Saturday, March 29, 2014

An Introduction to Bimodal Game Reviews

Hello fellow gamers, and welcome to Bimodal Game Reviews. Bimodal Game Reviews is a two man team made up of myself, Ryan, and my colleague and good friend Ethan. We are two guys with two different tastes and opinions on video games. We are here to sort out the trash that is the video game review industry.

Why do I say it's trash? There is a serious disconnect between what the big name reviewers say about a video game and what the actual users think. For example, Call of Duty: Ghosts currently has a metacritic score of 73 (out of 100). A respectable score, but not great. Meanwhile the user score currently stands at 2.4 (out of 10). Titanfall has a metacritic score of 88 and a user score of 6.2. Total War: Rome II has a metacritic score of 7.6 but a user score of 4. Want more? Because I could keep going. So why this huge gap? Money. Anonymous users on the internet have nothing to lose, or gain, from posting honest reviews. A guy who shells out 60 bucks on a highly marketed game that is a flop is going to be pretty upset, and rightfully so. However, websites that review video games do stand to lose, and if you think that developers don't take reviews seriously, think again. Some developers get paid bonuses for reaching high metacritic scores. So how do developers get good reviews? Did you say, "By making good video games?" Don't be ridiculous!

That's just... I can't believe you said that

They get their money by paying off the review websites. Well, at least indirectly. Gaming websites write reviews to bring traffic to their sites. The traffic means revenue from advertisements. Those same advertisements are paid for by the game publishers whose game is getting reviewed. Ever been to a gaming website the couple of weeks leading up to a AAA title game being released and seeing lots of advertisements for that same game on the website? Me too. That's no coincidence. That's the game publishers paying the website. If that website decides to give the game a bad review, they might not be seeing anymore of that sweet, sweet ad revenue from the publishers. That's not a risk they're willing to take. That's something I like to call bullcrap.

Long story short, Ethan and I have had it with video game review sites. I want to be able to find a reliable review for a video game before I spend my hard earned money on it, and I know you do too. So, we'll start our own review system! With honesty! And without bias!

You might be wondering how we're any different. Well as I said earlier, we're two different people with two different opinions. Two different guys looking at a video game through two different angles and perspectives is an incredible advantage. If a reviewer really loves MMORPG's  then he's probably going to give an MMORPG a really good review whether or not it deserves it, so by having two different tastes in games we'll avoid that bias.

Here's how it works. About every week we will right a review of a video game, and occasionally we'll throw in a miscellaneous article about video game related stuff we feel like talking about instead of a review. We'll each have our own system of how to review the game. Ethan will explain his system in his own introduction, and I will explain mine right now. Let's go!

To get an understanding of how I will review video games we need to go back a few years. Specifically, we need to go back about 2,349 years to the year 335 BC. This is around the time the great philosopher Aristotle wrote Poetics. Aristotle was challenged by Plato before writing this great work. Plato argues that poetry (which in the ancient Greek refers to not just poetry but theater, writing, and the creative process in general) is pointless and serves no purpose. Aristotle writes the Poetics in response to Plato's argument. You can read it here if you like.

Aristotle does a beautiful job of breaking down the creative process and storytelling. He lists six elements of tragedy in order of importance beginning with the most essential: plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. He explains that plot is essential, and there is nothing without it. I like to think that Aristotle was a pretty smart guy and knew lots of stuff about things, so I'll take his word for it when he makes his arguments.

Knowing this, I want to take what Aristotle said about the creative process and tweak it to review video games. I have come up with my own 5 elements that a video game must posses, and they are, in order of importance: Gameplay, Story, Graphics, Music, and Controls. Out of these five elements, gameplay is the most important with story followed closely behind, and not unlike plot in Poetics, gameplay is the essential element. Without gameplay, there is no video game.

Gameplay, as stated earlier, is the essence of a game. It's what makes the game fun. Additionally, story encompasses everything that Aristotle discusses in Poetics, so it is incredibly important in video games as well. Story is totally separate from gameplay, however. You can have a video game that is purely gameplay and no story, and it will still be a good game. On the other hand, you could have a video game with very little to minimum gameplay and a great story, and it can also be a good game. But when you have a game with great gameplay AND great story, then you have stumbled upon a fantastic game.

So gameplay and story are the two things that I value the most. The next three things are also important, but not nearly as important as the first two. When it comes to graphics, music, and controls, these three things aren't something that can totally make a game by themselves (like gameplay and story). For example, a game can have amazing graphics, but if it is a dull cookie-cutter game with unoriginal gameplay or a bland story, it is nothing more than a really nice looking cookie with boring chocolate and tasteless dough.

Anyone else hungry all of a sudden?

Graphics, music, and controls are typically things that, when done correctly, go unnoticed. That's because they're doing their jobs. It's like the garbage man. He's an essential part of society, and we very much need his services. But the second he stops working, trash starts piling up. It's sad but it's the truth. The same goes for these three elements. When done well they can really add to the game, but most of the time they are overlooked. If, however, one or more of these three things are done poorly, it can really put a damper on a video game.

To summarize, gameplay and story are by far the most important and essential parts of a game. Graphics, controls and music are things that don't necessarily make the game good on their own, but still have the potential to add or take away from the game itself.

I will score a game based on each element. Gameplay and story will receive a score out of 15 and 10 respectively while the last three (graphics, music, & controls) will not technically receive a score. If I believe one of these last three is done so badly that it takes away from the game, then I will deduct one extra point. If one of these three is done very well, then I will add one extra point. If they neither add nor take away from the game, they will receive no points. For these to add or deduct points they have to perform above and beyond (or below) the call of duty. These points will be rare. To see it visually:

Video Game X
Gameplay: 13/15
Story: 8/10
Graphics: 0 (Neither done well nor done poorly)
Music: +1 (Done very well)
Controls: -1 (Done very poorly, somehow made the game worse)

Total:  8 + 13 = 21 + 1 - 1 = 21/25 = 84%

In this example, music added a bonus point because the game had amazing music. The controls, however, were so bad that it made the game less fun, so a point was taken away. Graphics were up to par, so no changes were made. The game scores a great score of 84/100.

Here is how my scoring system should be interpreted:
100/100: The game in every sense of the word perfect. No flaws and an incredible experience. Must own.
90 - 99: The game is an amazing experience. A couple of flaws are found. Must play.
80 - 89: The game is great. Some flaws are found. Would recommend playing.
70 - 79: The game is good. Some flaws are found with one or two large ones. Worth trying
60 - 69: The game is decent. Several flaws with some large ones. If cheap price, should play.
50 - 59: The game is poor. Many flaws large and small. Only play if very cheap or free.
0 - 49: The game is considered a failure. Flaws outweigh the pros. Do not recommend.

In conclusion, Our goal is to bring you unbiased opinions on video games. Period. We want you to feel comfortable buying games based on our recommendations (or not buying them). We're just as sick as you are of greedy game reviewers giving biased opinions. Hopefully we can shed some light on this industry and learn a few things along the way. Tune in next time when we review the only game I consider to be a  perfect 100/100. Then after that, a game Ethan considers to be as close to a perfect 100/100 a game can be. We will be setting the standard for all video games to follow. If you're going to set the bar, you might as well set it high!

Until next time,


No comments:

Post a Comment