Regular readers of 3DNews know that we have a rating system (rather, a value system) that deciphers the final score. But it can be difficult for us to be guided by it. Take at least a description of the cherished ten points: “More than a game. A real masterpiece. Such a score is given only if the project has made a breakthrough and claims to be on a par with Fallout, Command & Conquer and Doom. “ Nice, that’s just to check the game for compliance with this criterion, we can only after ten to twenty years.
It is worth remembering that reviewers are people too (surprise!) And they also have their own tastes and views of the world. There is always a specific author behind the text, and not the ephemeral collective mind of the editorial board. And two people who gave the same grade could well have come to it for different reasons. Perhaps these reasons even contradict each other. Then what is this mythical number summing up under the text? And does it even make sense?
⇡ #Objectivity is somewhere near
From the very beginning, I want to talk about the myth of objectivity. What is objectivity? “Wikipedia”, <сарказм> stronghold of objectivity сарказм>, gives the following definition: “Belonging to the object, independence from the subject; characteristics of factors or processes that do not depend on the will or desire of a person“.
The Oxford Dictionary conveys a similar message – objectivity is “impartiality, lack of bias in assessing something., in judging about something.“. Ozhegov, unfortunately, did not give a definition of this word, but he shed light on the concept of “objective”, which is even more important in the context of our conversation: “Existing outside of us as an object“. Various dictionaries repeat his thought. “Existing outside of consciousness and independently of it“, – Small academic dictionary. “Corresponding to an object that exists outside of us and independently of us“, – Ushakov’s explanatory dictionary.
Definitions from various sources, plus or minus, agree that objectivity does not depend on human perception. This is an unshakable fact. An objective view should be completely devoid of both opinion and value judgment. Any assessment given on the basis of one’s perception contradicts the main characteristic of objectivity – it (objectivity, not an assessment) exists outside a person, cannot be interpreted or perceived through the prism of any views, ideas or tastes.
In this case, can a text describing a certain work of art be objective? Quite – after all, the object has characteristics for the measurement of which there are devices of sufficient accuracy. For example, for a film, this is timing, the number of actors, replicas, frames in which this or that character is present, frames with computer graphics, and so on. You can even chart the color palette of your movie. How much of this will be of benefit to the reader is another question, but it will definitely be the most objective story.
Video games have their own characteristics too. But, obviously, such an approach will turn the review into a sterile enumeration of facts. It will be extremely difficult to challenge them, but what’s the point in such a text? A great example is Jim Sterling’s banter on Final Fantasy XIII. It logically and absolutely undeniably notes irrefutable facts: “When you start the game, the game begins.”, “After starting the game, you see 3D graphics”, “There is also sound in the game” etc.
Of course, Jim exaggerates as much as possible, but correctly conveys the essence. You can add as many facts and characteristics of the game as you like to this text (the number of characters, the description of the combat system in numbers, the area of the world, and so on), but the degree of usefulness of such an impartial and objective review will still tend to zero. In the comments under the material, by the way, they subtly noted that there was not enough objectivity – the screenshots were chosen based on Sterling’s personal preferences!
I hope you understand the irony of the “opinion is biased” claim? This is, hehe, an objective fact – opinion is conceptually subjective. As soon as a “perceiving subject” appears in the formula, objectivity is lost. You can try to look for a “ruler of objectivity” that can be applied to the work and voiced the verdict with millimeter precision, but I personally find it strange to measure Apex Legends, Dragon’s Lair, and Planescape: Torment from F1 2020 with such a hypothetical ruler.
⇡ #There is such a profession – “Igrozhur” … Or not?
A simple conclusion suggests itself: there is no objectivity in assessment or a general measure (or they have not yet been found). Therefore, all that remains for us is a subjective view with the “evidence base” of our words. We are not judges. If we are going to go into legal analogies, then the reviewers are lawyers and prosecutors, sometimes in one person. Sometimes reviewers are called “game journalists”, which seems to me erroneous (we are now talking about reviews, and not about another really journalistic investigation by Jason Schreier).
A quote from the International Principles for the Professional Ethics of Journalists:The primary task of a journalist is to ensure that people receive truthful and reliable information through an honest reflection of objective reality. The journalist presents facts in good faith, preserving their true meaning and avoiding distortion. He makes the most of his creativity to ensure that the public receives enough material to form an accurate and coherent view of the world. So that the origin, nature and essence of events, the course and state of affairs are understood as objectively as possible“.
