bit-gamer.net

My Guilty Secret: The Games I Haven't Played

Posted on 17th Mar 2009 at 13:20 by Joe Martin with 30 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve got a guilty secret when it comes to gaming, several in fact, which I’ve carried for an awfully long time and have occasionally haunted parts of my professional life. There are times when I’ve confessed these things and the result has universally been one of shock and disappointment. Quite simply; there are games I haven’t played.

Well, obviously. There are lots of things I haven’t played; awful tat like Imagine: Petz and so on. What I’m explicitly talking about here though are the reputedly great games out there which I’m expected to have played, but haven’t. Things like Diablo 2, for example.

It doesn’t sound like a huge issue, but it actually is. There’s a huge assumption out there that as a games journalist I should have played every game, ever – or at the very least I should’ve played every game that’s scored a 7/10 or more. There’s a consensus among readers and peers that a qualification for being allowed to review something is that a familiarity with every game like it. How can I write a story about Tomb Raider: Underworld if I skipped from Tomb Raider 2 straight to Legend and never even finished the first two games?

My Guilty Secret: The Games I Haven't Played Guilty Secret: Games I Haven't Played

Well, because I’m judging the game on its own merits and because good reviewing practice isn’t driven solely by increasingly out-dated comparisons, obviously. Whether or not Resident Evil 5 is any good has very little to do with Code: Veronica. That’s an argument that doesn’t always work though, especially with fanboys, despite the fact that if I’m missing out on particularly relevant experience then I can still delegate the work. I make sure that I only write about things I feel I can judge knowledgeably and fairly, which is why I’ll never review a Gran Turismo game.

Reviewing practice aside though, I often still worry about my lack of classic gaming credentials. Did you know I never played GoldenEye 64? Hell, I never even owned a console until the original Xbox. I’ve never touched StarCraft or Diablo or EVE: Online. I never even finished Ocarina of Time! There are definite strengths in my gaming history – especially when the focus moves away from strategy and retro consoles, but a lot of people don’t want to hear about them. They don’t want to hear anything from a man who’s not played Silent Hill 2. Or at least that’s how it feels.

The crux of this issue is, I think, qualification. You don’t need any qualifications to be a games journalist – something highlighted excellently in a recent article by Simon Byron about the problems with Metacritic. Contrary to assumption, a journalism degree isn’t required to be a journalist – it’s actually pretty damn rare to find someone with one, to be honest. The scholarly achievements of the new bit-tech / CustomPC team prove that; there are people here who are practically doctors and people who never even considered university.

My Guilty Secret: The Games I Haven't Played Guilty Secret: Games I Haven't Played

The only qualification anyone in games journalism really has is how widely briefed they are in games, and arguably how well their opinions align with the popular consensus. I’m convinced that I literally only have this job because I didn’t assert the honestly-held but somewhat controversial belief that Ocarina of Time owes more to nostalgia than actual quality when compared to, say, System Shock 2.

A lot of this was thrown up for me recently when, in my last blog post, I asked readers to suggest an old game for me to play. There were some suggestions that came out that I worried about saying I hadn’t played before, like Diablo 2, which is the game I’ve ultimately elected to play out of those suggestions. My career depends on my reputation to a large degree, which I feared could be put at risk if I admitted that I never played Syndicate Wars. I didn’t want to become a bit-tech laughing stock and face derision just because I’d not been given pocket money as a child.

Since then some things have become obvious. Firstly, this might all just be in my head. Secondly, I can’t (and shouldn’t) hide this. Thirdly, the only solution is to either play all those games or to accept and disclose the fact that, actually, I have no real interest in creating a Level 70 WoW character. The only path then is to write a blog post about it and tell you all.

If it is in my head then you can tell me. If it isn’t then you can suggest some games that you think are actually required reading for a games journalist. In the meantime, I’ll just nervously sit here and await your thoughts.

30 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Hugo 17th March 2009, 14:32 Quote
You should really complete Ocarina of Time as it is much better than System Shock 2 ;) (In jokes! yay!)

