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.

508 Comments

  1. Sarfrin says:

    Oh, the unintentional irony of people posting comments about Dark Souls not even being hard under this article.

  2. DragonDai says:

    It’s quite simple:

    If you are not good enough at the game in question to be able to play at least the large majority, if not the entire game, before you review it, you shouldn’t review it.

    Mr. Walker, you specifically said you didn’t play Dark Souls 3 because it isn’t your sort of game, yeah? Well, on behalf of someone who had their first FromSoftware experience via Dark Souls 3 and used reviews of the game to determine if it was for me, I appreciate you not reviewing it (which you obviously didn’t do if you didn’t play it).

    I say this because I couldn’t form a good opinion about the state of the game from a review done by someone who couldn’t make it past the first couple of bosses. That review would effectively be useless. It wouldn’t matter if the person playing it was having a great time dying over and over again for hours on end. If they can’t tell me about the second half (or more) of the game, their review is effectively worthless.

    And that’s the issue with the Polygon thing. Sure, there are some people who are just being dicks. And those people are obviously talking the loudest. But my issue with the video was “What if this is the person they get to review the game?” MAYBE this person was having an off day, maybe they were getting used to the controls or whatever, or maybe they would eventually get better over time. But when you are standing still, with no enemies around, and you shoot a health kit multiple times before picking it up…that doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    And if I can’t trust that this person can adequately play the game, how can I trust their review? In short, I’m not condemning this specific person’s lack of skill, I’m condemning the publication’s choice of professional. They chose the wrong person for the job. This reflects poorly on Polygon, not on the player.

    And that’s the crux of the issue. I expect that the people who are telling me whether or not I should buy a game to have sufficient experience with the whole game to actually make that recommendation meaningful. And if a publication decided to stick someone on the review of a game that they hate or that they are awful at, I’m not going to get a meaningful review.

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      Don Reba says:

      Well, on behalf of someone who had their first FromSoftware experience via Dark Souls 3 and used reviews of the game to determine if it was for me, I appreciate you not reviewing it (which you obviously didn’t do if you didn’t play it).

      Actually, he did review it.

      • Ragnar says:

        Best DS3 review ever!

        Though I wish he took more time to analyze how they incorporated the lessons learned from the console exclusive Beyond: Two Souls.

    • Fnord73 says:

      Sir, actually I disagree. Being the heretic I am, I have just banged my head against the wall that is Bloodborne on PS4, and come out on the other side. Im approximately halfway through it after approx 100 hours. I could write a fine review of the game concerning its mechanics, its positives and its negatives even being the shitty Bloodborne-player that I am. Because once you have put in enough time in a game, say 20 hours plus, you are allowed to have an opinion. Doesnt mean you can talk about the endgame, but definetly worthy of an opinion.

  3. benkc says:

    Before “git gud”, it was “L2P”.

    This attitude is one of the reasons I’ve avoided the Souls games, despite the fact that I suspect I’d enjoy them.

    (That, and a Steam backlog as long as Horace himself.)

  4. Messofanego says:

    After what John Walker said about Hyper Light Drifter and being condescending towards people who are alright at games:
    “That’s brilliant for you. But you’re not everyone. You’re the person ‘Hard’ difficulty levels are built for, while the vast majority play on ‘Normal’. Your desire that games be so punishingly difficulty that only people of your skill can enjoy them is ultimately deeply selfish. Further, it makes no sense that such encounters aren’t optional. Those who adore them get them, those who hate them can carry on playing the game they were loving rather than have to stop and never play the game again.”

    “Hyper Light Drifter has a firmly established fanbase born of its Kickstarter, and within their ranks are those who will not hear a negative word about the game. Nothing any games critic writes is ever for them.”

    You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t buy any of his opinions about expectations of player competence and difficulty in games. When there’s video evidence that some critics misjudge the way to play games or don’t get familiar with the systems/mechanics and come up with misconceptions of the game, don’t expect my sympathy.

    “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.”

    If you can’t bother being competent enough at a game to get further than a couple of hours in or even complete it, then don’t expect me to care about that review. We’re not in the 80s anymore where videogames could be crushing and cheap in their difficulty that the vast majority of players didn’t finish them.

    What’s the point of arguing with such strawmans?
    “Loud voices have declared it as proof that Polygon as a site is incapable of providing expert opinion on games.”

    “Because the notion that they’d need to be top of the high score table before writing anything is… it’s really fucking stupid!”

    “Requiring those writing commentary/recording footage of the experience of playing a game to be better than you at it is infantile and irrational.”

    Oh this quote is rich:
    “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.”

    So, let me get this right. John is saying if you’re good at a game, you’ve alienated yourself from your readership. Your criticism is now less useful because you’re too good at a game versus a regular gamer. His campaign of being condescending to good players of games continues…

  5. Kala says:

    Firmly agree. The hostile responses to you not getting on with Stellaris was bemusing. It’s not as if your lack of enjoyment was invalidating anyone else’s enjoyment. But you wouldn’t know that from how knee-jerk and threatened some of the responses sounded.

    (It wasn’t his bag! Move on!)

    In terms of ‘does being good at games impact your ability to write about them’ – I can see some practical advantages in terms of playing through things quicker and getting through a workload but then… maybe not. Say you powered through the game to completion to meet a deadline; well, maybe you missed stuff.

    Additionally, it’s not as if all genres are ‘skills based’ in a twitch, reaction-time kind of way. Far from it.

    For me, the importance is in understanding what the game is about and is trying to do, considering it on it’s merits, and communicating your experiences effectively to the reader. Not how long it took to complete or how many times you died.

    That’s just bragging rights.

    • Martin Carpenter says:

      Well you do, I think, have to bear in mind the heritage of strategy gaming. Take the unarguably preeminent strategy games – Go, Chess, Bridge etc.

      They all take a really *huge* effort before you can start to appreciate them properly. At least a couple of years of study/play etc I’d think, and they can obviously absorb much more than that.

      Of course those games are simply much better designed than computer strategy games in a lot of ways – infinitely clearer rule sets for starters! Also the assurance (from history) that the depth is actually there.

      No excuse for complex, ill explained, rules of course, but if you’re trying to make a strategy game with enough depth to be truly worthwhile it will inevitably take some effort to get into it to start with.

      • Kala says:

        I’m really sorry, I’ve read your post through a couple of times now and I haven’t clearly understood the point you’re making.

        Not that I’ve played every game (!) but from my limited experience it doesn’t take years of study to appreciate a video game (be very good at, probably).

