Editorial: An End To “GIT GUD” – You Don’t Need To Be “Good” At Games To Enjoy Them

A really unpleasant gaming trend is getting louder and louder of late, where it’s considered of vital importance to observe when other people are “bad” at games. And of course insinuating that one is “good” at them at the same time. Such an attitude reveals an extraordinarily narrow-minded view of gaming, and indeed of humanity. It’s really time for it to stop.

There are a few running jokes about me on RPS, from being a bad healer to being far too attractive and clever. In their number is that I’m “bad at games”. And I happily take it, because I’ve deliberately opened the door to it. Over the two decades of my doing this, I’ve deliberately been open about how I don’t enjoy it when games have large difficulty spikes, when I’ve not been able to get far into a tricky game, or argued that it should always be possible to skip ahead in games. I’ve said it because it’s true, or at least it’s what I think, and few others are willing to. There’s a bravado, a need to appear to be the best in the world, which obviously most critics out there are not. Everyone’s just not willing to admit it.

And no surprise when there’s such hostility out there now. A few days ago Polygon uploaded a half hour video of one of their writers playing Doom, and yes, without doubt, the player during the recording isn’t performing particularly well at the game. Clearly playing on a console, he or she spends more time shooting at walls and the floor than the enemies, and appears to be ill at ease with the controls. It’s weird that Polygon uploaded it. But what you cannot tell from the video is whether the person playing is having fun. They could have been having a great time.

However, that is not how the video has been received. Loud voices have declared it as proof that Polygon as a site is incapable of providing expert opinion on games, despite there being no suggestion that the player in the video is the person reviewing the game. Whether the player was enjoying themselves, whether they were forced to upload the video of their first half hour getting used to the controls because bosses wanted footage while the clicks were high, whether they were used to mouse/keyboard controls and struggle with a gamepad for shooters (I know I do), whether they were drunk or high… nothing else is considered. Instead any potential expertise is called into question and they are laughed at. And I think this is really sad.

And this is as nothing compared to the roaring tedium that’s surrounded the release of Dark Souls 3, Stellaris, and any number of other games that are notably difficult to play. Unless one is the best at the game, one cannot claim to have opinions. Which is such a warped way of thinking. (I recently wrote about how I found Stellaris impenetrable, and received some rather strange responses. I’ve not played Dark Souls 3, because I detest boss fights at the best of times. I’m not personally affected by either, but I’ve read so much nastiness directed all over the place.) Because a person can have a splendid time with a game while being terrible, mediocre, quite good, or brilliant at it. Because games aren’t exams. And treating them like they are is ugly and stupid.

This attitude has had a very peculiar side effect on games journalism, too. It’s ever more the case that anyone reviewing a game daren’t admit to struggling with it, or finding it too hard in places, or admitting they had to give up at a certain point, because they will be on the receiving end of absolutely ridiculous abuse. I know this because I refuse to be bullied into being dishonest when writing about my own experiences of games (which are, of course, reflective of a large proportion of players), and as such receive a lot of said abuse. But few are joining in any more. Reviewers make ridiculous claims about completion times of games, fearing that if they say it took them eight hours, and everyone else says six, then they’ll look “bad” at it. Rather than, I don’t know, took more time to play it. There’s an idea. Or, and this would be just fine, weren’t as skilled at it as another reviewer so took longer to finish it.

Despite taking a couple more hours than someone more skilled, that person can still have an expert opinion on the game. Because the notion that they’d need to be top of the high score table before writing anything is… it’s really fucking stupid! Good grief, why is this even a thing that needs saying? Never mind that they’re going to have had a limited time to play the game and write about it, and not the weeks or months post release to become an expert. But for fear of cruel backlashes and public humiliation, us hacks are more likely to pretend we didn’t have problems, and as a result write a dishonest or far less helpful article about it. Screw that.

I recently reviewed Homefront: The Revolution. I know for a fact that I wasn’t as “good” at the game as another journalist I know. I chatted to him the night before it came out, after I’d written my review, and he mentioned how long he’d played it for. I realised I’d been playing for far longer than him and hadn’t got as far. And I had the thought, the worry, “Oh no, what if…” And caught myself. Because I’d written 2,500 words of considered, competent criticism of an intricate game, about which I had conflicting feelings. It turns out that his perhaps being “better” at it (or indeed playing it less thoroughly, missing side quests, etc) had no impact on my ability to write a damned good review of the game. Go figure.

Somehow as a gaming collective we’ve allowed notions from the likes of eSports to infiltrate our expectations of how ordinary people play games. They play them normally, not as world champions. In fact, if a games critic is to be of any use to the largest proportion of readers, they need to be in a position to have a normal experience of a game. They cannot be inept, someone cannot usefully review a game if they don’t understand the rules, or aren’t able to play it. However, they can certainly write about that. Reading about those experiences is revealing and valuable and informative. Not that they’d likely want to in the hostile and cruel atmosphere into which such things are received.

In this mess people have lost sight of what a review is for. It’s not a world-leading gaming expert explaining how they’re best at it – it’s a regular gamer who is hopefully an expert writer, eloquently describing their experience of the game. The farther a person drifts from this criteria, the less useful the criticism becomes to the largest number of readers. And in turn, the presentation of such high expectations, such high demands to be considered acceptable, puts off those reading, regular players of games, makes them feel unwelcome. It has a huge impact.

The loudest voices are almost always from the smallest minorities of gamers, and when someone writes about – or videos themselves – being less “good” at a game, it is these loud voices that respond. Furiously and often cruelly, mocking and chastising, and ultimately dismissing, because they might have a better aim, or a greater affinity for a particular genre. However, as is very often horribly demonstrated by those doing the mocking and dismissing, what they aren’t better at is informative and entertaining writing. Which might rather be the key.

I’ve made the decision to ignore dull people shouting insults at me for having normal experiences of games, I’ve committed to putting up with it. (I know some could respond arguing I’m only saying this because I’m “bad at games”. I’m not. I’ve decided I’m officially “quite good” at games.) But that shouldn’t need to be the case. No one should be struggling to enjoy the entertainment of playing games in this wretched endemic culture of “GIT GUD!!1” I know that I play games to be entertained, challenged, surprised, changed, soothed, and agitated. I do not play them to be the world’s best, and it’s preposterous to expect that of critics, YouTubers, friends, anyone, and wildly illogical to desire it.

Shaming people for being less “good” at a game is gross. Requiring those writing commentary/recording footage of the experience of playing a game to be better than you at it is infantile and irrational. Games are not a competition, unless they’re a competitive game. So go have fun, and enjoy everyone else having fun.


  1. Xan says:

    The problem with internet: your average distance to a jerk shrunk considerably.

    • fstkfstk says:

      This whole article exactly. I love reviewers who play, and then say: this is why I stopped playing. Whether it is “time to review the next game,” “this one stupid hard puzzle,” “I’m rot at turn-based spreadsheets.” As a parent of young children I will probably NEVER EVER be good at any game ever again. For many genres I was never going to be good. I want a review that tells me if I can sit down, have some fun, and not have to trawl forums and practice hour upon hour.

      I want more reviews for tired busy people like me who just want some fun before bedtime when they only get 40 minutes to themselves a day.

      • Aerensiniac says:

        I hope you also like your car to be fixed by someone who has no idea about it.
        Did you at least think through what you just said? Out of curiosity really. You want more reviewers who have no idea what they are doing. Sure, and i want a “doctor” to review my health issues without managing to get through elementary school. But hey, the concern here is: At least he has fun while he is doing it.

        • Focksbot says:

          “I hope you also like your car to be fixed by someone who has no idea about it.”

          This is really an incredibly stupid comparison. Reviewers are not the people we take our games to in order to complete them for us because we can’t do it.

          The whole point of them is to give us an insight into what *our* experience will be like. So they should have a similar ability to their readership.

          • April March says:

            Indeed. A more fitting metaphor to that would be to ask a person who knows nothing about mechanics wether they recommend a particular car. Surely many people would think a gearhead would be more knowledgeable about such a thing. But a gearhead would also be able to easily identify and fix small problems with a car, and they would even enjoy it, so a car that often presents small problems but does other things the gearhead enjoys would get a sterling recommendation. All I want from a car is that it takes me to and from the places I want to go to and come from, so I’d welcome the review from someone who knew nothing about mechanics more readily.

        • yosoyines says:

          Being a mechanic or a doctor requires different skill sets than being a games journalist.

          Would you die if John doesn’t play Dark Souls or Stellaris correctly? No.

          Games are based in other criterias, as another means of entertainment. As “entertainmment” quite says, a reviewer or journalist should point out if this entertained him or not. And “why not” would be a good idea to include it in the article, since not everyone is the same.

          As per technical requirements, I quite believe RPS staff know a little about games industry, and what do they do, and what FPS are…etc, so the ones that are interested in more technical aspects of the game can follow a review on what they are interested in.

          Personally, I think you never wrote a piece on something to anyone if you are not able to recognise this. No one can write something so purely objective to not convey a personal opinion on an article, and neither does the writer have to be excellent on playing that particular game to review it. If every game review would praise every single game based on how good they got playing it, reviews would lose their core of existence.

          Happens the same with doctors and mechanics BTW. You expect them to be good, but some of them do their stuff without much knowledge on specific areas. The difference though, is that if the doctor errs, I have a higher price to pay. If I don’t buy a game based on what John says, it would be a missed opportunity or a money saver, but that’s it.

          Stop being so dramatic about games, they’re supposed to help you relax, or have fun, or waste time that could be invested in personal development :P

          • Unclepauly says:

            Nothing wrong with being dramatic about games either. Each to their own. I have no problem with how anyone receives their hobby. I also have no problem with the “git gud” crowd or the console or even the “filthy casuals”, I just enjoy my hobby however the hell way I want to.

        • Nice Save says:

          No, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick there. Playing games and writing about games are two separate skills. Expecting a games writer to be good at playing games isn’t like expecting your mechanic to be good at fixing cars, it’s like expecting them to be a highly-skilled race driver – they may or may not be good at driving, but it doesn’t really have much bearing on their skill as a mechanic.

    • calake says:

      I have literally no idea how you can review video games for years and not be at least mediocre at them, akin to being a life time cook and still not knowing how to boil and egg or make toast.

      If I can go to work all day, spend what little time I have left when I come home to play video games, and still be a better gamer than you, then what on Earth do you do all day?

      I come on this website, and others like it, to read from who I hope are expert, enthusiastic, and like minded individuals. Stuff like ‘I wanted to like Stellaris, but it was too difficult to figure out, so boohoo no review.’ isn’t exactly inspiring, and pretty much sums up why you need to be good at games to review them. It took me a few hours to figure out Stellaris, and that was all part of the fun, I really don’t understand what’s so difficult.

      This is what happens when journalists become gamers and not the other way around; Too many journalism degrees, not enough jobs in journalism, the only option left to fake an interest.

      • Ragnar says:

        What are you talking about? RPS reviewed Stellaris right here: link to rockpapershotgun.com
        It was linked in the article you apparently read.

        What you read was one person’s struggles of trying to learn Stellaris as a strategy newbie. You found the learning process fun, he found it frustrating. Both experiences are valid and useful for consumers thinking about making a purchase.

        But, as you would say, this is what happens when readers become commenters, and not the other way around. Too many angry comments to leave, not enough time to read all the articles and gather all the facts.

        • calake says:

          The review and the article I referred to were written by different people. Maybe you should being a reader before a commenter too.

  2. git_gut_bitches says:

    You just need to git gut

    • eLBlaise says:

      Haha I was hoping to find such a comment here!

    • Tuidjy says:

      There is such a thing as sucking too much to be able to properly review a game.

      There was a game I quite enjoyed… I believe it was called “Hammer and Sickle”. I read a review in a print magazine, I am not such which one, and to this day, I remember it as the worst review, ever.

      The game was about infiltrating the Western Occupation Zone in 1945, as a Soviet agent, to investigate the rise in tensions between the Allies.

      The reviewer set the difficulty to the minimum, and probably cheated… in any case, his idea to ‘investigating tensions’ was to:
      1) Befriend Nazi remnants.
      2) Attack a British convoy
      3) Exterminate the responding American Patrol
      4) Attack a military prison, and free all war criminals
      5) Take over a small town, killing the occupation forces

      At that point, World War III started, and he got a final mission asking him to facilitate the Russian campaign, i.e. a non-standard game over, i.e. he lost.

      He did not have to brains to realize it, and he spent his review complaining that he did not enjoy killing Americans, helping the Soviets wage war, and that the game was sickening. This from the guy who decided that the way to play was to kill everyone who moves. My guess is that he was wearing a Russian uniform while doing so.

      So, yes, sometimes reviewers need to be told to “GIT GOOD”

      • Tuidjy says:

        Oh, yes, and he bitched about the game being too short, because of course he did not even scratch the surface. The Nazi remnants could have been bribed, an informant could have been extracted from the prison without any casualties, the convoy could have been robbed without a massacre, the patrol dodged, and the town infiltrated without alerting anyone…

        And that was about one tenth of the game. But he wrote his damning review, and got published… and I do not know if anyone told ever him how deluded he was. This was before the era of ubiquitous comments.

      • frightlever says:

        Hammer and Sickle (which began life as a Silent Storm mod) was notoriously buggy. It was a game where you were often advised to keep a walkthrough handy to avoid dead-ends. I quite liked the direction they were going with it, but it was a mess.

      • Otterley says:

        Probably that’s what John means when he says that reviewers shouldn’t be inept.

    • Javerlin says:

      [youtube link to youtube.com

  3. Wisq says:

    Honestly, I thought “git gud” was only a Dark Souls thing, and then only a joke since everyone knew that getting good at DS was no trivial task. (Or so I hear; I’ve not played any of them myself.)

    But yes, everyone should be free to enjoy a game at their own pace and difficulty level without heckling, so good to call this out.

    • RedViv says:

      Git Gud is a heavily abused joke mantra, I find. Oddly enough, it is far less abused in the community it actually originated in.
      I guess it is memetic mutation at work here – if you do not realise that Git Gud is about consistent self-evaluation and improvement in face of seemingly impossible odds, because you never actually played Dark Souls, you will be put off by atrociously arrogant misuse of the phrase.

      People demanding that games journalists and writers are really proficient players, that stuff I will never understand. Does any other medium actually have people say that? Do people require of music journos to have fifteen years in a band of any given genre?

      • Smion says:

        To be a little facetious, people usually expect music journalists to be able to hear.

        • Smion says:

          To be a little bit more serious, people generally expect music journalists to have a certain level of understanding of what a harmony or a rhythm is or which one of those noises comes out of which instruments. Of course, those are an entirely different skillset from playing games but games are an entirely different form of media from music.

          • phlebas says:

            Indeed – but being able to ‘read’ and understand a game, appreciate what makes it tick and write cogently about it, is also quite a different skill set from being good at the game. There can be some overlap, but it’s basically a different thing.

          • Shuck says:

            For a more apt comparison – people don’t expect music writers to be musicians, expert or otherwise. (Nor do they expect sports writers to be athletes, etc.) Because the skills involved in analysis and writing are not the same as playing. If you had to be an athlete/musician to enjoy the performance, no one would be interested in the performance. It’s not any different with games, except there’s a small group that pathetically derives their self-worth from being “good at playing games.” Being one of these self-defined “gaming elites,” they think this makes them better qualified to do anything game-related (writing about, designing, etc.). In fact this is totally irrelevant to anything, akin to being good at masturbating.

          • Assur says:

            I expect someone who review cars to be above average at driving cars. Why? Because is expect a deeper understanding about what to look for in a car. For a game, I’ll only take into consideration what someone that really know the genre think about the game, I’ll take the word of Tim Stone’s Flare path articles for my warsim need and I follow a few reviewer good at FPS for my FPS recommendations. The best Polygon has to offer regarding FPS understanding is someone that can’t aim at an enemy 3 meters away… It’s a joke.

          • HothMonster says:

            The big difference between someone reviewing sports, music, movies and someone reviewing games is the former are passive entertainment and the latter is active.

            I don’t have to be good at football to understand the intricacies and review a sports team’s performance because I don’t need to play with or against them, I just need to watch them play. When reviewing music I don’t get sheet music and have to play it to tell you if the song is any good. I can apply academic knowledge to someone else’s performance.

            Video games do require some modicum of skill to review because you have to drive that experience and you skill gives some shape to it. If my mother was asked to review any game from the last decade it would be much like John’s experience with Stellaris, “I kept pressing all the wrong buttons, it kept telling me to do things I didn’t understand and then told me something else while I still didn’t understand the first thing, I turned it off after 30 minutes because it was making me angry, I doubt I’ll try again.” (That’s my mom talking not you John)

            You don’t need to be an expert at the game but in addition to the academic knowledge of games and the genre you do need enough skill to interface with it properly.

            Obviously RPS understands this at a basic level because Adam ‘reviewed’ Stellaris and John just talked about his experience. John’s experience has value and is useful in evaluating the genre as a whole and how to make it more accessible but it would be foolish to ask John to rate it within the 4x or grand strategy pantheon because if he did struggle through he would probably miss some important features, not understand the interactions of others, and more importantly be able to compare it to other competitors.

          • Darloth says:

            I approve of the comment immediately above this one. It summarizes the reason those different perspectives are both valid and valuable depending on what you’re looking for.

