Finally, An Objective Book Review: A God In Ruins

Here at RPS, we’re sick and tired of so-called “reviews” that allow the personal taste of the reviewer to influence the content of the critique. Subjective influences have for too long created reviews useless to anyone but the self-entitled ego-maniac writing, and we’re not going to endorse this any more. We begin this by reviewing the new book by Kate Atkinson, A God In Ruins.

A God In Ruins is a novel by the author Kate Atkinson, following on from a previous novel by the same author entitled Life After Life.

The book is 24 cm high and 16.2 cm wide. Across the main surface appears a predominantly brown background, depicting wooden boards. Upon them lies or hangs a rabbit, that is possibly dead, but could also be alive. Above the rabbit appear the words:

“Author of Life After Life
KATE
ATKINSON
A GOD IN RUINS”

The first and last lines are in white, while the author’s name is in red.

The book is 3.5 cm thick, consisting of 400 pages of paper. While early examples of these pages contain introductory material such as copyright information and dedications, by page 9 the main book content begins in the form of the first chapter. The book continues on in a similar fashion, although at times does make changes in the font and the typesetting used. By the end of the novel, pages are dedicated to listing the sources used for the creation of the book, and a short biography of the author. On the back cover, also measuring 24 cm by 16.2 cm, is a short précis of the subject of the book, followed by excerpts from reviews of the author’s previous novel, Life After Life. (It is worth noting that these quotes are extremely subjective in nature, some even using personal pronouns. We have no determined feeling about this.)

The fonts used are mostly standard, while short spaces are used to suggest breaks in scenes rather than sub-chapter numerals or asterisks. We had no noticeable difficulties reading the words on the pages. The pages turned relatively easily, although pages 277 and 299 leafed simultaneously, leading to some confusion regarding the coherence of the plot.

The book’s ISBN number is 978-0385618700, and is published by Doubleday. It was released on the 7th May. It has an RRP of £20.

Disclosure: the author of this review has had a number of friendly conversations with the gentleman running the bookshop from which it was purchased.

116 Comments

  1. wraithgr says:

    This review is clearly influenced by the reviewer’s obsession with facts.

    Also, I find the bias in favour of the metric system exhibited by the reviewer simply appalling.

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      distantlurker says:

      And no mention *whatsoever* of how much it weighs

      Amateur hour again here on RPS.

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      Don Reba says:

      The metric is the one true measurement system, you dirty imperialist peasant.

      • Chirez says:

        I think that’s the first time I’ve seen someone called an imperialist peasant.
        It’s either a dumb insult, or intended to indicate a person with no ability to act in their own best interest.
        I wonder which?

        • Dawngreeter says:

          I like your second explanation a lot. I’d say it is a good way to describe anyone who votes, say, republican or tory. Or votes period, if you happen to live in Serbia. Which I do.

    • ansionnach says:

      Obvious pro-European propaganda… and the referendum date isn’t even set yet!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Actually it’s about ethics in book reading.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      Wrong ! It’s about whether this book can run Crysis ! But in his ruinous attempt to White Knight the Straw Men of the lost continent of Ad Hominem he has totally missed the point.

      And has anyone even thought of the children ?
      Probably not.

  3. drewski says:

    This is outrageous. Clearly only some parts of the author’s name on the cover are in red. More disgusting pro-red bias from RPS.

    We need more objective reviews.

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    Bluerps says:

    Yes, but what objective rating does it get? I won’t buy a 7/10 book!

  5. draglikepull says:

    I appreciate what you’re going for here, but this just seems to be a slight variation on the 100% Objective Final Fantasy XIII Review (link to destructoid.com).

    • Niko says:

      Objectively, all objective reviews are uniform.

    • ThomasHL says:

      Geeze, 2010. Some things really do never change

    • Saul says:

      There is also a website and several tumblrs dedicated to objective game reviews. But it’s a good joke, and a point that keeps being relevant.

