What should be in a review?

Include a basic summary of what the game is about and how it’s played.

Contextualize how you played it, so people can get an idea of your process and extrapolate how that may have shaped your review. (in playing BOTW, I made it clear that I aimed to play the game a certain way)

Make clear observations that attempt to explain how things work in a nuts-and-bolts way (pointing out velocity, acceleration, state, etc), instead of unclear descriptive words (smooth, slippery, tight, etc). Build up to a conclusion, don’t start with one and forget to justify it.

Never mark a game down for being hard. You’re allowed to say it’s too hard for you, or one part is too hard relative to others, but difficulty isn’t inherently bad. Difficulty affects depth, which is more important. Does the way the difficulty was implemented create more or less depth? (more by encouraging you to try different things instead of stick to one thing, or less by requiring a specific solution) Remember, there is no such thing as artificial difficulty, it’s hard or it isn’t.

It is however legitimate to mark a game down for not being clear about how it works. A game has to provide at least enough information for you to figure out how something works, by at least providing you with enough knowledge to experiment, and feedback to learn from your experiments. It’s okay for a game to not explain everything, but there should be enough information provided for you to figure things out. Double checking beginner playthroughs (lets play culture has made these common) can be informative about what players commonly get confused by.

It’s also legitimate to mark a game down for being unfair, such as not informing you something is the wrong choice before penalizing you.

Always finish the game, unless you have a really good practical excuse. It’s not technically necessary, because of the next guideline, but it should be a point of professional pride. 100% completion is optional, but if you do go for it, don’t review under the assumption everyone will go for it, and try to retain a perspective of what the game is like without going for 100%.

Moments that are temporarily really good, or really bad shouldn’t be counted towards the overall conclusion/score. A game should be judged by what the majority of the content is, not one really deep moment, or one really shallow moment. So I won’t judge Nier more positively for having deep gameplay during the intro, or Dark Souls negatively for Lost Izalith existing.

Double check how other people play the game (especially skilled players) to make sure you’re not missing something important about how the game works. In single player games, it can make sense to incorporate high level techniques that are logical extensions of the core gameplay (like DMC combos), but not ones that aren’t really representative of the core game. In multiplayer, anything goes.

Don’t play on the easiest difficulty (unless that’s your thing and you make it clear to your audience)

For a single player game, try to target the experience that you consider most representative of the average player’s experience (see the 100% remark). For a multiplayer game, try to target the reality of what competition is like.

Non-conventional reviews can explain how a game might be fun in a way that not everyone may experience, which can be valuable to people, but they also limit their impact.

If a core mechanic inconveniences you, ask yourself why it’s there and what it accomplishes before writing it off. Similarly, if something about a game seems unfair, do some experiments with it and double check if there was legitimately nothing you could do about it. Don’t blame the game for your problems. Again, check if other people are having a hard time with what you’re struggling with or if there’s a solution you overlooked.

Avoid jargon (unless it saves you a lot of words overall, then define it the first time you use it. If you only use Jargon terms once in the review, ditch them)

Describe the thing you’re talking about as directly and clearly as you can. Try to keep your wordcount low, sentences short, and syllable count per-word low. There are online tools for this, called the flesch-kincaid test. When I hear big technical words, I immediately think the other person is trying to show off how smart they are at the expense of writing something easily understood.

Don’t use cliche language or phrases. Avoid using buzzwords that seem meaningful, but conceal actual meaning. (eg. it’s “immersive” “responsive” “feels X” “makes you feel like you’re X”)

Don’t bother talking about price, framerate, load times, bugs, or Resolution. The best games of all time have fluctuated on all of these things. Unless one of these things is so bad that it actively and frequently harms your ability to play.

Maybe talk about how the monetization model harms the game.

Don’t bother with the history of the game or developers. There’s a space for that in broader discourse about a game, but it (usually) doesn’t belong in a review. Try to focus on the game itself, unless outside context really does help explain the game itself.

Your play time with a game doesn’t give you more or less authority with a game, it’s about the quality of your observations. Don’t feel pressured to finish a game fast or slow.

Try to be thorough, try not to include unimportant details.

Try to sample many of the different tools and playstyles the game makes available to you. If something is cheesy and too good, it deserves to be called out, but also try playing without it. In multiplayer, no mercy. Players will often take the path of least resistance, so effective but simple & boring strategies will ruin a game for most players.

If you’re reviewing an arcade game, no continues allowed (if an arcade game literally cannot be beaten without continues, that’s a mark against it). If the game has save states, try to limit yourself to either autosaves, or saving only at the start of levels to avoid completely destroying the difficulty.

If you dislike a game’s genre, you still need to criticize it on grounds that fans of that genre would agree with, not for simply being in that genre.

28 thoughts on “What should be in a review?

  1. Yujiri January 24, 2020 / 5:52 pm

    Good post. Inspired me to edit my Jedi: Fallen Order review.

    I didn’t really form any concrete thoughts on what makes a good boss fight until kinda recently (after I reviewed JFO), when I watched Demodcracy’s rankings of the bosses by difficulty and by worst to best. I thought a lot of what he said was BS, especially the parts where he complained about it being too easy because he wasn’t playing on Grandmaster, but he made a couple of remarks about variety of move patterns that got me to start thinking about what makes bosses fun, rather than just hard.

    I think most of the JFO bosses did have a decent variety of moves, but I couldn’t count most of them. Next time I play an action RPG I’m going to pay a lot more attention to that.

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  2. Cynical January 26, 2020 / 11:15 pm

    “Remember, there is no such thing as artificial difficulty, it’s hard or it isn’t.”
    Disagreed. Imagine, for instance, a Doom wad that has a fight against an arch-vile in a room with no cover and only a super shotgun. In this scenario, the player *must* make the arch-vile flinch during his casts… which is down to RNG luck (getting an arch-vile kill with an SSG without letting it cast a single spell is roughly 40%). Putting a fight like this at the end of a difficult level would, by definition, make it harder — it’ll take more attempts to make it through the level, for certain — but it’s a kind of difficulty that doesn’t challenge the player’s skills in any way. There’s lots of this kind of nonsense in badly-designed games — stuff that’s there to make the player fail in ways that their skill can’t really overcome in order to stretch out the playtime and, by creating “player failure”, create the illusion of challenge despite not adding any actual increase to the skills demanded from the player — and it deserves to be called out, at least where inappropriate.

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    • Yujiri January 27, 2020 / 12:35 am

      I think Chris would count RNG as unfair difficulty (I certainly do). There is a point that I should’ve mentioned though, that there’s such thing as bad difficulty that isn’t unfair, like overly long sections / bosses that take 20 min to kill despite not being particularly dangerous (looking at you Final Fantasy). I call it cheap difficulty. It *does* make it harder, but is much less satisfying to play than deep difficulty.

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  3. Durandal February 1, 2020 / 1:30 pm

    Another important thing reviews should do is separate expectations from mechanical critique. It’s not valid to criticize Prey (2017) for not playing anything like Prey (2006), it’s not valid to criticize Doom (2016) for not playing anything like Doom (1993), it’s not valid to criticize Resident Evil 4 for not playing anything like the prior RE games, and it’s not valid to criticize DMC5 for not living up to the irrational expectations of being the best DMC game ever.

    It’s not wrong to have expectations, but they have no bearing on the objective quality of a game, and as such should be kept separate.

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    • Wat February 1, 2020 / 4:18 pm

      Objective in what way? Not biased or that there is mind-independent property of goodness or badness?

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      • Durandal February 2, 2020 / 3:32 pm

        Objective in terms of how well the game accomplishes its own design goals (f.e. judging a stealth game as a stealth game instead of being a poor action game) and/or the amount of depth achieved within its design scope (f.e. while going back to Doom (1993)-style level design for Doom (2016) might improve its depth, for this to work it would also require several fundamental changes to the gameplay of the latter that would remove much of what makes it unique, at which point while the level of depth is increased, you’re just changing the game from the ground up to resemble another instead of improving what there is, which stifles innovation).

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        • Wat February 2, 2020 / 6:55 pm

          Aight, I understand now and I’m totally on board with you. I still think that word “objective” is kind of misleading there but maybe its just me being pedantic.

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          • Chris Wagar February 2, 2020 / 7:46 pm

            It is my perspective that there is mind-independent property of goodness or badness, Depth.

            As long as a game achieves a certain level of depth, it’s valid. There’s an infinite number of ways to do it. Sidesteps ideas like expectations about what the game is trying to do or not.

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            • Yujiri February 2, 2020 / 8:38 pm

              I don’t think depth is really “mind-independent”. State space is mind-independent, but depth in the relevant sense is about our ability to improve at it, which is closely correlated with “technical/intrinsic depth” but not identical to it. For example, I’ve made the point before that Starcraft’s unit movement mechanics have massive state space and so theoretically add massive depth to unit engagements, but since they’re basically just movement and range working the same way they do in all human endeavors, how it works is all intuitive to us. If we showed Starcraft to a completely alien culture coming from a one-dimensional universe, the exact same rules could hold more depth to them because it would be more foreign to them.

              Maybe a better example is the disparity between action and strategy games. If you compare let’s say Prismata and DBFZ, I think Prismata has the way higher “intrinsic” depth and yet Prismata is the one of these two I’ve criticized before for its skill ceiling, because there are a lot of sets where to a high-level player the game seems solved from the start; this only happens because it’s turn-based giving you plenty of time to consider the state space. Since DBFZ is an action game, the same amount of “intrinsic” depth can be harder to master and thus count as more depth from a game design perspective.

              I think “mind-independent” is a dangerous ideology because it excludes anything besides depth. For example, you made the point yourself that it’s legitimate to mark a game down for being unclear about its rules, but that’s certainly not mind-independent because it’s about our ability to understand it. (I consider the designer’s task to be to communicate the rules in a way that most people will understand, but if there’s one person that doesn’t, it doesn’t mean the designer made a mistake in the area of clarity of rules.)

              Basically, I think games *don’t* have objective qualities, but because of intrinsic patterns in how minds learn and also the fact that we make games with a very narrow audience in mind (humans, and often mostly those within a single country, so sharing even more linguistic and cultural background), talking about games as if quality is a property of the game itself is a useful heuristic.

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            • Wat February 2, 2020 / 8:49 pm

              But why would goodness or badness which is basically that what is desirable and that what is not desirable respectively be related to depth exactly? After all there are games that are not very deep and have huge following and ones that are deep and have minor following. Sure we can define goodness or badness in a way that depth or lack thereof is just that but it is sidestepping the problem. I can in case of other arts call a painting that has more than 10 circles present in it to be globlagloba, I can objectively measure how many circles or objects similar to circles there are and call something globlagloba but the question of why should anyone care is inevitable. The solution like that completely ignores what do people mean when they call something to be good or bad.

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              • Chris Wagar February 2, 2020 / 9:41 pm

                “After all there are games that are not very deep and have huge following and ones that are deep and have minor following.”
                Depth doesn’t mean popularity or market success. If we’re gonna quantify things that way, then there’s really nothing anyone can predict about anything. You can look at sales charts, and I have, to attempt to rationalize things, but there’s immensely too many factors and contradictions to consider about why any particular game was popular at any particular time. Across a series, I see a common pattern where the reception to one game influences the sales of the next game, so is the key to making a good game to have a good prequel? Is this within the purview of critics to review? Do critics exist to predict which games are popular or not?

                “I don’t think depth is really “mind-independent”. State space is mind-independent, but depth in the relevant sense is about our ability to improve at it, which is closely correlated with “technical/intrinsic depth” but not identical to it.”
                I reckon it’s close enough. Obviously state space is objective, then absolute depth is a bit more subjective (which states count as redundant?) then relevant depth is more subjective (which states are balanced and actually come up in competition?), but I mean, it’s the best we can do, and it’s something which I think most people who understand the concept come to similar conclusions on. Sure, aliens would come to different conclusions, but I’m evaluating from a generalized human perspective. Depth is a product of an objective state space plus the semi-objective generalized human condition.

                That and I do recognize other qualities besides depth, I just wasn’t going to repost them all here (they’re on the about page), and depth is the most important one.

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                • Wat February 2, 2020 / 10:33 pm

                  I didn’t mean it to be a meter of popularity or market success but to portray that people in large numbers can like something that is not deep and very few people can like something that is very deep, even if the less popular thing is still marketed or ‘famous’. People when they talk about quality mean that something gives them pleasure, brings something positive to them or is desirable. Do all people find depth to be the thing that brings that about? If so do they all have the same thing in mind when they talk about depth? Are people who don’t find X as bringing them pleasure, being desirable and so on wrong as if they would be wrong when they would get 5 out of 2+2? Objectivity implies that something is universally binding with no exceptions so if depth is ‘objectively good quality’ of given thing then all people are bound by that and those who do not are in the wrong. Otherwise your definition of good is odd and you’re left with something like from my painting example.