          • Josh W says:

            Music journalism is a quite interesting example actually, which is awkward to bring up this deep into a comment thread, but here we go:

            I remember years of reading music “journalism” in everything from specialist magazines to websites to student papers, and seeing it as form of inspirational poetry. The only thing you could determine about a piece of music from some of the descriptions given was the social sphere the writer placed the music creators in. All kinds of ridiculous metaphors, imagined conflicts with other creative forces, but very little of it, seemingly, anchored in the experience of the music.

            Listen to music, then write something interesting, seemed to be their goal, but in a way that made it possible to imagine the images and titles floating above those blocks of text could be swapped without any alteration of the content. They were subjective yes, but they were like the subjective experience of the inside of that particular writers head, perturbed days ago by the momentary push of that particular music, and now resonating to a completely different tune.

            And then you talk to musicians who are not journalists, who are not there to be good writers, in fact, they are trying to make their own music on some tiny label that may as well not exist, but what you get from them when they talk about other people’s music are insights, born in their case from their own struggles to do similar things, or the passions that drive them to do make different things, but beyond a clever structure of their words, there is a desire to communicate concepts, ideas about the music based on thought.

            This is more valuable to me than someone who rushes through the game and puts out something weird in response. OK, that is absolutely fun too; I loved both Adam’s review of Stellaris and his pondering about his alliance being on the menu. More surreal anecdotes absolutely! But some reviews are like a kind appreciation walkthrough, they show how someone enjoyed the game, or enjoyed ripping it’s flaws to pieces.

            They show that someone knew something about this game, that they became familiar with it in some way, and in many genres that is synonymous with beating it, in puzzle games particularly, but also in explaining the experience of mastering Super Hexagon or Devil Daggers, or in coming out of the end of a Bioware RPG having a sense of what the different NPC characters are, and having created some concrete relation to them with your own developed character, some relationship internal to your interpretation but still compatible with that presented by the game.

            In some ways these really are like walkthroughs, because they give you a path to mental endurance in tough stretches, they show you that someone has got through this ridiculous game and come out the other side with meaning, they are like little triumphs of people over the weird puzzles we set ourselves, the strange situations we put ourselves into. Keep going, focus yourself this way, and you might reach this flow state, or have insights like this.

            This kind of review is an expression of skill, just not the skill of a speedrunner, or that more nebulous emerging category, “someone who plays games smoothly enough that you can watch them and not see any obvious missteps you’d want to complain about”. It’s the skill of someone who enjoys thinking about games.

      • MikoSquiz says:

        To me, the self-improvement of learning a game – that is to say, “gitting gud” – is the core of experiencing a game. A game is something you learn, in the way that food is something you taste or music is something you listen to.

        So the idea that you could form an informed opinion on a game without learning to play it seems to me akin to the idea that you can form an informed opinion on a piece of music without hearing it.

        • Ragnar says:

          Learning to play the game and being good at the game are two different things. To use your analogy, one can critique music without being a great musician themselves or being able to play every instrument.

          You may derive pleasure from a challenging game and overcoming those obstacles, while another person may not. The key is that a reviewer explain why they did or did not like a game, that way you know whether their criticism applies to you or not. Hearing that a reviewer struggled with a game benefits both parties.

          • MikoSquiz says:

            Sorry, I used the wrong analogy. I should’ve said one needs to be able to play a guitar to review a guitar.

          • Ragnar says:

            I agree, as does John’s article.

            What I believe the article argues, and I agree, is that you don’t have to be Eric Clapton, to stick with the analogy.

            I’m a bad guitar player but I can instantly tell if a guitar is good or not. I can evaluate how easy it is to play, how much force it requires to fret, sustain, appearance, comfort, how well the bridge works, whether it stays in tune, its features, fret buzz, any circuitry issues, etc.

            And the hope is that if I put up a first look video of a new guitar with me strumming ineffectually I wouldn’t be booed off the Internet.

            Obviously games are different in that they gate progress, but I would argue that hearing from someone who got stuck and couldn’t proceed is just as useful as from someone who breezed through.

            Now, I wouldn’t label the former a review, per say. Maybe call it Impressions.

          • identiti_crisis says:

            Thankfully, many guitar demonstration videos on Youtube do feature terrible playing, and the commentors largely do not bring it up – they are appreciative of the opportunity to hear it in action. At least I am.

            But to push this analogy even further, some people don’t buy guitars to play them. For some it’s something to hang on a wall in a snug. For others, it’s something of arbitrary provenance to boast about to friends. To still others, it’s just an investment. A review might reflect any other intended end uses, but of course that should be made transparent.

            I personally buy cheap instruments that I’m not afraid to modify to better suit me. That way when I do buy an expensive one, I know them inside out.

        • Hyomoto says:

          I’ll agree with that. I think it’s completely fair to expect a basic level of competency and I don’t agree with the ‘music/musician’ mentality. Critics and reviewers are, if nothing else, typical enthusiasts if not also having prior experience. Many reviewers have a background working in or around the subjects they review. You may not need to play guitar to enjoy a song, but you sure as hell do to review one.

      • Shadow says:

        I understand the meme might’ve mutated over time, but I’ve seen it used in the forums of particularly difficult games (i.e. Darkest Dungeon) with at least some degree of justification in a specific context. That is, when someone blames the game’s mechanics for their failure, when in truth it’s more a matter of personal skill. Of course, sometimes the flaw lies in the mechanics, but telling the difference isn’t an easy task. If X skill/class isn’t useful in Y circumstance, people calling for the buffing of X skill/class may not be correct. Cue ‘git gud’. That’s for the developers to discern.

        Anyway, as far as reviewers are concerned, being a gaming champion is obviously not required, but a measure of knowledge of the game’s genre is, and the right mindset to appreciate its nuances. John’s article about Stellaris is fine because it wasn’t the official review: someone more fitting was chosen for that. It’s fine for anyone to write about any game, but an actual, compehensive review requires more familiarity and investment so as to be able to inform the readers beyond “I found it too hard and/or the UI impenetrable”. The game might actually have legitimate difficulty and accessibility issues, but a review can’t end there.

        And regarding streaming videos, I bet most successful YouTubers know it: you need to provide entertainment. From the viewer’s perspective, sometimes someone being bad at the game they’re broadcasting is amusing. Sometimes it’s plain infuriating. The viewers want to see the game and what it has to offer in a reasonable timeframe, and if the streamer is too busy getting stuck on walls and shooting up the floor, so to speak, maybe they’re not the right person for the task.

        Ultimately, conveying personal experiences is fine, as is enjoying a game on any difficulty. But the people reading reviews are generally familiar with the genre and its intricacies, and expect the reviewer to be as well, to provide the information they need. Just like not everyone can enjoy any game, a reviewer can’t be expected to review just any game. And that shouldn’t be any other way.

        • Reapy says:

          You said everything I wanted to say in a much nicer way. John once again writes a sweeping generalization of an article trying to justify why his reality once again doesn’t conform to a large number of people’s realities.

          You don’t have to be pro to understand a game enough to review, but you should be a decidedly average at the genera you are reviewing as well as the games that make up the history of the genera to compare against if you expect anybody to give a care in the world what you write.

          The doom guy… FPS games have been around for YEARS on consoles, if you can’t aim for crap, you maybe shouldn’t be unveiling it to everybody via video. Could this guy review the game? Possibly, but probably not the best choice for a live stream.

          Eh, more Walker at work, why everything he does is noble and just and correct. It is the same reason he struggles with certain types of games, refusal or inability to self evaluate and improve.

          • Dare_Wreck says:

            Reapy, I don’t think Shadow’s argument is the same as yours. His/hers seems to be a very well-constructed dialog that mostly agrees with John’s point of view. You, on the other hand, seem to miss the whole point of this article, but as one of the types of people this article is talking about, that doesn’t surprise me.

            By the way, the word you’re looking for is “genre,” not “genera.” The latter is used when talking about the classification of living things, whereas genre refers to classifications of creative output.

          • Nixitur says:

            To be fair, the review of someone who is rubbish at a specific genre could still be useful. It depends entirely on who you’re trying to reach.
            If, for example, I had never played an FPS before and am wondering if a specific game would be a good entry title, the opinion of one of the top players is of absolutely no use to me.
            If, on the other hand, I am a veteran FPS player and am wondering if this game does some new, cool and challenging stuff, the opinion of someone new to the genre isn’t that relevant.
            Of course, this gets into the issue of what a “review” even is. If it’s supposed to be a guess by the reviewer as to how the average reader would react to the game, then neither option would be a good review. But if it’s supposed to be more directly based on the reviewer’s personal experience with the game, then both options would be totally legitimate.

            I can’t really answer that question. But I can tell you that that’s the reason why one of my favorite irregular features on this site is when several contributors to the site just have a discussion about the game. It allows one to see many different facets of the game.

          • Reapy says:

            Thank you for the correction, I’ve always tripped over the right spelling.

            I can’t help the anger, John’s writing frustrates me. I’m still upset at how poorly he represented hyperlight drifter and this article feels like a follow up to that.

            I don’t typically expect the ‘I suck at this game I couldn’t figure it out’ articles on a gaming site like RPS, I expect them in mainstream media where I can comfortably eye-roll at someone who doesn’t ‘get it’.

            Eh, whatever, if you somehow think it is a bad quality that I try to learn to play the games I like playing better each time I do so, and that I can appreciate a difficult, yet well designed game, then I guess I am ‘one of those gamers’.

            I like my fluff games, I like my twitch games, and I like my spreadsheet games, and most of all I like the ones that combine all of those elements. *shrug*

        • Archonsod says:

          “Anyway, as far as reviewers are concerned, being a gaming champion is obviously not required, but a measure of knowledge of the game’s genre is, and the right mindset to appreciate its nuances”

          Depends entirely on why you’re reading a review in the first place. If I’m already familiar with the genre of a game I’d consider myself more than qualified to pass my own judgement on it without recourse to someone else’s opinion. Generally if I’m reading a review it’s going to be of a game I’m not familiar with, and in that situation I’m more likely to get a useful opinion on whether the game is enjoyable or not from someone equally unfamiliar with the game.
          In fact I’d go as far as to say if the writer is already familiar with the genre it’s no longer a review but a critique, and likely only of interest to those already knowledgeable in the genre.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      Before Dark Souls and “git gud”, it was LoL and “Learn2Play”

      • Hebrind says:

        And before that, it was CounterStrike 1.2-1.4 and “h4h4 j00 n00b! 1 4m t3h 1337 j00 R t3h n00b!”

        What a long way we’ve come.

  4. Mansen says:

    Obligatory “Git Gud” comment here. Though to be fair, as long as a reviewer makes it clear they aren’t exactly game veterans when they start their reviews, I fail to see the problem.

    Not everyone is on the same skill- or experience level with a given genre. And reviews need to take more… casual players into consideration as well. Though to be fair, if the audience is primarily players who expect someone of their own level to review games they’re interested in, I can definitely see the legitimacy of such complaints.

    On a personal note… how in the nine hecks can anyone find Stellaris impenetrable? The amount of hand holding reminds me of office clippy.

    • James says:

      Glad I’m not the only one who thought the space paperclip talked too much.

    • Foosnark says:

      To be even more fair, one can be a veteran and still not “good” according to whatever arbitrary standard they’re being held up to.

      I have close to 600 hours of playtime in Dirt Rally, and my placement in weekly and daily events tends to be somewhere around average. On the borderline between top tier and middle tier when I don’t screw up, and well below that when I do. I enjoy the game immensely, have driven every car in every stage several times, and certainly have enough of a grasp on it to write about it if I were so inclined.

      I’ve played quite a lot of Overwatch during its various beta phases and I am not “good” in a competitive sense (and am quite frankly bad with some characters) but I play well enough to enjoy the game, and have occasionally carried my team. My opinions on mechanics, balance and tactics are probably relatively valid.

  5. Ross Angus says:

    Here here.

  6. TheDreamlord says:

    Very well written and I am in full agreement.

    • Valkyr says:

      While I also wholeheartedly agree with the article, the presence of insults such as “idiot” or “stupid” and the “fucking” thrown away in a fit of anger – and, consequently, the lack of a developed, deep analysis and arguments in their stead – prevent me from saying it was well written. Which is a real shame, because I applaud the content and opinion. If you read me, John, I hope you will be able to work yourself above those barriers to deliver truly top-notch articles – for example I think you could have delved into the psychological and sociological aspects of the matter, instead of throwing insults.

      • John Walker says:

        They’re descriptive terms.

        • MarcoSnow says:

          They’re also extremely informal and unprofessional when used in a critical or analytical context (which is what Valkyr was getting at).

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            As a longtime reader of RPS, it’s really bizarre to see this expectation of a strictly formal tone.

            Seven years ago (holy shit seven years ago) KG was starting WIT’s with “It’s bullshit, isn’t it?”, going on to make really interesting points about the topic of the day and spurring some really excellent discussion. Walker carries that torch today and now people can’t see past his invectives?

          • thedosbox says:

            If you find RPS “informal” and “unprofessional”, I suggest you stop reading any games sites.

        • Valkyr says:

          Very well, however I would like to point something here. These terms are not descriptive of the persons you are talking about; they are descriptive of your representation of them, judged (or measured, if you will) against your own defined set of standards and values. Which is still all very well in an opinion piece; however, such terms are of a very limited interest in a discussion: asking yourself how you consider those people is not as interesting as asking yourself why you consider them as such.

          In other words, what I am proposing to you is that you see past the relative easiness of description, which is superficial, in order to dig deeper into analysis. Starting from the question “Why would I use these qualifiers?” you can easily develop into “What set of values do I uphold?”; “Why do I think these values are worth defending?” into “What do I propose and what are the consequences of my reasoning?” – or, just as easily, “Why do those people behave in such a manner?”; “How could I explain this phenomenon?”; “What do I propose to fight this trend?”

          You did conclude on your thoughts but I feel the argumentation was lacking a critical piece of analysis in the development. The conclusion was only brought as a consequence of you judging the said behaviour as “gross,” which is, I am afraid to say, quite an unconvincing argument. I do think your writing would gain a lot, in quality as well as heft, power and value, if you would work a bit more on this part.

          Please note that the “relative easiness” I talked about is “relative”. I most certainly do not think it was easy to write and publish such an article; on the contrary, it showed an impressive amount of courage and honesty that I admire and salute. I find the article very good; I only think it could have been even better, and in the case that you improve, I can only look forward to more articles from your part.

          • Nauallis says:

            Y’know, instead of being like the other hundred anonymous assholes that like to comment on the most popular articles here at RPS, who somehow expect that the editors/writers are going to politely and pleasantly listen to your criticism and unsolicited suggestions, why don’t you become a supporter and show that you’re more than an empty mouthpiece for endless opinions that nobody cares about?

          • Shadow says:

            You can’t be serious, Nauallis.

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            I think your fixation on policing his tone has really warped your comprehension of his point. He’s not simply calling skill-elitism gross, he’s (correctly) pointing out that criticism can be valid regardless of the reviewer’s skill level.

          • Nauallis says:

            @Shadow – There’s some ironic self-awareness there, to be sure.

          • Unclepauly says:

            Give RPS money or your opinion is worthless – Nauallis

  7. Jac says:

    “But what you cannot tell from the video is whether the person playing is having fun.”

    This is all that matters.

    • piercehead says:

      Precisely. My main bugbear has always been stats in games. Back in my day we used to play for fun…then I found out there were stats for Battlefield 2. “KDR” … “Suicides” … oh :)

      At then end of the day, they can keep throwing things at me – stats, stupid achievements etc. – and I’ll be having fun in spite it!

      • kalzekdor says:

        Yeah, because game “scores” are a recent thing… Tell that to the thousands of kids who burned quarter after quarter questing for that elusive high score slot in ’80s Arcade Games. A certain amount of competitiveness is inextricably interwoven with the “gaming” mindset. People enjoy games for different reasons. Some people just want to relax and kill a few hours, some people are interested in overcoming personal challenges, and some people are just interested in being “the best”. And that’s great! No one should tell anyone else how to enjoy their hobby.

        At the same time, though, certain games are aimed at particular segments of the gaming population. I mean, Dark Souls is never going to be enjoyable to someone who doesn’t enjoy failing dozens or hundreds of times in search of that Eureka! moment when everything finally clicks. It’s a game that rewards preserverence and discovery. As such, a reviewer who doesn’t bring those pre-requisite qualities to the table, and ends up bouncing off after an hour, isn’t representing the game’s target audience, and their review isn’t useful to that audience. Which is fine, because it’s useful to other people outside that audience who share the same qualities as the reviewer. Unfortunately, as some vocal percentage of any group is comprised of assholes, they see a “negative” review of their favorite game, and lash out, even though that review wasn’t meant for them.

        In summation, everyone would be better off if they were to realize that different people enjoy different games for different reasons.

        • Ragnar says:

          This is why I like that RPS, and now Eurogamer, don’t use scores. You actually have to read the review to find out what the review did or did not like and why. And that information is much more useful than X/10.

          • kalzekdor says:

            That’s not… Did you even… What?

          • Ragnar says:

            You said every review is useful to those that relate to the reviewer, that we shouldn’t be so sensitive of negative reviews, and that everyone likes games for different reasons.

            I agree.

            I said I like that RPS doesn’t use scores because it forces you to read the reviews, understand the reviewer, and learn the reasons they did or did not like a game.

          • kalzekdor says:

            Ah, that makes much more sense. Thanks for the clarification. I thought you were referring to my mention of arcade game “scores” and misinterpreted it as review “scores”. The “scores” “scores” coincidence tripped me up, since there wasn’t much context in your post.