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    Arnvidr says:

    Just adding this comment here as well, since there’s a bigger chance someone might see it on a fresh article:

    “I wonder if I’m missing something about the supporter posts? The last few weeks there has been maybe one or two each week, and then just silence. Was there an announcement of sorts that I didn’t see? Was it all just rolled into the regular updates? It feels like there’s been a few more of the “supporter type posts” in the regular daily rollout.

    No complaining, mind, just wondering if I overlooked something.”

    • slerbal says:

      Yeah I agree, the frequency of Supporter posts has declined. Does that reflect a decline in Supporters? Also, without wanting to sound mercenary there was a suggestion of additional supporter bonuses – such as game keys and it occurred to me that perhaps the various game keys being offered could be offered up to supporters first, as by the time I get there they are normally gone as there haven’t actually been any new editions to the Supporter’s package since the program launched.

      Personally that is fine with me, I can understand that RPS might be doing the key give aways more for new readers, but perhaps the posts about Supporting should be modified to reflect this?

      • iainl says:

        The keys given out recently have been promotional items; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are complex issues of “selling” them if you give preference to the people paying money.

    • Alec Meer says:

      We’ve had people away quite a bit over the last few weeks, plus a couple of UK bank holidays this month, so yeah, there’s been a slight and temporary shortfall in supporter posts. All back to normal (i.e. one per weekday) very soon though.

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        Arnvidr says:

        Cheers, breaks and gaps are fine, but it’s better to know in advance.

  7. quietone says:

    But can you write it on a cold rainy night in Stoke?

    • hey_tc says:

      Of course not, nobody can do that. I’ve tried.

    • Joriath says:

      The cold rainy nights of Stoke sap your will and motivation. Eventually the writing process degrades into a repetitive cycle of seemingly random key-presses, until at last the brain surrenders to the enshrouding darkness and directs the body it controls to the nearest tavern.

    • deiseach says:

      Or a warm May Sunday afternoon in Stoke?

      *sobs*

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    Fallingbadgers says:

    So 73% then

  9. Sarfrin says:

    I am currently reading Life After Life, which it seems is different from this book in many respects, not least size and colour. Thank you for the useful information.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Why am I supposed to care about this? The author has at no point let us know what their IQ is.

    • corpuscule says:

      It does remind me an awful lot of Jimquisition 100% objective review : link to youtube.com
      Regarding the point if this article, it is an old joke about the impossibility of reviewing something “objectively”, reviewing is all about what you feel, be it about a book or videogame.

      • jezcentral says:

        Yes, I saw that Jimquisition video. It was over three months ago, and less than 12 months ago. It was watchable with my eyes, because I have two of them, which is more than the required minimum of one. You can also listen to it, if you choose, or do not have any eyes that you can see with.

        EDIT: It may have been less than three months ago. But definitely over two months ago. This means that my entire review has been compromised, and should be ignored. I shall leave it up, though, for reasons of transparency.

  11. Not_Id says:

    FFS RPS! What about the word count per page ffs! And wtf does it smell like? If you’re going to review books in the future, please include the above info. Otherwise a great review.

  12. RaoulDuke says:

    RPS, enabling trolls since 1873.

  13. cpt_freakout says:

    A wise penguin once said “Don’t book a judge by her cover”

  14. Dawngreeter says:

    16.2 cm?!

    This is a dealbreaker for me. I have no intention of buying books that aren’t at least 17cm wide. I can’t believe Doubleday are so cheap. You’re already making millions, you can add 0.8cm!

    • marlin says:

      DLC perhaps?

      • Dawngreeter says:

        Only if it’s a free DLC will I consider actually buying it.

        I’m also a little disappointed that there’s no coop mode, and I doubt they’ll be able to fit that into a DLC as well…

    • Gap Gen says:

      Most books quoted as 17cm actually come out closer to 16cm. It’s partly because of the need for “buffer air” in the stacks but also because publishers prefer to use the standard of 1 inch = 2.5cm, which is misleading for people used to the SI conventions.

