. These are things that are just plain out-and-out wrong, and not just matters of taste. It’s fair to call these out. But it’s also fair to call out critics who can’t tell the difference.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Law has some amusing but damn accurate Golden Rules of Judging games and reading […]

  2. […] little while back, I mentioned that when judging games the key question to ask is whether you’re enjoying playing the game… and that that is a […]

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