        • Archonsod says:

          “Tell that to the thousands of kids who burned quarter after quarter questing for that elusive high score slot in ’80s Arcade Games. ”

          You can’t. They’ve already wandered off shaking their heads as soon as someone claimed Dark Souls was hard :P

          We’re sorta skirting around the issue here. The problem isn’t so much whether enjoying a game for a specific thing is valid, it’s the assumption that the reason you enjoy a game must be the same reason everyone else enjoys the game. Usually whenever there’s criticism of something like Dark Souls there’s a kind of automatic assumption from certain segments of the fanbase that the only reason the person making the critique didn’t enjoy the game was a lack of skill, rather than any of the quite legitimate criticisms which could be levelled at the series.

          • keybounce says:

            But here’s the thing: People went after the high scores because the game was fun.

            It was not “Oh, here’s a high score table, let me work to enter my name”.
            It was “Oh, this is fun, lets see if I can be number one”.

            That’s a very different viewpoint.

            Do I enjoy watching someone in a video who is just going through the motions? No. Do I enjoy someone who is enjoying themselves? Maybe. So far it seems to be a minimum needed element. But what they find enjoyable needs to be something I find enjoyable. Some people have put out videos of them pranking others — they clearly had a good time, but I did not care for that.

            It’s not about “Go for the high score”.
            It’s a shame that Stellaris’s tutorial was — at this day and age — as bad as the opening day of World of Warcraft.

            People who say “you’re no good, so your view of things does not count” are mostly wrong. If your goal is to make a game for high-end gamers, so that the best players playing your game have a very high-end game to play, that’s fine. If that’s your goal, good. Sirlin is one example of such a game designer. Whether or not his latest — Codex — will succeed remains to be seen.

            But the other side is getting people to play your game, so that they become better at the game. The entry level of the game cannot be a turn-off, or you wind up with a game like Diplomacy — I played once, and lost friends rather than picking up a new game. (Hey, I think I was around 12-14).

            The article mentioned that someone was playing Doom, and making beginner mistakes. Well, if you check out my youtube channel (youtube.com/ followed by my username), you’ll see my second and third session of Terraria, where I’m playing with a friend who is trying to teach me the game. You’ll also see lots and lots of “newbie actions”. Doesn’t mean I’m a bad game player, and frankly the “you can’t remap some controls” caused me problems. Give me some time, and I’ll have edited out highlights of “sufficiently silly moments” (one such is up there now).

            But will you see me trying for high scores, or achievements? No. You’ll see me having fun, and playing with friends — and if I did my job right, you’ll have fun watching me have fun. (The descriptions include time points of interest, so you can skip to some of the better stuff.)

            People who are very skilled, who go after high scores, can watch someone else going after a high score, and enjoy the technical skill displayed, and maybe even watch and learn techniques.
            People who lack that skill, just watch, and say “How did you survive that?!?”, or “Wooaahh”, or something like that.

            Playing a game to get better at the game for the sake of learning? That’s different from Playing a game to enjoy yourself.
            When comparing your play to someone else’s play — whether high scores in a solo game, or two people playing the same game at the same time — the “what matters” is having the same goal. If both players have the goal “Do the best they can”, you get a different game than if both players have the goal “Enjoy time”. If the game is Minecraft, the different people might have “Show off what I was able to build in survival”, or “Reach the end of this modded pack”. Different goals, different ways to say “I win/I have the high score”.

            One leads to Monopoly with free parking money, no limit on houses or hotels, and 20 hour games.
            The other leads to housing shortages, dwindling supply of money on the board, controlling half of the housing shortage, making deals before people have lapped the board once, and trying to be the better trader. And realizing that it’s OK to trade park place to the person with boardwalk, if that person cannot afford at least 5 houses (2 for park place, 3 for boardwalk) — you’d be amazed at how much some people value property over the ability to develop the property.

            Not to mention that after they put all 5 houses up, they have no money to pay for my 4 houses on Oriental, and have to start tearing down. Once that starts, it’s all over.

            Yes, you can play monopoly competitively. Are there better games? Sure.
            Can you play Doom competitively? Probably. Are there better ways to play it?

            Do you go for speed runs? Do you go for most kills? Do you go for maximum silliness while still barely succeeding?

            Is your goal to have a good time, or to entertain viewers? Or do you consider those to be the same thing?
            Is your goal to get the highest game-defined score, or to have the highest score that you define?

            What is “good” at a game, anyways? That’s probably a better question. Do you mean, “Better at defeating other people in a tournament setting”?

          • kalzekdor says:

            Usually whenever there’s criticism of something like Dark Souls there’s a kind of automatic assumption from certain segments of the fanbase that the only reason the person making the critique didn’t enjoy the game was a lack of skill, rather than any of the quite legitimate criticisms which could be levelled at the series.

            That’s fair, and it’s something that needs to be kept in mind. However, on the other hand, I have seen far too many games run themselves into the ground by trying to appeal to broader audiences. The old adage “Try to please everyone and you’ll end up pleasing no one.” very much applies to game design. As such, I always appreciate when a developer sticks to their design principles, rather than putting together the latest AAA designed by committee snooze-fest. To be sure, it’s a hard line to walk, but that’s part of the problem. People don’t realize just how difficult good game design is, and that, as much as anything, I think, contributes to this negative atmosphere.

    • Jdopus says:

      Not really. This is supposed to be an upload from a professional review website and they’ve clearly put it in the hands of someone who’s almost entirely uncomfortable with basic FPS controls.

      The purpose of this video is to allow people to see gameplay footage and decide whether they would enjoy the game, not to allow the person filming it to have fun. In that respect, putting it in the hands of someone who’s clearly not experienced in the genre comes across as unprofessional and amateur because it doesn’t give a good representation of the gameplay.

      • Tetrode says:

        Yup totally agree with this. It’s not showing a fair representation of the game. I don’t care how bad someone is at a game and people can play them how they want in their own time but if it’s their job to show potential buyers what the game is about, they should have some knowledge of it or the genre itself to be able to inform people properly and give the game a fair showing.

        • John Walker says:

          It is NOT the job of a site like Polygon to advertise the game to potential customers. That is the job of the publisher.

          • Tetrode says:

            Ok sure, it’s not their job to advertise the game but videos like that, from a website that is fairly popular (god knows why) WILL persuade or dissuade people into buying the game whether they like it or not, regardless of their intentions. They should at least try and give the game a fair representation.

          • try2bcool69 says:

            Hmm…perhaps someone should tell Polygon that…

          • PancakeWizard says:

            That Doom video was merely the latest in a string of anti-game missteps for Polygon. Let’s not forget context, here. It reached the publicity it did because it laid bare the negative whispers about Polygon itself: that they dislike games and that they aren’t very good at them, because they aren’t interested in them.

            That Doom video came off the back of them reviewing the latest StarFox poorly and bragging about not even bothering to to keep playing it (2 hours into a game that can be finished on a single playthrough in 4 hours), because he didn’t like the controls.

            And let’s be clear: it’s mostly two writers that are repeat offenders with this.

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            “but if it’s their job to show potential buyers what the game is about”

            Exactly what part of this is advertising?

          • Aerensiniac says:

            But its pretty much their job to REVIEW it, isnt it?
            So tell me how do you get a painting reviewed by a blind person?
            A music by someone who is deaf?
            Get your car checked by someone who does not know how to open the hood?
            Get health care from someone who didnt even manage to get through the elementary school?

            What polygon and sites like RPS are here for is to give an educated opinion about a game. If games are completely beyond you, how are you going to give an opinion? As it seems you will give it anyway, because seemingly it does not matter to you.

            If its too hard to understand then let me put it plainly: It questions your purpose, your existence, the need and meaning of your job as a game journalist.
            Thats all there is to it.

            Critics are supposed to be educated in what they are criticizing. Remember fallout new vegas where the devs didnt get their bonus due to insufficient review points?
            It kinda creeps me out to think that people like that bloke from polygon reviewed and scored it.

            Go and search for the youtube video: “@rockpapershot offended that people dared criticize @polygon @botherer”
            and have it explained to you in length.

          • April March says:

            A game review from someone who’s bad at their game is completely different from a painting review from someone who’s blind, because the ability to play a game well is not directly related to the ability to analyze or criticize it. That is the point of the whole article

            A more fitting metaphor would be a blind person who wrote a thesis on art history. Or, to follow your metaphors to the end, a proctologist who does not have a prostate. Would you dismiss these as well?

            As for the New Vegas debacle, it’s astounding that you’d lay blame to the reviewers for the publisher’s decision to withhold the bonus because of the Metacritic score. It is the publishers who decided to pull this off, and it is within them that blame lies. If they had a clause that said they wouldn’t pay any extras if anyone streaming the game was wearing green, would you blame people who wore green for withholding the devs’ pay? Because that is makes only a bit less sense than tying it to Metacritic score.

        • Jac says:

          If by watching the video you are able to discern that the person playing it isn’t very good at a game you haven’t played then it must mean that it shows you enough about the game plays for you to make a buying decision. Yes its frustrating to see people struggle with a game but if you can still see how the game plays what does it matter.

          I don’t need to watch professional footballers or rocket league players to understand whether I would enjoy each respective activity.

      • OmNomNom says:

        I agree. I want to get an idea for the way a game really plays if I watch a video.
        I don’t care if they are running on super hard mode or not but basic FPS skills help for demonstrating how combat actually looks and feels in a game.

      • Horg says:

        On top of that, Polygons DooM review was one of the most negative to come out of any major publication, and was written in such a way that suggested anyone else trying the game would have a similar experience. That was why people were upset with the review, not because there was a clear lack of ability on public display, but because the reviewer made no attempt to account for their experience being relative to personal ability. To anyone familiar with FPS game play, the review seems grossly unfair to what is generally considered to be a highly acclaimed FPS.

        • topghost says:

          ??? Polygon hasn’t reviewed Doom yet… the video people were freaking out about was a “first 30 minutes” gameplay video.

          • Horg says:

            You are correct, I confused a discussion linked with the polygon video for a copy / paste of part of polygons review. Disregard my previous comment.

    • Tobberoth says:

      No, that’s not all that matters. Someone who is awful at games having fun with a game doesn’t mean someone who is good at games is going to have fun with said game. John Walker having a bad time with Stellaris really doesn’t mean anything to any player who can get into it.

      Obviously people of all skills can be reviewers, but there’s nothing odd about people being proficient at games not appreciating reviews by people who are not. That doesn’t mean they should be hurling insults though.

      • klops says:

        But John Walker having a bad time at Stellaris wasn’t a review. It had been done already. That article just said what bothered JW in Stellaris (I’d still say the main problem is that he tried to understand much after the tutorial. Just play it, understand too little and make mistakes).

    • shocked says:

      Well for that person, yes. But from a critic I expect to have more inner scales of gameplay experience than just ‘fun’.

      When I would have to read a ‘review’ about my favourite music and the critic usually only listens to very simple music, than he might decide that my favourite music is only noise. That’s ok for the critic (he might think it’s not ‘fun’), but in my eyes that makes his opinion a) unprofessional and b) rather worthless, because he isn’t able to value the intricacies of the genre.

      The same is true for games. John might write about not getting along with Stellaris and it might be interesting for me to read about another persons problems with the genre. It’s ok as an opinion, but as a review I consider Johns article pretty meaningless (and RPS must realize that, since they didn’t call it a review).

      From a critic I expect that he is able to play a game in all its complexity, otherwise he or she can’t form a differentiated opinion. When I see somone fail at a game like the person in that polygon video, I definitely think that this person can’t tell me much about First Person Shooters and Doom. If he didn’t have fun, because he wasn’t able to play the game properly, it says only something about the critic and nothing about the game.

      • AutonomyLost says:


      • topghost says:

        Polygon has a pretty large staff—why would you assume that the person responsible for posting a “first 30 minutes” gameplay video is the same person reviewing the game?

        • nosferotica says:

          Why on earth not kill 2 birds with 1 stone and have the person reviewing the game record the first 30 mins for a youtube publishing?

          It makes perfect sense to do so.

      • Jac says:

        Nonsense. There are people who are good at games and poor critics. There are people who are bad at games yet excellent critics. And there are people who are good / bad at both.

        I have no idea what category the polygon person falls in but it is irrelevant given technical ability at playing a game does not equate to a person’s ability to understand the game and pass comment on it.

        Snooker is a great example. I understand the game. I know precisely which shots should be played in any given situation yet I have nowhere near the required ability to actually execute these shots. I enjoy snooker and think it’s a great game and I am able explain the depth of it to anyone despite my woeful ability.

        Games are no different.

        • Jimbo says:

          Yet if you had neither understanding or ability, and when you claimed you wanted to learn how to play you in fact pretended you didn’t know what a cue was and then gave up after 30 minutes, your views on the subject probably wouldn’t be held in particuarly high regard.

          • Jac says:

            I agree with you there. Like I said maybe that does apply to the Polygon person, I’m not really bothered by it as I don’t read that site, but the problem appears to be with this persons critical ability rather than his technical ability.

            I was arguing against an above comment to say that someone can still be terrible at something yet still have a deep comprehension of that something and therefore be able to provide useful comment/analysis of it.

        • shocked says:

          > There are people who are bad at games yet excellent critics.

          ‘Excellent critic’ is a matter of taste, I guess.

          I think to be able to write a meaningful review about anything, you have to understand what you are writing about. You don’t have to be an expert in playing the game, but you need to have experience with games in that genre to understand why a game works or not. If you are bad at that game, it will be very hard to really form a meaningful opinion about it.

          I can’t judge Quake3, if I don’t understand its intricacies. The movement, rocket jumps, strafe jumping, the map design. A good critic should be able to value these things, otherwise I can ask my aunt.

          > Snooker […] Games are no different.

          If there would be a new game similar to snooker but with different rules, and I would look for a review about it, I would value the opinion of a good snooker player more than yours. Your ability to judge the game will be significantly worse than that of a good player. Games are no different.

          • Jac says:

            Are you suggesting that someone cannot understand the complexities of something unless they can do it themselves?

            Are all movie critics expert film makers? Are all top football managers ex. Top players? Most football pundits are ex players and they offer bugger all insight and analysis.

            All I’m saying is that someone can absolutely offer valuable insight into something even if they themselves aren’t good at it.

            I’ll judge how much weight to place on a critics opinion by their words and not their ability.

          • shocked says:

            > Are you suggesting that someone cannot understand the complexities of something unless they can do it themselves?

            To a certain extend, yes of course. I suggest that someone who is good at something will understand its complexities better.

            (Being a football coach is very different from being a player. And I think yes: a good movie critic should know something about the process of making a movie.)

            How should somebody write a good review about a strategy game without understanding the possibilities the game gives you?

            How can anybody judge the movement of Doom when it looks as if he plays it for first time?

            It’s so obvious, I wonder that we discuss this.

          • Jac says:

            Once again, my belief is that someone is capable of understanding and conveying the intricacies of a game without being good at it. We’ll just have to disagree on this I guess.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Not to a person who values being good at games. It’s perfectly reasonable for a person to gain value from a game from perfecting it’s systems and also getting value out of a review from someone who also perfected it’s systems.

  8. Gus the Crocodile says:

    Thanks, John.

  9. Lakshmi says:

    This is why I like RPS. You’re all clear on game genres you like and what you’re actually good at, or enjoy, playing.

  10. a very affectionate parrot says:

    Counterpoint: beatmania

    • Ross Angus says:

      Do you mean that it’s impossible to enjoy Beatmania?

      • a very affectionate parrot says:

        If you’re shit at it, yeah.
        I feel the same way about shmups, there’s absolutely nothing fun about bruteforcing your way through and hammering the credit button.

  11. Yachmenev says:

    You really shouldn’t have to be good at games to enjoy them.


    1. Maybe should be somewhat experienced with the genre in question, if your task is to pass judgement on the game, in a way that is intended to be of value to large group of reader? Some writers, no names mentioned, can be very harsh in their judgements, so it’s not that strange that readers can be harsh themselves.

    2. And maybe not all games have to cater to everyone? The more devs can strive to include everyone without comprimising their vision for the game, the better. But I think it’s fantastic that we know have a market for games that allows niche hardcore games to thrive again.

    That said, good article John, with some very worthwhile point, and it’s definitely a discussion worth having.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      A reviewer should have as broad knowledge as possible of games to have proper context, sure. But I don’t think he should hold genre rules as paradigm. I really dislike the approach of ‘reviewing’ as going down a checklist of preconceived standards of genre or even game series and then scoring the game highly if it conforms. The two obvious problems with this practice: it promotes very conservative design and secondly, as probably many people experience, tends to give high scores to games that are dull as bricks but faithful to genre. I think it’s obvious when you read rpg reviews on rpgcodex or adventure reviews on adventurequest (or whatever the site’s called).

      • klops says:

        Oh yes on your comment about the checlist ‘reviews’! Fortunately I see it rarely with computer games, perhaps because I visit only a couple of sites. For some rason I’ve started seeing it more in board game reviews.

        Graphics 8/10, gameplay 7/10, theme 8/10, components 9/10. Overall X. Urrgh, fuck, no!

    • Matt_W says:

      No, no, dear god no. It can be valuable to have a genre expert’s opinion, no doubt. But what if a reader who is a genre novice wants to try to jump into a heretofore unexplored kind of game? Wouldn’t a reviewer’s experience of exactly the same thing, and their skill in writing it up clearly and descriptively be invaluable? And do we really want to encourage developers to remain within genre ghettos? If only experts can review games, then how do you review cross-genre games, or idiosyncratic games, or games meant to appeal to newcomers, or games that utterly change the genre paradigm?