  15. weebob says:

    TL:DR

  16. Tazer says:

    I understand the point you are trying to make, but you don’t think there is a problem with taking off whole points on a game or not recommending it because it doesn’t fit with what you personally want to see in a video game? For example, the latest controversy of course is Polygon giving an 8 to the Witcher because there are no people of color and they don’t feel like women were represented well in a medieval fantasy setting. These things are important because they affect the developers bonuses and can influence future production. Even worse, to imply that the devs hate women or minorities because of the lack of inclusion is just a straight attack when you don’t even know the people. But back to this article, be careful up there on your high horse, it’s a long fall.

    • tnzk says:

      I actually really enjoyed the honest, subjective review of Witcher 3 from Polygon.

      It put them and Arthur Gies on my “seriously, don’t bother” list. Until further notice, they’ll be completely ignored from my newsfeeds.

    • gulag says:

      Doesn’t it bother you more that publishers have decided to tie developer bonuses to the whim of the reviewing press? What other entertainment industry does this?

      The point of failure isn’t the review score, lack thereof, or if a reviewer is objective/subjective. Taking reviewers to task for what does and does not pass between publishers and developers is like blaming a newsreader for a riot.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        “Doesn’t it bother you more that publishers have decided to tie developer bonuses to the whim of the reviewing press? What other entertainment industry does this”

        What, ultimately, is the best way to solve it? Eurogamer (and RPS) have it right: No scores. We can all say how awful we think publishers are for doing that, but we don’t have any real say in the matter. Journalists can and should do something.

        • horus_lupercal says:

          Not that it validates Tazers opinion that reviewers should take into account any potential bonuses being witheld by Publishers based on a games metacritic score in the slightest but Metacritic assigns a score to review when the reviewers don’t provide one.

          link to metacritic.com

    • Mman says:

      Ethical reviews=inflating your already-high scores and not talking about things you want to in case it harms developer bonuses.

      Okay

    • ironman Tetsuo says:

      I don’t know if this is the same for everyone else but whenever I read a review I usually compare my own personal likes and dislikes to the reviewers and then adjust the score for myself based on the degree of discrepancy of taste. So in this instance, if you just want to play the Witcher 3 and are not personally invested in wanting more diversity in AAA game worlds then just add those docked “points” back to the final tally. Or, you could just find a reviewer that does share your own personal tastes and use their reviews as a sales guide instead and just not refrain from reading the words of people who have issues you don’t share.

      The alternative it seems, is to shout these kind of reviews down, harass advertisers associated with the site that published it and/or anonymously harass the writer via social media in an attempt to have the review removed and a personal misplaced sense of justice returned…

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      Harlander says:

      Ending that post by accusing someone else of being on their high horse was a true master-stroke.

      8/10

    • Monggerel says:

      If you think medieval Europe was at any point whitewashed, well, you’re incorrect. That fantasy games have absolutely no romani-analogues for instance is, while a given (genre originating where it does), a fairly easy thing to point at and laugh. When the Witcher throws the word “pogrom” around as much as it does, this is especially quaint. In fairness, the dwarves (and halflings) are the jews and the elves are the romani in the series, the scoia’tel being stand-ins for all forms of religious groups marked as heretics (thus the armed resistance).
      All of them are pasty as fuck, with the one exception being Geralt, who is actually albino.

      If you met a single eastern-european peasant in your life, you know on a goddamn fact that white people aren’t really white either.

      Doesn’t matter. Why? Well, I don’t actually know. Probably because I have neither the expertise nor the skill to write about it. Someone else might.

    • suibhne says:

      I have some real problems with that Polygon review – notably that, in the midst of the reviewer’s complaints about women and minorities, they didn’t focus on the game’s unflinching treatment of violence against women and its consistent anti-racism. Geralt is basically a liberal humanist, and the fact that the gameworld’s characters are pretty much all white shouldn’t distract from this. After all, Sapkowski writes in a part of the world where social otherness is more often defined by national origin, language group, religion, etc., not skin color.