The journalist does not assess the events, he is an outside observer, retelling as accurately as possible what he sees and hears. The reviewer, which is logical, writes a review. Different dictionaries give this word, plus or minus the same description: “Critical analysis and evaluation of a new artistic or scientific work“.
I think the interpretation of the concept of a review in the Dictionary of Linguistic Terms Zherebilo is especially successful: “One of the types (genres) of professional essay-reasoning with elements of description and narration, in which the output of the book (articles, etc.) is given, the problematics of the work is revealed, the author’s position is stated, the author’s conclusions are analyzed, the tasks posed by the author are explained, the timeliness is justified or the untimely appearance of this book …“. Which quite accurately reflects the discussed lesson. Of course, the quality of our “writing-reasoning” varies. Just like the quality of artwork. It turns out that a review is to a certain extent a creative act, not journalism. The author cannot be removed from creativity, because then the meaning is lost.
⇡ #Point for this, point for that
Let’s be honest, dear readers of reviews rarely read the entire text. Lucky if you skim the introduction and conclusion. Attention is mainly focused on evaluation. At the dawn of game journalism (the term “journalism” is hereinafter used for convenience sake), the authors disassembled the average game into separate cogs. Interactive entertainment was simple in design, unlike movies, and the approach was convenient. Most often, you could see a plate with four to five characteristics: gameplay, graphics, sound, plot and final score. Take, for example, a table from the “Igromania” of the 2000s – an imperishable classic!
Sometimes modifications were made: some introduced ephemeral concepts in the spirit of “value for the genre” (that’s an objective criterion, of course), others split the existing criteria even more (sound was subdivided into music and other sound accompaniment, and graphics – into technical advancement and artistic performance) … Some still tried to come to objectivity in a roundabout way: take, for example, the Japanese magazine Famitsu, where the final score is made up of the opinions of four authors, which supposedly makes the review more objective. Although there are certainly many who want to argue with the “objective” 39 points out of 40 awarded by Final Fantasy XIII. And for an average score, you can always go to aggregators like Metacritic or Opencritic.
Over time, the gaming media has embarked on a course of simplification and non-compartmentalization. The point here, it seems to me, is that games have become more and more complex and intricate mechanism. Genres, mechanics, approaches were mixed. The further, the more difficult it was to break them into independent pieces and separate one from the other. Even if each of the elements was far from perfect implementation, this did not prevent the game as a whole from becoming great (for example, this can be said about Deus Ex). A separate assessment of the components has lost its meaning. Therefore, in due time we got rid of individual points in the summary table, only formulating the impression of different aspects of the project.
At first, complex tables went under the knife, and then in the final grade the gradation became easier. Although some Old Believers still use a 0.1 step (eg IGN), the vast majority have moved to a ten or even four or five point system. Eurogamer has completely gone to idle “Recommended“ / “Not recommended “, plus for special projects reserved” Essential “- the equivalent of” 10 out of 10 “. I am also impressed by the ACG youtube channel system: “buy“, “take at a discount“, “lend“, “to avoid“…
By the way, about “10 out of 10”. Unexpectedly, different people usually mean very different things by this. And this does not mean at all that the work is perfect and that everyone will like it. They simply don’t exist. Take any game, film, book, picture, or even a building that you (and even the overwhelming majority) consider a masterpiece, and there will certainly be a few people who don’t like it. And the creators themselves often see better than others where they could have done better, but did not do it for one reason or another. “10 out of 10” is a work that for some reason touched the reviewer to the core, and its text will say what him I liked it. And what is it to you can please.
In recent years, one can come across the idea that game journalism has distorted the perception of ratings. They say that the scale has narrowed – from 6 to 10. But I see it as a delusion – reality, as usual, is much more prosaic. The fact is that there are a lot of games. Incredibly many. This is no longer a small sandbox for a handful of enthusiasts “in the know”, but a colossal machine serving a significant mass of the world’s population, and its coverage is only growing. We love this car, but our beloved gaming industry goes far beyond the lighting capabilities of any given edition. Even in order to review the most worthwhile new items – or at least some of them – you have to strain. You may have noticed that 3DNews publishes two in-game texts per week, on weekends, and sometimes a third during the week (but this luxury is not always in our schedule). Therefore, we try to select potentially good projects that are interesting to us and, we hope, to some part of our readers. And most often we guess.
