Hard Games vs Journalists

Can a review still be trustworthy even if the reviewer is bad at the game they’re critiquing?

I’d say that someone’s skill at a game is directly related to their ability to comprehend the game. There are certain insights that will only reveal themselves to you as your skill at the game improves.

That said, it is still possible for someone who is bad at a game to develop these insights, it’s just unlikely. If someone is good at a game, that is a weak indicator that their insights will be good. If someone is bad at a game, I’d say that’s a strong indicator that their insights will be bad.

I take the position that reviews should be written well/descriptively enough that you do not need to trust the reviewer to agree with their conclusion. From this perspective, it should not matter if someone is good or bad at the game, their review should be descriptive enough to be useful regardless.

So basically, if someone is bad at a game, don’t expect much from them, but also don’t discount their words entirely. Listen for whether what they’re claiming seems plausible or implausible. Listen for whether their claims seem to be dependent on their level of skill. A good reviewer (but bad player) can theoretically extrapolate beyond their own level of skill to deliver accurate insight, I just think it’s unlikely.

In this case, this video is shameful. They originally titled the video, “Cuphead: It isn’t easy”, but have since retitled it to what it is now. The tutorial is especially sad, when the guy cannot figure out he needs to jump off the block and airdash, and spends 2 whole minutes running into a wall.

I don’t understand not just how someone can be so incompetent as this whole video, but also how someone like this would become a games journalist. I’d expect that people with a high enough interest in games to become a journalist would be capable of putting 2 and 2 together.

We keep seeing footage like this slip between the cracks, previously with Polygon and Doom. Expect to see less footage from journos now that this happened.

Looks like that Cuphead guy made a redemption video or something. Not sure if there’s much to be said about it, but any thoughts?

You can tell he replayed the tutorial level until he got a good take, because there’s no coin at the end. Still pretty poor coordination, and doesn’t really excuse that he didn’t get it the first time, because it’s the type of thing that the average person wouldn’t take nearly as long to get their first time if they had played practically any other video game before, or had a reasonably long history of playing games. Pretty sure Arino from GCCX wouldn’t struggle as much.

I’m kind of surprised the cuphead guys didn’t update the tutorial with a barrier that can only be passed with an airdash, without jumping (such as a gap with a ceiling above it to prevent you from jumping across), then a barrier that requires both jumping and airdashing at the same time.

You can tell his ability to switch from one button to another is still pretty bad, and he kind of goes on auto-pilot when moving and shooting at the same time, like he can only manage one thing at a time in his mind, but he’s also not playing panicky and running back and forth without purpose and running directly into obstacles anymore.This is still below the skill level of what I’d expect of a grown adult, much less someone who has covered games for 22 years. He seems like someone who has a hard time moving while dribbling a basketball.


I think George makes a good point in this blog post.

“The few “real journalists” I admire and follow in this business didn’t earn their reputations off of reviews, and the stories that made them big weren’t reviews. Ten years ago, Geoff Keighley made it big writing lengthy interview-driven feature pieces documenting the development of Half Life 2 and Portal 2 before they were even out. Four years ago, Danny O’ Dwyer was making flashy video essays boiling industry-trend criticism into common-person polemics on Gamespot. Last year, Laura Kate Dale released a string of infamous leaks revealing future Nintendo plans before the company could control the release of that same information. That’s what I consider “journalism,” and it has nothing to do with how good they are at games.”

There’s a lot to be reported about games that can be reported inerrantly without any sort of skill at games. You can report a lot of information that people want to know about games that has literally nothing to do with how games are played. And Dean Takahashi mostly does report that type of information. He has done roughly 2 reviews out of 14,000 non-review articles.Dean isn’t good at games, but for the vast majority of the content he writes, that doesn’t matter. He isn’t expressing opinions about how games are or the way games should be. He’s providing coverage about pretty much everything other than that, and that’s okay.

One thought on “Hard Games vs Journalists

  1. Josh Montederamos November 6, 2018 / 12:00 pm

    Great post. I think much of what it comes down to is that Dean isn’t a critic, he’s a journalist. These are two different things and it’s ok that you’re not good at both.


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