      However, what you wrote about the Polygon review is simply not correct. Those two points were made near the end of the article, after many other criticisms of the game, and it’s downright disingenuous on your part to suggest that social justice concerns made the score equal to 8. In the interest of accuracy, you might even point out that 8 is *far* higher than Polygon’s score for TW2. Polygon has always represented the bottom of the score ranges for CDPR’s games, so this score of an 8 is actually pretty significant for those poor developer families you see as motivation. The point is, this is by far Polygon’s favorite Witcher game, and it’s pretty weaksauce to argue that the score should’ve been a 10 if not for misguided concerns about representation of women and minorities.

      • HyenaGrin says:

        ‘Geralt is basically a liberal humanist, and the fact that the gameworld’s characters are pretty much all white shouldn’t distract from this.’

        Actually laughed out loud at this, so thanks for that. I wish it was intended as biting sarcasm though.

        I mean, apart from the obvious silliness of that statement – I mean, it’s the equivalent of a corporation saying they support racial equality while having nothing but white people working for them, despite virtually limitless potential to hire non-white people. It rings a little hollow.

        So besides that, are we asking games critics to judge a game based on its content, or based on the views of the main character?

        • suibhne says:

          My point clearly didn’t translate very well, and your analogy doesn’t really hold up. The game’s protagonists – and its author – consistently support some degree of gender equality, a higher degree of racial justice, and economic and political freedoms (including freedom from both religion and state control) that we’d typically identify as “liberal” in a historical/political sense (which maybe shouldn’t be confused with capital-L “Liberal” from Euro politics or quote-unquote “liberal” from US politics). I didn’t suggest there was a disjuncture between Geralt’s attitudes and those of Sapkowski, as you claim, because I don’t think there is such a disjuncture – despite the ugliness that Sapkowski also portrays throughout the books.

          Am I troubled by the default whiteness throughout the world of The Witcher? Yeah, absolutely. Sapkowski never comes out and describes his characters as white, aside from Geralt’s albinism, but he also doesn’t use skin color as a conceptual category throughout his books…and CDPR interpreted that to produce a gameworld that’s pretty much 100% white, aside from a few Zerrikanians who seem to be stand-ins for Middle Easterners. As other posters pointed out, that’s not really accurate even from a narrow Polish perspective…and it strikes me as a pretty questionable creative decision, too, when you’re hoping to get your game onto the hard drives of tens of millions of players from diverse backgrounds around the world. But – and here’s my original point – it’s still not exactly balanced to have this conversation about the game without also noting that it does directly, consistently address racial, gender, economic, and other axes of justice throughout its narrative, and the main character espouses these (basically Enlightenment) values no matter how you play him. This is an interesting conversation, maybe even an important conversation (depending on your viewpoint), so let’s have both halves of it. The Polygon review only manages to notice the first bit.

          • Dawngreeter says:

            What I suspect the reason for all the whiteness is, is just something that I might label latent racial bias. I don’t think anyone had a problem with including non-white people. I don’t think anyone purposefully went out to put white everywhere for no reason. I think that due to no specific skin tones being mentioned, it just came out that way without any sort of editorial intent. I wouldn’t read into it anything more than people at CDPR assuming white is default.

            I live in Serbia and I assume the social climate, as far as “race” goes, is very similar in Poland. The only non-white people you consistently encounter are the Romani (who everyone calls a local variant of “Gypsy”) and the society has gotten really, really good at completely ignoring them while assuming the only thing they do is steal and/or panhandle. Outside of that, any non-white person is immediately spotted as either interesting, strange or ire-inducing, depending on how much, if any, schooling you had and how much of a bastard you are. Weeks pass without me seeing a single non-white, non-Romani person. And even then, it is usually a Chinese person, as Serbia had a bit of an influx in the past 20 years, mostly store owners peddling imported chinese goods. But if you don’t actually go to chinese markets, you rarely see them.