But not always. Sometimes it happens to stumble upon really bad games. From my experience Extinction or Those Who Remains immediately come to mind (our editor of the game section Artem Terekhov with a shudder recalls FlatOut: Chaos & Destruction)… If I had my way, in half an hour I would have rid the hard drive of them forever. But the reviewer has to wade through this to the end (and even find some positive points in it). No matter how you feel about the next Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect: Andromeda, believe me, they are much more interesting, more thoughtful, more beautiful, more talented, more exciting and better in every possible element than any Day One: Garry’s Incident or Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta. The latter became an editorial meme, and one of us even took the joke too far: passed it 100% and got all the achievements. But now let’s not talk about the obsession with “achievements”, this is a topic for a separate material.
There is an opinion that in game journalism there is a taboo on low marks for high-budget games – they say, one must not anger the publisher, otherwise he will not give the next game. But, firstly, we ourselves will buy what we are interested in. Secondly, in the long run it will hit the publisher himself more painfully: if everything is bad, news like “they refused to provide us with the project”, coupled with a negative review afterwards, will look worse than just a negative review.
In reality, everything is more banal – an expensive game is most often at least well-cut, looks nice and knows how to bring simple pleasure. Even when not everything in the game works, the reviewer still needs to take a sober look at the overall level of performance. For example, our author Ivan Byshonkov sincerely does not like the latest God of War for the vector of development that the creators chose for the series – a deeply subjective moment that directly influenced the final score. However, Ivan still had to acknowledge the technical achievements of the developers and the well-functioning mechanics in the text – it’s hard to argue with that.
However, even a weighty budget does not guarantee at least normal performance. A recent prime example is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. The mythical “fear of the publisher” did not prevent most of the media from leaving a stone unturned from the game in their reviews – it would seem that with such money Ubisoft could make a normally working shooter, but no.
Although, maybe the suitcases just didn’t arrive? Where without them. How many under my texts (and the overwhelming majority of colleagues) I have read accusations of corruption, and at least once the suitcase really got to me … oh, it would not be so offensive to read these “revelations”. Here’s what is strange: if the suitcase, for example, was given to the editorial office, then as an author, what is the reason for twisting the assessment? And how can the editor-in-chief, who counts the dollars, convey to me the necessary “party policy” in such a way that I later will not tell the whole world about it? Today I work in this editorial office, tomorrow I will not, but the correspondence will remain – why not rip off the veils and get your moment of glory by becoming a whistleblower of suitcase! Be the notorious suitcases real, there should already be a dime a dozen such stories, but so far something is not visible …
“The fool understands that the point is in your trips abroad! Give a bad grade – will not be invited to press tours! ” One caveat – there are many people in the editorial office, and the likelihood that the same person will go to the press tour (when and if they will resume), who will eventually write a review, is extremely small.
There was an interesting case recently. Under the review of Serious Sam 4, the “tearing off the veils” took new heights: it turns out that competitors are paying to have objectionable games drowned in bad ratings! Neither the text nor the assessment was purely negative, but such details are often not interesting to the whistleblowers.
Not a single publication, and even more so a publishing house, will risk its reputation in life to give 1-2 points to a project. This will not make the difference in terms of sales, and if it opens up, it will be extremely difficult to launder. Unfortunately for all conspiracy lovers, a high rating means only one thing – the author really liked the game. And he completely sincerely tells what was the matter for him. It is far from a fact that your perception of the same things will be identical.
⇡ #How can I rate you?
Difficulty in the perception of the final score usually arises from the fact that the number itself does not say anything. Without the text, it is impossible to understand what the score is for. It is obvious. But it is a little less obvious that each person has his own system of values. Поэтому бывают случаи, когда 80% текста игру ругают-ругают, в конце мелькает пара абзацев про «историю, которая никого не оставит равнодушным!» и нестыдные 7/10 в итоге.
Как же так, обругать практически каждый аспект, но в итоге оценить положительно? Да всё просто — тема проекта вызвала настолько сильный отклик у автора, что в конечном счёте это лично для него перевесило большинство недостатков. Ведь игра, как и любое художественное произведение, всегда воспринимается как единое целое, несмотря на все попытки разбить её на составляющие. Очень редко проект равен сумме его составляющих. Это, скорее, сумма тех эмоций, что вы получите за время, проведённое с игрой, позитивных и/или негативных. Конечно, хороший текст в любом случае должен содержать и описание всех недостатков (по мнению автора).
