Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Why You Should (Or Shouldn't) Listen To Me

There's been a subject I've wanted to touch on for a couple weeks now but didn't know if I wanted to do it here in print or with the fine folks over at ForceDisconnect on the podcast. However, since I'm shy as all get out when it comes to my vocals, I think the typed word is the appropriate medium. That subject is, "Why The Hell Should You Listen To Me?" And, in truth, I don't know if all of you should.

Don't get me wrong. When I sit down and write things like "this game is unplayable" or "don't waste your money" in a review or a random 140 character or less tweet/status update, nearly 100% of the time every single person out there would do well to heed said advice. The other end of the spectrum applies as well where I tell you a game is a "must have" and, though I don't expect every person to rush for their credit card (speaking of which, don't do that), it's worth your time to give it a little bit of attention. No, these things are pretty much a universal with every reviewer out there, and it's pretty rare when nine out of ten remotely respected reviewers say a game is perfect and the odd one out that commands that same respect says the game is complete butt.

What I'm talking about is everything in the middle. The "surprisingly disappointing" or "unique gem" titles. It's titles like those that you'll see the widest range of scores or opinions from reviewers. Take XBLIG platformer Kaleidoscope. I thought the presentation gave the game a great storybook feel and that the experience of the game was well worth the $3 asking price, but others didn't enjoy some of the problems with the platforming and hit detection and that was a deal breaker for them. Or, another XBLIG example, Shoot 1UP. One of the first reviews I read about the game was a review on Kotaku saying that the game looked horrible. And some others blasted the grainy look, low difficulty, and blatant use of bewbs. Others, like myself, said the game was one of the best dollars you could spend on the system, and it remains my favorite shmup on the 360. Moving to games I haven't reviewed, Space Giraffe. I don't think I've seen such a wide spectrum of reviews, ranging from "best XBLA game" to, my own personal opinion, "what is this I don't even". How do things like this happen? Are they all playing the same game? Bad mood?

The answer is, quite simply, taste. I won't say it's good or bad taste, because it's really not that. No, with reviewers, it's similar tastes that you need to be looking for. One of the things that attracts a lot of people to some of the more famous reviewers or personalities on the internet, such as Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation or Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade, is the fact that people agree with them about the games they play. I personally love reading each and every news post that goes with the PA comics because I usually agree with what Tycho says about video games. I can't play the FPS titles he plays, but when he went off about how awesome Culdcept was I listened, searched, and ended up buying a copy and loved every second of it. It's that sort of thing I watch for, and it serves me well.

So, what can you take away from this? If you enjoy what a person likes and see the reasoning with what they avoid, that's a reviewer you might want to start following. It's a little difficult to do with some of the more commercial sites or gaming magazines, so a lot of times you'll find yourself visiting smaller sites or independent blogs (woohoo!) with this in mind. I love the personal touch a lot of these offer, and though I usually don't know any of these people personally I feel like they speak more to gamers than larger sites do. Truthfully, I think that's why I started doing this random ramble every week. You'll get to know me, you'll see what I do and don't enjoy, and hopefully I'll steer you toward the ones you'll like and away from the ones you'll regret. And, with that, I wish you good night and will leave it with a quote from Emerson. "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success."

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