            In such a climate it is incredibly easy to imagine anyone who isn’t explicitly marked as non-white to be white. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. I’m just saying that it’s easier for this to happen when you see very little diversity when you walk down a street.

    • RQH says:

      Setting aside the absurd picture of that forms when I try to imagine games coverage that is purely concerned with preserving the livelihoods and maximizing the bonuses of developers …

      No, I don’t have a problem with a reviewer making a case that a game’s quality is diminished (or their ability to recommend it without reservation is qualified) by the particular social stands the game appears to take through its narrative. If you put narrative in your game, what you choose to say through that narrative is open to critique, to interpretation, and to misinterpretation.

      Nor do I have problem with a reviewer who doesn’t think it diminishes the quality of the game, but chooses to mention it anyway because they think their audience might want to be informed.

      Likewise, I also have no problem with someone wanting to make the case that the reviewer is wrong.

      What I do have a problem with is the idea that a reviewer who disagrees with consensus is somehow being more subjective than a reviewer who falls in line with the consensus. In this case, the consensus is that The Witcher 3 is an excellent game. If there were no reviewers who disagreed with that consensus, we should wonder if that consensus was legitimate, or if it was influenced in some way.

      • pepperfez says:

        Fantastically, the latest vitriol is aimed at a review that agreed with the consensus that a game was excellent and also pointed out flaws with it. No criticism in my criticism!

    • draglikepull says:

      If anything, this shows the absurdity of trying to assign a numerical value to how “good” a video game is. It’s ridiculous to argue about whether it’s “worth” 1 or 2 points for a game to have problematic representations of minorities, but it’s equally ridiculous to argue about whether it’s “worth” 1 or 2 points if a reviewer was really into a game’s soundtrack or whether it’s “worth” 1 or 2 points if a reviewer was really taken by a game’s art direction.

    • metric day says:

      No, I can’t get worked up about anyone, anywhere, deducting “points” in a review for any reason they want. Who gives a shit? Read another review.

  17. Zorganist says:

    ‘ISBN number’? International Standard Book Number number? The reviewer’s integrity is clearly compromised by this error. Consider my subscription to your magazine cancelled in disgust.

  18. Jackablade says:

    I’d suggest that the mere fact that the subjectivity of the back cover quotes was referenced infers some degree of reviewer bias.

  19. Wulfram says:

    Congratulations on your willful obtuseness and ability to repeat lame jokes.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    No, this is a subjective statement. A more objective response would be “This is an objective review of A God in Ruins, written by John Walker. Its body text is 415 words long.”

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    Don Reba says:

    It looks more crimson than red to me. Could you add the spectral distribution to your review?

  22. StickyLlama says:

    Can it run Crysis ? (oops sorry , now it’s Witcher 3)

  23. Aiven says:

    Your objectivity is amazing! What I always wanted. Thanks RPS, you’re heroes.

  24. waltC says:

    I love the satire…! It’s great. I’m always amused at people who ask for “objective” reviews, as if they can actually exist. It’s like asking for “objective” editorials…;) There is absolutely nothing wrong with criticism in a review, but what marks a good review from a poor one is how well such criticisms are justified by the reviewer. “I don’t like xxx” is insufficient, while “I don’t like xxx…and here’s why…” is the direction to pursue…! Eloquent and rational justification is the key.

  25. DWRoelands says:

    Could we please just stick to PC gaming and leave this dreck to your personal Tumblr blog?

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      Skabooga says:

      Aww, I like when RPS has a bit of fun with its writing. Part of the reason I enjoy the site so much is that the writers have the freedom to draw widely from all media and happenings and do not feel too constrained by their remit to report on PC games.

    • Sarfrin says:

      Do you have a link to John’s “Tumblr blog”? Sounds awesome!

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      teije says:

      So rude of RPS to make you read this article and then post a comment on it. Dreck-shovelling bastards all.

