Podcast: Being a critic makes games better (and worse)

This is how Adam will leave us next week. In a truck

Oh no. Somebody sound the “journalists discussing journalism” klaxon. Rattle it as loudly and furiously as possible, because the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show, is talking about how being a critic changes the way we play. Don’t blame us, blame listener Aleksei, who sent in the theme as a suggestion. But please also forgive Adam, because it’s his last showing on the podcast (he’s leaving RPS next week) so he deserves a bit of self-indulgence.

The question we were asked is: “How has your view of games changed from when you started your game writing career vs. now (if there has been a change)?” Adam says he’s been forced to play things he otherwise wouldn’t, and ended up loving some unexpected things as a result, such as Euro Truck Simulator 2. Matt says he now sometimes worries if he should be playing Fortnite instead of something more interesting. And Brendan says he’s just periodically disappointed at the hype given to undeserving games. Except upcoming detective RPG Disco Elysium, which they all agree will save videogames. Guaranteed, 100 percent, no backsies.

We’ve also had some time to play things. Adam isn’t enjoying mech strategy game Battletech. Meanwhile, Matt tells us of his visit to a Dota 2 training session hosted by a professional esports fella. It went as well as you’d expect.

You can listen above, or go straight to Soundcloud where you can download it for later.

You can also get the RSS feed here or find it on iTunes, Stitcher or Pocket Casts. Campfire music is by Jack de Quidt.

Want to write in with questions or suggest a theme for a future episode? Now you can, to podcast@rockpapershotgun.com.


Adam is leaving us :(

Occupy White Walls is an MMO art gallery

Getting Over It requires a resolve Matt doesn’t have (nor Brendan)

Raft is about surviving on a raft at sea

North is about being a refugee in a confusing city

Far Cry’s story ruins everything

Fortnite Battle Royale plays second fiddle to Plunkbat

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine review

Disco Elysium breaks down the psyche of a detective

Plunkbat versus Fortnite

Battletech mechs its way to PC

Tekken player wrecks opponent’s controller

Adam’s review of roguelike Unexplored

50 best strategy games

Adam’s Night drive in Euro Truck Simulator 2

Click here for all of Adam’s articles

There’s 3278 of them.


  1. Someoldguy says:

    I think you could well be right about going into Battletech cold as someone who hasn’t played the tabletop tactical game or mechwarrior online before or watched any streams. Having watched a couple of those I’m happy that I know enough about contracts, heat management, mech outfitting, weapon selection etc that I don’t have to listen to the management dialogue. The trouble is, Battletech is a relatively complicated game and it’s better that all the information is accessible somewhere in-game than only available via external wikis and youtube videos.

    • Dogahn says:

      Honestly, that is what I wanted when I backed the project 3 years ago. I wanted a modern interpretation of Battletech, the fill out a thousand bubbles for exceptionally detailed albeit clunky giant machine combat in a universe of intrigue, but would settle for Mechcommander 3. For someone 20 years younger than me… not that Adam is, it might not be the game for them. I don’t think anyone who isn’t a little bit knowledgeable about FASA’s Battletech universe will be as excited about the game.

  2. Pelt Hunter says:

    Farewell, Adam! Best of luck in your new venture.

    Also, I thought this was a really good podcast. It was intriguing insight and the topics overall were quite interesting. However, now I’m really anticipating that Jordan Thomas article. Fort Frolic and The Cradle were great. Blackout Club looks like it’ll be right up my alley.

  3. FrancoBegbie says:

    Oh yes, the Night Drive… had to re-read that one right after you’ve mentioned it, it was just beautiful. Thank you Adam.
    Safe Travels.

  4. sagredo1632 says:

    Re: the tendency to rate games writing based on other games, rather than other media.

    It’s usually the gameplay loop that ruins it. Even the typical RPG involves so much slaughter that the experience would translate to reading a novel that’s (generously) 10 pages of plot and 390 of describing the protagonist engaging in pointless slaughter and wandering. The attachment to a specific set of designed systems lengthens the game but can severely water down any kineticism in the narrative flow.

    Games do better in this regard if they tie themselves to ONE theme or one person and stick every other subplot to it in a non-lazy way (that means the Serial MacGuffin needs to retire). It would still result in a plot that a movie critic would call bloated, but at least it would be memorable. Even now, I can only vaguely recall the plots of most Infinity Engine games (or even Pillars of Eternity) because they usually tried to either juggle too complex a narrative or spread their focal antagonists too thin. It’s hard to stick the focus on the protagonist in an RPG due to the perceived necessity of making it Mr. Potato Everyman every single time.

    Yet five or ten years on everyone will still remember Geralt, or GLaDOS or the Nameless One, actors that were non-generic, ever-present or fully plot-connected (or some combination of the three).

    • satan says:

      It’d take me an awful long time to forget the memories of the stories of the infinity engine games, nevermind the stories themselves.

      The newer isometric turn based RPGs, (Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity) I did find the stories weren’t great. Pillars of Eternity started out interesting, then next thing you have to talk to everyone’s soul everywhere, all the time, and it wasn’t like in Torment where they were interesting people with interesting things going on in their interesting lives in an interesting place, it was just… I seem to remember some Joe Farmer on the side of the road, and some people in a tavern complaining about… I can’t even remember.

      The Original Sin games I’ve put way more time into, from the time they were released right up until this week. The first game I’ve only the vaguest recollection of the main story (you’re source hunters, killing… a god or something). The second game has a much more developed story (you’re sourcerers, killing… a god or something, but you have a boat this time), but the combat in Original Sin is just so damn entertaining that I’ve never paid more than the minimum required attention to the story to keep the game moving. Only other observation I’d offer is that the world doesn’t feel that big when you start out as a bum washed up on a beach, then a few hours and a few kilometres later you’re hanging out with gods and talking about becoming a god yourself. As much as I enjoy the attention to detail in Original Sin, if they make a third game it could do with a few more areas/maps, just to get that more convincing feeling that you’re in a world.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Possibly the biggest mistake Pillars made was allowing backers to add a character into the game with some flavour text. There were so many of them and none of them had plot relevant information. They were the classic NPCs that in Infinity games would just give you a random bark. They later changed it so it was obvious these were backer NPCs so you didn’t have to click on them and wade through the meaningless text, but that was too late for many of us on our first run through. Luckily Pillars 2 has no such backer content.

        • satan says:

          Ahhhh is that what that was about, thanks.

          I’d kinda ruled out playing Pillars2 already because I’d just assumed the first one had some kind of awful writing problem, maybe I’ll give it another chance.

    • Sin Vega says:

      10 pages of plot and 390 of describing the protagonist engaging in pointless slaughter and wandering

      I dunno, that pretty much sounds like the Iliad to me.

  5. edwardoka says:

    Cheers Adam, Thank you for your thoughtful answer to my idiotic question and for all the excellent writing you contributed during your time here.
    I went back to your Night Drive article and according to my purchase date it was your review that convinced me to buy the game (and all the DLC) in the first place :)

    All the best in your future endeavours at notparadox.
    Thanks, Adam. Thadam.