Joking aside, saying you're not qualified to review current games for having not played all games ever is like saying Tim can't review a Core i7 CPU because he hasn't also used Charles Babbage's Difference Engine - at least to my mind.

Edit: also, Metacritic's relevance and influence is ridiculously overstated in the games (journalism) industry. The vast majority of people buying games will never have heard of it and certainly wouldn't rely on its scoring as a basis to decide if they're going to buy a game.
Bauul 17th March 2009, 14:43 Quote
In all honesty I don't think you need to worry. I think if you turned around and said you had a level 70 WOW character, we'd all be pretty surprised. You don't have to be a total uber-l33t gamer to be able to write about them, or the most widely played person on the planet.

Compare Oz Clark and James May on the (actually quite amusing) Oz and James series about drink. Oz Clark is undoutedly a drink know-it-all, having sampled everything and has an informed opinion on anything. But we don't care what he thinks. We care what James May thinks, the average man on the street who only really cares about the flavour and getting pissed, and who's sense of relevance and style is locked firmly in the back end of the 70s.

We care what James has to say, and not Oz, because we can empathise with him. And likewise, we care what Joe Martin, pretty much your average informed gamer, says, far more than (for example) what Fatal1ty has to say. What matters is that you're a good journalist who can write in a highly amusing and accessible manner, not that you've played game X or not. We haven't played every game under the sun, and if you had, it'd be harder to relate to what you have to say. So in other words, just keep doing what you're doing.
ChaosDefinesOrder 17th March 2009, 14:44 Quote
I have a similar thing, in that I'm currently the president of the local Rocksoc, but I don't like Metallica - which surprisingly gets a lot of stick!

w.r.t games reviews, the only one that's really bugged me about Bit-Tech is the review for Devil May Cry 4, and in particular the complaint about the "hovering in the air when firing guns" gripe. I can see where you're coming from finding it a bit weird being new to the genre (appologies if it wasn't actually you reviewing it! Can't remember who it was!) but it is something that was an integral (and sometimes vital) part of the preceeding games.
Jordan Wise 17th March 2009, 15:06 Quote
What?! You've never played GoldenEye?! Eugh, can't believe I've been reading this site, you're all rank amateurs!

But in all seriousness, you can't argue that System Shock is better than Ocarina if you haven't completed both. And you can't argue that anyway because it just isn't true
GFC 17th March 2009, 15:13 Quote
I kind of have the same 'problem' (don't think it's a problem though), i haven't really played all of those games, but you know what? - i don't think you need to.
For example, i really like cod4 (mostly because it's the only decent game that runs on my pc xD), but i don't really give a dam* about other COD titles, why? - i hate world war games. Does that make me worse on COD4? - no, so why should i feel any less competent than those who played every single game released? and why should you?
tripwired 17th March 2009, 16:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
In all honesty I don't think you need to worry. I think if you turned around and said you had a level 70 WOW character, we'd all be pretty surprised. You don't have to be a total uber-l33t gamer to be able to write about them, or the most widely played person on the planet.

Compare Oz Clark and James May on the (actually quite amusing) Oz and James series about drink. Oz Clark is undoutedly a drink know-it-all, having sampled everything and has an informed opinion on anything. But we don't care what he thinks. We care what James May thinks, the average man on the street who only really cares about the flavour and getting pissed, and who's sense of relevance and style is locked firmly in the back end of the 70s.

We care what James has to say, and not Oz, because we can empathise with him. And likewise, we care what Joe Martin, pretty much your average informed gamer, says, far more than (for example) what Fatal1ty has to say. What matters is that you're a good journalist who can write in a highly amusing and accessible manner, not that you've played game X or not. We haven't played every game under the sun, and if you had, it'd be harder to relate to what you have to say. So in other words, just keep doing what you're doing.

+1
Blademrk 17th March 2009, 16:23 Quote
It's not necesary to have played (or even completed) most of the games released. I agree with Bauul, it's more the writing style - if the review/preview/whatever strikes a chord we're more likely to read more of your work.

