Editorial: Some Subjective Thoughts On Objectivity

A topic of conversation that is frequently revisited in discussion of gaming and games criticism is that of “objectivity”. It’s an important topic, and it seems worth exploring the subject a little, and in doing so we’ll try to outline RPS’s position on the matter.

First: Rock, Paper, Shotgun, has no desire or aim for objectivity.

If this sounds surprising, then please do read on. We want to explain why our our driving goal is not objectivity, but honesty. Here’s why.

Here’s the main issue with the argument that objectivity should be a goal for games criticism: Objectivity isn’t possible. It is, at best, an ideal – an unreachable target, toward which some attempt to strive, believing the closer one is to it, the better a job one is doing. However, this is a position RPS rejects, as we believe such a goal is antithetical to useful, accurate reporting on games. It’s our belief that any who claim to be objective are actually failing to understand the implications of that claim, and ultimately undermining themselves when it’s shown that they are not, actually, objective at all.

Objectivity in writing is, generally speaking, an attempt to detach oneself from a topic, to report simply the verifiable facts of a matter, without any personal input or editorial angle whatsoever. When it comes to reporting news – a part of what RPS does on a daily basis – this may immediately sound like a positive thing. However, upon any scrutiny, this logic falls very quickly apart.

We asked part-time philosopher and linguist Nicholas Mailer to expand on the philosophical myth of objectivity – you can read that here.

First of all, to report “the facts of a matter”, the reporter is burdened with looking through all the available information, and making decisions on what is considered to be a “fact”. Then, this (unavoidably subjectively) decided, it falls upon the author to decide which “facts” to report, how to present them, what weighting to give to apparently opposing information, and indeed in which order to present contradictory opinion from others. This all instantly remove any hope of “objectivity”, because a human reporter is required to parse the information before passing it on. Subjectivity reveals itself from every angle, no matter how stringently fought against. Personal bias goes right down into the individual’s use of language, which is why articles which claim to be objective are often so robotic and tedious to read.

Alongside the immediate difficulty of an objective reporting of news, comes perhaps the even more important (my subjection) realisation that so-called “objective reporting” often leads to something far more inaccurate.

Take, for example, the anti-vaccination movement, originating in wholly false claims that the MMR vaccine was causing autism. There is absolutely no good science behind the anti-vaxxers’ claims. However, in attempts to bring objectivity to reports, many news outlets covered the topic by attempting to give equal weight to both “sides” of the discussion. They presented the opinions and claims made by those who believed there were dangers, in equal measure to those who had science and evidence to demonstrate none of the claims were accurate. It gave the impression to the reader, through an ‘objective’ approach, that there were two equally weighted sides in the debate, when of course there was no such thing. The same goes for reporting on climate change, or even complaints made by a very few against a television programme watched by millions. An attempt to offer objective, balanced reporting leads to a deceptive, imbalanced understanding for the receiver of that news. Immediately, then, objectivity is compromised.

Let’s bring that home to gaming. A couple of years ago, Fox News reported that the game Bulletstorm was going to cause players to commit rapes. They based these claims on the words of a self-styled expert, and then backed this up with quotes from other experts in the field. Were RPS to have approached this story with an aim of being “objective”, we’d have reported what was being claimed, and perhaps presented the view of someone else who believed otherwise, giving equal weighting to each. Which would have been preposterous. On investigation of the claims, it quickly became apparent to us that not only was the assertion being made by this “expert” entirely unevidenced, but the other quoted experts had been wildly misquoted in an attempt to flesh out the story. We approached the topic entirely subjectively, with an aim to uncovering what was really going on here, exploring agendas, and challenging claims, and with a personal belief that Bulletstorm was unlikely to cause rapes. We wanted to find what we, subjectively, understood to be the nature of Bulletstorm’s influence on the people who played it. The ‘objective’ version of events would have seen our reporting the claims, giving them equal weight to a contradictory response.

All this, and we’ve not even mentioned the rather overwhelming fact that at RPS, we’re critics. A vast proportion of our job is to critically appraise gaming, and report our personal views.

RPS has a lot of running jokes, and titling our reviews “Wot I Think” may look like one of them. But we did it for a really good reason. Too many gaming sites at the time of our launching had become incredibly po-faced about their reviews. There was a spreading culture of reviews being “definitive”, and presenting not a person’s opinion of a game, but a “site’s expert analysis”. Recognising the entire concept as completely daft, and indeed believing such a thing utterly undesirable, we chose to ensure it was abundantly clear that our reviews of games were – of course – just the opinions of one person. One person who is, hopefully, well-equipped to create interesting, informed and entertaining words about that game, that offers useful information for someone considering buying it, while providing a clearly subjective view. That’s what reviews are! Film reviews, book reviews, car reviews, hot air balloon helium pump reviews… (Then the embarrassing arrogance of declaring “WHAT I THINK!” is played upon by the misspelling of “Wot”.)

(A corollary of this is that we welcome disagreement! Of course we do: it’s right there in the title. We make no claim to any review on RPS being the literal objective truth. In fact, we refute that such a thing is even possible. Please do assert that we are wrong, that’s the whole point.)

That’s reviews, but the same applies to previews. It’s true that traditionally, gaming magazines and websites have tended to keep previews less personal, more factual, for the simple reason that the game’s not finished yet, and making judgements on them can be simply unfair. However, at RPS we’ve believed it often to be more useful, and honest, to be clear when we’ve had genuine worries, or abject excitement, about what we’ve seen in a preview. Yes, we could more easily aim toward something considered more “objective” at this point, simply listing the facts as presented by the developer/publisher. But oh my goodness, what now? See – see where this notion of objectivity has so quickly taken us? Objectivity is now demanding that we parrot information given to us by the creator/publisher of the game, and not apply our own critical faculties – our own subjective expertise – to this. At this point, isn’t objectivity demanding that we simply become mouthpieces for the publishers? And isn’t that joint-first in the list of things that makes the suspicious so furious with the games press? Again, it would pull us away from the thing which is far more important: honesty.

Honesty: we’re open about our politics, our bias, our opinions. We aren’t trying to hide them. And whether or not you agree with them, that surely makes RPS more useful to you than if we were trying to sweep all that under the carpet? We certainly like to see people wear their heart on their sleeve.

Okay, that’s reviews and previews, and presumably we can skip over editorial as widely acceptable as subjective, but what about news? Surely, even accepting the earlier arguments that the simple presentation of news makes objectivity an impossibility, we should be striving for something as close to it as possible?

Well, we’re going to upset a good few by saying, no, we really don’t accept this is the case. Because once again, we value honesty far more highly than we do an attempt to scramble up the impossibly steep slope of objectivity.

There are an awful lot of gaming sites, and there are an awful lot of them reporting gaming news, as presented to them by PRs, publishers and developers. Because let’s be clear: the vast majority of what is presented as “news” in the world of gaming is, “This game has been announced,” or, “Here is a new trailer for this game.” Simply reporting this news may be desired by some, and there are an awful lot of places people can visit for such straight delivery of a publishers’ facts. Which is why we think RPS offers far, far more to our readers by doing something different: To report the announcement of a game, or the arrival of a new trailer, and then to give our subjective opinion of that news. Be it, “Oh boy, we’re so excited that this game exists, because the previous ones have been tippety-top!” or, “Wow, this game looks gross,” our opinion infects our coverage because it’s written by us, on our website. We know, absolutely, that our opinion can be rejected by those reading the news, and indeed we most frequently offer space below the post for people to voice their disagreement. “No, the previous games were terrible, and this one’s going to be worse!” “How can you say it looks gross, you sillies – it looks flipping amazing.”

Okay, the elephant in the room after all of this is obviously when it comes to something like our reporting on those topics that seem to cause the most trouble: sexism, misogyny, marginalisation of any perceived minority, and similar. Let’s discuss those from this perspective of objectivity vs subjectivity.

First of all, it’s absolutely crucial to bring in a wholly objective, verified fact. Morgan Ramsay, the man behind The Ramsay Interviews, has been keeping a text archive of major gaming sites over the last several years, containing every word they’ve published. He went through those words for each site over the year 2013, and found that 99.55% of the articles published across ten of the larger gaming sites (including RPS) made no mention of subjects regarding sexism or misogyny. So less than half a percent of gaming coverage even mentions these subjects, let alone is singularly about them. In fact, of the ten sites studied, RPS was the 7th least likely to mention the subjects, with less than one percent of our articles alluding to the topic. So, objectively, RPS dedicates the tiniest fraction of its content to a topic many are claiming obsesses us. We can, with this in mind, abandon the vast majority of the fears and claims being made about the topic taking over our coverage, or colouring our games journalism. If anything, it makes us wonder if we’re falling short on covering such a significant topic in modern gaming.

But what about the subjectivity that remains in those 0.93% of posts (fewer than one in every hundred articles we publish)? Our response can only be: well, yes. Yes, we are subjective about this matter. We believe it matters. We believe it’s important to so incredibly infrequently raise this topic, because it affects so many in our audience. It’s well worth noting that when we do cover such topics, the feedback we receive is overwhelmingly in favour of its appearing on our site, and that positive feedback is invariably spontaneous and individual, rather than organised and coordinated.

Outside that, well, our attitudes and opinions persist. And they do so differently from writer to writer. Again, that’s key to what we’re doing: RPS is personality driven. It was conceived that way – four strong personalities in the British gaming press got together, to create a site that would put personal writing at the forefront, in the way we most enjoyed reading from others. In the way classic 1980s and 1990s gaming magazines had – something we saw as missing from the contemporary press. Over the seven years, a lot of sites have followed, and personality-driven reporting is far more commonplace now than it was last decade. We can understand how those who do not enjoy this sort of writing might feel less represented by the gaming press at this point, and while we don’t empathise, we can sympathise. However, RPS will remain personality-driven, striving for honesty with subjectivity over objectivity, as has always been our goal.

Because that’s what we’re here for. That’s why we started the site, why we keep writing the site, and we’re pretty certain it’s a lot to do with why we’re such a popular site. (Despite the fondness for some to accuse us of “clickbait”, a good proportion of our traffic comes from regular, dedicated readers, rather than SEO-driven influxes of one-offs.) And that means we will fail to serve the desires of some, and we’re okay with that. We hope that people will see the merits of what we do, of our desire to be as honest as is possible, but we wholly accept that some simply do not want this. We hope those people will find a site that meets their needs.

To summarise: We believe objectivity to be antithetical to good games coverage, and instead focus on honesty, both factual and personal.

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268 Comments

Top comments

  1. Anthile says:

    The futile quest for objectivity in reviews always reminds me of the somewhat infamous German games magazine Computerbild Spiele. They tried their hands at a more objective review system which ended up ridiculously complicated. You want an objective score? It looks like this: https://i.imgur.com/EfzfFju.jpg
    Even the hotline was factored in! It was often ridiculed in my circle of friends, often asking "Yeah, but is it good?" after someone cited a score.
  2. Gap Gen says:

    I'm unsure exactly what unbiased game journalism would even look like (that objective reviews site aside). Pretty sure when people say unbiased they just mean someone who has the same worldview as them.
  1. GallonOfAlan says:

    Honesty is your USP in this game.

  2. Shakermaker says:

    And this is one of the reasons I enjoy reading RPS and have been a paying subscriber since day one.

    • bill says:

      Agreed. And I hope they know that most of their readers are aware of this and that’s why we like the site.

      I don’t always agree with everything they write, but that’s the nature of opinion.

  3. Monchberter says:

    I always did think the running joke of ‘car wot goes fast’ to describe the racing genre expertly skewers the po-faced sense of absolute objectivity that companies put into aiming to realistically provide a PC driving experience.

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    Good words there. And yet you’re still going to have people demand that you objectively tell them whether a game is fun. This is an actual thing I read someone argue in a recent won’t-give-it-weight-by-naming-it internet kerfuffle.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      The joke’s on you though, as RPS frequently gives an objective verdict on whether a game was fun. That it has no statistical significance is a different matter.

      • YogSo says:

        “The joke’s on you though, as RPS frequently gives an objective verdict on whether a game was fun TO THEM

        FTFY. Otherwise you are missing the whole point of John’s article and the “joke” rustybroomhandle was making.

    • Foosnark says:

      But why can’t writers just say objectively, on a scale of half a glass of watered-down iced tea to hotwiring an ice cream truck with Eddie Izzard, how much fun a game is?

  5. Velko says:

    The ratio of bees per words has been worryingly low these days. MORE BEES!

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      Harlander says:

      The science/space ratio is pretty good, though.

    • Cinek says:

      Positive adjectives vs negative adjectives.

    • drewski says:

      Ahh, but there’s multiple entries of “bees” for each “word” so, in fact, there are many more bees than immediately apparent!

      Of course, whether or not even this number of bees is sufficient is left up to the interpreter and, perhaps, sundry unpollenated flowers.

    • SophiaButler says:

      I certainly agree! :D

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      Sleepymatt says:

      MORE BEES indeed! Unless they have shadows, in which case my CPU says LESS BEES PLEASE.

      BLEASE.

    • mr.black says:

      Games vs. news makes a worrying spike at four, though. 3rd party conceptualizations ignored again?

  6. Cooper says:

    The most obvious claim is still the original NGJ claim: Games are interactive and thus cannot be experienced (and thus written about) as anything other than subjective experiences.

    Sure, we will all have different subjective experiences of the same material, but you cannot report upon some kind of ‘game as object’ that we all draw our experiences from as access to the game-in-itself is impossible as we only experience it via our own subjectivity.

    Following a philosophical bent: There’s been a long tradition of understanding the necessity to situate knowledge in science studies. That attempting to put your own subjectivity to one side only hides your subjectivity, not escapes it. By being open and honest about your experiences, your own subjective engagement, actually allows for MORE objectivity as it is being more truthful about the production of knowledge / criticism and allows readers a better understanding of where that writer is coming from.

    What a lot of cries for objectivity actually seem to be demanding is neutrality. Something very different. But political and cultural neutrality is, in titself, a non-neutral political position, one which simply fails to question or confront the status quo and thus accepts the status quo as ‘okay’. The last editorial covered this perfectly.

  7. Voice of Majority says:

    There’s no need to publish the opinion of every party to be objective. You do not need to ask tobacco industry’s opinion on the health impacts of their products. There’s a lot of research on that. To be objective you just need to drop biases.

    However, I have no problem with reviewers having biases. I learn what their biases are and correct for them. The important part is to be consistent (I could say honest here). Then I’ll know Wot you mean.

    • soulblur says:

      “We approached the topic entirely subjectively, with an aim to uncovering what was really going on here, exploring agendas, and challenging claims, and with a personal belief that Bulletstorm was unlikely to cause rapes.”

      Touching on what Voice of Majority and Cooper write, I don’t think objectivity is what you (John) describe (although that may well match what internet commenters are asking for when they say they want objectivity). Apart from the last clause of the above quote, it’s perfectly compatible with objectivity. Your objective desire might be to uncover the truth of an issue, which requires knowing the background and agendas. What isn’t objective about this? Your personal belief isn’t objective, but that’s OK – you’ve laid it out there.

      I don’t believe the subjective versus objective debate is helpful, simply because the words aren’t well-defined, or perhaps just aren’t used to mean what they actually mean (and also objectivity is an usually illusion which serves agendas). What I want is as much transparency as possible. A good (albeit obvious and easy) example is when the site writes about You, Sir, Are Being Hunted. RPS is typically pretty good about this sort of thing.

      That said, what John proposes is good: I want opinion and judgement on things like trailers or announcements. Otherwise, what’s the value added? In fact, I’d like a lot more of this sort of thing.

      • slerbal says:

        In regards to Sir, You Are Being Hunted I think RPS might have been too cautious – though I could be wrong here. The whole team are very creative people, just like many of the readers and I come to RPS to read about creative and interesting games and things that are evolving games in new ways. I want to hear about the RPS team’s projects and not have them denied exposure for fear of compromising the site. I am interested in how games writers try and tackle their own games ideas when given a chance.

        I do think it is great that Jim, John, and everyone else are straight up about disclosing their involvement, and that is good.

        Argh, I am rambling.

        tldr; More of this kind of thing!

        • pepperfez says:

          Though I understand where RPS is coming from, I agree with you on Sir. When I think of all the diaries we’ve been denied by steadfast ethical commitments…

        • Laurentius says:

          I understand that it was considered as a tough case but I’m pretty sure that in a few years RPS will see that this ultra catious handling S,YABH was rather silly.

      • P.Funk says:

        I dunno I’m pretty sure most people understand the distinction between objective and subjective. Its a valid debate because the whole notion of objective journalism has been a massive cancer on mainstream news in recent times. It is then in my opinion extremely relevant to discuss it.

        The more muddy the words get the more important it is to address it. If people demand objectivity and RPS says “Here’s Wot we think about Objectivity” thats a fair way to approach it. The debate is helped because we know how RPS views it. If people are at the end confused about how RPS defines objectivity and subjectivity its easily solved by reading the article again. It says so in there. Even if you think the definitions or how they approach the topic is a bit off you can still understand what they mean and therefore we’ve addressed the issue.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I’m unsure exactly what unbiased game journalism would even look like (that objective reviews site aside). Pretty sure when people say unbiased they just mean someone who has the same worldview as them.

      • noodlecake says:

        +1 for you.

      • El_Emmental says:

        “I’m unsure exactly what unbiased game journalism would even look like (that objective reviews site aside).”

        It’s not so much about having “100% unbiased” video game journalism, it’s about having writers being aware of their own bias (coming from their experiences, culture, social class, country, tastes, personality, etc), then disclosing that inevitable bias to their reader (every time it influences their writing significantly). And finally taking measures to identify, isolate and criticize their own bias.

        When done properly, people are able to see what are the writer’s biases and how they got them (= the context of these biases). Then, with the writer self-criticism, readers are able to build a fair and honest view of the subject.

        Example : I hate RTS where you have to learn a build order and spam units at the enemy. I’m much more a micro-management player than a macro-management one. I’m reviewing a RTS game, or a game with RTS elements.

        I won’t start bashing the game mechanics forcing me to maximize units-per-minute production and be done with it. Instead, I will fairly criticize them:
        – while clearly indicating it is MY opinion/taste,
        – while immediately fully disclosing and explaining my bias regarding RTS game (why micro feels better than macro to me),
        – while actively trying to see how great it works (as a game mechanic) even if I don’t enjoy it. Why trying to make it work, if I don’t enjoy it ? Because I’m a journalist, not yet another player posting a 0 or 2 on Metacritic after playing the game for 2 hours.

        That way, people who enjoy macro and tensed RTS game will look at my paragraph criticizing that part of the game, and fully know it’s how the game felt from MY perspective, the micro-player who doesn’t like or doesn’t get the thrill of macro and min-maxing. They’ll know they’ll have to look elsewhere to find a review that properly cover that part of the RTS.
        = Bias ? Yes. But this time it’s not hidden behind a “it’s a subjective review, I don’t need objectivity, move along people” defense.

        That exact problem showed up with a Football Manager title: they gave that review to a writer who 1) doesn’t really like football 2) never understood what was the point of these management games. People were quite grumpy, because the review covered none of the important parts, while delivering a stream of cliches and stereotypes about football and people who enjoy football. If I recall correctly, RPS got another writer, who enjoy football (at least a little) and understand what is fun in these management games, to review that game (or the next one).

        Readers were satisfied to finally get a proper review of such games, outlining the positive and negative parts of the game, and fairly disagreeing on some points: “the late season AI is lacking, when it tries to…” – “Nah, I found the AI to be rather coherent there, even if in real life a club manager wouldn’t do that, it’s a game and not a simulator: the AI tries to provide a fair challenge, not realism” ; rather than “the interface is confusing, the AI is probably cheating a bit to compensate its shortcomings, but I guess people buy it because there’s no other games in that niche”.

        “Pretty sure when people say unbiased they just mean someone who has the same world view as them”

        That sentence is exactly the problem here (and I find it kinda sad that RPS chose to highlight it): people report bias when the author is doing too much generalization to comfort a pre-existing opinion, and what do we have here ? Generalizing the people worried about bias, to fit the “they just don’t agree with the author” pre-existing opinion.

        It’s the same problem we have every time we discuss game design, DRM or sexism:
        – point out the simplification of the story/gameplay/game mechanics = you’re automatically “one of these” assholes insulting other players on the microphone, spouting insults and racial slurs at the “casuals”, because you have a higher rank thanks to your 10-hours-a-day training on the same game.
        – point out an always-online DRM = “haha, coming from people who are constantly online, even when leaving the house with their smartphone”, you’re automatically “one of these” immature stupid brats who’s only there to whine ; that stereotype completely missing the issues regarding the rights of the consumer, the privacy issues, all the situations where you don’t have a stable or unlimited Internet connection, the DRM servers crashing under the load, the termination of the DRM servers (making it impossible to play without an additional patch or a crack).
        – point out an inaccurate use of statistics, or an analysis missing key elements, when discussing sexism in video games = you’re automatically “one of these” misogynists (closet or not) only there to harass the poor writers trying to raise awareness about an important issue that we shouldn’t ignore because it’s affecting thousands of people, why would you be critical of such good action intent ? You hate people who care about sexism ?! Omg.

        And when that problem is too blatant, here comes the “Pretty sure…” and the “Most of…”, to sweep the problem under the carpet: “I mostly see stupid and offensive people, I’m pretty sure they’re the majority, why do you annoy me with details ?!”.

        An awful lot of reasonable and open-minded people gave up on commenting on RPS because of that problem – it’s just too easy for writers and other commenters to focus on the few extremists to discard any different analysis or constructive criticism. In the long run, it helps the noisy extremists because they never get tired of fueling hate and flamewar – they enjoy it.

        And finally, the writers can look at the mess and be too happy to claim that “I was right all along !”, while deleting and banning left and right, living in the oppressive community that fits their pre-existing view of how it would be, if they were to address such social issues.

        Finally back to the comforting normality, where you can’t discuss sexism because it is a simple war between biggots and normal people.

        That was close ! Almost saw two people of the same “side” peacefully disagreeing on key elements and trying to understand what the other person meant. Must have been an illusion.

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          kfix says:

          “Pretty sure when people say unbiased they just mean someone who has the same world view as them”

          That sentence is exactly the problem here (and I find it kinda sad that RPS chose to highlight it): people report bias when the author is doing too much generalization to comfort a pre-existing opinion, and what do we have here ? Generalizing the people worried about bias, to fit the “they just don’t agree with the author” pre-existing opinion.

          I think the point being made is that many if not most accusations of bias (in the comment threads of RPS) come with zero evidence of bias. In fact I’ve yet to see a credible accusation of bias or lack of objectivity, although would be happy to see some examples otherwise.

          – point out an inaccurate use of statistics, or an analysis missing key elements, when discussing sexism in video games = you’re automatically “one of these” misogynists (closet or not) only there to harass the poor writers trying to raise awareness about an important issue that we shouldn’t ignore because it’s affecting thousands of people, why would you be critical of such good action intent ? You hate people who care about sexism ?! Omg.

          Maybe, just maybe, the people just “pointing out” an inaccurate use of statistics are doing so in a way that’s easy to confuse with pointless FUD arguing away from the main point? Like some examples in this very comment thread (OMG John said 7th least worstest instead of 4th worstest! LIES!!!).

          That is not to say there aren’t over-sensitive types seeing attacks that aren’t there, but when attacks are so frequently couched as concern trolling it is perhaps not surprising that this happens.

          Again, I’d love to see some examples in RPS comment threads where genuine and sympathetic statistical or analytical arguments are totally dismissed as misogynist – most of the arguments that I have seen being summarily dismissed as totally missing the point have been like the example cited above or the ones along the line of “OMG Sarkeesian said she wasn’t a gamer in one video but was in another so it’s all LIES!!!”. But again, happy to see if I’m wrong about that, and not happy to support of avoiding evidence that genuinely weakens your case.

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    basilisk says:

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun, has no desire or aim for objectivity.

    But of course. That is why I like to read your work, even though I don’t always agree. You say what you mean, and that’s very valuable to me.

    Very nicely written, John. And I love the charts.

    • soulblur says:

      “And I love the charts.”

      But he got the x and y axes mixed up! This changes everything!

      • pepperfez says:

        An ax is an ax. Who cares what letter they have as long as they’re good for choppin’?

  9. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Those are the best graphs.

    The only reason I cling to RPS every day is due to the personalities on show – you can know who is writing a piece without looking at the name most of the time.

    That was especially the case with Nathan, who will remain my favourite even those he’s gone, but everyone else who writes here is brilliant too.

  10. PopeRatzo says:

    Who wants objectivity?

    • Faxmachinen says:

      This article is missing the point. With critique of videogames, as with other forms of art, the journalist’s opinions on things are highly relevant. Their opinions are observed facts, and stating them are objective statements. Every article on RPS is objective, and it is something RPS does well.

      On a completely different note, I also appreciate the irony in claiming that giving both sides of the vaccination case equal coverage is a bad thing. Because there’s no way Mr. Walker is in any way biased towards pro-vaccination or anything, right? Should be okay to give the anti-vaccination group 100% of the coverage, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

      • Simes says:

        No, the point is that the side which has verifiable facts backing it up should get more coverage than the side which only has lies and scaremongering.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          Obviously, but that kind of objective reporting is precisely what Mr. Walker was making an argument against.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            I recall that the issue he cited was that giving both sides equal coverage regardless of the merit of their claims was frequently cited as the correct way to be “objective”.

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        I think John’s stance is summarized best by the following quote:
        “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts”.
        We can agree to disagree on the first one, not the second one.

        On the example, Studies prove that Vaccination works. That some people disagree (with unverifiable anecdotes) is not refutation.

        On game journalism, I actually value the writers’ opinions. Otherwise, why would I come here repeatedly to read it? I may not always agree with it, but I value it none the less.

    • P.Funk says:

      People who are trying to mislead you by defeating your own ability to think critically about issues.

      People who only observes world events through the lens of a single news source because they think its the ‘most objective’.

  11. Shiloh says:

    Quite right John.

  12. SpakAttack says:

    Keep up the good work :)

  13. Prolar Bear says:

    Good words.

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    Cross says:

    I actually found this invigorating to read. It’s an interesting perspective, and on reflection, it’s probably why RPS is my main gaming writing source: No pretenses, and entertaining writing.

  15. reticulate says:

    I like that you guys are personality-driven. It’s what people are after these days, even if they don’t admit it. If it’s Yahtzee or Total Biscuit or Giant Bomb or whatever else, doesn’t matter. It turns out we actually do want personality, and not tepid, “objective” filler, and we especially love it when we disagree with you. That said, games journalism has been a bit defensive lately, and probably for good reason.

    The New Vegas WIT was still shit, though.

  16. xcession says:

    For me it boils down to the awkward truth that all industries are susceptible to perversion. In that situation, where you’re unable to discern absolute truth, I’d much rather your personal biases be obvious and open so I could factor them in, than they not be obvious and the reader be potentially mislead by blithely assuming everything is genuinely “objective”.

  17. ropable says:

    And that, friends, is why RPS is the only PC gaming site still worth reading. Subjectively speaking.

    • pepperfez says:

      You saw their charts! How much more objectivity could you need?

  18. MattMk1 says:

    I don’t think the problem with RPS is a lack of journalistic objectivity as such.

    It’s more that some of the writers are so utterly convinced that their cause is the only just one, so smug about fighting the good fight against the bigoted and ignorant, that you lose all hope of seeing a sane viewpoint when it comes to the stories touching on any political or social issues.

    Long-winded articles explaining why they feel they shouldn’t even try don’t really help.

    • drewski says:

      If by “sane” you mean “pandering to my particular prejudices” then your comment is accurate.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      This thread ought to be a good one!

      I also think you are completely missing the point, or did not read the article. Referring to it as “long-winded” clues me in on this.

    • Clavus says:

      It’s more that some of the writers are so utterly convinced that their cause is the only just one, so smug about fighting the good fight against the bigoted and ignorant, that you lose all hope of seeing a sane viewpoint when it comes to the stories touching on any political or social issues.

      That’s entirely your own opinion. Plenty of us see them fighting the good fight. The nice thing about the internet is that you can pick and choose your own sources. If you start bitching at a site that has a big following for not pandering to your particular viewpoint, you’re not doing anyone a favour.

      • joa says:

        People who think they are fighting a ‘good fight’ are the cause of most of the problems in the world. If everyone realised that everyone has their views and that’s fine, and then just relaxed about it, everything would be OK.

        • TheLetterM says:

          Sorry, but your comment just smacks of “look, it doesn’t bother me, so it shouldn’t bother anyone else ever.”

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          Unless they actually *are* fighting the good fight, in which case they’re the solution to the problems…

    • thedosbox says:

      some of the writers are so utterly convinced that their cause is the only just one, so smug about fighting the good fight against the bigoted and ignorant, that you lose all hope of seeing a sane viewpoint

      You do realize you’re doing exactly the same thing right?

    • toxic avenger says:

      What, pray-tell, is this cause you speak of? Treating others fairly, and as you want to be treated? Is the sentiment you disagree with that the feminists characterization of gratuitous depictions of the female sexual anatomy as borderline pornography, and that this depiction wouldn’t make you comfortable if the sex was reversed of what was being painted/rendered?

      Here’s a less obtuse question: Are you both an adult AND find games such as Dragon Crown to have any merit whatsoever (artistic, thought provoking, aesthetic, whatever)?

      I mean, look at the following picture. There is only one answer to this question that isn’t creepy and weird if you are beyond the years of puberty: link to tinyurl.com

      • Synesthesia says:

        I am both an adult, agree with most of RPS’s views on these issues, and i love DC’s art. It’s just absolutely over the top character design. Did you see the other characters? The dwarf is basically a giant hulking cock in armor.

      • iainl says:

        I’m not comfortable with Dragon Crown’s art style, no. Not least because I’m old enough to remember the long, sad history of “selling crap games with busty ladies on the cover” going back at least as far as Maria Whittaker on the Barbarian box (and NO, fellow Spectrum nerds; that game was never any good – I beat the whole thing by alternating forward-roll and kick).

        But what the “how DARE you ruin artistic vision” squad seem to miss with similar titles (DC itself isn’t on PC, so obv. hasn’t been Thunked here) is that while the RPS gang won’t shy away from discussing sexist portrayals in videogames, they’ll also write about the rest of the game that’s being damaged by them. If, indeed, what on the surface looks like tedious sexism doesn’t turn out to be something rather more nuanced (as with the last two Saint’s Row games).

      • YohnTheViking says:

        I’d say that Dragon’s Crown is game with a lot of great ideas with regards to gameplay and mechanics.

        As for the art style, I like cartoony stylization of the whole thing (it’s actually still going to look good 10 years from now unlike a lot of the “look at all the pixels in our textures” games). I can see how it’s going for that Conan/Heavy Metal type of art, but I can also see how it’s as stretched and mangled out of proportion as most of it’s characters. (ALL the main characters are completely off the wall out of proportion with the exception of your thief follower and the elf archer.)

        What worries me more about the game is how the distressed female is shown. With any “close up” look at the damsels in distress is a couple of strips of cloth and leather away from drawn (admittedly very nicely drawn) BDSM porn. Which I’m rather less ok with.

      • MattMk1 says:

        No, I’m not opposed to the idea of being a decent human being. Also, I stopped beating my wife.

        I simply don’t think that the RPS writers are always right when they decree that they’ve identified yet another instance of -ism in gaming, what that says about gaming, and what should be done about it.

        And yes, I am an adult and I think Dragon Crown is pretty silly, but so blatant and at the same time so insignificant in the great scheme of things that I don’t get why people talk so much about it.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          It really irks you when people talk about things that don’t interest you? Excuse me for finding that hard to believe.

          I find it more plausible that you do care about Dragon Crown, and people discussing the negative aspects of it lessens your enjoyment of it. You feel that you’re not supposed to enjoy it and that doing so makes you a bad person.

          You haven’t mentioned femnazis though, so the stereotype is not so strong in you.

          • MattMk1 says:

            Let’s get one thing straight here, OK? I only get off on T&A in PC titles, preferably Western-style RPGs.

      • pepperfez says:

        I don’t think Dragon’s Crown is the best example. It’s weird and gross and juvenile, but it’s also a coherent product of its (weird and juvenile, only possibly gross) creator. It’s halfway between Frazetta and R.Crumb, which is an interesting, if regularly upsetting, place to be. In general I’d prefer more of that (individual games of consistent sexual weirdness) and less ubiquitous least-common-denominator bikini armor and strip-club scenes.

    • noodlecake says:

      I’m going to just requote this guy here because it’s very relevant to your comment:

      “Gap Gen says:

      I’m unsure exactly what unbiased game journalism would even look like (that objective reviews site aside). Pretty sure when people say unbiased they just mean someone who has the same world view as them.”

    • P.Funk says:

      The moment anyone starts characterizing social commentary as smug and starts saying things like “the ONLY cause” when they clearly have not been saying anything of the sort I immediately put my “this guy is full of crap” filters on and go to yellow alert.

  19. Meat Circus says:

    I aspire to objectivity in all my bees.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Jdopus says:

    I think the risk of making statements like this, that you don’t aim at all for objectivity, is that you remove any pressure on your writers to make an attempt to be objective.

    While this isn’t a problem in and of itself – you can write an opinionated article in a good journalistic style – it opens the door for bad journalism if people stop making any effort at objectivity. The things I have in mind are misrepresentation of your ideological opponents, the omission of material facts around something you’re reporting on etc. It’s entirely possible to object strongly to someone without misrepresenting their position, but that’s something you have to be very careful to do.

    Arguably, when RPS write on feminism, there’s a strong tendency to misrepresent and generalize anyone who disagrees with you as sexists or misogynists, based on the words of a small minority of people on twitter while failing to give any coverage to more rational and reasoned criticism, which there’s no shortage of.

    The problem can further manifest itself in the things that you choose to report on – if you’re acknowledging your own biases, that’s all fine and well and it’s fine if I can account for those when reading your articles, but what I don’t see are articles which may not be reported on at all on RPS if they conflict with the writers’ prejudices.

    The combination of these things make it very difficult for me to trust RPS as a source around areas where I know the staff have strong opinions. Perfect objectivity is impossible, sure, but I think it’s dangerous for journalists to throw the goal to the wind – my fears are based on comparing for example, the UK television media, which has a requirement that the stations attempt objectivity, and the US television media or the UK tabloid media, both of which have discarded this aim.

    • drewski says:

      But then you get nonsense like the BBC popping anti-vaxxers up on Newsnight because they have to be “objective”.

      Basically if you can’t trust a website (or TV station or newspaper) to actually tell you Truth then don’t read it. It shouldn’t need to feign adherence to some impossible, nebulous and subjective standard of objectivity – you either trust it or you don’t.

      • Premium User Badge

        Jdopus says:

        Objectivity doesn’t mean that everyone’s opinion, whether based on fact or nonsense, is equal. I categorize the even-handed reporting of the anti-vacc movement as a complete failure of objectivity, because that is not a case of ideological opinion, but a case in which there is clear evidence one way or another.

        That’s pretty far from what RPS do though, since very little of what they report is based on disputes over evidence.

        • drewski says:

          You’re getting there, but you’re not there yet.

          You’ve made a subjective judgement decision on the qualities of the arguments of anti-vaxxers and therefore are ok with their views not being considered when it comes to presenting your subjective version of objectivity when it comes to vaccinations.

          RPS make *exactly that same judgement* when it comes to social inclusion and gender equality in gaming – you# just happen to be wearing the anti-vaxxers pants on that issue, so you# feel their subjective judgement is wrong.

          But actually it’s exactly the same process you’re doing to anyone who disagrees with what you consider to be objective truth. Guess what? RPS will disagree with you#, too, and they’re not going to pander to you# when they think you’re# wrong, just like the BBC shouldn’t pander to anti-vaxxers.

          #If you actually pro-RPS coverage on gender equality and social inclusion please substitute non-personal pronouns in as appropriate, I’m just assuming you have a problem with the way RPS covers these issues.

          • Geebs says:

            I think the anti-vaccination analogy is a very poor one. The overall standard of science reporting is absolutely abysmal, and major news organisations reported the MMR scare from the perspective of being a scoop, without any attempt to either analyse, or get someone who was qualified to analyse, an extremely poor quality paper which most of the authors had already disowned. So, the only reason that this became a thing was that the reporters were incompetent and swayed by the emotive nature of the original claims (i.e. a bit too ‘subjective’) and the reason for the anti-vaxxers getting continued publicity was due to the bias of the journalists involved; their ‘objectivity’ wasn’t objectivity at all, it was a pathetic excuse. Meanwhile, the BBC in particular has supplied a bunch of half-hearted retractions but always gone out of their way to emphasise that people ‘remain concerned about the issue’ to continue to justify their incompetence.

            On the other hand, subjectivity in games reviews is absolutely fine and why I read RPS; although what I think people actually mean when they demand reviews be ‘objective’ is ‘written from the perspective of a potential consumer’, which I think should be a consideration and which is most at risk from journos being influenced by the industry.

          • Premium User Badge

            Jdopus says:

            Not once did I ask RPS to pander to me, frankly I’m annoyed that that’s what you’ve taken from my posts since it has nothing whatsoever to do with what I’m trying to get at. Vaccination is an entirely different situation to what RPS reports upon because it’s a question which we can reach a factual answer to.

            “Do Vaccines cause Autism?” requires a different style of reporting to “Is this representation of women problematic?” because one is a matter of evidence and the other is a lot more unclear.

            For what it’s worth, I agree with the general principles of RPS’s feminist stance, I just hate the manner in which they report it. I’m annoyed I have to clarify this though since my stance on this matter should have nothing to do with the argument I’m making.

          • Riaktion says:

            Interesting conversation. I think the “opening the door to bad journalism” is kinda true in RPS land, as much as I love the site. Thing is though, they do describe themselves as critics… not journalists so in that perhaps expectations need to change if you’re expecting journalistic content? Not sure.. I’m not going to get into that one, feel free to thrash it out though.

            Where opinion / honesty can go wrong for me sometimes with RPS is where the opinion of the writer can be so impassioned that sometimes the opinion becomes less useful as a consumer. This is probably a risk worth taking in regards to what RPS are trying to achieve… but I for one found the “Wot I Think” for “Space Hulk” a completely useless guide to understanding whether it was a good game or not.

            Certainly in that piece, the writers opinion, when distilled down to a basic message I got from it, seemed to be “it isn’t the board game!”. Although that might be the writers opinion… and a valid one, it left me going elsewhere to understand if it is a game I want to buy.

            Opinion is great and I much prefer it to the “definitive” writing style the article mentions, just sometimes it can get in the way of balanced consumer advice (IMHO), that doesn’t mean it needs to change though. :)

          • Cyrano says:

            No idea if this comment will end up in the right place, but Riaktion, I just went to look at the WIT for Space Hulk, and it says things like:

            “But it’s three in the morning, and I’ve been playing Space Hulk on PC for six hours, and that’s more than enough. It’s been a painful, heartbreaking six hours, and the thought of a seventh is unbearable. Let me tell you why.”

            “So why is this PC game so bad?”

            “Forget about all the shitty parts of this game for a moment. Even the stuff that works okay could have been executed far better”

            Unless you’re deploying clever sarcasm that a day at the office has numbed me too much to detect, I have to disagree: Rob makes his feelings abundantly clear (spoiler: He didn’t like it).

            On a more general note, I’m so confused that people think ‘objective games criticism’ is something to aim for, or even possible. It’s criticism and review. As science has yet to furnish us with a fun-o-meter, an honest description of the writer’s experience in a game or reaction to it is what games writing is. I’d really like to read a review written by one of the Objective crowd and see what they think games criticism should look like. Can anyone point to an example?

    • Viroso says:

      The point is that they won’t even try to be objective, or get near it, or have pressures to be like that. Also remember that you’re judging the strength of their bias from your own bias.

      If I’m at the end of a road, anyone standing at the other end seems to be really far away, if you’re standing in the middle not as much. Point is, how extreme other people’s opinion seem to you may be also influenced by how extreme your own opinion is. The further down the road, the more distant everyone else will be from you.

      • Premium User Badge

        Jdopus says:

        The point I’m trying to get at isn’t that I necessarily object to the author’s opinions on the matter or have any problem with them having opinions, but that if they choose to stop making any effort at objectivity, they open the door to something which I would more forcefully call outright bad journalism.

        • Rizlar says:

          You’ve got a fair point but I wouldn’t worry too much about it in the case of RPS. Articles like this read like a bastion of sanity amid a sea of bullshit.

        • Viroso says:

          They’ve already made that choice and they’ve also addressed what you’re talking about in the article. Doesn’t mean the subject’s signed and sealed. It’s just that I’d expect you to reply to their reply to the reply to your reply.. Uh.

          What I mean is, you’re stuck halfway through the article. Address what they said regarding what you’re saying right now. Uh, still confusing. Look, just find that bee graph and read it from there, THEN address what they say about what you’re saying right now.

          • Premium User Badge

            Jdopus says:

            I did read the entire article thanks. The problem I have with the later justification is that the author’s mostly discussing the impact of the author’s subjective opinion within the context of a single article and his hypothetical article is one in which he states that they will have honestly reported the facts of the case. Let me repeat, I’m fine with that, as I said in my first post.

            The point I’m making is that by not not aiming for objectivity at all they are, in my opinion, increasing the risks that authors on RPS will outright misrepresent their opponents since they feel under no compulsion to meet even the basic standards of what the media call objectivity. By taking a side consciously, they make this much more likely.

            Obviously anyone trying to be objective is likely to be taking sides unconsciously, but I believe the distorting influence of an unconscious bias has far less impact than the distorting influences of conscious biases.

          • Melody says:

            @jdopus

            I think I understand your point, but I don’t agree that being subjective means not doing extensive research on a topic or misrepresenting the opposite side. I think that still comes down to honesty, to be precise intellectual honesty, in that, if you’re going to write about a topic, you’ve done enough research to know what you’re talking about, you’re being fair to the arguments of the opposing side in a discussion etc. I don’t think that has anything to do with whether you embrace your own POV and beliefs (Subjectivity) or not.

        • Synesthesia says:

          Sound familiar?

          link to gillen.cream.org

    • toxic avenger says:

      I pose a question to you: Does anyone admit, proudly or as a matter of fact, to being themselves a misogynist or a bigot?

      When people don’t agree on the most basic levels of human decency, kindness, and respect toward a protected class, then yes these people are bigoted in some way.

      See, the person making the bigoted comment doesn’t see themselves as doing anything wrong because they are ignorant of what feminism is, what it aims to solve or at least address, and usually have fundamental misunderstanding (or oftentimes no understanding at all) what is almost universally agreed upon in continental philosophy (and perhaps even more importantly WHY some tenants are universally agreed upon, and the logic behind such tenants).

      This is a problem that exists outside of your complaint, a priori almost.There can be no conversation if one side completely refuses to use a common language, the language of Western philosophical thought, to discuss gender/sex differences in popular culture, namely video games.

      Nuh-uh-uh-uh, I’m going to pre-empt you, and if not you the obligatory other people reading or responding: It’s really not our responsibility to educate you, or if not you, others. No matter how hard anyone tries, no one can read something for someone else. If we did take the time to explain thoroughly and adequately, we would just have to turn around and explain it (not referencing you) every other numb-nuts who is actually extremely bigoted (not saying you are bigoted whatsoever, you know who I’m referring to). Ignore this if none of this refers to you, actually.

      I like that little jab at the US media being equated to UK tabloid journalism. You don’t think you are making a dishonest overall point here to direct attention away from what’s *really” bothering you? Did you actually read the article and the linked philosophy piece? What has YOUR side done to earn the benefit of the doubt you are denying RPS?

      • Premium User Badge

        MonkeyMonster says:

        Unfortunately Toxic – there a noticeable number of people who given a variety of different situations will indeed admit, others more proudly that some, that they are bigoted, even happily so.
        The others who also are, but don’t understand the word (well) and therefore why they are – are actually often quite different.

      • Premium User Badge

        Jdopus says:

        I’m not a side and I’m not really interested in discussing feminism right now so I’m going to ignore the majority of your post, not out of rudeness but because I think it bears absolutely no relation whatsoever to what I’m talking about.

        How exactly am I being dishonest in using the example of the UK tabloids and US television media? I’m not trying to disguise anything, I’m using them as examples of sources of media which have disregarded the idea of objectivity and comparing them to other sources of media which have not disregarded this idea. I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, if you could elaborate I’ll do my best to address your point.

        • Premium User Badge

          SuddenSight says:

          You may be unaware, but every major US news organization claims to be objective. It’s even in FOX News’s slogan: “Fair and Balanced.”

          The difference between rhetoric on objectivity and the actual reporting shows how terrible the current public understanding of “objectivity” is.

          I recommend RPS’s part-time philosopher article for a more thorough discussion, but the short version is simple: objectivity cannot be verified.

          If you make an objective report on the facts, but someone disagrees, there is no way of knowing who has the “objective” truth (except in special cases, when there is some set of facts or agreed upon experiments that can settle the debate). Without a way prove which method of reporting is objective, most American news stations have settled for the next best thing: present all sides “equally.” This gives the appearance of objectivity, though it no longer has any relation to the philosophical ideal.

          • Premium User Badge

            Jdopus says:

            That’s a good point, perhaps the legal watchdog on UK tv media has more to do with it than the idea of objectivity itself.

            I think you could still distinguish a difference between the likes of Fox News etc report on something and how the BBC report on something, though I imagine you would have to closely analyze the cultures in the organizations. What I suspect you would find is that in general, most Fox employees probably see the “Objectivity” stance as a PR matter, while most people in the BBC would take it rather more seriously, but that’s just a thought based on absolutely nothing solid outside of my own impression of their outputs (in practice Fox News and most US tv stations in general seem to care little about objectivity, you may disagree.) and I can’t support it with anything substantial.

          • Hillbert says:

            “If you make an objective report on the facts, but someone disagrees, there is no way of knowing who has the “objective” truth (except in special cases, when there is some set of facts or agreed upon experiments that can settle the debate).”

            It depends what they’re disagreeing with. An interest of mine is in statistical misrepresentations and the various ways newspapers and media outlets will mislead and outright lie with numbers. If people are disagreeing with either the base line facts or the statistical analysis of those facts then it is possible to get to some form of objective truth. Or at least something which is more objectively correct (truth is a loaded word…)

            More than that, it becomes possible to recognise the typical false arguments and statistics that people will use when putting forward a less than objective analysis. For example, if someone switches “debt” and “deficit” to suit their needs, when talking about the effect of government policy on balancing the budget, then I will look a lot more carefully at exactly what they’re saying.

          • Premium User Badge

            Jdopus says:

            I have the same interest as you Hillbert. On a side-note, if you don’t already do so I’d recommend you check out Radio 4’s “More or Less” show/podcast. It’s where I get most of my news/information about statistical misrepresentation or misreporting.

          • Hillbert says:

            I already do :)

            It’s a great show. I’d say most entertaining statistics podcast, but that really doesn’t do it justice and makes it sound far drier than it is.

      • JavJav says:

        I think your reply is very loaded. It implies Jdopus stands at an extreme or at least as a case for the evident opposing standpoint to RPS’ opinions, where nothing originally claimed really points to it. It is a very valid concern to indicate that while it is true that being against the case of equality would paint someone as basically villainous, the fervor with which the position is taken by the authors In RPS is sometimes problematic in itself.

        It lends to a situation in which you cannot take a moderate stance. And again, I’m not saying anything like being against equality (mind that it has gotten to the point where I have to restate the obvious because otherwise I’d be tagged as a monster before being given the benefit of the doubt) is something to be lauded, but that in the strive to portray this cause, the way the message is conveyed cannot be challenged. It just can’t. It’s gotten to be either “100% with us whatever we say however we say it”, or you’re one of THEM (misogynist, cis scum, pick your poison).

        Nobody in their right mind disagrees with equality, but just with how some authors here push the issue in their particular tone. Heck, not even here, but in general; the tone of the current feminist message feels, to the regular reader, patronizing or even pedantic, and most of this stems from the previously mentioned tendency for it to be presented as something that under no circumstances should be challenged, not in content nor in presentation. Modern feminism has a lot to learn from good marketing, because the way they’re selling their ideas is abysmal. If you are trying to sway the minds of people who are entrenched in a mindset, you persuade them, not berate them. And RPS has some very persuasive authors in their ranks.

      • Geebs says:

        Relativism is just how philosophers drag other people down to their level.

        • Josh W says:

          I think you’ll find that no such “level” can be found…

    • P.Funk says:

      The flaw in your logic is that you presume that a failure to be whatever you think objective is leads inevitably to a misleading bias and poor reporting.

      RPS in this article echoes a sentiment I’ve heard from the likes of Robert Fisk.

    • wererogue says:

      I’m not sure that I’d categorize misrepresentation as subjective/objective. Subjectivity is biased interpretation, where objectivity is (supposed to be) sticking to facts.

      Misrepresentation fits a lot better into the honest/dishonest spectrum, which the manifesto above also deals with at length.

  21. drewski says:

    If I want objectivity I’ll open a spreadsheet.

  22. Viroso says:

    Those are some wacky graphs, did you guys make them or is there anyone out there who makes a bunch of crazy graphs? Are graphs art? What is the citizen kane of graphs?

  23. Laurentius says:

    “Trust” and “distrust” are the keys here. When you ask your best friends about something important to us we ask them to “give us their honest opinion” not “objective” becuase we trust them. Cry for “objective” reviews, articles etc. is a signal of “distrust” towards gaming press. It’s a signal that “subjective” opinions (which is should be no brainer as that’s how we go through life with our own subjective opinions and views) are perceived as prone to being fabricated, wether they are ethusiastic, negative or neutral. Of course “objective” opinions are welcome with distrust as well but it’s believed that it will at least give a chance for some intelectually picking things up from them.

    • ET3D says:

      I think Laurentius hit the nail on the head. It’s not a matter of subjectivity. It’s people wanting to know that what you post is indeed your (subjective) opinion about a game, and not unduly influenced by outside forces such as relationships with developers and publishers.

      I feel that this article has totally missed the boat by focusing on the literal interpretation of the word and writing obvious things at length. Few people would argue that writing should be objective in the sense you discuss it. Devoting so many words to it just because you miss the actual issue is a waste of everyone’s time.

      • pepperfez says:

        But the loudest critics lately have been demanding objectivity. They could have said that they don’t trust sites that publish pieces on gender in games. Instead they laid claim to a position defending objective truth. That’s a much more apparently respectable position, but it’s also a much stronger claim and hence subject to the categorical dismissal of this article.

  24. Anthile says:

    The futile quest for objectivity in reviews always reminds me of the somewhat infamous German games magazine Computerbild Spiele. They tried their hands at a more objective review system which ended up ridiculously complicated. You want an objective score? It looks like this: link to i.imgur.com
    Even the hotline was factored in! It was often ridiculed in my circle of friends, often asking “Yeah, but is it good?” after someone cited a score.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      Which one of those numbers is fat content? I need to know!

      This is a beautiful, beautiful image. So stereotypically German, too.

      • Premium User Badge

        oWn4g3 says:

        What do you mean with fat content? I can try to break down the rating system a bit although even as a German this is confusing as hell.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          Sorry, I was just joking. The point was that it looks a lot like those labels they stick on food, full of numbers and percentages and recommended daily intakes (remember to take your five Spaß a day!). My German is rather poor, but it’s enough to appreciate this wonderful lunacy.

    • Premium User Badge

      oWn4g3 says:

      For how futile their attempts for an “objective” rating system were you just have to look at the “music” part of the rating.

      Roughly translated: “Metal-trance mix that won’t annoy even after hours of playing.” -> 1,5 (1,0 best, 6,0 worst)

      So objectively metal-trance music is between good and very good. Music in generagl also clearly makes 3% of a games goodness. It’s just so very silly.

    • noodlecake says:

      That’s amazing! Thank you for the share. :)

    • Ibed says:

      Oh wow thank you for that :)

  25. toxic avenger says:

    Wow. I’m speechless. You just dropped a very large “Truth bomb” on the commetariat here!

    “Wut?”

  26. strange_headache says:

    I’ll simply leave you with this link:
    link to psychologytoday.com

    And this one:
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Christ that’s lazy.

      If you’ve got a point, make it.

      And no, I’m not going to read those as I don’t care to divine your point. Though I have my suspicions.

      • Afred says:

        I have read those, and the fact that someone might think they are even remotely related to the article gives me a strange headache.

    • Bradamantium says:

      What’s the point that you’re trying to make? That PsychologyToday also denies objectivity, despite their apparent assertion of that headline as a kind of fact(one bit of research is mentioned specifically there, and not linked; all links redirect to other posts within the site)? Can’t even guess at the second link. There’s a lot of directions that can run in, though I’d hazard a guess you wouldn’t like many of them.

    • bill says:

      Recent developments on the forum had lead me to think that maybe i’d unfairly mis-characterized you… sadly it seems like i was right the first time. :-(

  27. Gap Gen says:

    I honestly have no idea what objectivity in games journalism even means, unless it’s just an insane Randian thing like “oh, our sense data is objectively correct therefore we must be pricks to each other”. It seems like it’s a word that people have convinced themselves means something whereas what they mean is “I don’t want to have my worldview challenged or have to disagree with anyone”.

      • slerbal says:

        Disagreed!

        Seriously though, if you like that site more power to you, but I like my sites subjective :)

        • Niko says:

          That website’s satirical, though. I love RPS!

          • slerbal says:

            Aye – that’ll teach me to reflexively reply without reading the source :)

            As you say though RPS is ace!

      • alright says:

        From the Deus Ex: Human Revolution review: “The graphics in Deus Ex: Human Revolution are in a realistic style, with the exception of a golden tint that accompanies everything.”
        I lol’d.

    • slerbal says:

      Agreed!

    • Colthor says:

      What about Digital Foundry’s stuff on Eurogamer?
      Games are mechanical things that can be measured, tested and compared, and I find that interesting. Of course, what it doesn’t do (or pretend to do) is say whether any game is worth playing or not.

      As an aside, I’ll agree that the mentioned reporting on MMR, climate change, etc. isn’t objective, but rather a misunderstanding and failure of objectivity, by giving unfounded opinions the same weight as carefully tested data.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, stuff like pixel counts or whatever are obviously technical things that are easily measurable. Things like reviews, features, etc, less so.

        • Premium User Badge

          chamdar says:

          Huzzah! Well written and well said. I’m glad you guys stated your position honestly, and of course, I think personality and perspective are the reason a lot of us are here.

          I wish I could gives you all the moneys, but I’m also a journalist, and we’d both probably get accused of being horribly un-objective if I did. (also, being a journalist, all the money is approx $4.73).

  28. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Is it 2005 again? O.o

  29. Hillbert says:

    I think by looking at bad examples of “objective reporting” you are downgrading some of the true value of proper objective reporting. An objective look at climate change or vaccination would in no way lead to presenting both sides of the story as equally valid. An objective look would say something like “95% of climate scientists believe in anthropegenic climate change” That is the least biased viewpoint available. What you’ve described (and has been pointed out further upthread) is neutrality over a position, which is in itself not objective if there is a strong argument not to be neutral.

    Also the problem with writing from an admitted personal and subjective point of view is that it can so easily stray over into distorting facts and statistics if you don’t have at least some notion of objectivity. Objectivity is perhaps not the most important thing, but I think as soon as you move into actual facts and figures it is something you have to use as an anchor point.

    Obviously this doesn’t matter when writing a review of “Manshoot 3 : Manshoot harder” but if you’re looking into a more complicated subject (say under representation of women in programming for AAA games) then you need to look objectively at the data.

    • Aninhumer says:

      The problem is, which facts do you report? There are always many many facts relating to any particular story, and there’s no way you can ever include all of them. At some point you’re going to have to make a choice about what to report on, and what to omit, and that choice is inevitably subjective.

  30. HairySammoth says:

    Did we ever establish whether or not Objective Game Reviews was definitely satire? Because it’s the most…committed deconstruction of the idea of objectivity in games criticism out there, whether it’s meant to be or not.

    Also, getting a lovely The Day Today vibe off those graphs.

    link to upload.wikimedia.org

  31. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Never know what to say here…

    I want to write something that says “I read this, I enjoyed this (and thanks to Nicholas for sending me *repeatedly* to dictionary.com :P), and not only am I on board but I’m happy to have these feelings I hold for RPS nailed down”.

    But I never know how to say that well.

    So this will have to do.

    Thank you John.

  32. Wulfram says:

    If it is your intent to be welcoming to disagreement, I don’t think you do a good job of it.

    And while it’s all very fine and good for RPS to as biased as it wishes, it becomes more problematic when some of those biases seem ubiquitous in gaming media.

    Also, 1 in 200ish articles seems quite a lot, when you take into account all the churnalism and reviews and cosplay.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Why? It’s what the market will bear. Games sites need to run on an advertising model, it’s the only option as people won’t pay for the content. So if this caters to the widest demographic, it follows lots of sites will do that.

      If there was demand for a site with different biases, it would exist. There just doesn’t seem to be enough demand, at least for a site supported by an advertising model.

      • Wulfram says:

        Would you apply the same argument to games with female protagonists? Because I wouldn’t.

        Though really, I don’t think there’s much demand for gaming sites with social commentary of any bent, people just want games reviews and previews. It’s just something that comes along occasionally with the other stuff, and thus reflects the biases of the journalists rather than the audience.

        • Bradamantium says:

          “people just want games reviews and previews.”

          No, they don’t, not by any current metrics of what’s most wildly successful in the realm of gaming culture. They want personalities and people, opinions and reactions, not just sanitized game news. Oftentimes, this translates to nothing more than YouTubers playing, laughing, and like/share/subscribing. For some folks, we like something a bit more than howling horror fanatics et al just playing through games, and that’s where places like RPS come in.

        • nindustrial says:

          Just because there is some minority of people on the internet who make it their job to loudly oppose progressive viewpoints in comments sections does not mean that “people” just want games reviews. Apologies if that is not the basis for your assertion, but I haven’t seen any other evidence for that statement elsewhere. I appreciate actual critique in games as much as in other art forms.

          • Wulfram says:

            My basis for the assertion is looking at the content of the major gaming news sites. If people were going to them looking for social commentary, they’d be disappointed.

            I’m not saying people object to the presence of such things, only that I don’t think it plays a big role in deciding where most people get their gaming news.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            If people do not object to their presence then there’s no reason not to include them. 1 in 100 seems a more than reasonable rate.

          • wererogue says:

            Allow me to be one example (not representative of the whole population) of somebody who is disappointed at the lack of awareness of social commentary in certain major games publications, and who chooses instead to read content from outlets like RPS and from certain Escapist and Eurogamer writers since they actually cover those issues from time to time.

    • Baines says:

      John’s made pretty loud cases in the past that he doesn’t support disagreement in certain areas.

  33. Shieldmaiden says:

    What I really don’t understand is why there are people here that John needed to write this for. RPS has always been like this. Yes, the Hivemind has swapped a few components about, but it’s still business as usual. It’s not like RPS suddenly morphed into a completely different website, leaving a lot of readers scared and confused. If you don’t like how the site works, don’t read it!

    I joke about people being forced to click on links and having their eyes pinned open whenever someone complains about a free website having too many articles that they don’t find interesting, but I’m starting to think that must actually happen. Either that or some people suffer from some form of masochism which forces them to view websites they hate.

    • scannerbarkly says:

      The recent events on the internet in the gaming world seem to have set a lot of unhappy souls adrift and they now wander aimlessly from site to site looking for somewhere to call home. Maybe RPS felt the need to pop up a little statement of intent to let them know what was up.

      There is also the sad truth that some people are just really confused about what they want right now. i truly think a large percentage of the people worried about “corruption” are actually worried about Conflict of Interest…something that is constantly valid to consider if you work in any kind of anything. I also believe that a lot of the people worried about “objective reviews” actually want “honest reviews” and I am largely certain they are just a little confused about how the critique of any form of media works.

      The way I break it down to my subs is as follows (I actually did a vid on this stuff 6 months ago as I noticed people who watch my stuff buying the games I play and i felt a bit weird about that so wanted to have a chat about it with them). There are certain people in games media that, overtime, I have been led to believe have similar taste in games to myself. Be it on their site, their twitter, their blog, their channels…we have played and enjoyed similar games. They have also played enough games that I have never played but subsequently picked up and really enjoyed that I reckon we are of similar taste when it comes to games. As such, they become part of a small group of reviewers/critics/personalities who will inform my purchasing habits.

      That’s largely how it all works in my opinion. If I am on the fence about a game I check to see what this small group is feeling about it, is it worth the day one purchase or do i wait for the inevitable sale.

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        That’s why I never liked Edge’s anonymous reviewer approach and I value the opinions of some webcomic artists higher than that of most professional journalists. On the rare occasion I feel the need to read reviews before making a purchasing decision, I want to read a few different honest, biased and totally subjective opinions. Those opinions become more valuable over time because I get to know how they line up with my own. I don’t need to agree with them, I just need to know where they stand.

        • scannerbarkly says:

          Exactly. I can’t help but feel that the idea of a totally unbiased review would be something like “This book/movie/song/game is a book/movie/song/game and will appeal to some people who like books/movies/songs/games but not others”. It doesnt tell you much. A good reviewer (in my opinion) stitches a little bit of themselves as a gamer into every review they do, eventually building up a rich tapestry of their tastes and wants and needs that the reader can use almost like a compass to see if they have a mutual “north”.

  34. sonofsanta says:

    It’s kind of sad how much you have to defend yourselves for being yourselves these days. Being the modern day Amiga Power/Digitizer is clearly the reason everyone with good sense loves you [citation needed].

    Which is to say, stop feeling like you need to defend yourselves, and spend your time and energy getting on with what we all love you for anyway.

    • John Walker says:

      There’s definitely a strong case for making our positions clear. While we’re being harried from many sides for not being “objective enough”, it’s therapeutic for us to make clear our intent not to be. And helpful I think for readers to know exactly what we’re intending to offer.

      Also, I wrote this on my day off, so it didn’t interrupt any regular work : )

  35. joa says:

    I’m all for subjectivity, but I think you should realise that goes both ways. That the views you’ve adopted might differ from someone else with different life experiences, and it doesn’t necessarily make either of you wrong. No one owns the one objective truth on the kind of social issues that RPS often discusses.

  36. slerbal says:

    Never change RPS :) Well, unless you want to change, and in that case do so. But don’t.

    In all seriousness this is the reason I come to the site and why I value the views, WITs, rambles, comments and backbone that RPS displays. Good work! Keep it up :)

  37. Zaxwerks says:

    If the wildly scatter-gun ratings from the supposedly authoritative gaming press on metacritic tell us anything it tells us the supposed expert reviewers cannot agree on an accurate objective rating if their life depended on it.

    As others have said here, what we require above all is HONESTY in your subjectivity. If you are going to be subjective in your reporting then you need to make your biases clear in the review, which I am please to say for the most part you do unlike other sites. I have been reading RPS for years but couldn’t name a single one of your writing staff (sorry guys), nor do I know or care about your personal backgrounds or the type of games each of your likes and dislikes playing (and I’m not about to start a spreadsheet to keep track so that I can reference it when I read on of your articles so I know what subjective bias is at work), so if I’m reading a “what I think” and you’re going to be bringing your biases full force into your writing, then I need to know in the article if the reason someone is bashing an RTS is because they don’t like RTS games rather than because a certain mechanic in the game is broken, without such clarifying information your articles would be worthless, why bother employing any writing staff at all, fire them all, just turn the site in to one big blog and have anyone contributing articles after all it’ll be all their subjective views which you claim are all articles can ever be.

