Now Is The Winter Of Our Discount Tent

Ed Zitron 5 min read

Today is potentially the day I am allowed to go home. I am feeling mostly recovered, and I have officially hit the point where the novelty of being alone and having my entire day to myself has disappeared. I miss my family, my own bed, my animals, my normal world where I am not isolated in a weird glass box all day.

I managed to get back on the bike yesterday, which felt good in the sense that I didn’t die, but it did feel harder on my breathing. I assume it’s going to be a road to recovery of some sort, and I am not looking forward to having to drag myself onto the bike for shorter, shittier rides until I improve.

Gamer Argument Simulator 2077

The review embargo has dropped for Cyberpunk, the game that nobody thought would come out, and it sounds like it kind of sucks? Polygon had a review that was a fairly damning social commentary on the game’s extremely murky treatment of trans lives, and Kotaku suggests it just isn’t that…fun. And nobody should be surprised, really. I didn’t even like The Witcher 3, yet everyone enjoyed that, and Cyberpunk has spent years in development hell, pumping itself up, and the very same press that is currently flaying it are the same ones that helped. Which sucks, because people will probably buy this game and have huge arguments about how good it is, and it’s going to lead to a lot of really boring, unproductive conversations about it.

I think as I’ve grown older, even though I’m still remarkably argumentative, I don’t really feel the energy to get in big disputes about games anymore. In another life I’d have gone completely psycho on this Defector (who I love) piece about Miles Morales for falling hook line and sinker for the most puddle-deep definition of ‘anti-capitalist’ I’ve ever seen. I even feel the takes bubbling up writing that sentence. But I don’t feel the urgency to start huge arguments like I used to. Okay, what I actually mean is that I am far more aware of how big an argument you can create with one sentence, and thus I’m not going to indulge that unproductive part of my brain with more anger-food. Even if I do want to go completely insane and write an entire 2000 word article about Miles Morales.

I’ll probably play Cyberpunk at some point, when it’s inevitably discounted to $30 in two months because it’s a long game, and a lot of people are not going to buy and play it because of that. But right now there are probably some of the worst arguments of all time being had online about the game, in the worst faith, made by people who have not played it, aimed at people who have played it.

Personally, I do think there’s an issue - as a former games journalist - with criticism in games, but it’s nothing to do with ethics in games journalism, or any of that shit. It’s about what games journalism sees as the actual service within a review of a video game. I’ve felt like this since I started writing about games in 2005,  and it isn’t a new feeling, but I really do not feel sometimes as if some people who write about and review games actually review them from the perspective of someone paying $50-70 for a game.

The Miles Morales discourse would have you believe, for example, that Miles Morales is a great game that is worth $50, and that it was better than the original Spider-man on PS4, yet few of the reviewers seemed to have compared them. Polygon’s Doom Eternal review - and indeed most reviews of the game - fails to mention that Doom Eternal is a fundamentally different game to 2016’s Doom, which significantly more platform bullshit constantly interrupting your gameplay. I could not find one NBA2k21 review that mentions how consistently ugly and buggy it is - your player sits down next to another player on a chair, constantly, and their arms clip through each other, there are constant slowdown issues, just an ugly, ugly game that costs $70. Immortals: Fenyx Rising stinks, but even more negative reviews (70%) say it’s “arcade fun” when it’s loose, ugly and animated like the townspeople from Wreck-It Ralph. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla looks fine, but, again, feels loose and ugly, and takes forever to go anywhere. And yet it has an 84% on Metacritic. People call it “glorious” when it has a color palette from two generations ago.

I used to believe that the issue was that publishers would sever contacts with outlets if they gave bad reviews, but in truth, the real issue is that I do not believe many critics are willing to give bad reviews at all.  It’s not a new problem, but it seems that reviewers think that there should be a minimum score for certain games - that a triple-A title should get a baseline score just for existing, because people expect it to be good, and there is a weird kindness addressed to certain titles based on certain aesthetics or publishers. Reviewers attempted to deal with this by removing the scoring system from their articles, but in my mind that’s just become a safety valve against people saying you’re “too mean.” I think that critics should be mean about games - they should give their honest opinion, and if they loved something, they should rave about it, and if it’s mediocre, it should be getting 5/10 or 6/10.

It’s hard to do in such a binary way, but, for example, Doom Eternal should have been flayed for the amount of times it interrupts you with some sort of insufferable fetch-quest to align some ring to portal you to a place so you can go to another place. It has 88% on Metacritic because, in my mind, critics have developers and particular things they’re fans of, and that they’re willing to go to great lengths to forgive the follies of. That, and they didn’t pay for the game, and I think that’s something that gaming criticism needs to ingrain in itself - if I paid $60 for this, how would I feel? If I’m someone that can afford one game every two months at max, how would this game feel to me?

This has been an issue a while. I’ve tried to give bad games bad scores and had editors up said scores because the expectation of the game’s “goodness” is higher than the evaluation I gave it (it was back at PC Zone, there’s nothing you can do). I think that a lot of triple-A titles get given these scores because the writers also don’t want to get the slew of hateful, angry shitheads who expect a particular score for a game, or disagree with the review of the game they haven’t played. People are extremely defensive of the things that they love, and even more so of the things they’ve convinced themselves they love, and I don’t think outlets are necessarily open to giving the damning reviews that they need.

But I really do wish that reviewers were more considerate of exactly what it is they’re doing. Maybe that’s why I was considered a hater back in the day - I used to review with the core idea that someone reading what I wrote would be spending money as a result, and that I could not misguide them. C’est la vie, I guess.

More from Ed Zitron's Where's Your Ed At

Empty Laughter

Amongst the sludge of AI-powered everything at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, a robbery took place. “Dudesy —” allegedly a
Ed Zitron 15 min read

Welcome to Where's Your Ed At!

Subscribe today. It's free. Please.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Ed Zitron's Where's Your Ed At.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.