      • cylentstorm says:

        Yep. But he forgot to ask “how high?” when the evil RPS overlords told him to jump.

      • Distec says:

        I think it’s fair to express that John’s obnoxious rants stand out as a bit of dook in RPS’ punch bowl. Especially when they’re not particularly clever.

        He can post whatever he wants on his site, and people are more than free to ask him not to. I personally wish he’d leave this kind of shit to his Botherer blog.

  26. cylentstorm says:

    Methinks that the point was to illustrate the utter uselessness of an objective review of entertainment media. Either that, or trolls be trollin’ (as the kids and idiots are wont to say.)

  27. Ooops says:

    Wasn’t this joke made before, several times? Anyway, it might have been worth it to repeat on RPS, if only for the fun comments above.

    • pepperfez says:

      I think it’s worth repeating everywhere until everyone stops embarrassing themselves demanding objective opinions.

  28. MirzaGhalib says:

    Definitely objectivist clickbait.

  29. popej says:

    So what did Kate / her publisher slip you then RPS? A few packets of Golden Wonder and a bottle of R Whites? You filthy secret lemonade drinkers….

  30. PancakeWizard says:

    To be fair, I think those that were calling for ‘objective reviews’ were short-hand meaning ‘more objective’ ie. ‘less about personal hangups’, which I’m sure those being criticized knew full well, given the timing and nature of those criticisms! It’s just too hard to resist taking it at face value for an easy black eye, I guess.

    I still found this funny, though.

    • thepinkservbot says:

      I wish I could agree with you about this, but of all the conversations I’ve had with people inanely calling for “objective” reviews, across MANY MANY conversations, I’ve never heard anyone even remotely approach the subject from a softer perspective than “ALWAYS OBJECTIVE ALL THE TIME.”

      Yes, it’s insane. No, that doesn’t keep these people from thinking this way.

    • Yglorba says:

      No, they really aren’t. What they’re saying is “stop expressing opinions we disagree with.”

      I mean, what do you mean by “personal hangups?” If a book or a game has plot (or characterization) that I feel is terrible, I’m going to factor that into my review. If its plot relies on lazy racist or sexist stereotypes, I’m probably going to feel that its pretty terrible! That’s me applying my judgment, as well as I can, as a reviewer; anything else would be dishonest of me. As a reviewer, it’s my responsibility to express my full opinion on the work, even if I know some people might disagree with it.

      You might disagree with my opinion (you might not feel that the plot or characterization is that bad, say; or you might not feel that relying on those stereotypes is such a big deal.) But when you say “oh, that part is just your personal hangups and not a true objective judgment of the plot”, all you’re really saying is that I’ve pissed you off by holding opinions different from yours.

      Unfortunately, some people get really, really angry and emotional about videogames, and can throw a gigantic screaming fit when people have opinions about them that they disagree with. That’s all that’s happening here.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        Let’s all use a bit of common sense, shall we?

        Was there a mass outcry for ‘objective reviewing’ because:

        a) games were getting good/bad reviews because the reviewer liked/didn’t like a game.

        b) games were getting good/bad reviews because of the reviewer’s ideological/interpersonal leanings/biases

        Only one of these can be true and not have been the status quo for gaming journalism from its inception to now. Regardless of how inarticulate the complaints, it doesn’t take a genius wordsmith to infer the thrust of the argument ie. SOMETHING WRONG HERE. PLEASE FIX.

        It’s stranger to see RPS throwing shade on the subject considering their long-standing disclosure, recusal and non-scoring review system seem to be heavy proponents of that message. Now it’s to be mocked with derision, apparently?

        • hotmaildidntwork says:

          Is it hypothetically possible that the second thing there might have an effect on the first thing there, or vice versa? Maybe there just needs to be a handy, 100% objectively written guidesheet that reviewers can reference so they know which of their personal feelings are objective and which aren’t?