        If you’re saying that pre-existing knowledge of a UI type/format would’ve helped John get to grips with Stellaris, which may have assumed it in the player – then obviously – but it wasn’t a review, it was someone’s personal account of not getting on with a game, so I’m unsure how it matters in that case.

        (Particularly when it was from the perspective of someone who isn’t a strategy aficionado; as stated at the beginning of that article)

        Though in a general sense, we still aren’t talking about ‘being good’, we’re just saying ‘has played and enjoyed similar titles and has a good understanding of how things work’ – which yes, context and experience are important when talking as an authority on a subject, but not the same as ‘being good at games.’

        Which seems useful, but not at all a prequisite to the separate skill of ‘being good at writing about games’.

  6. RockPaperSquirtgun says:

    Wait, I thought “video games” were supposed to be this great art medium that is “intellectually edifying” and push the right progressive politics that gaming journalists agree with, and now they’re suddenly supposed to “just be fun”.

    I’m getting conflicting messages here. It never seems to be enough to just “have fun” whenever John Walker descends on another tirade about the Deponia series, and the “artistic integrity” that is often touted to push certain political messages suddenly doesn’t seem to matter anymore either when it’s about something that the writer found “offensive” or regarding the most important part of a game, THE GAMEPLAY because “everyone is supposed to be able to play it”.

    • lasikbear says:

      of all the hills to die on “stop saying deponia isnt funny” is one of the best, u keep doin u bb

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      John Walker says:

      See, this is the problem of parodying arguments and then holding your parody as canon.

      I didn’t argue that games are just for having fun in this piece at all. I suggested that one might want to consider whether someone fucking up at Doom could be having fun, and pointing out that this is a valid way to enjoy that game.

      I have also never argued that all games are about investigation of their structuralism and semiotic meaning, but I have argued that such interpretations of games are valid.

      A parodic reduction of nuanced discussion of games is far easier to disregard, of course. And I think it’s safe to say most people are playing Doom for fun, rather than to explore the complexity of demonic ontology.

  7. Hawke says:

    It’s fine to play games for fun, but when you’re reviewing the one you haven’t finished, because it’s too difficult or bugged or simply boring, it would be the same as reviewing a book, you haven’t finished reading.

    Also an ending of an artwork might change the perception of the said artwork drastically, thus the opinions of players, who haven’t finished game, don’t count regarding its balance, plot and such. But bugs, graphics and controls are visible (wrong word for describing it, I know) from the start. I guess, it’s preferable to write about games, the reviewer likes and is good at, because of the potential auditory.

    Just in case, I’ve finished (and quite disliked by the end) the first Dark Souls (awful controls and optimization; I’d say, DSII is better), Final Fantasy XIII (linear plot and boring battle system; LR:FFXIII fixed it, though) and Superbrothers: Sword&Sworcery (probably a nice game for a tablet, but not a PC).

    • Ragnar says:

      That’s the thing though, a book isn’t going to quiz you on the major themes and author’s intention before letting you proceed to the next chapter.

      And if the reviewer wasn’t able to finish it because they weren’t able to overcome said quizzes, that’s essential information to convey.

      Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is both great and incredibly obtuse, and that obtuseness is absolutely valid criticism.

  8. imbaitman says:

    “I shouldn’t have to be good at video games” says the man whose job is literally to be good at video games.

    • Ragnar says:

      That’s where the confusion seems to lie.

      If he was an eSport pro, then his job would be to be good at video games.

      His actual job, as game journalist/reviewer, is to be good at writing about games.

      • Kala says:

        Precisely this.

      • Jimbo says:

        Welll… technically I’d say his job is to generate hits and therefore increase ad revenue. That’s where the $$$ comes from after all, and nobody could possibly argue John isn’t good at that job.

        Whether he’s a ‘good’ game reviewer or not is secondary and subjective, and the continuing success of RPS in no way proves or hints at it one way or the other. There’s more than one way to go about generating hits after all.

  9. lasikbear says:

    Personally, I have always played the Dark Souls with -noclip enabled and found it to be far too easy. Maybe it is From Software that needs to “get good” at making challenging games.

  10. Dirk says:

    I like to take my time while playing games. Whenever a review gives me an estimate of just how much “fun-time” a game can provide me with, I can safely assume that it will be at least four times that number for me. It also puts a certain amount of pressure on. So now I’m supposed to beat that time? Are YOU good enough? Nah, maybe I’ll just give it a miss. It’s kind of discouraging really. I don’t really want to know how long a game will last.
    Hey, I finished Dungeon Master after 26 years, that’s how rubbish I am at “games”. ;)
    Love your article, John!

  11. xfstef says:

    I’m starting to get this “I’m pushing buttons and my life has no meaning” vibe from you.
    The changes you’d like to see happen with, well everybody, when it comes to how one should experience computer games are a bit unsettling. Well not the changes themselves but the fact that you have an “agenda” (which you have yourself stated in a comment reply).
    You are a great writer and you are the guy that royally tea bagged Molyneux but why would you have an agenda when it comes to other people. Your job is to play games and write reviews about them, you are a vessel, a channel of relaying information and as such you should not try to change either game development nor how people play and feel about games.

    Let’s look at it from another perspective. Ask your doctor / teacher / engineer / etc. friends if they have fun doing their jobs. Then ask them if getting good at their jobs was needed in order for them to firstly get them and secondly, to have fun. Sure we cannot assume that someone doing his job would have as much fun as someone playing a game but then again we also cannot assume that someone who has a “normal” job sits on his computer for 8 hours a day and plays.

    Which brings me to my second point. I think you should get off your high horse and stop implying that whenever and whoever plays a game should automatically be having fun. You, as a games journalist / critic, are making a living out of trying out games all day long and then writing about your experiences with them. This means that you don’t really have the time to “git gud” at any of them, of which I am more than understanding.

    These past two articles from you gave me the impression that you’re sitting on your ivory throne, above us, judging us about how we try too hard and games should only be for fun, which is a decrepit mentality if you ask me.

    We need to “git gud” at games since the whole world is a dungeon and the elites and bankers are the dungeon masters.

    • zaphod42 says:

      Nail on the head right here

    • epeternally says:

      “should not try to change either game development nor how people play and feel about games” But this is exactly the point of criticism! If critics didn’t put pressure on the game industry (or music, or film), those things would never evolve, they’d never progress. We’d either still be playing arcade games or the entire medium would be dead from the great arcade crash. Not to mention that you’re making a false dichotomy between critic and game developer when many people fall into both.

      Of course someone who writes critically about games is going to try to influence how others experience them! That’s literally how persuasive writing works. Of course critical response should affect game development, there’s no sense in making the same bad game over and over.

      I don’t agree with the idea that the end goal of all games needs to be fun, narrative experiences with minimal gameplay are a fantastic use of the medium, but people should enjoy their hobbies. That isn’t a radical sentiment. Play games competitively if that’s what you enjoy but don’t put out others passion just because you want bragging rights. Tear down the elites so that all of us can have a fair play, don’t become someone else’s boss fight.

      • xfstef says:

        The job of the journalist / critic is to report on the subject at hand. Although a journalist can get away with not being an engineer when he’s talking about NASA, a critic doesn’t have that advantage. Game reviews require more of a critical approach, since they target products that the general population may want to buy. This also means that there needs to be a certain objectivity to the pieces. I wouldn’t be interested in the ramblings of a novel critic that bashes Shakespeare just because his work was harder to understand than your “normal”, more easily accessible, writings. That would be complete bullshit.
        I’m not making any false statements. Just because a considerable amount of game developers are also critics doesn’t mean that John falls into this category.
        And yes, critique must be acknowledged, even the poorly written one, but trying to persuade a whole culture of people to change because you don’t like it is going way beyond nitpicking about the graphics, mechanics or the story.
        And finally, yes, there should be something for everyone. I personally despise casual games and I’d never even go near one, as it would be a frustrating waste of my time, but I don’t shit talk my sister for playing her tablet cow clicker games. Everyone already has a choice and I see no problem with the difficulty of some games. John may never beat a single boss in the Dark Souls series and I may never solve a single puzzle in some adventure point and click game. I’m fine with that.
        To each his own.

    • KreissV says:

      Thank you for this~

      Nah it’s fine if the doctor is bad at his job, he’s having fun! Who are you so rude to tell him to ‘git gud’ after watching him fail a surgery!

      A game review site should have professionals being professional. For a gamer to play the game to its full capacity therefore being able to properly convey criticisms through experience and knowledge of the game itself. Certainly not people who call other people ‘gross’ like a child would.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    *stands*
    *applauds*
    *applauds some more*

    • InfamousPotato says:

      *continued applause*
      *calls for encore*
      *roses are thrown*

  13. geldonyetich says:

    I don’t think you’re going to surprise anyone by suggesting the 13-year-olds (or 13-year-old at heart) who demand you “get good” are jerks.

    But I will go so far as to say games are better when player skill is a factor. When they’re challenging and lefsonally engaging enough that “getting good” is possible. And that we really ought to call out the drivel where it’s not more often.

  14. zaphod42 says:

    There’s a difference though between somebody who is playing games for fun who is bad, and should not be discouraged, and somebody who is explicitly recording the game to show it to other people who don’t own the game. If you’re recording the game as part of journalism, then its reasonable to expect you to at least be capable of playing the game. I’m not even going to go so far as to say you should be good in order to REVIEW the game, only that the person RECORDING some gameplay footage really better at least be able to shoot and hit a target once in awhile. That’s absolutely not unreasonable John. You’re absolutely blowing this out of proportion.

    Are people sometimes jerks on the internet about skill? Yes. But that polygon video was different entirely.

  15. Argyle Salmon says:

    John, you’re the best. You stick to your guns, I like that.

    But, mate, you just don’t seem to understand that games are an *interactive* medium. You really do need to play them in order to understand them. And yes, review them. I think if you could just come to terms with this one concept many of your sentiments would change.

    You mention eSports. I think that is interesting. Games are similar to sports in that you really do appreciate them in a much deeper way if you’ve actually played them.

    Sure you can watch someone play a game or only play a bit of it, or play it really poorly. But if you do that you really can’t give it a fair review. Instead, you’re presenting your “impressions” or “outsider opinion”. If you do this you’re not a game reviewer, you just someone with decent writing skills sharing sentiments about games on the internet.

    By no means do you need to be a master at a game in order to review it. No one is asking for you to test its speedrun-ability or expecting a walkthrough. People want a review. In order to do that you need to be an average player, FOR THE GAMES you review. Not for all of gaming, not for even most of it. But for the games you review you need to be average.

    That means you need to be able to get through the game’s content at a pace and frustration level that matches your audience. RPS seems to have some pretty serious gamers, so yea, if you review Souls you need to be pretty good at pattern recognition and have decent finger dexterity, but that is only one kind of game. The person reviewing Souls might not be the best person to review an RTS, MOBA or Puzzle game.

    You get that right? There are different game genre’s and not all games are made for players of the same skill?

    You (now famously) gave your impressions of HLD, after some reflection I’m hopefully you can admit two things: 1, HLD is not for you and 2, that is a good thing.

    Instead of admitting this, you got confused and then frustrated. You forgot that to be a reviewer you need to be able to get through the whole meal, not just the starter.

    Sure you liked how the starter tasted, but then lost your mind when they brought out the main course. Instead of taking a dump on the game, a very well crafted game BTW, you should have admitted that it wasn’t a fit for you, that you loved the start, but *you* didn’t have the skill to enjoy the rest of it.

    Instead of recognizing that games, like all interactive pursuits require skill, you suggest that all games be enjoyable by all people. That skill should not have a place in games or that games should magically auto-adjust their challenge level to suit each player — whatever the heck that means. Anything less means the game is somehow broken or poorly designed.

    John, that is just madness. The world would be so incredibly dull if this were the case, not just in games but in all forms of art.

    I can’t imagine you really want that.

    I urge you to just stop it. Stop all the complaining. I just can’t see what you’re trying to accomplish. Perhaps that should be your next article… what the heck is your point?

    • Kala says:

      “By no means do you need to be a master at a game in order to review it.”

      That…appears to be his point? Overall?

      “Because the notion that they’d need to be top of the high score table before writing anything is… it’s really fucking stupid!” (quote from OP)

      Half your post you appear to be saying you only need to be average to appreciate games you’re playing to write about, and then you go on to emphasise how important skill is as a requirement.

      (Some are harder than others, but I reckon, contrary to what you wrote, the majority of mainstream video games actually don’t require much skill to play them. It’s not like the old arcade games that pit you against them to extract your coins…).

      “That games should magically auto-adjust their challenge level to suit each player — whatever the heck that means. Anything less means the game is somehow broken or poorly designed.

      John, that is just madness. The world would be so incredibly dull if this were the case, not just in games but in all forms of art.”

      It’s a contentious suggestion, but he isn’t the first to make it. I think Jennifer Hepler suggested that some people just enjoy story, so should be able to skip through boss fights if they’re not interested in that aspect. Cue howling. (I would wonder if there would be similar outrage to the idea of skipping through story exposition…?)

      On the one hand; I do agree with them. You are playing for your own enjoyment, and customizing the game to fit doesn’t seem outlandish. (You tend to have ‘easy/normal/hard/nightmare’ modes for just that purpose in terms of difficulty; in other ‘fit to suit’ areas there’s mods).

      On the other, my own experience tells me what I think I want isn’t what I need out of a game, and contrasts add to the overall experience, even if some aspects are tiresome/frustrating. Rough with the smooth, etc. I also suspect if given an easy option I’d take it, but be poorer served by it. (see: quick travel options in elder scrolls games).

      But each to their own. Obvs.

  16. InfamousPotato says:

    I absolutely agree.

    I’d like to thank you and other writers for taking that extra time when reviewing a game. As this is your career, I imagine there’s some amount of pressure to speed things up, complete the game as soon as possible, and post a review. It’s always wonderful to read the details of a game that you gathered through savoring it, rather than instantly consuming it.

    Also, you might not be bad at games, but quite often I certainly am, so hearing about whether or not you enjoyed a game, regardless of how “good at it” you are, will always be valuable to me.

  17. Hyomoto says:

    I have to chime in because this whole argument is stupid. Your argument isn’t wrong John, but it doesn’t exist. Who expects you to be a pro? Who is this mythical person demanding the highest scores, times and combos out of you? And bullying you for them? Is someone holding you down and giving you purple nurples until you get a better score? This isn’t a ‘game-centric’ issue, if I bad mouth a sports team I’ll be berated by the fans ESPECIALLY since I know nothing about the sport.

    The ONLY ‘game-centric’ issue is this idea you shouldn’t have to be mildly competent or interested in a subject to speak on it, THAT is a trait that exists literally NOWHERE else. And the idea that people who have a genuine passion and invested interest are wrong to call you out for it?

    Can you seriously not spot the irony? You can stop playing. You don’t have to buy games, you don’t have to beat them and you sure as hell don’t have to review them. You can play as much or as little as you’d like and you can do it any way you’d like. But if you REVIEW or CRITIQUE them? People will expect you to show your credentials. And if your response is to whimper and hide, or call them bullies, all you’ve done is validate what they already knew: your claims have no validation.

    You wouldn’t take a motorcycle review from someone who doesn’t ride, you wouldn’t take mechanical advice from someone who doesn’t repair cars and you sure as hell won’t take advice from someone who can’t play the damn game. Considering that reviews are what publishers often use to determine bonuses, or affect sales for indie studios, you have an obligation no just to your readers but also to the creator of the product to give it a fair and justifiable review, John. That isn’t bullying, it’s accountability.

  18. Bobbbbby says:

    It’s really not unusual to expect a reviewer to have some notable skill or expertise in their area of work. Food, film, cars, books, all these people are well experienced and (usually) respected. Why oh why then should we just accept that video game critics can be complete, unremarkable amateurs?

    Given that FPS is one of the most, if not the most, popular genres you’d hope that the person who is reviewing or previewing them are somewhat competent at them. I’m not expecting MLG levels of skill on display, just something that says they’ve played an FPS or even a video game before.

    This editorial talks a lot about considerations. Well, here’s a consideration for you – Polygon thinks it’s acceptable to run a preview for a game where the writer does nothing but complain about the fact that he has to write for games instead of talking about the game. When reading that, along with multiple low quality articles from Polygon, you get the impression that they’re either not good at or just don’t like games. Combine that with this video and you form a pretty well defined conclusion. How about some audio to go along with it? If he was laughing or something then sure, you could argue he was having fun. For all we know, the mic WAS on and the person playing the game was thinking about puff pastries.

    Anyway, about the only thing I can agree with is that people need to rethink what a review is and what it’s purpose is. It’s not an objective measure of a game’s quality. It’s the subjective opinion of somebody who could be, hopefully, well qualified at what they do.
    On that note, sales talk and financial data has zero relevance to the consumer. Stop talking about that crap and play some video games.

    Speaking of, I got some games to play.

    • JackPoint says:

      Everything you said… yes.

      All of it, yes.

    • Ragnar says:

      Regarding your initial assertion, first there’s the issue that games are unlike all the things you mentioned. You can’t be good or bad at any of those things except cars. And there’s greatly varying ability regarding testing cars, as evidenced by varying acceleration times, and no one is asking reviewers to race in them.

      But games are not cars, they’re closer to books and movies and music. And to review those all you need to do is to experience many of them and be able to articulately express your opinion.

      But, again, not a direct comparison as you can’t get stuck part way through a book, movie, album, or entrée. And if you did get stuck and were unable to finish, as say the folks who walked out on Reservoir Dogs, you’d damn well write about it in your review.

  19. KreissV says:

    If you’re going to critique and review a game, you kind of need to be good at it. If a complete novice plays Dark Souls 3 and has a bad time, it’s not a bad game, it’s a bad player. If you’re talking about fun, sure, have all the fun you want nobody cares.

    If you’re claiming to be a professional game review site that apparently plays games for a living, yet can’t manage to that one job well, you’re kind of asking for it.

  20. Grizzz says:

    I think it’s kind of about expectations and how they are framed. For players, I’d mostly agree with you that obnoxious comments are rubbish. Some people trash talk in their play, and that’s just how they are, but I’ve never liked it even when “good spirited.” I think as a writer you’re not just a player, though.

    You have “Impressions” and “Wot I Think” here. They are perhaps both attempts to bluntly state what the content is, and that’s fine – laudable, even. It also sort of pre-empts criticism by … well, essentially you’re setting the terms of reference but it’s also a disclaimer that implies the articles are written for the author and that you, the reader, may get nothing from them. On the one hand there’s honesty again, but on the other it’s somewhat dismissive of the reader – it seems all about you, and the reader is secondary. “I made this sandwich, I’ve put it here… so have it, or don’t. I don’t care.” it seems to say.

    On the reader side of things, I read for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I want to be entertained, sometimes informed. In most cases, there is a sort of calibration step where I am trying to see how the writer’s views map to my own. On something I have experience with already, it’s easier to make comparisons and start mapping – and I will tend to have a glance through reviews of something I know well, because that helps me to weight that writers take on things which I can then bring to subjects I don’t already know about. To take value from the article, I need that calibration step and so I appreciate when you take time to say a genre isn’t your thing or you had some problems, because that helps me to relate (even though sometimes it also means I discard 90% of the article).