      • Yachmenev says:

        There are levels between novice and expert.

        But I absolutely want developers to cater a specific audience, rather compromise the game in an attempt to catch all. Mainly because it results in a much richer variety of games.

        Not everything have to be for everyone. When you make something for everyone, you’re making compromises.

        • RobF says:

          Yeah but. Nobody tries to make something ‘for everyone’.

          You might want to make something ‘for more people’ and endeavour to do that so you don’t end up down a creative and financial black hole, but that’s kinda different.

    • iainl says:

      Maybe, but reading John’s struggle to fight past UI problems – popups covering popups, tutorial instructions telling you to do things that are impossible without first banishing those instructions forever, introducing features that aren’t yet relevant and so on – told me far more about how my experience with Stellaris would go than the finer details of how it would differ from playing Europa Universalis with a galactic reskin.

      • Catsiel says:

        Yet it was the opposite experience I got from Stellaris while being a x4 strat/grand strat/paradox strat newbie. Stellaris has welcomed me into the niche and not scared me away like it did to John.

  12. G says:

    Here here. I’ve been playing computer games for 30 of my 33 years and I have never managed to be particularly great. Ok, nothing more. I usually know how I should be better but I just can’t. I have fun though, even if it does mean I will give up on stuff half way through.

    • Luke Nukem says:

      Where where?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Gah! When will it end? It’s “hear, hear” for goodness’ sake! End of petulance.

      • Otterley says:

        Bare in mind that “Here, here” is really used alot. So perhaps it’s no longer incorrect per say. Irregardless, the OP probably could care less.

        • thelastpointer says:

          What did you done here?!

        • April March says:

          True story: English is not my first language, and when I first found myself fluent enough to read English language forums I was utterly confused was to why people kept saying ‘here here’. Where where indeed.

    • nosferotica says:

      Okay… But do you review games for a living?

  13. BlazeHedgehog says:

    Speaking as somebody who writes for a gaming site that isn’t as big as RPS, my strategy is this: just ignore them. It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t matter what for, there will always be that one guy out there who wants to turn it in to a pissing contest.

    There are games that I KNOW I’m actually pretty gosh darn good at. And for my personal Youtube channel, I’ll upload a video of said game, where I rehearse and retry for two hours in order to get the perfect flawless sequences of events and I set a new time trial record and…

    …there’s always that one guy. “My time was 2 seconds faster.” he’ll tell me. I didn’t even ask. Sometimes, I’ll get the “Well there’s a youtube video by somebody else that’s better than what you’re doing here.” Well, thanks for giving me the views anyway just so you could tell me how crap I am, I guess.

    The peanut gallery will always exist to throw peanuts at you. Learn to tune them out and stay true to yourself.

  14. Alfius says:

    People flock to sporting fixtures in their tens of thousands because they value the spectacle of watching athletes compete at the pinnacle of their discipline.

    For similar reasons gamers watch streams of other people playing games. Such streams are wildly popular, some focus more on the entertainment aspects but others are firmly rooted in the spectacle of excellence.

    People probably watch video reviews for slightly different reasons. Surely if I am reasonably adept at first person shooters it stands to reason that I can best gauge my potential enjoyment of a particular shooter by watching the experience of someone of a similar competence. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to expect a reviewer to display an average level of aptitude, otherwise how does the average gamer decide of the product is for him?

    • John Walker says:

      People flock to watch eSports live too, as well they might. It’s a whole separate thing from what’s being discussed here.

      But I think what’s perhaps most key is, well, people managed to decide whether to buy games before there were online videos, and indeed before there was online.

      • Alfius says:

        True, but we also had demo CDs stuck to the front of PC Gamer to go on in those days.

        • April March says:

          We still do. Not PC gamers, but demo discs still exist. I’m as amazed by that as you presumably are right now.

  15. Shinard says:

    I wonder if this attitude stems from the same core feeling as elitism about films, or books, or what have you – if these are the same people who would otherwise say they enjoy Finnegan’s Wake as “a light read”, or refuse to have subtitles on foreign films because it sullies the experience. Difficulty is prized as a worthwhile quality in and of itself and people claim superiority for, well, “gitting gud”.

    • ggggggggggg says:

      those aren’t real examples that you just made up. come on.

      • iainl says:

        Maybe not those examples. But I do treasure my original vinyl copies of Trout Mask Replica and Selected Ambient Works II. I listen to Stockhausen by choice sometimes. In my more lucid moments I do realise my addiction to “difficult music” isn’t always because there’s a banging tune hidden there.

        • phlebas says:

          I love Trout Mask Replica. If someone had a listen to it I’d encourage them to give it another few listens and see if it clicked. But if I went round saying that anyone who didn’t ‘get’ it was obviously just rubbish at listening, I’d be an arse.

      • Shinard says:

        No, you got me. I do have a friend who says similar things about Infinite Jest, though. And if I’m honest, I can get that way with films sometimes (not the subtitle thing, just being a little pretentious about what I watch).

    • ROMhack2 says:

      It might be related. I used to be like that with movies in my younger days. The experience of being able to stomach x was more in important than really being able to appreciate it. Really stupid on reflection.

      Though it reflects age being the main problem. I mean, how many 30-year-olds would actually comment saying, ‘git gud’?

      Probably not a lot.

  16. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    “I recently wrote about how I found Stellaris impenetrable, and received some rather strange responses.”

    I am sooooo off the RPS christmas card list :cry:

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’m not going to look back at what you said originally, but one of my pet peeves is when someone says “it’s easy”, when they try and teach you something.

      This phrase is very stressful, because it suggests to the pupil that if they can’t understand what you’re about to say, they’re an idiot.

      (But perhaps you said nothing of the sort, @distantlurker)

      • Premium User Badge

        distantlurker says:

        oh heavens no, it wasn’t like that. Stellaris is a challenging game to get into. It was just that John was detailing how he felt overwhelmed by notifications and notifications being overwritten by others before he had a chance to deal with them.

        I found that somewhat incredulous(?) as you can stop the game at any point, take all the time in the World to deal with slash understand what’s happening right then and there and then let it move on when you’re good and ready.

        As such, I think I might be in the (very diplomatically phrased) ‘strange response’ category. No cards for me ^^

  17. Babymech says:

    I’m not good at any games and I don’t care to be – getting good at games indicates the kind of careless, profligate free time that I associate with the unwashed working classes. Still, I can see some arguments why some people would want their games journalists to be gud.

    1) They themselves are planning to ‘be good’ at the game, and want to hear how much the game has to offer to someone who is good at it. An eight year old can have a fantastic time at a newly built pro golf course, but he won’t be able to tell the pros if this is a course they will enjoy.

    2) The game might be specifically intended for gamers who have got good, and reviewers who play it without getting good might never see that facet of it, and can’t reflect that aspect of the game in their review. If I were to play a Platinum game, I can’t tell how well they’ve balanced the combos or how much work went into amazing S-rank execution of moves, because I’m not good enough to experience that, so I’ll rate the game on other factors which weren’t perhaps the focus of the game’s development. This doesn’t apply to an Uncharted 4, but definitely to niche games.

    3) They might specifically find the most entertainment in challenging games. Being challenged and beating challenges, especially with no ‘real’ stakes, makes a lot of people very comfortable, on a biological level. They might want a reviewer to be more skilled than they, so that they feel that the challenge has been fully explored and fairly evaluated.

    4) One can argue that the people who know most about the game are the best suited to review it, unless they’re the creators and thus heavily biased. When I read a book review, I want to hear from someone who has full grasped the book and its themes, better than I might, because they can tell me what I might experience from the book and what I might aspire to experience. Somebody who was turned off by difficult themes or never saw some metaphorical angle to the book won’t be able to satisfactorily inform my experience.

    Of course there’s no need for reviews to only be written by champions at the game, and it’s certainly possible to be bad at bad games, not just good games. Nonetheless, it seems like there are valid reasons why a high skill level at a game inspires a little more trust than a reviewer who is completely inept at the type of skill the game requires. I’m fairly sure John would see less communicative value in a review of a point and click adventure game by some twitch shooter who has no patience for puzzles at all, than by someone who is gud at it.

    • Benratha says:

      Your point (4) is certainly valid. One thing I have seen a few times in RPS is the discussions between various writers about the pros and cons of certain games. It’s in those discussions that I get to learn more about why a certain opinion has been formed.
      It is sometimes interesting having a ‘non expert'(?) reviewing some of the more complex games (Stellaris being a point in fact), because it gives newcomers insights in what to expect.

    • Smion says:

      +1 especially on point four. I think that’s also the reason why I very rarely enjoy reading negative reviews/critiques of stuff I like, while I’m at the same time very much down with people explaining why they liked something I didn’t like because I think the latter usually comes from a point of greater understanding. I guess I’m generally more interested in what people can potentially ‘get’ out of a given piece of media than I am in how ‘gettable’ it is.

      • Smion says:

        Obviously, that doesn’t mean people should be rude in the comment section of a given review, but then again, there’s really few occasions that warrant being rude in the comment section of an article about what a person thought of a videogame.

        • April March says:

          That’s curious – I have enjoyed many negative reviews of media that I’d liked. I like to see if it changes my mind, and I like to see the critic’s point of view. Sometimes I just wave it off as a total bozo, and usually I just shrug and stop watching, but sometimes I’m very interested.

          Reviewer: Well Game X has a bit of Y…
          Me: *thinking* Well, it only had a little bit of Y. You shouldn’t think little of it because of that.
          Reviewer: …but it could have a lot more.
          Me: Oh! He thinks Y is a positive thing! Let’s see if he explains why…

    • zipdrive says:

      While there may be reasons that someone would want an “expert opinion” on a specific game (and I would argue with some of your reasoning), it does exactly NO good to comment “git gud” on an article.
      The review will not change, the opinion of the reviewer won’t change and the commentator is being a dick. The end result: Hurt feelings and a caustic atmosphere.
      If you want the opinion of an expert on game type X, go find that expert and get his opinion. The internet has plenty of reviews on every game. Don’t read the review by non-expert A and dismiss it as shit.

    • LockjawNightvision says:

      Very much agree with 4. It was the argument I was scrolling down to see if anyone had made.

      I think that the massive unstated assumption of John’s argument is that a person is either “gud” or they aren’t, when indeed there is a huge amount of space between the two poles. And that Polygon video wasn’t someone being somewhere sort of in the middle of the skill scale, it was someone being really, really, hilariously awful at it. And if that was one of my friends, I’d laugh along with them and we could even have a fun discussion about why they struggled. But it wasn’t just some random person, it was a professional games critic. And to borrow an analogy from upthread, it was like paid book critic who couldn’t read. I don’t really care how awkwardly trudging through it made them feel, I care about whether or not they are capable of delivering an INFORMED critical opinion. And John’s attempts to mumble through that context really rubbed me the wrong way.

      Don’t get me wrong, being an asshole isn’t acceptable online or offline, and the response to that video made me way queasier than the video itself. But I also don’t think it’s productive to pretend like Polygon doesn’t owe some kind of acknowledgement of their screwup to their audience either.

      • Reapy says:

        Right! People say the get gud phrase in jerky context, but sometimes it is also spoken as a summary that the reviewer just lacks basic gaming abilities. One assumes that a critic on a ‘gamer enthusiast’ style site like polygon or RPS will have that ‘i’ve played games 20+ years’ skillset. Game journalists more so for having to be forced into a broad amount of game playing due to their job.

        I mean there is showing my children how to play a game or my wife for the first time a while back where you forget they don’t know how to hold a controller or understand what health is.

        There are plenty or people out there that do twitch streaming and game reviews that can and do pick up games, understand what it is about, and learn to play them to an average level, enough to write a good opinion piece about the game that is worth reading.

        Some of the articles would be like a mountain biking site where the guy gets a new bike to review but said he couldn’t really test the bike because he only knows how to ride on flat roads, which it doesn’t do well on, and the bike makers are excluding him because they expect you to go down a mountain on it.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Point 4 is disingenuous. Being bad at playing a game doesn’t necessarily limit your ability to appreciate it. Being bad at analytical reading does, however, directly limit your ability to get the most out of a novel. A better analogy would compare being bad at a game to being bad at initial reading, or having a poor vocabulary. In any case, the comparison is flawed. Game reviewers do, of course, have to analyse games as art, where appropriate, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

      • LockjawNightvision says:

        How is it disingenuous? Are you implying that they doesn’t believe what they’re saying?

        You’re moving the goalposts here. Being bad at a game doesn’t necessarily limit your ability to appreciate the game the same way that being bad at analytical reading doesn’t necessarily limit your ability to appreciate the book. Everyone finds their own joy. However, being bad at a videogame absolutely does limit your ability to “get the most out of” a game just as being bad at analytical reading would absolutely limit your ability to “get the most out of” a book. It is not beyond the pale to expect a professional critic to have the capability to fully experience and interpret the work. Their taste, knowledge of the medium, and ability to engagingly express themselves is what they’re being paid for.

        How are these not just facets of the umbrella term “analytical reading,” which you use above?

        It doesn’t seem to be, actually. At least not for the reasons you said.

        It’s not at all a different discussion. The various factors that give value to a person’s ability to contextualize and express an opinion on a work of art is the exact thing we are discussing in this thread, and what John was discussing in his piece.

        • LockjawNightvision says:

          Sorry, the formatting went terribly wrong there. Because I don’t seem to have an edit button and because I don’t want to dirty up the thread by reposting I think the best thing to do is just leave it as it is, and leave this, apologizing for its unsightliness.

          • alw says:

            git gud @ formatting, scrub :P

          • April March says:

            There is a certain joy in a post about literature and literacy coming out looking like a modernist poem.

    • Nauallis says:

      Counterpoint to what you’re all saying about 4, and also points 1, 2, and 3. I find that somebody reporting what it is that turns them off about a game is also highly useful, thematically or mechanically.

      Case in point: one of the RPS writers stated that “This War of Mine” was a hugely interesting game but also made them feel unhappy and a little bit miserable, because the experience was immersive enough that they felt awful when one of their NPC charges died.

      That is hugely useful information. I have the game, bought it based on the “you should try it at least once” recommendation, but I’ve never installed or played it because I don’t find the thought of a game that causes empathy for misery to be a relaxing experience. I play games to relax, to escape, but that’s not the sort of escape that I look for.

      Another more recent example. I have only seen one review of “Wolfenstein: The New Order” that blatantly stated the annoyance of having to manually pick up all sources of ammo. It’s entirely possible that the reviewers that I normally read mentioned it and I glossed over the detail, but I cannot in all honesty remember reading about it. Not knowing this ahead of time, after about five minutes of play time I was thoroughly disgusted by how much “press X to pick up ammo” interrupted the flow of what appeared to otherwise be a fantastic shooter, that I’ve since uninstalled the game and I’ll probably never play it again. That one little mechanic alone was frustrating enough to evoke a hugely strong response. I’m sure that many will disagree with me. I don’t particularly care if anybody else thinks less of me for not putting up with what I consider shit game design.

      So yeah, John had a problem with the mechanics in Stellaris, and he explained why. This is useful information, even if it’s not immediately useful to everyone.

      Don’t be so quick to be vocal in judgment.

      • LockjawNightvision says:

        I know I’m probably not speaking for everyone, but I personally have no issue with a critic injecting their personal emotional experience with something into the review. As you say, that is often valuable information. I just also think that the opinion of someone capable of playing a game at a reasonable level of competence dramatically increases the value of their opinion overall. Acknowledging that doesn’t make me an asshole, as John is not-subtly-at-all implying in the piece.

    • Astrella says:

      The irony of a comment in an article about elitism going on about the unwashes working classes.

      • Babymech says:

        I am glad that you can comprehend intended irony, so that I don’t have to berate you to git gud at reading. Good show!

  18. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Folks, it’s ‘hear, hear’, not ‘here, here’.

    I’ve had a gnarly morning, sorry.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Har har

    • Ross Angus says:

      [feels shame]

    • CaptainDju says:

      Yeah but then the “Wheare Wheare” joke doesn’t make any sense, does it?

    • gwathdring says:

      Both communicate clearly, both can be rationalized, and both are in use.

      “Here, here” can be understood and rationalized as an interesting blend of old timey styling and the more modern “this”, or (undoubtedly more accurately) as the phonetic progression of “hear hear.” Note, progression not corruption. I dislike the use of corruption in context; it implies changing language is immoral.

      “Hear, hear” is about asking other people to hear this awesome thing, but it can also feel a little strange and disconnected in modern parlance. It’s less demonstrative, and demonstration is very much in vogue.

  19. Bobsy says:

    It’s a symptom of toxic masculinity. It’s also something that I think tends to filter up from teenage boys and their ilk. There’s a horrible culture there of a) feeling the need to assert yourself and b) to be right in all things (such as being able to justify buying the ‘correct’ console instead of the obviously inferior alternative).

    The internet, and gaming in particular, does not delineate between adults and children – they share the same spaces and presume to speak as equals, anonymous equals ad that. This is deeply problematic and something you rarely find in real life.

    • adwodon says:

      Nonsense, this has little to do with masculinity. I know plenty of respectful, good young men who do not feel the need to behave like this. Perhaps its a combination of insecurity and a lack of boundaries for certain young men with shitty peers and parents, but that is not the same as masculinity. The vast majority of men are perfectly capable of conducting themselves in a respectful manner, these people are the minority.