Sometimes a background knowledge is useful, for example I played Darkstone a good few years back and it was almost identical to another popular game that was around at the time with only a few minor changes. So if I had read a review of it (which i hadn't as it was an impulse buy) I would have known that, but only if the reviewer had played that popular game doing the rounds.
AltruiSisu 17th March 2009, 17:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
In all honesty I don't think you need to worry. I think if you turned around and said you had a level 70 WOW character, we'd all be pretty surprised. You don't have to be a total uber-l33t gamer to be able to write about them, or the most widely played person on the planet.

Compare Oz Clark and James May on the (actually quite amusing) Oz and James series about drink. Oz Clark is undoutedly a drink know-it-all, having sampled everything and has an informed opinion on anything. But we don't care what he thinks. We care what James May thinks, the average man on the street who only really cares about the flavour and getting pissed, and who's sense of relevance and style is locked firmly in the back end of the 70s.

We care what James has to say, and not Oz, because we can empathise with him. And likewise, we care what Joe Martin, pretty much your average informed gamer, says, far more than (for example) what Fatal1ty has to say. What matters is that you're a good journalist who can write in a highly amusing and accessible manner, not that you've played game X or not. We haven't played every game under the sun, and if you had, it'd be harder to relate to what you have to say. So in other words, just keep doing what you're doing.

+2.5
Xtrafresh 17th March 2009, 18:22 Quote
Hi, my name is Joost and i never played Monkey Island....
nicae 17th March 2009, 18:22 Quote
lol@some of those not played!

Anyways, it's all about how you describe the products with text and images and how well you extract the critical aspects that people in general actually care about. Without forgetting the positives that the franchise's fanbois may want to know, or the so-and-sos that newcomers won't like to see.

You do a good job at it and have good writing skills (bad writing and typos are so distracting), so you're the man!
If I recommend you go through an old product, it's a suggestion from friend-to-friend, not from reader-to-journalist! ;)

Cheers to the BT/CPC team for the good job and for being the best PC-driven site out there! (So many have fallen to the corrupt way of the consoles :()
fathazza 17th March 2009, 18:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by article
there are people here who are practically doctors

So its true that Hiren is a midwife?

screw not having played Diablo 2.... Have you played Diablo (1) ???

Tho to be honest its not what games reviewers have played that matters... Its whether you can trust their reviews enough to lumping out 20 to 30 quid on a game just when they say 8/10... and a lot of that is about handing the right game to the right reviewer.... Gotta love it when it all goes wrong like the football manager 2009 IGN 2/10 debacle :)
tribalman 17th March 2009, 19:24 Quote
It is totally understandable, Joe that you have not played all the games. There are many I haven't played also, either from lack of money so I can purchase the game or just disinterest in the game. I love bit-tech because as you stated "I’m judging the game on its own merits". I trust the reviews on this site more than others. Too many times a game has been given a high score, only to feel of less quality to me. Most of the time the reviewers do not backup why they give a game a lower or higher score.
The_EXorcist 18th March 2009, 03:01 Quote
Bit Tech and Yahtzee. The only reviewers i trust, and then i use the "try before you buy" method anyway
Jordan Wise 18th March 2009, 10:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by The_EXorcist
Bit Tech and Yahtzee. The only reviewers i trust, and then i use the "try before you buy" method anyway

+ alec, keiron, jim and john at rock paper shotgun
CardJoe 18th March 2009, 11:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
+ alec, keiron, jim and john at rock paper shotgun

Those guys are pretty awesome - pretty much the guys whose opinion I trust most.
Yemerich 19th March 2009, 03:44 Quote
Whaa?? Never played Diablo 2, Syndicate wars, stonekeep, ultima VI, Ultima VIIa, Ultima VIIb, ultima underworld 1 &2, monkey island, day of the tentacle, keystone keeper, pitfall, pac-man, the immortal, thunder force 3, ps: Torment, starcraft, dark reign, elvira, eye of the beholder, knight mare 1 & 2, shinning in darkness, king's valley 1 & 2, nemesis 1 to 5, salamander, penguin adventure, fallout 1 &2 (FO3 IS NOT FO!!!), thief, hitman... ?