    How does this all go to the “Should critics be any good at games?” question? Well, I think it goes to that calibration step. I think there’s a worry that “if the writer is bad at opening cans, maybe there’s something good left in the can that they didn’t get to find?”. It hurts the…sense of completeness? As a player, good or bad doesn’t matter that much, but I think to have confidence in the writer’s views and how they relate to my own it does matter a little. You’re my guide – if you keep getting lost in the hotel lobby, with the best will in the world, how can I have faith in you? For what it’s worth, marking things up with Impressions, and putting in those calibration comments like “I didn’t get on so well with this” are the best way to help frame articles, and I applaud you doing them. I’d be lying if I said skill didn’t matter, but honesty matters too and you do well there.

    • Kala says:

      I don’t think ‘Impressions’ and ‘Wot I think’ is dismissive of the reader; I think you hit the nail on the head with honesty as the intention. (i.e the philosophical standpoint that claiming to be objective in a medium experienced subjectively is misleading bunk link to rockpapershotgun.com )

  21. Ross Turner says:

    Excellent, well thought-out article John. Mindsets like this damage the hobby for everyone.

  22. Naithin says:

    For someone to just enjoy a game – absolutely. No judgement should be leveled there. But!

    It’s fairly natural to enjoy the things you’re good at – at least in the long term. More specifically, things you’re good at after a period of mastery.

    I don’t see how – over the longer term, at least – someone COULD continue to enjoy being bad at a game. But if they do – more power to them.

    As a reviewer though I think a higher standard is expected. Perhaps not to the point of utmost mastery – but certainly enough to understand the difference between good and bad mechanics vs. simply not being able to rise to the required level as a player.

    That’s not to say there is no value in lesser skilled players reviewing games – people above me have covered extensively when this can be useful, e.g., identifying a good entry point for a genre or series for someone also new to the genre or not so good at it.

    But in general? No thank-you.

    That said? Still don’t go anywhere John ye grumpy bugger. :)

  23. Jimbo says:

    What happened to the conversation here about the contradiction between the headline and content of the Stellaris article? Am I missing it or has it been removed?

  24. DJJ66 says:

    So let me see if I got this straight:

    You want people to be able to make a living off video-game journalism without being skilled players?

    I hope the local news are hiring. I know fuck all about sports but I have fun whenever I kick a ball around so that makes me qualified for a paid job as a sports anchor.

    MONEY PWEEEEEEEESE!

  25. ZedClampet says:

    Internet rudeness is pretty funny, whether it’s “Gid Gud” or just whatever. For the average person, it doesn’t make any difference, but when you start streaming or putting videos or reviews out there, expect to get slammed, I guess. I uploaded about 100 videos to YouTube back in the day, and I still get nasty comments from people telling me my videos are boring. Point is, people just need to stop being such pricks about EVERYTHING. Just because you are anonymous, doesn’t mean you should dish out unlimited abuse. As for gaming skills, that Polygon person probably did better than I would have done with a controller, as I’ve only used one twice in the last 20 years, but even when I did use the controllers (at a friends house on his console), I had a lot of fun. Being great and having fun are two entirely different things.

    • nosferotica says:

      “Internet rudeness is pretty funny, whether it’s “Gid Gud” or just whatever. For the average person, it doesn’t make any difference, but when you start streaming or putting videos or reviews out there, expect to get slammed, I guess.”

      Yes, exactly

      “I uploaded about 100 videos to YouTube back in the day, and I still get nasty comments from people telling me my videos are boring.”

      It’s youtube.

      “Point is, people just need to stop being such pricks about EVERYTHING. Just because you are anonymous, doesn’t mean you should dish out unlimited abuse.”

      You cannot be abused by a comment. You don’t have to read them, you can delete them, you can block people, and so on.

      “As for gaming skills, that Polygon person probably did better than I would have done with a controller, as I’ve only used one twice in the last 20 years, but even when I did use the controllers (at a friends house on his console), I had a lot of fun. Being great and having fun are two entirely different things.”

      Agreed. Nobody is asking that this person be the second coming of Christ when it comes to FPS, but he shouldn’t be so damned inept that we have to worry about what he’s going to say about the game.

  26. hyperionel says:

    Nobody care if you enjoy the game. This guy clearly does not understand basic game mechanics and has obviously rarely if ever played a FPS game before.

    Nobody said he should be a pro-gamer but he is clearly horrible.

    Why would I trust anyones oppinion on something they know nothing about? in any industry not just gaming.

  27. Maniate says:

    Do you remember that time Car and Driver selected someone who didn’t know how to drive to test-drive the new Audi?

    Polygon’s failure was an editorial one. They never should have chosen that player for the first bit of Doom and never should have published that video when they saw what they’d got. The reaction isn’t about their player being bad, because they were not bad. They were incompetent. Good and bad doesn’t come into it until you have a basic grasp of the activity. The play showcased in that video was that of someone completely unfamiliar with console shooters. This was someone who has never encountered Halo controls for moving and aiming in a shooter.

    The result was a video which did nothing for anybody. It did me no good because I was interested in how tight the gunplay was and whether this iteration of Doom had the speed which was such an essential part of the series. I literally could not figure that out because it requires someone playing at a basic level of competence to show. The video did Bethesda no good because there was nothing in it that showed people why they’d want to buy Doom. The video did Polygon no good because it suggests that they simply don’t care.

    We shouldn’t expect excellence from the gaming press, but we deserve competence and we deserve people in editorial positions who give enough of a fuck about the medium to assign a job to someone who can do it justice.

  28. frightlever says:

    I don’t think you should have to be non plus ultra at games to review them, but Stellaris isn’t a difficult game, it’s a complex game which was approached with the attitude of deliberately mocking that complexity.

    It’s not about JW being bad at games, it’s about him helplessly flailing at anything complicated like a toddler expecting its arse to be wiped. Reading his HTC Vive article reminded me of trying to explain right mouse button to an aged parent. It was embarrassing.

    • Ragnar says:

      But John didn’t review Stellaris. Adam reviewed Stellaris and gave it a glowing review.

      Alec then said he, as a strategy generalist, found the UI infuriating and frustrating.

      John then added that he, as a strategy novice who was just trying to have fun, was completely overwhelmed and found the tutorial and interface inaccessible and bewildering.

      Then you came on, insulted that John was “deliberately mocking” Stellaris’ complexity, and proceeded to hurl insults at him. Your reaction is exactly what this article was written about.

  29. Deakul says:

    Pretty bad article, using Dark Souls as an example is hilarious.

    The disparity between Dark Souls and Doom 4 is ridiculous.

    Dark Souls is not nearly as accessible as Doom 4, the person in the video clearly has never played an FPS before. Possibly never even held a controller before.

    The backlash on that video is the fact that it made Polygon into a laughing stock and basically showed Doom 4 in a very bad light.

    The person was not playing a stupidly difficult game, they were struggling with just aiming and moving at the same time in a basic FPS.

    This is a pointless article that just gave the author another excuse to get on top of a soap box.

  30. Insignus says:

    In the game reviewing world, as I understand it, there is a tension to generate content. This means reviewing lots of games. You’re jumping across gameplay styles, genres, even platforms on a regular basis. By contrast, your average gamer, especially the ones who read reviews and who actually invest in posting on websites and forums, have already determined their genre, platform, and play style leanings.

    This means that most people who review games, will, by default, less likely to be skilled at a given game than an average gamer. This is not exclusive, mind you, as there are likely many reviewers who are quite skilled at a given game or style, but that may not be what they’re reviewing at a given time when they’re told to “Git gud un writ it agin skrub”

    This ignores, I think, the experience question. We shouldn’t rely on game reviewers to give us the deep internal mechanics of how the meta-game of a new FPS will evolve over time. Rather, we want to know that the meta-game is well-designed and thoughtfully balanced given other similar games in recent memory.

    I think from my experience, this is one of the more destructive behaviors that gamers engage in, particularly in our social habits. Part of it, which I think the author may have encountered in their careers, is that gamers are possessive of the games they play – sometimes irrationally so, and view people who suggest changing things to suit alternative play styles or accommodate what they perceive to noobish as an attack on their own chosen play style or meta-gaming niche. They are perhaps even psychologically afraid of changes to something they use to subconsciously validate their self-worth.

    A good parallel to this can be found on almost any internet forum where game content is discussed. Take for example, a game balance question. User A is having a hard time beating a certain strategy or tactic. They believe its unbalanced and want to air their opinion.

    The rational expectation is that they’ll make a post (Sometimes thought out, sometimes a bit whiny) and if others have similar opinions, it’ll rise to the point where the develops might take notice.

    What often happens is that Users B and C, who have marked off this meta strategy as “Their style” will show up and begin dismissing User A’s complaints as invalid. This can occur because of rational self-interest, in which they don’t want to lose the thing that validates their skill at that game. Or perhaps they just genuinely believe that it is not a balance question, and that User A needs to get more experience in the game. Differences in motivations often influences the politeness and spelling of those posts.

    Regardless, when this happens, User A generally feels rejected and disengaged from the community. Maybe they’ll stay, maybe they won’t. This damages the player base, and ultimately, the game. But it preserves the advantages User B and C enjoy. The question for B and C boils down to: “At what point is schooling people more important than having people to play with?”

  31. Kilteroff says:

    Polygon deserves every bit of flak they’ve gotten from this; you said yourself it was a weird choice to upload the video when the operator was so manifestly bad at playing. This is not about “git gud!1”, whoever was playing didn’t have entry-level competence on a extremely common gametype — fps controls barely change from game to game. This person got owned by the tutorial.

    “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”

    Wrong. Gaming is an interactive medium unlike other art forms that are critiqued, and games often require a specific level of skill to experience the full product (the end). If that bothers you, when it should excite you… you’re in the wrong field. How can you present opinions on games you can’t finish? Would you review a movie having only seen the first 30 minutes? (mmo’s and the like excluded obviously)

    So while your assertion that, critics need only have the basest understanding of their topic of review, is uh… radical… it is utterly wrong.

  32. Baelzebub says:

    Oh no! Don’t “shame” a person. Sure the video was bad, delivering the exact opposite of the supposed purpose of a 30min impression to consumers who would seek it out (and therefore likely have some sort of competence in playing the game) and sure the video should have been scrapped and redone by an average user, but think of the feelz man.
    And to the people that watched the video looking for a relitively accurate 30min impression, you really should have been congratulating or commiserating with the player depending on how much fun they had, despite there being no commentary or interaction with the viewer.

  33. grrrz says:

    problem with difficult games is, you have to invest a lot of time in them to get through them. or to enjoy them even, if the difficulty is too frustrating. We all have busy life, investing this much into a game is not always a good idea, or even doable. There is indeed an enjoyment for getting good at a game, but there also should be one for just playing it for the first time.
    For example a game like Dark Souls seems amazing in term of aeshtetic and world building, but I also know I would never be able to justify (to myself I mean) sunking hours of my time into this.

  34. FuktLogik says:

    If it’s multiplayer, particularly team based multiplayer, then people still need to “git good” lest they let down the rest of the team with their unskillful enjoyment of the game. Otherwise fill your boots and be rubbish to your heart’s content.

  35. Rogerio Martins says:

    Yeah, you don’t need to be good, but at least average, that guy was pathetic in that game, I’m not judging him as a person, but God damn, if you’re going to review a microwave for example, you need to at least know how to turn it on.

  36. Alqairu says:

    I think there are two sides to this story, though. Not directed at you in particular, but there is a root to this criticism that’s NOT buried in the jerk-garden.

    There will always be jerks. There will always be malicious criticism. That’s what you sign up for when you decide to put your opinion out there as a journalist. I’m not defending them at all, we all know those jerks are there and you either hate them or you are one. I wish those jerks weren’t around so we could disagree with you and not get lumped into the ‘jerk’ category right away.

    But there is a refusal–both from the ‘git gud’ crowd and the opposite crowd–to acknowledge that games DO have different levels of skill required. There is nothing wrong with making a game that is geared towards skilled players, and you need a skilled player to accurately review that game. There is also nothing wrong with making a game open to new or less skilled players.

    Take a fighting game like Street Fighter for example. Someone unskilled at fighting games is going to struggle to simply perform the basic motions and combos and will not be able to experience much of the game at this point. That person is going to have a completely different experience playing Street Fighter compared to someone with basic fighting game competency. If you’re new to fighting games and you ask me about whether or not to pick up street fighter, I’ll tell you that it’s probably not your thing unless you’re ready to spend double-digit hours in training mode, because it’s a game that’s really geared towards players who are experienced or who like that kind of challenge.

    So no, I don’t care if the person reviewing a game I like took 10 hours to complete it when it took me 5. Especially if they’re honest about it. That’s the key. If I’m looking for the next fighting game to spend my money on, I’d expect the person reviewing it to be honest about their pre-existing skill level, because I’m going to experience something very different from somebody who is still struggling to perform an uppercut. I don’t need to know how easy or hard the game is for a new player, so that review is not targetted towards me–and that’s fine as long as you’re honest about that. I need to know about character balance, matchmaking specifics, gameplay variety, tournament support, etc. So if I want to get a feel for what I’m going to experience, I need a review from somebody close to my skill level.