      The idea that masculinity is fundamentally toxic is a pretty misandrist thing to perpetuate

      • Bobsy says:

        Did… did you just “not all men”?

        I was referring to the kind of masculinity which is toxic, by the way. Not actually implying that masculinity itself is toxic. But then. You just…

        Well anyway.

        • borabosna says:

          “the kind of masculinity which is toxic”

          Which “kind” is that? Can you give us a comprehensive list of all the “kinds” of masculinity please? How did you arrive at such a categorization?

          • Kala says:

            Masculinity (and femininity) are a categorization of gendered traits…

            But when people say ‘toxic’, they generally mean an unhealthy extreme. I.e a cultural pressure to appear outwardly tough and manly (not ‘weak’ or ‘feminine’), therefore lack of empathy is a good example. Realz before feelz. Covering insecurity with swagger. Lashing out. That kind of thing.

            All very sad and ironic, as none of that behaviour makes you tough. (“It takes guts to be gentle and kind.”)

          • Unclepauly says:

            Oh Lawdy @ Kala

        • Spoofi says:

          I don’t even bother anymore, according to some people negative attitudes in men simply do not exist, and all cultural and sociological influences have been deflected their manly manly shields of man, they remain pure.

        • Distec says:

          “Did… did you just “not all men”?”




          Did you really say that?

          “Not All Men?”

          WOW, I can’t even

          You know who says stuff like that?


          But seriously, come on


          Are you serious?

          “Not All Men”



      • Wisq says:

        It is masculinity — or at the very least, machismo. Just because you know some young men who don’t practice it to such a degree (or are polite enough not to express it) doesn’t mean it’s not something that’s expected of men.

        The insecurity comes from young people knowing what’s expected of them (as men) but feeling that they fall short. This is particularly the case in nerd culture because the entire concept of nerdiness has generally been seen as inferior to “real” men who focus on more physical pursuits. Obviously, this has been lessening somewhat as computers become more critical to our lives and video games are now highly mainstream — but even then, the most mainstream video games are the “dudebro” sports games and Call of Duties that try to reinforce this physical notion of machismo.

        To be against this is not to be misandrist. Quite the contrary, it’s to be against the expectations that plague and shackle boys and men. Men (and women) should be free to try things, and maybe not be good at them, and not be heckled for their lack of skill. They should also be free to express emotion, to admit their feelings, to cry. But right now, our media tells us That’s Not What Men Do — and so much of the toxic culture online is just boys who worry they don’t measure up to that, and who take it out on other people in order to not take it out on themselves.

        • Eightball says:

          What is non-toxic masculinity, and how would it be different from femininity?

          • Xocrates says:

            The question is, why should (social) masculinity be different from femininity?

            This isn’t saying that men should behave like women, it’s saying that there really is no reason why men and women can’t act however the fuck they want without being judged on it based on gender.

          • Eightball says:

            If that is the case, then this isn’t toxic masculinity – it’s just toxicity in general.

          • Xocrates says:

            True in the sense that they’re toxic behaviours regardless of who partakes in them, false in the sense that’s not what what “toxic-masculinity” refers to.

            Masculinity generally refers to the behaviours men are expected to have, not necessarily the ones they do have, and the behaviours referred to as “toxic-masculinity” are toxic behaviours men are expected – and even encouraged – to follow.

            When people complain about toxic-masculinity, they’re not complaining about men, so much as they’re complaining about specific – not necessarily men specific – behaviours that men are encouraged to have.
            In particular, men are encouraged to be agressive, dominant, and un-emotional (the opposite is generally expected of women). Behaviours that are detrimental not only to a lot of the larger society, but often to to the men partaking in them.

            Obviously a man needs not partake in these behaviours, and can even do some of them in a healthy way, but this does not change the fact that society as a whole encourages men to be assholes, and many buy into this fully – often unconsciously.

          • Reapy says:

            As a person fully in the camp of not wanting to act like the way I’m supposed to, I certainly have been punished for lack of these traits. Your dating pool shrinks considerably and the weight of your opinion is negligent to most.

            These ‘gender rules’ we have for both sexes are really quite stupid and are something we all need to work on together, but really I don’t know how one breaks the cycle as you will be continually punished for disobeying cultural norms when outside your home.

        • Unclepauly says:

          But what if I enjoy that culture? What if I like having social goals to demolish? To crush under my mighty man fist?

      • Jekadu says:

        This is pretty basic grammar you’re messing up. Adding an adjective to a noun is a way of qualifying it; that is to say, “adjective noun” is explicitly a proper subset of “noun”.

        In other words, “toxic masculinity” means “some masculinity is toxic” in most contexts. “Masculinity is toxic”, on the other hand, means “all masculinity is toxic” in most contexts.

        I’ll be honest, I’ve been waiting for a chance to say this. It’s been bothering me something fierce how people are so willing to misinterpret basic grammar over this issue.

        • Geebs says:

          a) that’s not an actual rule of English grammar, and the phrase is ambiguous, and b) people on the internet speak other languages and miss nuance.

          • Jekadu says:

            It does hold true unless the context implies otherwise.

            English as a second language is not a valid excuse when the response is perfectly grammatical and this weird deliberate misinterpretation keeps popping up every time the phrase is mentioned.

          • Geebs says:

            World population = 7.4 billion. English as first language = 400 million, or about 5%. Number of Internet users is 3 billion, so if every person who speaks English as a first language has Internet access, you’re looking at 13% tops. Consider “Great Britain” or “wily Odysseus” and tell me again that people don’t have a right to be confused.

          • Jekadu says:

            None of the discussion I see indicates that people are getting confused about how adjectives work except in this very specific instance. Adjectives are, to the best of my knowledge, a basic and universal feature of languages, and the languages where adjectives work differently are, in the context of this website’s readership, obscure and small.

            I fail to see the point of this particular discussion. You are chaining together a number of hypotheticals and assumptions that add up to an unlikely scenario. In my experience, it is very rare for this kind of misunderstanding to occur, much less escalate to this degree.

          • Reapy says:

            I’m a native english speaker and obviously (read any of my post history) not a very strong writer. I don’t really read and think ‘adjective noun’ as I go through things, but I do tend to pick out key phrases. The ‘toxic masculinity’ phrase is one I’ve read a bunch, and I guess I never stopped to analyze it grammatically, but more read it as though it were sort of a proper name more so than an adjective quantifying a noun and was reading it in the second type of phrase that ‘all masculinity is toxic’.

            I probably need to git gud at english really.

          • Jekadu says:

            I still don’t get it. Why would you parse it as a proper noun? Why don’t we get a whole bunch of people telling us that “not all wood is rotten” each time someone writes “rotten wood”?

          • Unclepauly says:

            Because “rotten wood” isn’t implying all wood is rotten, or that wood is inherently rotten it just hasn’t displayed it or is polite enough not to show it’s rotten aspect.

    • Eightball says:

      >It’s a symptom of toxic masculinity.

      An absurd buzzword term. It’s absurdity is easily revealed because non-toxic masculinity cannot be defined by those who use the term toxic masculinity.

      • Jekadu says:

        What a strange thing to say. Masculinity is, loosely, the set of traits and behaviors generally associated with male behavior. Toxic masculinity is the subset of traits and behaviors considered self-destructive, destructive or non-desirable. This doesn’t seem very difficult at all to me as a layman.

        • Eightball says:

          I thought (according to the progressive dogmatics that use terms like “toxic masculinity”) gender is a social construct. Isn’t it terribly sexist to suggest that women can’t get mad at someone for being bad at videogames?

          • Jekadu says:

            Of course it’s a social construct. It’s also something one can identify with, same as any other identity. These are not mutually incompatible concepts.

          • Eightball says:

            So you think there are traits and behaviors that only men do?

          • Premium User Badge

            Oakreef says:

            There are traits and behaviours that associated with men far more than they are with women. Acknowledging how the worlds currently tends to operate is not an endorsement of the status quo. Acknowledging that there are behaviours that are in general by society considered masculine and reinforced by society as the correct way for men to behave is not saying that those behaviours SHOULD be tied to gender identity or are a result of biological sexual dimorphism in much the same way as acknowledging that jazz and rap music started as musical movements among black americans is not a statement that black skin makes people like different kinds of music.

          • Jekadu says:

            There are traits and behaviors considered to be “male”. This is not the same as them being inherently male. There are societal expectations on men (and women) to behave in certain ways, and to many men (and women), being accepted as male (or any gender) by their peers and society in general is central to their identity.

            I might be mixing up some of the terminology, but I think you get my point.

          • Eightball says:

            Right, so you folks think that “masculinity” exists today because of evil society, but in a just world there wouldn’t even *be* masculinity.

            Essentially complaining about “toxic masculinity” is just concern trolling.

          • Jekadu says:

            I’m not sure how you arrived at that conclusion, nor do I have any idea what concern trolling has to do with anything. Masculinity is something that exists. Some parts of it lead to toxic behavior, or the perpetuation of toxic behavior. This is no different from any other identity.

            This phenomenon is sufficiently prevalent in video game enthusiast communities for it to be a significant problem. There are many of us who care about video games and want to see this change.

          • Kala says:

            “Why would it suggest women can’t get mad at someone for being bad at videogames?”

            ‘Masculine’ isn’t an exchangeable term for ‘men’. It’s a bunch of traits deemed ‘manly’ that there’s overt pressure for men to conform to (whether it happens to suit their personality or not).

            Ofc women can have ‘masculine’ traits like being aggressive (ask the boyfriend). The difference being, the social pressure for women goes in the opposite direction (to have ‘feminine’ traits).

            When people talk about gender being constructed, that’s what they mean – social pressures put on people to be strictly either masculine or feminine due to behavioural expectations of their sex (regardless of who they are as an individual).

    • PancakeWizard says:

      “It’s a symptom of toxic masculinity.”

      Congratulations, you win all the eye rolls today.

    • Don Reba says:

      Toxic masculinity… because of course none of those messages come from women.

    • Jay Load says:

      A discussion of masculinity, and the oft-times toxic nature thereof, with a dovetail into linguistic interpretation of the very phrase thrown in for good measure.

      This is what I love about RPS. The penchant for huge rambling conversations about absolute WANK.

  20. Rymosrac says:

    Certainly you don’t need to be good at games to enjoy them, and there’s nothing more intrinsically valuable about the fun that a good player is having over the fun that a bad player is having.

    But as a counterpoint, would you trust a terrible mountain climber to write a useful review of a difficult route? Would you agree that the route should be modified so that one can skip the difficult pitches at will? Just a thought, obviously the parallel isn’t perfect.

    • John Walker says:

      As I say, a reviewer cannot be inept.

      For your parallel to apply, it would need to be a review of a game only elite expert players could even consider playing, which is a) unlikely to exist, and b) perfectly acceptable specific criteria were it to.

      • Mavian says:

        I think you’re misinterpreting his analogy. A difficult route and pitches does not mean impossible or only for the elite. It can simply mean a more technical route for people with some experience.

        I suppose it’s like this. When I read a game review, I expect the reviewer to be a better player than me. I’m an average player. When its your job to be apart of this industry and also assigning value to the work coming from it (which has an effect not only on those consuming your work, but on the very studios themselves which are sometimes bound to certain review thresholds to be fully paid, as you know).

        So yes, my expectation is when a reviewer says this game is hard or easy (just to dumb it down for brevity here), they’re speaking from a place of full knowledge and skill that is higher than the average consumer. To follow the climbing analogy further, when I look for reviews on climbing gear, I like to know the reviewers accomplishments. What have they successfully climbed and for how long they have been doing it as it confers they have enough wisdom to use the product effectively and correctly and to advise me on their use. To segue into the Polygon Doom video, when I see the potential reviewers inability to competently play the game, I have to question their criticism of it. They’ve shown they may not be as good a player so their frustrations and criticism may not be fully legitimate.

        Take it as you will, but there is definitive worth, for good reason, in skill and ability.

        • April March says:

          Curious. I, too, expect reviewers to be better at a game than me – but that’s because it’s something that can’t be helped with people who, unlike me, are paid to play games for considerable amount of times. I would, given the choice, prefer for someone who was as skilled as me to play games, because then I’d know how difficult and frustrating I’d found them. That’s of course impossible, so I try instead to find reviewers that have other things in common with me. But if I knew a reviewer who was worse at games than I am I’d tresure them deeply.

      • Cederic says:

        I agree with your article, and admire that RPS (and you personally) are brave enough to say “Here’s what I think of this game, and damn that bit was hard. Too hard for me!”

        On the flipside, would someone with an IQ of 80 really write a useful informative review of Hexcells?

        Some level of competence and capability does feel useful.

        • Unclepauly says:

          I would love to hear that IQ of 80 persons thought on jello, though. I assume it would be the essence of jello, rendered bare for us all.

          • Cederic says:

            Hmm. I sense the need for a new website. Is simplejoysoflife.com taken?

  21. Bracknellexile says:


    A similar experience with everyone else having expectations of bringing an exemplary performance is why I never play MMOs unless I can solo the entire thing. If you’re not in on day one you’re behind the curve. If you’re behind the curve there’s no fun in playing because it’s just a torrent of criticism at your lack of levels/skill/objects/usefullness to the group.

    So much for playing for fun! And the same’s true in writing about games. I read (articles and comments) to be entertained by the writers’ writings, not torrents of criticism of the writer’s playing ability – in fact the more entertaining and informative writing often comes when not everything is executed perfectly (by player or developer). The only difference is the subsequent torrent isn’t aimed at me. Still, so much for reading for fun.

    In short: couldn’t agree more, John and I’m glad RPS isn’t falling foul of this as much as some others. It’s a shame it’s happened and it’s a shame that it’s an attitude that pervades much more than just games commentary.

  22. celticdr says:

    I agree John, I write beer reviews because I enjoy beer – not because I am any good at brewing (in fact I’m a terrible brewer). As long as you enjoy reviewing games I say it doesn’t matter how good you are at them – I usually play FPS’s on easy and I don’t give a shit what people think and neither should you.

    The only point I would make is about your Stellaris impressions – of course you were upfront about not liking strategy games – so it was only ever going to be bad news for that game, it was really set up for failure there (especially with a Paradox game – they’re renowned for being painfully unfriendly in the UI department).

    On the other hand you give excellent adventure game reviews, so that’s your bread n’ butter – I know when I see an adventure game reviewed by John Walker I’m getting a thorough and entertaining analysis. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to stick with what you love.

    • John Walker says:

      Absolutely, which is why in a billion years I would never try to review a game like Stellaris!

      I just wanted to experience some of the fun Adam was having, and documented how it didn’t work out.

      • celticdr says:

        I know and I read and enjoyed it with a slight chuckle at the irony of the article, unfortunately irony has a tendency to fly right over some peoples heads – hence, I think, the negative reaction you received from certain people.

        Was that article deserving of the vitriol it received from those people? I think not, but that’s just the way you internet is today – vitriol gets thrown in anyones face for the slightest opinion being displayed.

      • Cooper says:

        Yeah, the comments on Stellaris were odd, and a little surprising for RPS.

        I mean, I read RPS precisely because of those kinds of pieces; personal descriptions of times with games that are not only well written accounts of the author’s experience but where that experience is used to provide specific critical insights into some aspect of the game.

        And yet the comments were almot entirely full of people saying something along the line sof “My experience was different therefore your insights are incorrect”.

        I mean, ffs, of course your own personal experiences were different to the experiences of someone else, and the critical insights were written well enough such that they weren’t trying to suggest grand generalisations based upon an individual’s lone experience but were rather specific and contextual.

        I think I’m gonna do the reverse of what some people are doing with your comments John: I’ll look forward to reading the articles and ignore the comments rather than not read the article and go straight to commenting…

        • Thurgret says:

          I’m going to go ahead and make some possibly wild assumptions about people and why they react to opinions on Stellaris the way they do.

          I really, really want it to be a good game (because I like space, and exploration, and stories). It just isn’t, yet. In 18 months, it probably will be. I’m by no means a huge fan of Paradox – I like some stuff they make, other stuff less so – but considering my hopes for this, I’m don’t like to say “It’s bad” without trying to then say “but there’s potential”. I think that sentiment’s the source of a lot of commentary on it.

        • Unclepauly says:

          What the sam heck are you people talking about? I thought the comments on his Stellaris article were mostly people trying to be helpful and to coax John into giving it another shot? I only read the 1st page but I saw maybe 1 maybe 2 negative responses.

      • Wisq says:

        There is definitely a tendency these days for people to interpret any sort of commentary or praise or criticism as a review, and to demand that the “reviewer” have certain credentials before they’re allowed to express their opinion.

        It’s funny and sad that so many internet whiners will take vitriolic offense at the slightest critique of the games and media they love, then turn around and complain about other people not having thick enough skin.

  23. maphisto2000 says:

    Great article.

    My experiences of Stellaris and Dark Souls are at contrast. I love Stellaris, I found the tutorial worked well, whilst still leaving me plenty to discover and explore. I’ve performed poorly, often because I concentrated on one element, and restarted the game many times to try out new strategies. I found this process enjoyable.

    Dark Souls however requires me to restart with a higher frequency, not necessary for performing poorly but because I didn’t know to avoid that completely hidden trap, or I didn’t know that the bosses second move set involved ABC which I need to counter with XYZ. Ultimately I didn’t enjoy the process of gitting gud.