          • PancakeWizard says:

            If only there was some kind of guide, huh?

            link to spj.org

            Plenty there applicable to critical review for a reasonable mind. It forms the basis of many a gaming site’s ethical policy (when they have one).

          • Focksbot says:

            There’s absolutely nothing in that link properly applicable to writing criticism. It’s a guide for news-gathering and reporting.

        • drewski says:

          Given that RPS have a long standing policy that a Wot I Think is an entirely subjective opinion of one person, I suspect that whatever they may or may not think is wrong with videogame reviews, they’re certainly not any kind of poster carrier for increased objectivity.

          So yeah, it’s not really inconsistent to mock people who demand objectivity from reviews when your entire reviewing schtick is that objectivity is impossible.

        • Yglorba says:

          I wouldn’t really say that there was a mass outcry. And I definitely don’t think that the issue actually had anything to do with reviewers.

          I think that there were a small number of ideologically-driven culture warriors eager to score points in their personal crusades, plus a bunch of people who had strong ideological leanings that made them grouchy and irritable when whenever they came across a game or review that touched on their personal hang-ups. This is normal! Everyone has beliefs, and it’s not unusual to feel this directionless sense of disgruntled anger when you read or encounter something that goes against your hang-ups in a way that doesn’t make it easy to admit that “having people talking about this pisses me off” or whatever.

          Then the culture warriors realized this directionless anger gave them an untapped pool of recruits and started to construct (dumb) narratives that gave people a safe, socially-acceptable way to express the fact that they were upset about hearing stuff they disagreed with. That was clever!

          But “reviews are being influenced by the writer’s biases!” is obviously a vapid argument; there’s no validity to that, and RPS is quite right to mock it. All reviews are about what the writer thinks, which inevitably includes their biases and hangups and opinions on what makes a good story; if you think that a writer’s opinions are bad, you can just pick a different reviewer to read. Part of the fun of the internet is that it gives us a voice for just about any viewpoint!

          There are things wrong with game journalism, especially AAA journalism (where major publishers use their control over access and advertising to extract good reviews.) But “journalists are discussing social issues” or “journalists are reviewing things from perspectives I disagree with” aren’t problems, not at all (I feel that those are very, very good things, worth encouraging in any review worth reading — though obviously I won’t agree with all the issues or perspectives they bring to the table!)

          The people who got angry over that, I think, were pretty clearly driven by their own culture-war politics, whether they were willing to admit it to themselves or not. Their “concerns” (the ones you outlined) were silly and unconvincing, and generally it didn’t take long before the angry culture warriors driving things pushed their way to the front anyway.

        • Focksbot says:

          a) games were getting good/bad reviews because the reviewer liked/didn’t like a game.

          b) games were getting good/bad reviews because of the reviewer’s ideological/interpersonal leanings/biases

          These are plainly not two distinct categories – they’re pretty much the *same* thing rephrased – and that’s where you and all the rest of them have gone horribly, deeply wrong.

  31. Nest says:

    So dumb. Assigning a numerical value to a game, or any work of art, or any thing, really; can be perfectly objective as long as you define the criteria. The subjectivity is in the criteria you use to determine value. One site (or reviewer, or individual review) might assign a high value to visible minority representation; another might be more concerned with whether or not you can skip the cutscenes. Any set of criteria is potentially valid and reviews based around any set of criteria are potentially valuable, provided that the criteria are explicitly communicated to the reader.

    The reason professional games reviews are generally useless is because review sites, and even individual critics, have no consistent criteria from review to review. What might be considered a problem in one game, is ignored in another. Nobody is demanding that games reviews adhere to one universal standard of objective quality; but it would be really, really, nice if review sites were transparent about what their particular standards actually *are*, and apply those standards consistently.

    • Yglorba says:

      I think that that’s comically wrong. Reviewing anything artistic inherently entirely subjective; you can’t break a story, its characterization, or its artwork down into parts and evaluate each independently. You need to consider the entire work as a whole and how everything is combined. Sometimes a flaw in one area doesn’t really affect the whole; sometimes it completely derails the core of the story and makes the entire work fall apart.