    In the end, it’s all about honesty. For example, I’m terrible at racing games. I wouldn’t be afraid to review one–but I WOULD make it clear that my experience comes from the perspective of a relatively unskilled, new player to the genre. Anybody who still “git guds” me at that point is being a jerk. But if I were to NOT include that, and I were to review a game clearly geared towards hardcore racing game fans and not indicate that my review does not necessarily reflect what they will experience, I would deserve the criticism I get.

    As for Polygon… Again, honesty is key. If it’d started with a writer saying “Hey, shooters aren’t really my genre but I got a chance to play this game and I had a ton of fun with it, so let me show ya” we wouldn’t be having this debate at all.

  37. nosferotica says:

    I think this is kind of silly.

    First, of course, you don’t have to be good at a game to enjoy it.

    However, for many, the experience one has with playing the game, whether they’re good or not, will have a lot to do with how much they enjoyed it.

    Consider the onset of the casual experience, that many games simplified a lot of moves and movements with flashy animations and a dive-right-in and play experience. A game just about anybody could put load up, jump in, be good at, and have a great time.

    A lot of games of yesteryear were a lot more complicated, all about button timing and quick reflexes. That’s not so common now. Even Assassin’s Creed’s combo kill, in the first title involved timed button responses. It was later “streamlined” into “mashing.”

    People feel good about a game they can jump right in and play.

    However…

    *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.*

    Why forsake the challenge? God, I remember the joy of being a kid and figuring out for myself before the internet days that in Hugo 3, Jungle of doom, you shoot the elephant with a sleeping dart and release the mouse so he falls asleep in the river, blocking the water, and you can cross. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with being able to figure out tricky puzzles or overcome intense obstacles. AND WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU WANT TO SKIP FORWARD?

    *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.*

    A bravado, yes. Appear the best in the world? I wouldn’t go that far. But that’s why I would say…

    Why would you want to be a critic and review games when you’re just no good at them?

    Or, better yet…

    *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.*

    Abuse. Ermalerd, harmed by words, are you? How about just being straightforward, honest, and completely unapologetic about your opinion and experience instead of worrying about what a bunch of faceless nobodies have to say about you in the comment section?

    It’s as though you somehow have your sense of self tied up into this somehow.

    The ultimate point is, your review has a lot to do with how people will receive the game. And while what you say is true, that someone can be bad at the game and have fun, someone can play the game and not be good at it and give it a terrible review.

    And nowadays, we assume if you’re bad that you aren’t having fun because Polygon is one of those game review places that took up the BS social justice narrative and seem to NOT LIKE GAMES in general, despite being in a position of authority when it comes to reviewing and determining if they’re good or not.

    Let’s not lose sight of the big picture here. The last thing anyone passionate about games wants is someone who sucks at games, talks crap about them quite often, being in a position to say anything about them being good or not to a community they seemingly have no respect for.

  38. Someguy85 says:

    Oh, brother.

    Next up from RPS, “Someone shouldn’t be expected to be literate, in order to review books”.

  39. Kylis says:

    Boo fucking hoo. It is your job to at least be competent at games. I expect reviewers to be competent at their medium otherwise why do I care about their opinion as they do not accurately reflect a person who might be curious about said game.

    • Kylis says:

      This isn’t about being bad at the game, this is about being completely incompetent at the game, there is quite the difference.

  40. remainkinetic says:

    “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 do enjoy getting good at games. if i enjoy a game the satisfaction of improving is always greater than the frustration of learning. and because of this i’ve realized that most of the gaming market isn’t for me… and thats fine. what do i do about it? i stay in my lane and play the games that appeal to me in both difficulty and learning curve.

    you talk with competitive players and the number of people trying to be “the best in the world” is actually really small. its more important to know your weaknesses and have a desire to be the best you that is possible. and don’t let your ego get in the way… it takes time and work to improve. if you haven’t put in the time and work then expect to continue to be “bad” at games.

  41. left1000 says:

    I agree 100%

    I actually like how RPS often does a “pro-review” and a “average joe experiences” approach. I like reading both.

    One thing that might give you hope about our society as gamers is that inept let’s plays and streams are actually just as popular if not more popular than expert/pro takes on them.

    Viewer metrics show that the audience doesn’t care if you’re the best. Comments however are always snarky and about pro-ness.

  42. Southernist says:

    A journalist doesn’t have to be good at games to review them? Then why even have professional journalists review them at all? The point is to offer the critique of someone who is knowledgeable in gaming, at least on par with the general audience.

  43. damnusername says:

    Bit of a long one, TLDR at the bottom.

    I think a lot of the responses that are negative aren’t because the reviewer in question was bad at DOOM but rather how far below the concieved average he was. For example, even myself someone who isn’t an FPS player very often, saw what was shown in terms of aiming skills and thought that his aim was horrible, and then when he just stood there not attempting to dodge my opinion was reaffirmed (at least for myself). I think the issue isn’t that he wasn’t gods gift to doom, but that he was below the skill level where his insights would be relevant to the target audience. As an example, his aim and lack of strafing mean that if he were to state later on that the game was hard, one would naturally wonder if that was because the actual encounter was hard or if that was only because the reviewer lacked the skills that the average person playing the game would have. I agree that you don’t need to be good to enjoy a game (my experience with HOI III taught me that) but if one is reviewing a game then the expectation is that they can play the game with some minimum amount of skill.

    Naturally each genre has it’s skill floors in different locations (and indeed, sometimes it’s not only game mechanics but navigating the game itself) and the people in that genre will assume that reviewers have at least that base of knowledge and skill in order to do a proper review.

    There will always be people who will say Git Gud, and the sad part is the harder the game is (or the rarer) the more people will say it as it’s a quick and easy way to attempt to discredit a review that might tarnish the reputation of a game that is hard to come by, which may explain the vitriol around Dark souls games and Stellaris.

    It’s fine to do a first look or a newbies intro to a game and not have the skills required to meet the base level of proficiency (for example someone who has trouble issuing rapid fire commands shouldn’t review a Wargame title, someone with slow reactions doing a twitch shooter review is a bad idea, ect.) however when you slap the word “review” on your list of impressions it does two things (in my opinion), it states that you have a background in the genre that affords you a certain level of skill, and that because of this your experiences are relevant to the people that would actively look for this game (most likely veterans of the genre that know the tricks of the trade) and as such you will be judged on those merits.