If you haven't played any of those, you will die and go straight to hell without passing through the purgatory!

Well i have to admit i never had the patience to play "deus ex" more than 5 mins.... And the last console game i've played was mario 64.

If you are going to play the past 30 years of classic games (pac man will turn 30 in 2010) you are going to get mad!

PS: Yes, i've played all those i said, and TONS more
CardJoe 19th March 2009, 08:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yemerich
ultima underworld 1 &2, monkey island, day of the tentacle, , pitfall, pac-man, the immortal,, ps: Torment, dark reign, elvira, eye of the beholder, fallout 1 &2 (FO3 IS NOT FO!!!), thief, hitman... ?

Played those ones :)
Spaceraver 19th March 2009, 09:49 Quote
D.O.T.T, Pac-man, Diablo I & II , Journeyman Project series, Syndicate wars and MYST. Those are the classics i can remember.

For all I care you could have stated that you never played games before you went and bought a PC for uni. You did, played some games and you love games.

That's all that matters Joe.
Blademrk 19th March 2009, 11:30 Quote
Blood & Magic, turn based dungeon crawler. I loved the demo I had of it but could never find the full game anywhere.
Fod 19th March 2009, 11:32 Quote
the RPS writers also write a lot of stuff for eurogamer. i admit i have a bit of a mancrush on kieron gillen's silken way with words.
CardJoe 19th March 2009, 12:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fod
the RPS writers also write a lot of stuff for eurogamer. i admit i have a bit of a mancrush on kieron gillen's silken way with words.

I'll admit, I was very giddy when I first met him. I remember reading his stuff in PC gamer when I was younger and deciding that was the coolest job in the world. I was the same when I first met Alec Meer at PC Format too. :o
Yemerich 19th March 2009, 22:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe

Played those ones :)

You are the man :) Loved every single of them.

Looks like MSX wasn't soo popular on UK. A real pitty, because some of the great games were born on that computer. Konami has made its name in the Z80 processor. Have you ever heard of "metal gear"? ;)

God! That was a golden age of creativity!
Zurechial 21st March 2009, 16:35 Quote
Quote:
Ocarina of Time owes more to nostalgia than actual quality when compared to, say, System Shock 2.

That's why we love your reviews, Joe. :)
Copenhagen 25th March 2009, 08:36 Quote
Not sure if you've played these or if they've been suggested, but I liked Warlords: Battlecry 3. I'm pretty sure this came out before Warcraft 3, but has several of the same features that made WC3 so popular.

Another one that comes to mind is a game called Giants. I don't remember everything about it, but it was an fps with an interesting storyline and dry humor.
Gareth Halfacree 25th March 2009, 09:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Copenhagen
Another one that comes to mind is a game called Giants. I don't remember everything about it, but it was an fps with an interesting storyline and dry humor.
That's Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Not a bad little game. Controversial at the time for the fact that one of the races - based loosely on mermaids - had VISIBLE B00BI3S!!oneeleven.
CardJoe 25th March 2009, 11:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
That's Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Not a bad little game. Controversial at the time for the fact that one of the races - based loosely on mermaids - had VISIBLE B00BI3S!!oneeleven.

And memorable because one of the races was absolutely bloody massive.
Gareth Halfacree 25th March 2009, 12:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
And memorable because one of the races was absolutely bloody massive.
Aye - the titular Kabuto, if I'm not mistaken.
nicae 25th March 2009, 12:25 Quote
There was a video review of a game by GiantBomb's Jeff Gerstmann (the one fired from Gamespot for giving a sponsor's game a bad score), IIRC SoulcaliberIV, which he starts out with "I like boobs. Boobs are awesome. But there's a limit."

I guess it would fit in well! ;)
Yemerich 25th March 2009, 12:27 Quote
Aye, citizen kabuto was very fun! I am pretty sure that black and white was inspired by that one.

And yes, Kabuto was the giant that eat and squash everything. Great title there. Strangely it is always forgotten...

Heretic 2 anyone?
spot forex 1st May 2009, 01:32 Quote
I learned something here. Thanks for posting.
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums