Way back, when magazines ruled games media like a paper oracle, every one in a while, you'd see a familiar missive in the letters page along the lines of, "Dear Mean machines Biscuit, I can complete Super Protector in less 15 minutes and not lose a life. Please can I write reviews for you?" And the little twat would have to be told that being good at games isn't qualification enough to write about and review video games, and they should look towards finishing school and working towards a English or journalism degree. Something like that. Well it seems old ignorance has been passed on, from gamecock to gamecock ("gamecock" being my catch all term for hardcore, video game devotees who treat the hobby like it's a religion and they're a grand inquisitor) . And the idea that the only thing a reviewer needs is expertise, alone, is still alive and well.
Of all the stupid things gamecocks get upset over. A fucking preview video, can you believe it? Here, have a look for yourself at this grave, affront to the profession of games journalism. Make sure to ask the frail or pregnant to avert their eyes first...
For the sake of those who couldn't brave the heresy of that video, GamesBeat writer, Dean Takahashi failed to get a 100%, no death run on his first ever go at the Xbox One exclusive contra-but-if-it-was-a-Max-Fleischer-cartoon game, Cuphead. So a guy, who is playing a game he's never played before, at a convention- where you're rushed for time at a noisy and cramped venue- wasn't very good at it. I'll give you a minute to sit down.
So naturally, people who quietly seethe with rage, because they believe video games is their wife, who's honor must be constantly defended, got upset that a professional games journalist wasn't shit hot at a game, first go, and Takahasi should be hauled over the coals for not being up to an imaginary bench mark they've set in their lizard brains. As is the way with gamecocks-and the minor infractions they turn into holy wars-there are equally shit people ready to cash in on masturbating the anger of said gamecocks.
That's a top drawer comparison, that 100% works for reporting on a video game. Thanks for that, you reactionary fucksters. I can assure you that I got my games reviewing license, first go, on a F-reg PS2. Nice little runner, still goes. Because, obviously, a certificate that proves you've taken a written and practical exam that shows you can control a tonne of metal on wheels, without mowing down a row of children or reversing into the newsagents, because it's the law, is exactly like hiring a shining knight to stand guard outside the office of every games magazine and website, to insure every writer who dares darken the doorstep of video games has some kind of documentation that shows they can, at least, ace God Hand on hard, find all the hidden rooms on Doom, and has seen the cat ninja on Neko Atsume.
And it wasn't just cynical hacks- who base their careers on nurturing the worst aspects of fandom- that believe you have to to be "good" at games. One writer (who will remain nameless, because I know shit like this goes)-who never threw their lot in with a hate group to boost their support, whom I respect a great deal-said them self, you need to have an above average skill level to review a game, citing a time they thought they were gonna get sacked for not being able to complete a survival horror game they had to review. In the past, I would've agreed. Bare in mind that was when there was nothing but shite games coverage on TV, presented by yelping streaks of piss. I wasn't that far off the gamecocks of today. I had a idiotic zealotry that made me think you had to have been playing for all your life to even talk about video games; be it on TV, the internet or in print. I now realise that was based in my own insecurities and professional jealousy. I still think you should have a basic familiarity with video games if you're going to critique them. The overall experience of a game can't be captured if you only to play 10 minutes past the tutorial stage. But completing every single side-quest, hidden section, and boss on the hardest setting isn't gonna a jot of difference to your review. No, really.
Let's get Takahashi's transgression out of the way. First of all, it's not a review. It was a preview. He was having a go on a game for the first time at a convention, where, usually, you have little to no information what the controls are, there's a huge queue of people wanting to play so you don't have time for a second playthrough- because there's umpteen more games to record. Making sure you're playing like a pro isn't usually the first thing on one's mind. Especially if the PR people are being cunts about not filming directly into the screen.
Secondly, not every games writer likes every game you like, or is as good at you at those games. I know that's shocking to someone who loves run and gun games, and has been counting the days (and delays) until Cuphead is (probably) released. But chances are Takahashi isn't. He has a bunch of other games to cover, play, then write about. And by the nature of the job, you can't play everything. So is Takahashi, or any games writer for that matter, supposed to be an expert at every game they cover? Or were you waiting for the editor of GamesBeat to chase you down the street, chequebook in hand, demanding you write all the game reviews? Oh, you don't want to review one of those "casual mobile games"? You only specialise in fighting games? You thought being being a game journo was all blowjobs and sunshine? That the only reason so many writers leave the profession is because they're making so much money, the bank has to stop them, lest the vault literally explodes from all that games journo cheese? Then back to the comments section you go.
