Thursday, January 03, 2008

Byte: Starting as you mean to go on

I've just had a good old rant over at Tom F's blog. About The Witcher, and PCG/Rock Paper Shotgun's apparent mishandling of it, predictably.

Please note that I'm not trying to single out Alec as being somehow dishonest or corrupt - I'm more criticising the system and circumstances within which he had to write the review. I know from my own experience that as a freelancer you don't often get as much time to play a game as it really deserves (or as much time as you'd like), but you still have to publish or perish. If anything, the advantage of internet publishing is that at least if you make an honest mistake (and I've made several over the years) you can retract it a whole lot more easily. My point is that if you're going to leap onto a moral high horse when you're criticising a game, you better be damned sure that it has more than one leg.

Alec's been really unlucky in that he's clearly been forced to rush through as much as the game as he could to meet the deadline, and it's all too easy to pick holes in his review if you've completed the game, as I have.

My perception (and I stress it's only my perception) over the last few months is that the PCG/RPS freelancer crowd have all closed ranks to try and justify the review in the face of a fanboy backlash, and I totally understand why, but sometimes you really do have to hold your hand up and admit you made a mistake, even if it's because of circumstances out of your control. Again, it's a whole lot easier to do on an internet games review site than a print magazine, but it does harm your credibility if you don't do it. Rumour has it if you say the phrase "Force Commander" to John Walker, he'll disappear in a huff of smoke (deliberate mixed metaphor there), and that's a review dating back something like eight years. The fate of a games journalist is that people always remember your bad reviews and not your good ones, but I'm sure if Alec were to be really candid he'd say that Witcher review wouldn't rate up there alongside his best work...

Right, that should have successfully alienated the few people within Future Publishing who do still speak to me... but hey. If I don't get games to review, it doesn't make a difference to whether I can still afford to eat this month. That's the advantage of being in the position where you can just do this kind of thing for fun, I guess.
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