Saturday, 26 November 2011

New Games Journalism objectivity VS subjectivity

Before I write my own video games review I thought id write about games writing so I could research the subject in more depth. This will in turn help me write a better review myself. It will cover the questions to consider from the critical studies handbook.

New games journalism or NGJ is  not just, this is your game, this is your character, this is what you do, which is typical of a standard objective video games review. It is a more creative analysis of games. NGJ uses games as a starting point into a more interesting subjects such as politics, ethical issues, the structure of elements in the game and references to other media. Its these issues that trigger the urge for the game to be written about.
After researching several examples of new games journalism, the articles I read where more concerned with the games impact and how it feels to play it the game. It is a deeper, personal more subjective way of writing about games and is a lot more interesting to read because of that.

For the record anything that angers/hurts/offends people is classed as interesting. What has society become? We have been reduced to savages that feed off the misery of others. This time we cant blame the media, if the consumer is lapping this up. This is the kind of topic that new games journalism may cover. Starting off talking about a game then lead the reader down a path to an article about racism and politics.

bjective ranking systems dont exist

I do not think that any ranking system of games are completley objective. They cant be, you cannot write an interesting games review based on fact and fact alone. To play a game enough to write about it you have to become "involved" or else how can you expect anyone reading it to be feel passionate about buying it. 
When Nintendo magazine first reviewed Capcoms game Okami it got excellent reviews, some even saying it was one of the best gaming experiences ever. The reviewer was clearly passionate or biased about the game in question. When has any journalist been famed for there honesty? Why should games journalists be viewed in any other light.

It sold poorly, I picked it up from the bargain bin in GAME. It was the best video game I have ever played in my life.

Can Professional games writers play enough of a game to really criticise it? In a subjective way. They could ,but most of them  probably dont. Professional games writers do this for a living, they dont have time to sit there playing games all day, when they have deadlines to meet.
They tend to play “just enough” of a game to write about it. To really understand a game you would have to play it through completley. Because of this It is my opinion that the content of video games reviews is half based on personal opinion and the other half widespread opinion, or public consensus which is often confused to mean the same thing as fact. It isnt.

Similarly if everyone on earth agreed that strawberries tasted nicer than raspberries (a scenario that can easily be obtained by killing everyone with a differing view) this would not become an objective matter, it is merely a subjective matter on which there is a consensus. “

If a lot of people think a games causes anti-social behaviour or encourages violence or racism or anything at all you can guarantee it will be seen as a fact. The fact is there will be an equal number of people who disagree.
In a world where poltical correctness has gone mad the 50 percent or more who disagree would not be able to voice there opinions.

An example of this is when the game resident evil 5 was written about as a starting point for an article about racism in video games. It was common consensus, not fact that the game was racist. The games content was seen as racist in the eyes of a large group of people. These personal opinions of others were widespread in the media, particularly on internet forums. I think a lot of the time its a case of “its interesting NOW so lets write about it".

The hyperthetical writings of Joe Journo

Games journalists, espeicially those who work for official games console magazines face issues directly linked with “who pays there wages. Which is why I would rather read and base a purchase on a objective games review than one based on the “apparent” personal opinions of *Joe Journo whom I have never met.
I use the word apparent because Joe Journo writes for Nintendo official magazine and he claims the new recycled super Mario bros is the best Mario he has ever played. 
The question is “who pays Joe Journos wages? Why, Joe Journos magazine recieves financial revenue from the games publishers, It is Joe Journos job therfore, to write biased reviews to help sell these games. It is worth considering when reading reviews that these journalists do this for a living and it may be there job to be biased .

A publication reviewing a game when it has received advertising revenue from the game's publishers or has been invited to lavish 'press day' parties is often held in suspicion. Reviews by 'official' console magazines such as Nintendo Power, Official playstation magazine or the official xbox magazine.all of which have direct financial ties to their respective platform holders, usually find themselves in similar positions.”

*Joe Journo is a hyperthetical games journalist,

When you read a review of a nintendo game from a nintendo magazine it makes you wonder how biased that review is espeicially considering the points above.

An example of when these biased reviews backfired was about 5 or 6 years ago the old nintendo magazine N.O.M ceased publication because the writers would not give third party games decent reviews.

"It seems to me that the staff at NOM (Nintendo Official Magazine) are more interested in showing their gratitude to game publishers for sending them free games rather than respecting the needs of their readers."

Having been a reader of this magazine Id say that there reviews were pretty accurate. Having bought the games they rated good. I have no way of knowing how bad the bad games where.

Personally I would look to games reviews in magazines before I parted with my hard earned cash. This is only because I have had good experience's with doing so in the past.
I do not however think that an objective ranking system is necessary for the games sales even if it did exist. Reading reviews of games in magazines in the past I remember instances where a game has had a 95 percent score and sold poorly.

Objectivity Vs subjectivity or balance?

My personal opinions I find are better than fact when writing. I find that there more interesting, to be objective would be to recycle the same old junk that everyone else has written about because facts are facts,
When writing about games myself, I find it is impossible to be either completely objective or subjective. A mixture of personal opinion backed up with facts is the best way to go. I feel that this is a better approach.
How many people write articles based on facts? There are only so many facts related to a subject. To rely on them completely to write an article would be the same as copying and pasting someone else's article, changing the ifs to buts and slapping your name on it. Which is one of the reasons I found video game history so tediously frustrating so I approached it from a different angle.

Writing from personal opinion and experience allow me to write from a new and more interesting perspective. If I can find facts to back my opinions up even better, in a lot of cases I cannot. I find opinions on similar subjects to the one I am writing about , opinions that agree and disagree with what I am saying, it gives my mind more fuel and more to write about.

What would an objective review look like?

I am going to attempt to write a sentence about the same game from an objective and subjective viewpoint
to see how they differ.

example of a sentence from an objective game's review....

Capcom's Okami lets you play as a wolf goddess. The player controls the Wii remote to draw objects that help you explore the vast environments.....

.and im bored of writing it already, I cant say it looks cool, I cant say its fun to play. 

I suppose the secret to writing a good objective review would be to find things about the game that are fact and use very careful or persuasive words that would portray the game in the best way possible and persuade people to consider buying it.

Reverting to my previous statement about mixing fact with personal opinion. I don't think its possible to write objectively about anything you are passionate about because emotion always comes into it and it then becomes very personal.

I could say Capcom's Okami has amazing looking Japanese style visuals, With innovative controls and huge environments that rival the legend of Zelda.

The words” it is amazing” is very subjective the words “huge environments” is a fact, the environments are huge.

Do we have balance? Is balance what people want to read? I would say it was more about the message the writer wanted to communicate to that audience.

Sources of information.

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