If you haven't been indoctrinated into the "ethics in games journalism" brigade, then you'll know that all reviews are subjective, personal takes, informed by the critic's own opinions. If Takahashi happens to write a less than glowing review of Cuphead, then you can gather- if his writing is any good- that it's a game that only appeals to hard core fans of platform shooter games. Or perhaps the control system is hard to pick at first. So longs as he's professional to mention it, that's the reviewer doing their job. If he just spent the whole time slagging Cuphead off, because the one time he played it, he was rubbish at it then fair enough. You would have reason to take offence. But to think a duff, first go at a game is evidence of corruption/racism against gamers/Phil Fish giving handjobs for good review scores is as stupid as it fucking gets. Or should we employ pro-gamers to review games? They're fucking great at games. The only problem is they either communicate in monosyllabics, or swear at 68 decibels, or are so dull they'd put a coffee table to sleep. Unless the future of games reviews is just "...the graphics are good, I suppose. Framerate is off by 1, so it FUCKING SUCKS, YOU DIRTY BITCH! Buy this energy drink."
Gamecocks are not the only people who consume video games media. More often than not, they're the minority of the gaming audience. Sorry if that's a shock to you, but all sorts of people play video games. So having writers of differing levels of expertise attracts a wider audience. People like TotalBiscuit thrive on youtube because he makes content for a specific audience that only want his specific kind of video. That audience being PC wankers who like things explained to them at length by a self important windbag. Most magazines and sites have to cater to all formats and experience levels to attract the widest possible audience. Even the single format mags, because chances are it's the first port of call for someone who has just bought the respective machine.
Now let me explain why you don't really need to complete a game 100% to get an idea if it's any good or not. If you've been following my twitter for any amount of time, then you'll know (amongst the inane ramblings about crisps and my theory about the film Three Men and a Baby) of my love for the PS2 game, God Hand. I love it for the rough diamond it is. The unfinished look of the game, the tricky camera, and oft reused enemies doesn't ruin the sharp and customisable combat, and eccentric plot. If I had uploaded a video of my first playthrough you would of seen 15 minutes of me getting battered by the first two enemies in stage 1 of the game. But as luck would have it, the knights of ethica weren't watching, so I was able to use the clandestine technique of trying again until I got the hang of the controls, acclimatised to the shit camera, and sussing how the combat worked. I'm blowing the lid off the whole industry! I'll never get approached to flog some gambling site to kids now. Here's another revelation about my experience with God Hand; I've only completed it on easy. I can get to that giant fucking dragon on medium, but I just couldn't beat him. Does that mean my 8/10 score is invalid? Bollocks, it does. All it meant was I could inform you how tough it is. And I didn't need to have finished the game to have told you about the surreal cut scenes and the lightning fast fighting. The only thing a reviewer gets from completing a game is the entire story, and last time I checked, people don't like it when you give away plot spoilers. I didn't play Beverly Hills Cop (PS2) all the way through, but I'm pretty certain it kept playing like a darlek on Valium, with the same shit dialogue mechanic, and certainly wasn't keeping the proper "Axel F" theme until the end credits. And I had the luxury of having two weeks to play and write a review. I wasn't under the usual pressure of writing to a deadline- being a youtube reviewer. Worse yet if you couldn't get early review code, then your review loses out to everything that's up on the day of release. Or do you give writers you trust time to play through the entire game so their review lives up to your made up, bollocks qualifications? Or were you just looking for strangers to berate for not agreeing with the preconceptions you made from watching a trailer?
Not that I'm defending the hack method of playing for thirty minutes, copying a bit of someone else's review, then flogging the game down CEX. If Jim Sterling had only played the first 15 minutes of Hellblade and hadn't experienced the game-breaking bug, and not reported on it, then you could have reason to criticise Jim for not living up to the standards you'd expect from a games critic who especially prides themself as looking out for the consumer. But then he still got slagged off by the "git gud" arseholes. There's no winning with these pricks.
I guess, since the arcades all closed down, the gamecocks had to find a new way to ring fence their hobby, and keep the disbelievers away from the games they like. Because now they can talk directly to games writers, via social media. Free of the editor of the letters page, those very same twats, who would sneer at you for not being able to finish Sunset Riders on less than 50p, have infested the general gaming space with the backwards idea that if you don't love a game, it's because you're rubbish at it. Well you can fuck that idea, sky high.
If a reviewer clearly isn't into a particular game as much as you are, or as competent as you are, and it boils your stomach acids because of it, then go find someone who is and get their opinion. It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? But if you put the same effort you did getting your dick in a twist over someone you assume is in a privileged position, which they don't deserve in your eyes, into looking for a reviewer more close to your tastes- out of the thousands coming out of the internet's arse- then you could spend more time discovering new games you might like, and maybe stop turning video games into a moronic strain of identity politics. And with all that extra time, you can watch those expert car reviewers. that do car reviews, as they do.