      The only magazines I can recall doing multi-part scores are the really trashy ones from the 90’s, and it was always a joke; either you got a score that didn’t really reflect anything (because it was crudely crammed together from different parts without considering how much impact they had in this particular case), or the reviewers openly ignored the ridiculous math in order to give a final score that actually made sense.

      Seriously, the idea of breaking the score down and providing “objective criteria” is duuuumb. The point of a review is to get the reviewer’s subjective opinion, which isn’t something you can break down into mathematical weights and formulas. Any honest review has to consider everything; if I saw a reviewer saying “I’m only gonna consider these parts”, I’d laugh, shake my head, and never read a thing that they wrote again. A review that doesn’t consider every aspect of the work that moves the reviewer is a fundamentally dishonest and basically useless review.

      (I think it is telling that people only start calling for those kinds of silly things when they encounter a review they disagree with personally!)

  32. dethtoll says:

    John, have you considered moving to Kotaku? I think you’d be happier there. I get that you’re snarking at people who whine about reviews they don’t like, but did it really warrant an entire post like this? I go to Kotaku as much as I come here, but I come here because I wanted something a little more carefully curated and a little less clickbaity, and you’re undermining what makes RPS different from other gaming sites.

    • drewski says:

      I suspect, given that he part owns the site, has complete editorial control and can write whatever on the wide green and blue earth that he likes here, that no, he would not in fact be happier at Kotaku.

      • Distec says:

        Excellent form on stating the obvious.

        I forgot, our uniform response should be “lol John! So refreshing. This is why I love RPS!”

        • Yglorba says:

          Yeah, it is a bit obvious, and yeah, it’s been repeated to death; but it’s still important enough to be worth saying. The idea of objective reviews is inherently comical, but some people have still managed to work themselves up into a lather over it, so it’s worth making fun of it now and then to deflate all that outrage.

        • Sarfrin says:

          Are you one of those people who thinks you’re being oppressed if someone disagrees with your opinion?

  33. Yglorba says:

    No, they really aren’t. What they’re saying is “stop expressing opinions we disagree with.”

    I mean, what do you mean by “personal hangups?” If a book or a game has plot (or characterization) that I feel is terrible, I’m going to factor that into my review. If its plot relies on lazy racist or sexist stereotypes, I’m probably going to feel that its pretty terrible! That’s me applying my judgment, as well as I can, as a reviewer; anything else would be dishonest of me. As a reviewer, it’s my responsibility to express my full opinion on the work, even if I know some people might disagree with it.

    You might disagree with my opinion (you might not feel that the plot or characterization is that bad, say; or you might not feel that relying on those stereotypes is such a big deal.) But when you say “oh, that part is just your personal hangups and not a true objective judgment of the plot”, all you’re really saying is that I’ve pissed you off by holding opinions different from yours.

    Unfortunately, some people get really, really angry and emotional about videogames, and can throw a gigantic screaming fit when people have opinions about them that they disagree with. That’s all that’s happening here.

    • Yglorba says:

      Bluh, why is it so easy for this system to lose track of who you’re replying to?

  34. freiform says:

    Ah.. so I went cold turkey on game bundles just to impulsively buy books. Well played. Well played indeed. Despite the totally biased reviewing process. Meh.

  35. Ejia says:

    A book I buy as opposed to a book I myself wrote on handmade recycled paper? It’ll probably fall apart just as soon as the warranty expires.

  36. GameOverMan says:

    I only wanted to know: is this book DRM-free?

  37. christmas duck says:

    What the hell is “standard font” supposed to mean? What’s the point size, what’s the typeface? Is John trying to hide the fact the he is a fake reader boy who thinks they all look alike? Or is this book actually some pretentious waffle written in 10pt Baskerville?

  38. mygaffer says:

    A little on the nose, isn’t it?