  24. C0llic says:

    You’re right of course. However, I don’t think how people engage with games has changed that much, but how they talk about them, and more importantly who they talk to has. A bit of friendly competition and ribbing was always the case before the internet. It was fun to compete with friends, to compare notes and indulge in a bit of ribbing.

    Now though those interactions happen with relative strangers and journalists, and the group think and crowd mentality of the internet just amplifies it. All of that is compounded by how hard it is to convey tone in text, and how easily it is to come across as an ass or as someone who is taking something far too seriously. It’s harder to not defend an argument, even one you’ve made because you’re having a bad day, when it’s written down. I’ve been guilty of that, as I’m sure almost everyone else has.

    Lets also not forget that a lot of younger people do play games and some of the worst examples of idiotic comments and the ‘follow the leader’ mentality can probably be traced back to that as well

    I don’t think the negative side of any of this will ever go away; it’s the bad side of the internet that unfortunately comes along with the good.

    • C0llic says:

      As a PS, I hope you find the time to crack strategy games at some point, John. They are rewarding, but the time investment to play and get into them can’t be understated. I don’t think I’d have ever started playing any if I didn’t have forums to browse and wikis to read, and more importantly the time to do it.

  25. Kefren says:

    A game is just a way of having fun within a set of rules. Everyone’s idea of fun varies. Some played Doom as a manic and fun shooter; some played it as a tense and horrifying adventure; some played it as a puzzle. They were all correct. As long as the individual has fun that is more important than how they play or how “well” they play. I have always been a fan of System Shock 2. Again and again people would ask what upgrades to choose for maximum efficiency, or talk about “pointless” ones that were not as powerful. Shit on all that. I always play as a character and choose things that character would choose (one time a marine, one time and engineer, one time a scientist etc). Yes, sometimes it made teh game easier, sometimes harder. But it was much more fun and varied than trying to find the most “optimal” way to play the game. Because then you’re not playing a game, you’re competing. As long as you’re having fun then nothign else matters. (A good example is the toddler given a controller while a demo is running, and they think they’re playing – as long as they’re having fun, that’s more important than anything else).

  26. Philopoemen says:

    I don’t want reviewers who can play the game – I want reviewers who can write worth a damn.

    Hence, I support RPS.

    But seriously, isn’t the whole “git gud” thing the province of teenagers with too much time on their hands?

    • John Walker says:

      Teenagers are people, not another race! And from my experience, most of the behaviour people wish to attribute to adolescence tends to skew far older than we’d like to believe.

    • Herring says:

      My daughter (one of them thar teenagers) said I should make YouTube videos because I wasn’t too good at games :D

      It was a _bit_ of a back-handed complement though as she went on to explain how difficult it is to relate to elite streamers.

      She watches people play games FAR more than she actually plays them too (something pretty common among her peers it seems).

    • Titler says:

      There is actually an age component to “gittin’ gud”; for one, it contains the kind of ironical lack of hard thought in repeating a pre-constructed meme that only the young who desperately need social approval would find satisfying..!

      But more seriously, it has the arrogance of youth that assumes the luxury of always available improvement. Now me, I’ve always been good, towards being damn great at gaming. But I’m also getting older and can feel the onset of a time when I’m just not physically going to always be able to improve, even if I had the time to play as much as needed. To give an example, I was so pleased recently to crack top 300 world wide on a lap time on Sonic Allstars Transformed; but the pride I felt was tempered by the fact that, after just an hour lapping, my wrists and arm absolutely throbbed, and my head felt pretty groggy after. There will come a time when my twitch reactions, no matter how fast they were as a teenager, is just not going to be quick enough, or my tolerance to grinding out knowledge is just not going to be long enough to compensate.

      That doesn’t mean that I can’t be a good games reviewer, because the most important qualification is unrelated to either age or experience; it’s HONESTY. However experience also counts, such as genre awareness. And there are other skills too; my first foray into games reviewing didn’t go as well as it could because I got microphone balance levels wrong. And to get the script as tight as I could, I recorded and re-recorded lines until they synced with what was on screen; other people improvise and are able to review via humour and free association which is a different skill set but works to the same level. Practice can improve both approaches, but neither depend upon actually being good at the game itself.

      And in my review example, if the game itself isn’t well designed, “gittin gud” may not actually be possible, so how can a reviewer git it? To be gud in Shroud requires spending money in the store above all else, and that’s not an actual skill now is it? A bad reviewer, one who doesn’t spend money, is actually worth more than a “gud” one with a $10000 house plot, because the kind of person who can spend that is necessarily an unrealistic elitist.

      So yes; “git gud” needs to end for a multitude of reasons. Listen to the wisdom of aaaaaage!

  27. Hidoshi says:

    I do agree with most of the points made, however I disagree with ‘every game having a skippable thing or easy mode’. Dark Souls came to be, because there weren’t many hardcore games left anymore. The developers deliberately made a hard to play game.

    To ‘demand’ an easy mode to enjoy the game is just setting unreal expectations. That’s the same as asking mario party for a hardcore mode.
    To me playing a game meant for hardcore and dying a lot is different than a game with many difficulties and picking the toughest one.

    I feel like this discussion has the same feeling as one of a feminist. You want the same rights and to be treated the same way (which is fair), but your also demanding an easy mode and I quote: or argued that it should always be possible to skip ahead in games.

    • John Walker says:

      I really don’t want or care for Dark Souls to have an easy mode, so that’s not my agenda at all, but I still want to ask you: why would it matter if it did? How would it affect someone who doesn’t want to use it?

      I’m just going to pretend you didn’t write the last paragraph, because I’ve only a limited number of years left to live.

      • exile2k4 says:

        I’ve struggled through the whole Dark Souls trilogy, despite being very bad at them, and for me personally the static difficulty gave it a sense of meaning/accomplishment (if those are ever really appropriate phrases to use in conjunction with a single player video game). If there had been a difficulty setting I’m sure I’d have turned it down at various points, but I think the game would have lost something in accommodating my incompetence. The difficulty, the repetitive failure and the eventual overcoming only to face a new challenge is central to what I loved about the games and tied in so well to the story I wouldn’t have liked it as much if I’d have just made it easier the first time I got stuck.

        • kublakhan says:

          But even in games without a difficulty setting, the difficulty isn’t static. You can decide whether to consult guides, cheese bosses, use a build that works vs. a build that you like, et cetera.

          On the ‘git gud’ mentality: I dislike it insofar as it is portrayed as the one true way to approach a game. For instance,
          some people will preplan their first playthrough, using every online resource available to them, in order to finish a game quickly. While this is legitimate, why should it become the norm? For me, the magic of a game consists of those first few hours of learning: ‘I wonder what this does, I wonder whether that works’, et cetera. To an outside observer, I might be a bumbling fool, but on the inside, it’s a magical experience.

        • GameCat says:

          Oh my, my first Dark Souls playthrough was like hitting the wall with my own head and wondering why it doesn’t break down, but I’ve loved it and I will love it forever.

          Now I git gud and kinda want to get back to that miserable state. It was something I didn’t had in games since playing some of hardest NES titles.

      • Hidoshi says:

        Thanks for replying!
        How it affects me personally is that achievement feels less of an achievement. With limited time to spare, finishing a certain boss feels really rewarding, but if a 5 year old child could finish the same boss fight by being invincible or just skipping it then most of my personal rewarding or achievment is gone. The Prince of Persia game where you couldn’t lose a bossfight, where it would drag on forever if you failed, was my worst gaming experience ever.

        To come back to the article, because I may have misunderstood some of it too, I do agree that a reviewer doesn’t need to be adapt at playing games to review a game. However what I usually notice with ‘bad players’ wanting games with easy modes is that they shove the ‘good players’ to the esports corner to have fun there. There’s something wrong with both sides.

        • John Walker says:

          But how would your personal achievement of having completed a fight on one difficulty setting be affected or changed by the existence of another difficulty setting?

          • Saarlaender39 says:

            I just logged in to ask that very same question.
            So, thanks, John for doing my job here. ;o)

          • Hidoshi says:

            Somehow I keep pushing myself in a corner…
            Well I think that if there’s one difficulty, the one that the designers chose, and I finish that then I did well. If there are 3, but I don’t want to start with very hard because I want to see what the game is like first, then finishing it in normal doesn’t feel like I did well.
            I can’t remember which game it was that just had a normal mode (and a hardcore one once you finished) and only after failing 3 or so times let you set the difficulty lower for that boss fight. For me this is the perfect middleground somehow. Challenging, but not punishing. Even though I contradict myself a bit with this point, this is the only way I can describe the best system that fits myself and where I feel I could still discuss the same experiences with ‘bad players’.

          • Hidoshi says:

            And with lack of edit button, I keep forgetting: CHOICE STRESS. I feel like I never make the right choice with multiple difficulties.
            Normal = too easy
            Hard = sometimes on the easy side, sometimes good, sometimes way too hard (Looking at you Muramasa…)
            Very hard = too challenging (except when I want a challenge, but usually not for the first playthrough)

          • exile2k4 says:

            If there was a difficulty slider in Dark Souls, then back in 2012 an hour or so into the first game I’d have probably switched to ‘easy’ after getting killed by the Taurus demon for the 10th time, and proceeded to waltz through the game spamming the fast attack button. Instead, the static difficulty forced me to interact with the combat mechanics and pay attention to the game’s world in general much more closely. There were times when the difficulty made me feel lost, or like the challenges were insurmountable, but ultimately the game was much more satisfying for it.

            That’s one specific game series that worked well for me with one difficulty option – there are loads of other games I’ve really enjoyed with multiple difficulties, and it really depends what the developer was going for, but it’s an attempt to explain why multiple options might detract from the enjoyment of a game.

          • April March says:

            Yeah, Dark Souls is a difficult series that requires a deep understanding of its mechanics to be enjoyable. If it had a difficulty slider it wouldn’t allow more people to play it, it would only let people play a watered down, boring version of it.

            The big secret is, very, very few games are like that. It wouldn’t harm 90% of them if a long part of them was skippable, or had a ‘walkaround mode’. In that world the fact that Dark Souls didn’t have these options would just be seen as part of their charm and compromise to their vision.

      • Tetrode says:

        “why would it matter if it did?”

        It would matter because a large part of Dark Souls is learning and developing and adapting to how the game works. The game teaches you how to play it as you play it. You learn to check corners, look for traps, manage your stamina, learn what weaknesses different enemies have. You learn all this and more by failing, by dying. You learn this because the game is hard. You find out what works and what doesn’t because the game doesn’t just let you breeze through it. If there was an easy mode of Dark Souls it would take away a large part of what the game actually is. The sense of accomplishment when you beat a difficult boss, the feeling of elation as you finally find your next bonfire, the “fuck yeah” moments when you discover shortcuts. If the game just let you hack and slash your way through every encounter without any thought and without the fear of dying, of losing progress, it honestly wouldn’t be Dark Souls I’m afraid.

        There is more to Dark Souls than the difficulty, but the difficulty is ingrained into every part of the game and the gameplay itself. It wouldn’t be as simple as to just make an easy mode. I’m not saying that every game should be hard and not have easier difficulties, but Dark Souls is not the game for it.

        • Saarlaender39 says:

          Same as above: why does it bother YOU (or anybody else who opts for the hard and unforgiving difficulty level), if ANYONE ELSE skips a certain fight after the umpteenth time, or lowers the difficulty for a certain level, etc.,…?

          That doesn’t take away anything from YOUR personal hardcore experience – or does it?

          • Tetrode says:

            It doesn’t take away anything from my personal experience no, I didn’t say it did. I tried to get across that Dark Souls on ‘easy mode’ wouldn’t actually be Dark Souls. People who seem to think they’re entitled to an easy mode don’t seem to understand that difficulty can be a part of what makes a game what it is. Dark Souls is one of these games. If someone else managed to play Dark Souls on easy mode it would frustrate me because they would be doing themselves a disservice by not actually playing the game the developers set out to make.

            Let’s say if you were a HUGE fan of literature, War and Peace for example. The fact that when you read it, it evokes a feeling you don’t get from many other places. Every small paragraph, every description, every little thing that makes the novel the sum of what it is. You can find excellence in each part of it and from these parts you appreciate how much you enjoy this book. If someone came up to you and told you they’d just read the plot summary of it on wikipedia and they don’t understand what’s so great about it, wouldn’t it frustrate you?

          • Saarlaender39 says:

            “If someone else managed to play Dark Souls on easy mode it would frustrate me because they would be doing themselves a disservice by not actually playing the game the developers set out to make.”

            And once again the question arises: why would/should it frustrate you?
            Maybe that person did chose the easy mode out of an even greater frustration (because of not being able to progress in the game)?
            Have you ever thought about that?

            And…, since there is no easy mode in DS, I guess, we just have to assume (for the sake of this argument), the very same developers would have to implement said easy mode in the first place…and in that case – the easy mode would be part of the game they “set out to make”.
            Where is your argument now?

            Tetrode: “If someone came up to you and told you they’d just read the plot summary of [war and peace] on wikipedia and they don’t understand what’s so great about it, wouldn’t it frustrate you?”

            No! Why should it, exactly?
            I could just explain to that person, that s/he’s missing out a lot, if s/he’s just going for the summary.

            But once again – >I< would not lose anything of my personal experience while reading the book, just because someone else did not read it/ did only read a summary of it.

            Someone elses experience (or lack thereof!) with a certain book, movie, TV series and/or game doesn't take anything away from my experience with the same medium! Full stop!

            If you're actually so easily frustrated by what I (and a lot of others) would call "nothing"…well…I'd say, you have a bigger problem, than someone else playing your dearest hard game on easy mode.

            No offense! :)

          • Reapy says:

            As much as I hate to say it, having an ‘go easy mode’ button is too tempting. When you do bang your head against a wall, you at some point have to stop and reevaluate.

            So, dark souls wise, you go look at your spec, upgrade a weapon, try another path, try another boss, level up. You find some other path, and then try to come back to it, and then crush the thing that was your wall, and it is a great feeling.

            If the ‘go easy’ button were there, perhaps I’d be tempted to just press that instead. Maybe I wouldn’t press it, and go grind a bit, and then say to myself, why am I grinding, why don’t I just push the button, now I’m just waisting my time in pointless grind, who cares if I beat it normal mode right?

            I feel like the lack of an easy mode is a deliberate design choice that is illogical, yet crucial to the experience.

            I can’t argue with your logic at all, you are totally correct, why shouldn’t you be able to do what you want in a single player game? However, I feel like having that button there in that game is just… well just wrong for the people that AREN’T doing hard mode. (In dark souls I tend to think of first play through as easy mode anyway, and NG+ and beyond as the higher difficulties).

            Anyway, it is a reason also I miss trainers and cheat codes. If you wanted to cheat code/trainer/mod your way to victory (doesn’t always have to be auto win either, just say level you up or give extra cash type of trainer), it’s okay because it exists outside the standard game, isn’t an option unless you go above and beyond, that sort of thing.

            Design is a really subtle thing, it’s the sum of a lot of very little deliberate and accidental decisions. Sometimes just the option do do a thing, or the automation of a tiny repetitive task, can wreck an experience.

            I honestly think dark souls would not have been such a memorable experience for many people if that easy button were there.

        • Yugie says:

          why would it matter if it did? How would it affect someone who doesn’t want to use it?

          I feel like you missed the 2nd part of the question. All that you described doesn’t go away for people who want that experience. That is still there. Having an easier difficulty mode wouldn’t change that, but allow the choice of an easier time of things.

          On the whole difficulty thing: It’s not like there is a binary of normal mode and carebear mode. Surely it’s possible to tweak it to be easier with an extra bit of health or more damage on the enemies without taking away the whole experience.

      • timzania says:

        I think there’s an interesting connection between asking for an easier Dark Souls and the sort of trouble you had with Stellaris.

        If Paradox said “well OK, we see you’re having trouble, let’s make your ships stronger and increase your energy/mineral outputs by 50%” that wouldn’t help one bit, because it had nothing to do with your issue, which was that you weren’t able to engage with the game’s systems in a meaningful way. In some sense this might seem to be an issue with the interface or tutorial, but I think it might run a little deeper than that, in that the Stellaris genre is sort of best enjoyed by people who really want to feel lost a little bit.

        Since Dark Souls looks something like Ocarina of Time it “seems” like it would be fine to simply tweak the health bars or what-have-you for “easy” mode but I think that’s mistaken. The game’s not-secret secret is that it isn’t as hard as it seems; it has systems which you have to learn, which explain themselves to you via failure and death, and that’s what the game is “for”.

        As a player, I think I would have been harmed to some degree by alternate difficulty levels, because I wouldn’t have understood correctly which to use. It seems obvious enough, that you’d start with “normal” and turn it down if you were dying too much, turn it up if you were bored, but having done that I wouldn’t have necessarily played the real “game” behind the Ocarina-ish facade.

      • Unclepauly says:

        I laughed heartily.

  28. Alec Meer says:

    You are a terrible healer though.

  29. Christo4 says:

    There are thousands and thousands more easy games out there.
    What’s wrong with some games actually being hard for a change?
    What’s wrong with having to git gud to actually play be able to play them properly?
    If you have something better to do with your time or just don’t want to try and go through the same things again and again, then don’t play that game! There are a lot others out there that may suit your needs better.
    Not to mention that 99% of games released recently can’t even be clasified as hard. No, not even dark souls. If you know that you have to upgrade your weapons and stats, yeah it’s going to be harder, but still quite doable even for the worst player. And hey there’s always summoning.