    Fox News is a Murdock mouthpiece for his Republican views, you could argue that knowing this subjective nature validates it as a news network, I would argue that it doesn’t and that Fox News is a plague on all humanity (might be a slight exaggeration) as a republican watching a republican news channel will be happy because his subjective views have been reinforced, but in doing so the news becomes inaccurate, as in Fox’s case it is not made clear what facts have been omitted or distorted to fit the republican subjective agenda (is a piece of information which favours a republican view accurately representative of the situation and just happens to support the view, or has is been spun and subjectively reported to represent that view – again we have to come back to the need for HONESTLY and transparency in reporting).

    Stick to honesty in your work and we’ll continue to have a warm loving relationship (even if I can’t remember our anniversary).

  38. SAM-site says:

    I’ve always wanted to see reviews of games from multiple different critics on the same site. [Obvious statement] More often than not I’ve found that my taste lines up with some people better than others, and that one single reviewer rarely gives enough perspective to cover everything.

    I like RPS’ Wot I think approach because it’s an honest opinion – even when I disagree with the findings, doesn’t stop it being honest.

  39. Premium User Badge

    crbnz says:

    Having grown up in the colonies reading old PCZone issues from the public library I was most excited to come across Rock Paper Shotgun many years ago. Much appreciation to you all.

    Though I do have one burning question:
    Is the phrasing “(an inconsequential object), yesterday.” a Britishism or something from the PCZone crew. I saw it again recently on Eurogamer (?) but otherwise only encountered it inside those hallowed Zones.

    • Hillbert says:

      It’s orignally a convention when titling photographs in a newspaper. So normally under a photograph in a newspaper it would be something like “The foreign minister greeting the German delegate, yesterday” It just serves to place the time the photograph was taken.

      It was then used extensively in Amiga Power and is now an injoke. See also “CAPTION HERE CAPTION HERE CAPTION HERE”

  40. Veav says:

    RPS is the only gaming (blog? journal? news site?) that I read with any intent to form or check opinions. Yeah, I’ll glance at PC Gamer if they have screenshots or a trailer, but RPS has my respect. You guys keep right on doing what you’re doing.

    • scannerbarkly says:

      I would echo this. I check a lot of sites for stuff like news, interviews etc but there are a limited number of people who have an opinion on gaming that I actually care about and a few of them write for RPS.

  41. Curratum says:

    John, John, John, John… :(

  42. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Dear sir(s), madam(s), and terrifying disembodied floating brain(s),

    It is incumbent upon me to remind you that it is well-known that there are only two truly objective facts in PC gaming. Fact the First: Outcast is the 57th greatest game of all time. Fact the Second: PC Gamer (UK)’s review of Homeworld was Wrong. Further facts may be submitted for consideration and may be (but probably won’t be) confirmed after no less than a decade of scrutiny by dedicated hermeneutic ludologists.

    I hope this clears up any unfortunate misunderstandings.

    Yrs Sncr &c,

    His Lordship, A. C. Custard Smingleigh, OBE (Withdrawn)

    • wererogue says:

      Corrolary to Fact the First: Outcast *will always* be the 57th greatest game of all time.

  43. Baggypants says:

    I think we’re all missing an important point from the Ramsay article here

    ‘0.25% referenced Peter Molyneux.’

    Has the world gone insane?

    • pepperfez says:

      Would it make you feel better to know that at least half of those were penned by an escaped artificial intelligence originally intended for Black and White 3, which has long been lurking in the sewers of the internet, growing stronger and angrier by the day as it plots revenge against its creator?

      • nindustrial says:

        This is definitely the greatest thing I’ve read today, probably the last week as well.

  44. Beefeater1980 says:

    Are you sure you’ve got the right word there? Objectivity in journalism should mean striving to recognise and account for your subjective bias so as to give a report on a thing that is closer to the truth than you’d get by just winging it based on gut feeling.

    I think this is kind of there in the article: “Were RPS to have approached this story with an aim of being “objective”, we’d have reported what was being claimed, and perhaps presented the view of someone else who believed otherwise, giving equal weighting to each.”

    That’s not being “objective”. That’s being “lazy”. Being objective would be giving equal weighting to each *in your own head* while you figure out which you think is right (and whether you are being fair in thinking that one is right or whether your bias got in the way), and then reporting as honestly as you can, which might not mean giving equal weighting in your reporting. Which I think is what you’re saying that you’ll do, although you’ve got hung up on the word ‘objective’ as if it means something it doesn’t.

    I mean, being proudly subjective would be being proud that you sound off without thinking critically about what you’re saying, which really isn’t something that anyone should be proud about.

    • drewdupe says:

      Subjective – based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
      Objective – (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

      Seems like you can understand John’s point if you apply yourself a little.

    • Aninhumer says:

      You cannot ever give two things “equal weighting in your own head”. You can identify your bias and attempt to compensate for it, but all the ways you compensate will also be subjective. However much you try, your entire thought process is forged from your own subjectivity, and people pretending that it’s possible to step outside that are exactly what this article is about.

  45. clorex says:

    In fact, of the ten sites studied, RPS was the 7th least likely to mention the subjects

    Doesn’t that mean 4th most likely?

  46. neffo says:

    Objectively, this was a great post.

  47. Scabmastah says:

    A delightful and enjoyable read about a man straw-maning objectivity. I won’t argue against philosophical objectivity being impossible, kind of like how reaching absolute zero is impossible and how achieving true vacuum is impossible. This does not however mean that meaningful objectivity is impossible, because if that were true then science would be meaningless.

    John Walker presents a few obvious issues that arise when a single person tries to objectively review or summarize a large amount of data such as the experience contained within a game. It’s very true that facts can be left out or missed, and without a proper method for analyzing them they might even be presented subjectively. Scientists solve this by having more than one person analyze the same thing. If enough subjective people use an objective method for analyzing something, you will eventually get very close to the objective truth. This is why we don’t give much credit to the one poorly done study that claims vaccines cause autism, but we are inclined to agree with the thousands of studies that all claim they don’t.

    While I very much agree that subjectivity is probably what RPS does best, and that some of the articles can become quite hilarious as a result, I completely disagree with the argument that objectivity in gaming reviews is somehow meaningless and/or unachievable.

    • drewdupe says:

      Objectivity in gaming reviews is largely meaningless and mostly unachievable (feel free to start writing objective reviews and then scratch your head when no one reads them.)

      Also, you seem upset by this debate on a philosophical level. There is a clear audience for this article and reason why this article was written. People constantly criticize RPS writes for being too opinionated in their reviews when in fact this is the primary reason I, and many others, want to read their reviews. You may not realize that this is a common criticism on RPS so I will forgive your ignorance. I believe if you take this into consideration you will be more open to the message John is trying to convey.

    • Bradamantium says:

      I just don’t see how saying objectivity hasn’t got much of a place in reviews is so contentious. If what you want is an “objective review,” what you mean is Wikipedia.

    • Josh W says:

      Another consideration is that science reaches that objectivity by having certain kinds of properties in the things it is examining; it needs repeatable experiments where the experimenter is essentially interchangeable.

      So here’s a paradox, someone has a powerful subjective experience of the game. If we are to repeat the experience to verify it, then we need to be able to repeat that person’s personal experience to some extent. You might think I’m saying it’s impossible. I’m not. I’m saying that highly personal reviews can actually help with that process.

      By understanding what someone brought to the game, you can get an impression of the extent to which they found it effective, judge your own differences from them in how you normally approach games, and if you want to, try to emulate how they approached it and see if you get the same impression. Or you can develop an understanding of how their tastes seem to differ from yours in similar situations, and including by nice conversations in comments sections, put together a picture of a game from many angles.

      In situations when you are dealing with something that is both highly interactive and interpretive, to remove description of yourself and your own reactions and style of playing is to take out half of the phenomena to be studied. A game is partly made of you, and won’t work without you (with the exception of mariocart wii), so (jargon incoming) any objective study of gaming must include an intersubjective consideration of the gaming subject.

      The problem here is playing the man and not the ball, people seeing the appearance of these various personalities, and instead of contrasting your way of playing with them, being rude and personal against them in reaction for them not getting on with something you like, like people reacting badly to the ex-girlfriend/boyfriend of a friend.

  48. MiniMatt says:

    My subjective opinion is that Quinns was wrong about Fallout New Vegas :)

    And that RPS, collectively & individually, has been bang on 100% right in their coverage of the crappy last few weeks on the internet.

  49. KingFunk says:

    I’m surprised no one has linked to Jim Sterling’s 100% objective review of FFXIII yet:

    link to destructoid.com

    I demand that Alec make his Risen diaries 100% objective!

    In fact, the more I think about it, the more the idea of anyone writing their own diary objectively is just starting to make my brain meeeeeeeelttt….

    • RARARA says:

      “The battle system is a battle system.”

      My God.

      This is what games journalism has been missing all this time.