    To give a much more concrete example, for your article on your experiences with Stellaris one of the very interesting things for me was the fact that you criticized the UI, as I had almost no issues with it after discovering a few things. It took me stepping back and telling myself that your weren’t a genre veteran, you hadn’t seen games that had UI’s that came damn near to actively hating the player (SOTS II is a great example of this, once you know it, it works great but it’s massively confusing) and most importantly of all, you hadn’t played a paradox’s previous grand stratagy titles (Crusader kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria, Hearts of Iron), that you didn’t have that experience and were writing from that perspective. Once I said that to myself any sort of problem I might have had went up in smoke because all of a sudden you weren’t writing for me (or people like me) you were writing for those that were new to Paradox games for sure and most likely to Sci Fi grand stratagy/4X titles.

    TLDR:
    I think that the source of the issue is that people assume that if you’re writing a review, its for the people that have an interest in the game and a background in the genre, and as such there is a minimum level of skill that needs to be met for ones experiences to be relevant to a group of Gamers with a background in the genre of the game, whatever it is.

  44. hankdilly says:

    this article is shit im responding to it on my youtube channel fuck you

  45. Sethala says:

    I took some time to consider this article before replying to it, and I’d like to share my thoughts.

    First off, I agree that there’s too much hostility towards people who aren’t “good enough” at games. Complaining about someone being “bad” at a game only ruins everyone’s fun. Granted, I do think that offering helpful advice (as long as it’s constructive and written in a polite tone) is a good idea, but getting mad when someone doesn’t take your advice isn’t going to help things.

    That being said, I think there’s a significant difference between an average player (or even a professional LPer/Youtuber) playing a game for fun/views, and a critic playing a game in order to promote the game/their site. If the Doom video was in a Polygon writer’s personal channel, I’d have no problem with it and I’d agree with shunning the haters. This wasn’t in someone’s personal playlist, this was done by a professional website, by a professional critic (as in, the literal job that pays their bills is playing video games), out of a staff that should have several people that are at least competent in games, hopefully with at least one person that could tackle each individual genre (e.g. one guy’s good at FPS, one guy’s good at platformers, one guy’s good at RPGs, etc – probably with some overlap and some people having multiple “best genres”). With that in mind, giving a task like this to someone that’s woefully unprepared for the job looks bad on the company as a whole.

    I don’t expect reviewers to be top-tier champions of anything, but I do expect someone to at least be competent at a title when they’re looking at it in a professional outlet. This isn’t just about mocking someone for playing bad, even; games are not like movies or books where you can passively enjoy them, instead a significant portion of the game is in the actual gameplay. I think people are justified in saying that someone bad at a game shouldn’t be a critic for it. It’s not unreasonable to think that a game should be judged on its own merits, and if the reviewer is bad at it, it’s hard for them to gauge what the game is actually trying to do, and it’s likely that the game would get an unfair review as a result.

  46. faggotron5000 says:

    How about you actually git gud? I saw someone on Kotaku Review doom, they weren’t able to walk and shoot at the same time. one after another. as if they were stupid. How can you be so bad, as a GAME REVIEWER? You’re expected to be able to properly play the game to ACCURATELY REVIEW IT for your readers. being a faux/pseudo reviewer won’t help your reputation, ya dingus.

  47. aiat_gamer says:

    Have you ever thought people who are making fun of Polygon are just having fun? Didn`t you say:
    “So go have fun, and enjoy everyone else having fun.”

  48. JackPoint says:

    I am commenting on a Polygon article… this is very strange for me.

    You folks reading this article and saying anything like “Good! I’m tired of people being so arrogant about videogames!” I’d just like to point out that the main issue with this article is that the video was bad.

    Very bad. Objectively bad. As a person who makes videos of videogames myself, I can attest that a lot of footage simply doesn’t get used because it looks bad or sounds bad. Things like constant crashes, overabundance of graphical glitches, focusing on shitty textures… if it’s a fun game, and a reviewer (or content creator of any kind) wants to show the audience that the game is fun (or at least what they can expect from the game), they won’t go out of their way to basically not play the game.

    Even the most hard-pressed can compromise. If you have 30 minutes of footage, you can (and should) cut it down to the bits that are representative of the game so that (as a business) viewers don’t eschew your content in favor of better content elsewhere (like twitch, or youtube). You have a little leeway, of course, if you have someone commenting while they are playing but… that wasn’t the case here.

    Seriously guys. It’s not about if the reviewer was having fun. It’s about the fact that a video that wasn’t very good was uploaded and was objectively bad, and should have been edited or redone before posting. It makes the site look bad. That’s just normal criticism. That isn’t gamers being hostile (in this case) or the “Git Gud” mentality being somehow problematic. It was simply a bad video, and should have been vetted before it went live.

  49. KimchiKommando says:

    I feel like this article completely misses the point in favor of being all feed good and inclusive.

    Sure, people on the internet are being jerks when they laugh at someone for being bad at a game. But you expect a games journalist who’s been selected to cover a game to be passable at that type of game.

    You’re right, maybe someone who’s awful at shooters can give one kind of perspective, but what about people who want to know how it plays on the hardest difficulties? About how the shooting and upgrade mechanics stack up? Someone who is incapable of playing a shooter well can’t even begin to answer questions like that.

    So it’s fine that someone is bad at a game. But someone who is awful at shooters shouldn’t be covering shooters for games media. They can’t do the job properly.

  50. borabosna says:

    An end to “git gud” would needlessly prevent people from getting better and enjoying the games more.

    “You don’t need to be good at games to enjoy them”
    True, but you don’t need to “end git gud” for people to enjoy games. Moreover, getting better at something, anything, not just games, increases enjoyment by magnitudes. Ask mountain climbers, scuba divers, hobbyist cooks and bakers etc. Why should everyone be required to remain mediocre?

    Similar movement happened in the art world starting in the 1960s. For example, a new group of dancers, like Yvonne Rainer, hated skilled ballet dancers and instead created “post-modern dance”: “pedestrian” choreographies using non-dancer performers and hailed it as the “democratization” and “de-elitization” of dance. These choreographies, while encouraging to non-dancers, were aesthetically awful, boring and had no lasting artistic impact. Nobody cares about them like they do George Balanchine’s works for example. Obviously skilled dancers make dance better and increase everybody’s enjoyment.

    Similar in cinema. There were movie critics like Pauline Kael who were “against technique.” They just want to ruin everybody’s time.

    This idea of “equality” by pulling everyone DOWN to the same level and attacking anyone who is better has already reached its logical conclusion in communist regimes (Stalin regime hanged farmers who involuntarily made more produce from the same amount of land). One just needs to look at those.