    On the contrary, i see way too many games being too easy. And not really offering any incentives to go for a harder difficulty, other than just it being harder. If the AI was more complex or in dark souls’ case or other rpg’s it offered other items, or lessened the item and level gain curbe to a better progression instead of being overpowered at the beginning, that would be better. Instead, 99% of games consider hard mode being more damage and health for the enemies and that’s it. Nothing more or less. Or in the case of strategy games, the AI cheating.

    Honeslty i am a bit annoyed by people complaining that others tell them to git gud. Already the market is filled with easy games, what’s wrong with actually having a few that require time and dedication to get to a skill level from where you can enjoy the game, instead of everything being handed to you on a platter for spamming the attack button?

  30. daphne says:

    “You Don’t Need To Be “Good” At Games To Enjoy Them”

    This is correct. This also has nothing to do with the rest of the words in the article, because you’re not discussing enjoyment of games. You’re talking about making games your business. If your business is to write a review of a game, or to showcase it to viewers to the best of your ability, then there’s an unseen compact that obliges you to actually make an effort to master the game at least to some extent, or pass on the responsibility to someone who does. I care very little about whether you enjoy the game or not. I’m interested in seeing how you justify your opinion. If you do this well, you’ll be rewarded. If not, you’ll be criticized. Over time, this will add up to something we call reputation.

    “In this mess people have lost sight of what a review is for. It’s not a world-leading gaming expert explaining how they’re best at it”


    “– it’s a regular gamer who is hopefully an expert writer, eloquently describing their experience of the game.”

    No, it really isn’t. If you’re banking on the fact that this site is run by “six of Britain’s top games critics”, you owe your readership more than that. There are thousands of sites out there that offer nothing more than narcissistic outtakes of how they, unique snowflakes all, experience a game. It sounds to me as if you’re increasingly agreeing with them.

    Don’t. Be better.

    • John Walker says:

      We certainly have six of the best critics out there. You just seem to have a peculiar understanding of what makes a critic best.

      I don’t suppose you’ve noticed how we’ve labelled our reviews for the last nine years?

      • daphne says:

        You, in turn, seem to have a peculiar understanding of what criticism is. Your reviews are titled “Wot I Think”, not “How I Experienced”, or “Wot I (but not necessarily You, Which is Ok) Felt About”.

        A simple description of experience is not criticism. I really shouldn’t have to say this. Please read over my comment again and don’t rush to respond to me. I am a Supporter of this site for good reason.

        • lglethal says:

          I’ve never understood this thinking. Tell me does a movie reviewer have to have been an Oscar winning director before there opinion means a damn? Of course not! What about a music reviewer, do they need to have been a classical cellist or member of a rock band? Nope.

          Why then do you expect a game reviewer to be an expert gamer? We are asking there opinion because they are good writers and they are willing to plow through games in order to give us there opinion so we can decide if we want to buy it or not. That’s all we should and can expect.

          Great article John…

          • daphne says:

            More established traditions of criticism, such as those for books, music, or film, routinely do employ such experts as you cite. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not they “have” to be those things, but it is almost always the case that the criticism, or review, is better for it. The author brings with her helpful knowledge and the insights to make her review more grounded, well-researched, and informative. And it’s what makes the criticism reputable.

            I’m not talking about fringe sites here. If you’re interested in the type of work I’m talking about, why not check out the London Review of Books some time. I’m not saying that people should be writing ten page essays for games, but review work is decidedly more than a description of experience.

            John Walker might think that this is a simple matter of plugging stuff into a “Giant Graph Of That Genre”. Unfortunately, such nonchalant statements only reveal his ignorance of the matter.

          • John Walker says:

            Well, I’m glad my understanding of the job at which I’ve been successful for the last seventeen years reveals my ignorance.

          • X_kot says:

            “More established traditions of criticism, such as those for books, music, or film, routinely do employ such experts as you cite. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not they ‘have’ to be those things, but it is almost always the case that the criticism, or review, is better for it. The author brings with her helpful knowledge and the insights to make her review more grounded, well-researched, and informative. And it’s what makes the criticism reputable.”

            This is pure sophistry. By what metrics can expertise in games be established that quantify skill in the broad category of “video games?” Score rankings? Competitions? Steam Achievements? And even if we were to determine a specific merit to judge excellence, would that apply to a specific game? Games by the same developer? The same genre?

            You bring no clarity to the matter and only belittle the RPS writers. You want “more grounded, well-research, and informative” reviews? This site and many others provide that to the best of their ability. Unless you can demonstrate that completing a game or getting a high score correlate with better reviews, I think we’re done here.

          • daphne says:

            X_kot, please read my response to zipdrive, below. And it’s disingenious to accuse me of sophistry when I’ve given a very clear example, right after your quote, of what I think good criticism is. You can make the effort to at least check that well-known publication out and see exactly what I mean when I say people of knowledge and expertise, not just taste, are also the most reputable critics.

            And as I’ve implied, I’m supporting RPS for the same reasons you’ve cited. You’re far-placed to accuse me of belittling RPS. However, I absolutely am criticizing the main thrust of this article.

            And John, you are being defensive. You are successful by your own standard, and yes, that description still reeks of ignorance. Sorry.

        • monsieurZb says:

          “A simple description of experience is not criticism”
          Despite being what professional critics would want the general public to believe, that statement is in my opinion completely false. You can write about the technical details of any medium, ultimately it will boil down to how you, personally, enjoyed these details as a whole. I’ve yet, in my 20 years+ of critic opinion reading, to find a piece that couldn’t be summarized as “I liked that while this I disliked”.

          • John Walker says:

            Um, I’m the professional critic arguing against that statement. And I don’t know of anyone else in the business who would disagree.

    • zipdrive says:

      First, a reviewer and a critic are not one and the same.
      Second, I’ve yet to see a single comment telling a book reviewer he should read faster or deriding him for not remembering all the names of all the minor characters in something the likes of Song of Ice and Fire, in case he mentions that there are too many of them and they’re indistinct.
      Third what do you mean when you write “be better”? You said what criticism isn’t, but not what you think it *is*.

      • daphne says:

        First point: Use whatever you like.

        Second and third points: That makes sense, because criticism is not about speed of reading or remembering the names of all characters. Criticism is a matter of judgment, the judgment of strengths and weaknesses of something, the weighing of results in a verdict. Hence, who is responsible for the criticism absolutely matters. I don’t take John’s opinion of Stellaris seriously, because he admits to be clueless about strategy games. I listen to Adam, because I know he’s the best person on the site to judge a new Paradox Grand Strategy/4X hybrid. Similarly, I listen to John on adventure games because he has shown that he can examine and dissect the design of adventure games. I don’t necessarily agree with him on matters on taste, but I do trust his knowledge to some extent.

        The key point is that “taste” itself is not enough. You have to being knowledge and experience to criticism, to put whatever it is you are reviewing into some historical context, some frame of reference. It has to appeal to reason and common understanding, based on a foundation of what came before. If your writing is lacking this quality, it’s not criticism. It’s just a series of impressions.

        • Reapy says:

          I agree with what you’ve said and would add one more thought onto the heap… that we can’t compare book/movie reviewers to games because it is a different medium.

          Anybody can watch a movie, but we expect the movie reviewer to catch things we would miss, to understand the history of the director, to understand current trends in movies, to have some idea of the target audience for the movie, to be able to describe the movie well enough so that even if the reviewer hated it, one could come to a separate conclusion based on the information within.

          If you take the movie Avatar for example, it is kind of a piece of shit, but it was perhaps the most memorable movie of the last decade for me because it was my first time seeing 3d in an IMAX setting and the potential for it all just knocked my socks off.

          A good reviewer/critic would be able to convey this, that despite the movie being so, whatever it was, the reviewer having a working knowledge of the context surrounding it, would be able to convey that information.

          Games, games are played. You experience games differently depending how you play. Some games have a flow to them that is critical to the experience. For example I was terrible at bayonetta, but I could really feel how great the game systems were, they were just elegantly connected and it was easy to see and feel when you had the controller in your hand, despite being unable to execute it at all to its fullest.

          Same with the batman game, the combat just had such a great flow to it, and I didn’t play long enough to master it, but long enough to see the beauty of its design, but perhaps only because I’ve played dozens and dozens of brawlers (all poorly, I might add).

          But I could have just as easily said the combat systems in both games were bad, way too difficult, hard to get into, making the game impenetrable. Is that my opinion, sure, should people really care about that opinion, well, maybe, if there were trying to figure out if they wanted to hang out with me, otherwise as a critic or reviewer, probably not.

          And locking down what a gamer should know, is hard. Chris crawford’s dragon speach… still relevant, he described the problem of gamer’s education level, as we grow in sophistication we demand more complexity, leaving behind those with less experience, where is the ‘skill range’ to target as a designer, how low and how high can you stretch it.

          A game reviewer should probably fall right dead center on the average gamer’s bell curve of skill. If the reviewer were bad at the game, their experience of the game would be different, if the reviewer were also too GOOD at the game, that would also be unhelpful (an honest problem when designers only listen to pro players of their game), no, the best reviewer is right smack dab in the center.

          A critic, perhaps a critic the better they are at the game the more weight their criticisms should hold. Still, when designing a game you target pro play and the everyday man so have to balance between the two (something I feel like blizzard struggles with in each of their games).

          TL:DR part of understanding a game is playing it, feeling the flow of it, and existing somewhere within the game’s target type of player. Game reviewers do need a little bit more than their knowledge, they have to understand how to play too.

    • Ragnar says:

      I agree with you that a good critic is one that justifies their opinion, and that the justification is the important part. Whether they are having fun is not as important as why or why not.

      But why could that justification not come from an average, but eloquent, gamer? Why must the reviewer have mastery over the game?

      Reviews are obviously subjective, but they need to be relevant to the reader. For the average person that’s a game played by an average gamer.

      A fighting game reviewed by pro player is not going to be relevant to me, nor the complaints of someone playing Civ on the highest difficulty.

      Maybe they’re relevant for you, but that implies you’re not an average gamer. I’m all for reviews incorporating multiple opinions from several people, but that’s difficult given time constraints, and hindered further when review code is not provided in advance.

      Attempt to master a game, absolutely, but actual mastery is not required. I want average people to write reviews, and I want to know if and where they struggle.

  31. Bull0 says:

    OMG, so much this. Logged in to try the new Zombies map on Blops 3. Joined a game. Shot a zombie. Was immediately spammed with “Uninstall pls” “KYS pls” (apparently that means Kill Yourself) because apparently the “aim” of that map is to feed the zombies to these big stone dragons to unlock some bow weapons or something. Yeah, great. I didn’t uninstall but I did quit the match. Dickheads.

  32. Scrote says:

    Games are such a unique medium that I feel we’ve locked ourselves into some mechanics before we’ve really explored all of the possibilities.

    It’s almost a trivial matter (spoken as a complete non-programmer, but c’mon how hard CAN it be?) to allow people to experience a game the way they want to.

    Remove all cursing and gibs so you can show a little kid some cool shit? DONE!
    Skip a level you’re not enjoying? DONE!
    Skip tedious bullshit and have it summarized for you in-game by a floating paperclip? DONE!
    Give yourself all the powerups (or whatever) you want whenever you want? DONE!

    Options are wonderful, if you want to use them you can, and if not you don’t, and then finally people can shut the fuck up with their puerile elitist bullshit.

    • Jimbo says:

      There’s room for both approaches to this. With some games there’s merit in handing over this level of control to the player and with others there’s more merit in keeping it firmly in the hands of the creator.

  33. frymaster says:

    A different kind of scenario but I’m reminded of link to xkcd.com

    Also link to s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

    I enjoy being challenged because then the player gets to experience the satisfaction of overcoming the challenge. But they should be somewhat challenging to the player not by some arbitrary one-size-fits-all metric – the original System Shock’s difficulty options spring to mind as an example of doing this incredibly well

  34. Awesomeclaw says:

    I think there’s value in both types of reviews – both those where the reviewer is familiar with the genre, or not. However, only someone experienced with a particular genre can give a thorough review. How does a game feel? How does it compare to others in the genre? How does it compare with/improve on its predecessors (particularly important for Doom)? What inspirations does it take? Are the graphics comparatively good, or bad? A review to the effect of ‘I had fun with this game even though I’m not familiar with the genre, you should buy it’ is certainly useful for 90% of people, but it doesn’t really provide the detail or critical evaluation that a lot of people are looking for.

  35. Blastaz says:

    The internet is dark and full of jerks, but that doesn’t mean the central thesis is without merit. A certain level of basic competence is required to experience a game. If I played dark souls I would die repeatedly at the first trash pack and never get past the first boss; that rather limits my ability to provide more than a basic criticism of the game.

    You bring this up yourself in the first line of your Stellaris article: you note that the fact you don’t get strategy games means you don’t play them. You thus lack points of reference when discussing them, you wouldn’t be able to talk about the late game in Stellaris or compare it to other similar games in the genre. This would be a “flaw” in your analysis of the game. It may not be a fatal flaw depending on the angle you chose to take, but it would be a flaw none the less.

    A video of someone failing, perhaps drunkely, at a game might be funny, but it is unlikely to paint an insightful picture of the game.

    While no one should expect a critic to need to top the leaderboard, you could expect them to at least play enough a) games and b) games of the genre to have a basic level of competence. If they don’t it might be indicative of a lack of experience to base any later analysis they made on. It might suggest that Polygon should have got another journalist to record the video, or at least got them a mouse!

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, I said, a critic cannot be inept at a game.

      I do disagree, however, that someone needs to be able to slot a game into the Giant Graph Of That Genre to review it. In fact, such reviews are often by far the least helpful, because they’re entirely contingent on the reader having played every single referenced game. Which is both unlikely, and poor communication.

      • iainl says:

        What’s more, even if they have played them all, would that really help? There is no universally accepted canon.

        Take New Doom, since that’s what so many are talking about. If I said the quality level sits slap-bang between Unreal Tournament 2004 and Quake 3, who wants to dare argue which of those two is the one better than it?

        • Ragnar says:

          UT2K4 is obviously the better game.

          Q3 was utter rubbish.

          Like John at healing.

      • Dinger says:

        Actually, taxonomies can be extremely useful. To be honest, this is one thing that a games writer has over the readers: she has seen more of the titles and has a broader view of the spectrum.
        That’s another reason why I disagree with you, John. You don’t need to be good at games, but a review cannot be good at many of them. When a game demands hundreds of hours of training to achieve mastery, how can you afford to master it in exchange for a series of articles?
        And, speaking of games-as-exams, what’s with these massive AAA titles, usually from the console world, that have you learn an entirely complex system of moving and fighting at the beginning of the game, and then assume you haven’t forgotten it all later on? Sure, developers, testers, and reviewers all do games in long sittings, but I can’t always budget 40 straight hours on a weekend to play through a title.

        • zipdrive says:

          If you can find an un-learning mechanism for reviewers, you could solve that…as it stands, your point is moot.

        • Ragnar says:

          I disagree that mastery is required for review.

          Comparing games can be useful if you’re trying to decide which to buy between a few games, but isn’t as useful in a review since it requires that the reader has played all those games.

          I do agree with you on control schemes and the lack of documentation. I’ve played several AAA games where I forgot what the controls were, and they weren’t listed anywhere. It was infuriating.

          How hard is it to include a picture of the controls in the options? I shouldn’t have to Google the controls for your game.

      • Jdopus says:

        No one’s demanding that you run your reviews as a box ticking exercise alongside every other game in the genre, but you surely can’t deny that an understanding of the game’s competitors, inspirations and the context in which it was released make for a better review?

        No game exists in a vacuum and how good a game’s competitors are directly informs how much the player is likely to enjoy the game itself. When Wolfenstein first came out it blew people away because it was entirely new a different and as a result of that very enjoyable, if you released a game functionally the same as Wolfenstein today you wouldn’t get anywhere near as positive a reception and the players probably wouldn’t enjoy it because it’s a different context and there are better alternatives now.

        • John Walker says:

          I fundamentally disagree.

          I think over-familiarity with the field causes so many reviews (including my own) to fall short in terms of clarity and relevance to the reader.

          Regarding your Wolf 3D example, I think you highlight the point. If someone has a tremendous time playing it (as well they might – it’s amazing), that is independent of whether another game with a similar name may offer a different experience. This ranking of games by comparison bogs reviewers down, spending far too much time worrying whether the bow and arrow was better in Game XVII, rather than whether they were having a bloody good time with the bow and arrow in this one.

          • Horg says:

            Yet we don’t review games in a vacuum. Call of Duty has become the face of a meme regarding it’s annual re-skins, wallet gouging DLC and grindy progression system. If you were to review each release as if it were a fresh title then the output would be far more positive. It is relevant to the reader to reference the previous titles because they might well be burned out on the formulaic game play and looking for a fresh experience. Taking the most recent iteration of a series and simply stating that you are having fun, without referencing the titles relevance to what has come before, is unhelpful. Context is enormously important to providing valuable feedback, and without adequate frames of reference it is every easy for a reviewer to be misleading.

          • Horg says:

            * very easy -.- Give us edit back you monster.

          • Jdopus says:

            But the information of whether game x did y better than the game you’re reviewing is extremely relevant. It might not be if you were writing for an audience composed entirely of people who had never played a video game before.