Тут рождается главное противоречие. Мы должны как рецензенты, с одной стороны, отстраненно взглянуть на общую картину, а с другой — пропустить ее через собственный жизненный и игровой опыт, чтобы прийти к какой-то оценке. А это цели, которые порой (чаще, чем хотелось бы) противоречат друг другу. Мне пришлось чуть ли не по рукам себя бить, чтобы не поставить ELEX оценку повыше. Умом я понимаю все её многочисленные недостатки, но подход Piranha Bytes к гейм-дизайну люблю всем сердцем. Но если люблю я, то вы вовсе не обязаны.
Оценку нужно рассматривать вкупе с текстом, и только так. Хотя бы с общими выводами, чтобы понять, за что она вообще поставлена. Но раз оценка сама по себе не имеет смысла, зачем ее вообще ставить? Хороший вопрос, который мы (и, уверен, многие другие редакции) частенько обсуждаем. Мне кажется, в дальнейшем все больше ресурсов будут упрощать, а то и вовсе упразднять балльную шкалу.
Впрочем, текст в отрыве от финального численного выражения тоже нельзя воспринять однозначно. К примеру, позитивный тон текста обусловлен отточенной механикой, а вам она просто не интересна. Fortnite ведь хорошо работает с точки зрения гейм-дизайна, но не каждому по нраву перспектива вариться в одном котле с ее аудиторией, или визуальная сторона не нравится, или жанр в целом. А может, вам какие-то действия Тима Суини не по душе или его очки не нравятся, и поэтому вы игнорируете все продукты Epic Games. На здоровье, но Fortnite все равно хорошо работает с точки зрения гейм-дизайна, через какие очки на нее ни смотри.
К одному и тому же предмету люди относятся по-разному. Взять такие эфемерные вещи, как «атмосфера». Каждый воспринимает ее индивидуально. Или развитие персонажей. Иногда они плоские, а иногда они совершают не такие поступки, какие хотелось бы игроку. Он расстроится, ведь ждал и надеялся на другое, и чувствует себя обманутым. В то время как другой игрок может понять поступок сценариста и принять историю такой, как ее задумали (никаких намеков на конкретные произведения, конечно же).
Хороший обзор, на мой взгляд, — это попытка разложить игру на ключевые элементы, описать свое отношение к каждому выделенному кусочку, а затем заново собрать единую картину. В этой игре упор на перестрелки с постоянной ротацией оружия — элемент. Стрелять здесь чертовски приятно, потому что чувствуется каждый выстрел, будто вы сами спускаете курок, а цель реалистично реагирует на попадание — авторское видение элемента. Прочитав такой текст, вы хотя бы поймете, что:
- в игре упор на бодрый экшен;
- автору нравится его реализация.
Но понравится ли она вам, даже если вы любитель экшена? Не факт. Поэтому важно обратить внимание на сравнения (если они есть в тексте) и хотя бы бегло ознакомиться с последними рецензиями автора, чтобы понять, насколько его вкусы близки к вашим. Даже не столько вкусы, сколько ощущения от игр.
В рецензии главное, как ни странно, — ее автор и близость его вкусов к вашим. Нет смысла воспринимать оценку под любым текстом как некую истину или, упаси боже, жаловаться на отсутствие объективности. Разумеется, объективности нет ни в одной рецензии. Лишь попытка выразить опыт, полученный автором при знакомстве с произведением, и дать ему оценку…
* * *
Вряд ли на свете существует хоть одна рецензия, с которой согласится каждый ее прочитавший (кроме рецензии Джима Стерлинга на FF XIII, конечно). И это нормально. Более того, это хорошо, что есть разные мнения. Все они одинаково истинны, потому что люди уникальны в своём восприятии мира. Мы всегда рады, когда читатели выражают свою позицию в комментариях. Но есть важное требование — она должна быть уважительной. В противном случае ни о каком диалоге речи не идёт, а все набросы на вентилятор — не более чем пустое сотрясание воздуха. Давайте будем вежливыми друг к другу и любить игры, разные и за разное.
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