            Rock Paper Shotgun however, borders towards the specialist end of the spectrum of review sites. At one end sit places like tabloid newspapers which devote a third of a page to reviews of the latest FIFA game. Rock paper shotgun however is very clearly aimed towards the long time gaming audience. How many people who aren’t massive gaming fans have even heard of the site? As such what are the chances that your reader has no interest in other games in the genre and isn’t comparing your subject to those games themselves?

            The thing I like about this site is that it has previously catered to that crowd – writers charged to write for this site know what they’re talking about. I like Richard’s articles because he has extensive history of RPGs and it adds a great deal to his RPG reviews, I don’t like MOBAs much but I can still get some enjoyment out of reading Phillipa’s articles because she’s very well read on the topic.

            To argue that the specialist knowledge some of your writers possess is not a core part of what makes them good reviewers just strikes me as absurd when to me, that knowledge is the best thing about this site. Personally, I don’t value the opinion of journalists who know less than me, a complete amateur, about the subject they’ve chosen to specialize in writing about.

          • Josh W says:

            That makes sense as far as reviews are concerned, but as critics, thinking about how games compare to their nearest competitors can be good for helping to transform a heap of games, that were fun, into things with shared lessons to teach to future game designers, to make better games.

            And this isn’t just a critic thing, but a people who play games thing; for example, I was recently playing the demo for Nioh on PS4, and comparing it almost constantly to dark souls, comparing it’s bonfire/checkpoint equivalents, the different way they do their stamina mechanic. Me and my friends had a chat for ages about what parts worked or didn’t – the bow is all wrong for example, because it’s placing in the control system leads to mixing it into your combat flow, sometimes by accident, because it’s right next to the stance change button, and actually fine to use in most situations where you’re intentionally changing stance, but the headshot/aim mechanic means you don’t want to mix it into combos, you want to guard your arrows jealously – that’s an example of where mixing in some of the dark souls control scheme while otherwise emphasising face buttons was a less effective hybrid, and it would have done better to have a generic ranged attack button, starting with low damage, but aggro-pulling rocks, and only switching to the bow when you pull the other trigger to aim, or even having a different bow mechanic entirely that was less preoccupied with ammunition.

      • Blastaz says:

        You don’t need to sort a game in an entirely “compleat and objektive” list of every other game in the genre but I find it a strange argument that an understanding of contex limits one’s critical abilities.

        An understanding of the genre provides an understanding not just of a game’s competitors but of its aims and verbs. It throws light and shade on its originality, its scale, its conformity, its highs and lows. Without that context any criticism is, necessarily, going to be that less nuanced.

        Maybe from a pure NGJ point of view how much fun you had arrowing in one game is as relevant to how much fun you had arrowing in another as what you had for breakfast that day or your mood, but reviews, previews and much of games journalism does serve a function as a buyer’s guide and I feel that function can only be improved by the vocabulary of context.

  36. exile2k4 says:

    I absolutely agree that critics don’t have to be experts at a game in order to give a interesting or valid review, and that the whole backseat gaming culture that seems to have grown from Twitch can get tedious, but I think it’s a more nuanced question in some ways.

    Total War: Warhammer comes out next week – which is the more relevant review, the one from someone who’s played lots of previous TW titles and can explain the intricacies of what’s changed, or the one from someone who’s never played a TW before? I don’t think there’s a clear answer, it really depends on the reader.

    • zipdrive says:

      If you are an experienced reader looking for an expert review, go read Expert A’s review. If you’re a novice looking for a novice’s opinion, go read Novice B’s review. There are SO many reviewers and outlooks on the web, there’s no need to should at ones you dislike or find useless.

      • Smion says:

        Why should reviews/critiques be exempt from criticism or additions themselves? While you shouldn’t be an unhelpful dick about it, pointing out that alternative viewpoints to that of the reviewer exist and explaining how they might come about seems like a perfectly valid use of the comment section for me, allowing other readers to contextualise what is expressed in the review and to engage with and clarify specific points that wouldn’t have come up in the context of another person’s review.

        • Ragnar says:

          There wouldn’t be an issue if people did what you suggested. Instead they usually hurl insults.

          Look at John’s Guacamelee review for example. That game had undeniable difficulty spikes. I didn’t have any difficulty with Jaguar as John did, but the Telu Tree platforming made me want to quit. The devs acknowledged and corrected it in the new version, Jaguar in particular, but many of the comments were that it was easy and John must be bad.

  37. Meth0dMax says:

    I disagree with John. If there’s no audience, you can play at any pace and skill level. But there’s also a social aspect to games, and if you play in public, your gameplay is a performance. This is much more obvious with consoles, but it holds true for PCs too.

    People who GIT GUD have been earning social currency since the days of pong and coin-operated arcades. Hell, most multiplayer games actively exploit your desire to play better than the competition.

    It’s much more pleasant to watch somebody kicking ass and taking names, rather than watching them shoot at the walls. You wouldn’t want to listen to a bad singer, or read a badly written book. Why would you watch bad gameplay?

    So GIT GUD, or keep your gameplay out of the public domain. And yes, I bloody love Dark Souls.

    • zipdrive says:

      There’s complete disconnect between you sencond-to-last paragraph and your conclusion.
      “Why would you watch bad gameplay?” – If it’s not something you’re interested it…wait for it… DON’T WATCH.
      “keep your gameplay out of the public domain.” is a bullshit, bullying attitude, that has no room in civilized conversation.

      • mllory says:

        Following his own metaphor, your comment is like saying that you cannot criticize a bad singer because you can just ‘stop listening’. While there may indeed be a public for a bad show of gameplay, or indeed singing, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t point that out.

        • phlebas says:

          No, it’s like saying you shouldn’t demand videos of people singing badly be taken off YouTube. And that insulting the person singing badly is both rude and may entirely miss the point of the video.

          • Ragnar says:

            Yes, exactly this. Thank you.

          • mllory says:

            Demanding a video be taken down and writing a comment saying someone’s singing is subpar are quite different things. Provided it’s given without too much nastiness criticism is a positive thing.

      • Hyomoto says:

        This debate is so stupid: you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy a guitar, but you do need to know how to play one to review it with integrity. In fact, it would also be nice if you had tried out other guitars as well and could show that you have the experience to actually give an informed opinion about it.

        This isn’t a case of having to be a pro. You don’t need to be a legend, but I’d get shredded by sports fans if I start bad mouthing a team without any basic knowledge of the sport. This isn’t a ‘gaming’ trend. Gamers are not a special evil and stupid people. They are the same stupid people that E V E R Y hobby or interest has and like weekend bikers you can tour all you want, but you will be harassed by the people who treat it as a lifestyle. Neither side is right but you are wrong to tell them they shouldn’t care.

        • zipdrive says:

          Wait, what? It’s OK for weekend bikers should be harassed by hardcore bikers because they’re not as proficient?

          Not caring isn’t the same as harassing, and you sir, appear to advocate harassment and bullying.

          • mllory says:

            I liked the part in which you ignored his whole comment just to focus on one word as proof that he’s a terrible human being. Great discussion we’re having.

    • Ergonomic Cat says:

      The product that a reviewer is delivering is not the gameplay video. It is the review. The gameplay video is a piece of that, but not the whole.

      A book is the product. A badly written book would compare to a badly written review. Bad gameplay would compare with…I dunno, someone having to look up words in the book?

      • April March says:

        If a book had lots of obscure words, and didn’t give a clue as to their meaning from context, the fact that a reviewer had to constantly stop reading to look up words is not only not shameful but actually very relevant.

  38. Dorga says:

    As I’ve argued on your article about Hyper Light Drifter, I don’t think every game should be for every gamer, it would level the field, eliminate a lot of diversity and profoundity.
    It then follows that it’s unreasonable to expect from someone to be competent at every game, especially a critic.
    And while I find the rudeness that you complain about crass and absolutely unjustified, I do believe that in some cases a certain competence, or ability, is necessary to review a game.
    That doesn’t mean that one’s opinion isn’t valuable when she or he struggles with a game, just that it might not give the best account of what said game has to offer on the whole.

    • Ragnar says:

      I think that’s exactly why John wrote that, and the Stellaris piece, as articles rather than full reviews. And I think they’re very valuable. Each person can read it and think, “This wouldn’t bother me or doesn’t apply to me” or “Yes, this would frustrate me too.”

      I actually think John’s partial review is more useful than full reviews I’ve read that never once mentioned that the game has challenging boss fights based on pattern recognition and avoiding attacks.

  39. baseless_drivel says:

    Hardcore Gamers are the New Spartans of the tech age.

    We do not tolerate weakness. As did your comrades before you, you must suffer extreme learning curves and merciless difficulty settings. The weak and feeble shall be cast aside, to be mocked like the inferior beings that they are.

    I decorate my chest with a rack of platinum tropies that would make the most decorated war hero cry. They may not be physical trophies, but that’s because there isn’t enough platinum in the world.

    Medal of Honor? Purple Heart? The fact that you even got injured shows how casual you are. Not to brag, but I beat Super Meat Boy and Wings of Vi without dying.

    My legs aren’t strong enough to kick any of you into a pit, but no doubt my war cry of “GIT GUD” over Xbox Live will knock you over just the same.

    Hardcore Gamers, what is your profession? “GIT GUD!”

    When eSports finally becomes recognized as an Olympic sport, all will come to understand the role of the Hardcore Gamer.

    The next time you snicker at Olympic “sports” like fencing or curling, just think of eSports and natural order of things will fall into place.

  40. stringerdell says:

    I know what youre saying but that polygon guy was so bad I doubt he could have reached the end of the game on normal difficulty.

    Not sure if that was the person who wrote the full review or anything but I think you at least need a basic level of competence (for doom that would be the ability to move and shoot at the same time, with more than say 30% accuracy) to get the full experience of the game that the developers intended.

  41. mllory says:

    I’ll chime in as well. While it’s obvious that one does not need to be good at a game to enjoy it (we’ve all started with a game we were poor at, and yet we’ve continued and made it a hoby) a person’s enjoyment of a game will scale up with his skills in general. Games with any depth will provide you more fun the better you are at them.

    In this light, even the phrase ‘git gud’, while perhaps intentionally worded to annoy, is rather good advice. Perseverance and becoming better with every new attempt is an important part of gaming. It was the main appeal of Mario. I don’t see this as something controversial.

    And as far as reviews of games go, I wouldn’t trust someone who failed to learn to overcome a game’s challenges to give an expert opinion on it. A reviewer doesn’t need to be ‘at top of the high score table’ but going through an easy mode or not completing a game will not give him a full idea of what the game’s challenges and means to overcome them are, neither.

    • zipdrive says:

      So, a reviewer should play every game on Hard? What about if Hard is unbalanced, but Normal is where the developers focused?

      • mllory says:

        No, of course not. I would expect a reviewer to play it on Normal, since, as the name implies, normal difficulty should be the one for the general public (with some exception of course, like for example you wouldn’t say you’ve finished Diablo 2 once you’ve went through ‘Normal’). I would surely appreciate it if the reviewer took his time to check out the higher difficulties as well, though for this thing community reviews and discussion boards are more helpful.

    • April March says:

      “a person’s enjoyment of a game will scale up with his skills in general.”

      I disagree. There are many old-school roguelikes that I enjoy exactly because I am so bad I never get past the beginning. If I was better, I’d have to start preparing for the endgame, doing stuff that I consider boring. So I only really enjoy some games because I’m bad at them.

  42. Strabo says:

    Dark Souls as a “get good” series is especially funny. You don’t need to be good. You just need to bash your head against the problem often enough. Or simply outlevel it.

    I’m terrible at action games, I’m a lifelong PC gamer and barely able to use a controller. I suck at recognizing and exploiting enemy patterns. And despite all this I’m near the end of DS 3. Simply because I rehearsed every problem often enough to beat it, and I leveled often enough to overpower the enemies. But I didn’t “get good”, because with every new situation I die again like I did the first 10 minutes of me playing a Souls game. But I bash my head against the wall often enough to beat it despite being terrible.

    • Ragnar says:

      I recall one particular opponent of Dark Souls having an easy mode advocating reading walkthroughs, watching boss fight videos, and revealing that he only beat Capra demon in DS1 by getting him stuck on the terrain.

      I don’t think realized the irony.

  43. iainl says:

    One of the many, many ways that this “must be brilliant at games” thing winds me up is that hardly anyone is “good at games”. Sure, I’m in the top few percent in the world on Trials, but I’m below average at Counterstrike. I’ve beaten Super Meat Boy, but I only got past Dark Souls’ Taurus Demon a couple of months ago. I suspect I’d beat John at a driving game, but he’d absolutely thrash my pants at a puzzler.

    Being good at a game doesn’t make you good at games.

    • John Walker says:

      8th highest score in the world at DS Zoo Keeper.

      I would whoop your zoo.

      • iainl says:

        Blimey. You’re even a touch ahead of Mrs. L with that placing. Congrats.

        Meanwhile, I didn’t even manage to finish all of Hexcells cleanly.

    • Kala says:

      I’d fuq u up at stardew valley >.>

  44. Hieronymusgoa says:

    I feel it often comes down to “how” you enjoy games. Achiever types like my brother or my best friend can’t play Dark Souls as mages on their first try because that makes it “easier” (so they say). I play as mages in general because I like playing as mages. And I love Dark Souls. I read that all the time how that’s making it easier and that is supposed to be a bad thing? Why? And: I don’t care :)
    I am much more into the lore and world and the game mechanics in themselves than the achievement part. Sure I don’t want games to tell me every step I should take and I think some games won’t suffer from a bit more help here and there but in the end it is only – about – your – enjoyment.

    To bring that together with the “skill level of critics” part of the text: As long as you put your experience into perspective i don’t see the problem. Just don’t rate a game low because you found it hard when it seems youre the anomaly and not the other players. If a lot of people experience problems with the difficulty curve or overall difficulty, then it might be safe to call it hard. If it is you then it might be you.

    Do you need to be able to play games to a certain (changing from game to game) point to be able to review them well? Yes. Do you need to be able to play all of it? No.

  45. Don Reba says:

    It seems strange to me when the same people want games to be taken seriously, and then also insist they should just be an enjoyable way to pass the time. There are so many games, why should they all cater to the common denominator?

    I would say, it is entirely acceptable for a good game to not be enjoyable for you if you are not its target audience, and it may disqualify you from being able to write a reasonable review.

    • Sarfrin says:

      I don’t understand why you think enjoyable ways to pass the time can’t be taken seriously.

      • Don Reba says:

        Good question. We improve ourselves through overcoming adversity, so something that is hard to get is more likely to be remembered and valued. Additionally, shying away from limits the range of expressive tools the author can use. This makes people dismissive of easily accessible entertainment, and often rightly so. One would not look in the young adult fiction section of a library for a profound reading experience.

        • Ragnar says:

          I think this is exactly the kind of elitism that John calls out. It equates impenetrability with quality and accessibility with a lack thereof.

          Accessibility can be profound, it just requires more skill. A Wizard of Earthsea is very accessible, short and readable at age 10, and still profound at age 30.

          But we’re getting away from the point of the article.

          • Don Reba says:

            Hm. I love the Earthsea books a lot, but I can’t say I learned anything from them. But less-accessible Dostoevsky and Kafka changed my life.

  46. Eightball says:

    It’s weird to bring “git gud” into singleplayer games. Who cares if someone can’t beat minesweeper due to incompetence? The problem is in multiplayer, when their scrub ass drags the team down.

  47. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    “Because a person can have a splendid time with a game while being terrible, mediocre, quite good, or brilliant at it. Because games aren’t exams. And treating them like they are is ugly and stupid.”

    Hear hear!

  48. ggggggggggg says:

    game journalists as a whole should probably obsess about article comments a lot less

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      You can strike “game” from that sentence, given the quantity of similarly focused political journalism in both the US and the UK. Asshole randos aren’t really news.

  49. T_Gonzo says:

    In this mess people have lost sight of what a review is for. It’s not a world-leading gaming expert explaining how they’re best at it – it’s a regular gamer who is hopefully an expert writer, eloquently describing their experience of the game.

    I agree with the sentiment, but I also think in some games the layers of complexity and the learning curve are part of the fun. In those cases, I think there is a benefit of having a reviewer that is at least familiar or comfortable with tackling this difficulty (or that at least state a clear disclaimer that this might be the case, or that the review is covering, say, the most immediate aspects of the game).

    That being said, I do expect a reviewer to be more experienced and able to compare different aspects of different games than the average gamer. From the consumer perspective, it gives me a better understanding of the game and how it compares with the other in different aspects.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Yeah, your response sums up my feelings well.
      If its the first/only review for a game from a specific site then I do think it helps for the game to be reviewed by someone who knows the genre well and is above-average at the game type.
      If its a supplementary review to that main review, it’s great to hear it from a rookie player.

  50. Dugular says:

    John, for what’s it worth. There are readers like me who purposefully hunt down journalists who have very similar play styles to them. If I click with a journalist, then I can trust their reviews more as they feel more personalised to what I would experience in a game. Larger review sites don’t have that, and it’s why I find RPS my go-to site. I often feel myself in a lot of the write ups.

    Keep being honest and being yourself. It’s exactly what I’m looking for in games journalism.

    • Nauallis says:

      Support RPS! (I’m not a shill, I swear!)

      Seriously though, yours, and more, are exactly the reasons that I decided to push money at this site and become a supporter. I’d encourage you to do the same! I really like the articles and the breadth of gaming that they cover.