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                  • Yujiri February 2, 2020 / 10:43 pm

                    I claim everyone does universally enjoy depth. (I would argue the same for other game design values I hold, such as fairness.) It doesn’t stop people from having preconceived/artificial beliefs that could cause them to prefer a worse game, and there are definitely legitimate aspects that vary (outside of the obscure cases I mentioned about depth in another comment). For example, I claim novelty is inherently enjoyable, but of course what is novel varies from person to person and minute to minute (this is why I used to be into both Prismata and Go instead of picking a favorite). But in a vacuum, I believe depth is an objectively enjoyable trait in games while things like “realistic” graphics are not.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Wat February 2, 2020 / 11:10 pm

                      Assuming this is true: do you think that all people mean the same thing when they talk about depth? Or person who claims to not like deep games on the basis of depth to be wrong?

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                    • Yujiri February 2, 2020 / 11:51 pm

                      Assuming this is true: do you think that all people mean the same thing when they talk about depth?

                      Self-evidently people can mean different things by that word.

                      Or person who claims to not like deep games on the basis of depth to be wrong?

                      Um… I don’t see how this is alternative to the first one. It sounds like it goes along with the first one. The first one was nonsensical, therefore I don’t believe this either.

                      That said, if someone did make clear that they were talking about the same thing I am, then yes, that person would be wrong. (Note that it’s possible for someone to experience joy while playing a deep game and falsely attribute it to some other attribute of the game or to a circumstance external to the game itself – and vice versa for shallow games – or for someone’s memories of the enjoyability of a particular game or past experience to become warped over time, or any other number of ways someone could be mistaken about this.)

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                    • Wat February 3, 2020 / 12:26 am

                      Because comment section is really odd I reply here.

                      Cool that you’re consistent in your beliefs and you’re not sidestepping the problem. But all you said boils down to mere assertions. What is your justification, evidence for that belief then? I find it hard to believe that people who inherently don’t like video games even if they know full well what mechanical mastery, difficulty and whatnot means and entails are somehow wrong. And worse yet I find it hard to believe that people who enjoy only stuff like Journey, Dear Esther or Papers Please while looking down upon Dark Souls or Devil May Cry are somehow rationally deficient because of that.

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                    • Yujiri February 3, 2020 / 3:53 am

                      But all you said boils down to mere assertions. What is your justification, evidence for that belief then?

                      As far as I’m aware, it’s the only consistent philosophy that doesn’t hold all arguments of game design to be nothing more than subjective preferences. I don’t think most people truly believe that arguments about game design are subjective, as if we did, there would be nothing to argue about and websites like critpoints.net would be as perverse as a website dedicated to convincing people that asparagus tastes better than brocoli because it has more “depth”.

                      I find it hard to believe that people who inherently don’t like video games even if they know full well what mechanical mastery, difficulty and whatnot means and entails are somehow wrong.

                      You’re right, there are valid reasons to not want to play games besides that. In fact I haven’t really played a non-scarce game myself in… probably years? I used to be an avid player of Prismata and Go, and spent hours a day on them combined, but I started to get more diligent and real life started to become more of a thing, and I no longer have the time to stay into a competitive, non-scarce game in good conscience. (It would mean abandoning or slacking off on other things I do which actually have value besides the enjoyment of myself and my opponent.)

                      There is also such a thing as a legitimate casual game. I’ve written about this, but to summarize, not all forms of entertainment serve the same purpose, and casual games have legitimate upsides over competitive games, including the lack of entry barrier and the lack of risk of emotional problems that arise from competitive games. Some people like casual games from time to time but don’t want to get into a competitive game, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

                      Despite that, most people I know who think they don’t like competitive games have never given one a chance.

                      And worse yet I find it hard to believe that people who enjoy only stuff like Journey, Dear Esther or Papers Please while looking down upon Dark Souls or Devil May Cry are somehow rationally deficient because of that.

                      I would never say such a thing 😀 To be honest I rather despise Dark Souls because it fails every value of mine besides depth miserably. But more relevantly, many things are called “games” despite it being arguably a misnomer. (I haven’t personally played any of the games you mention besides Dark Souls, though I’ve heard a lot about Journey.) Doki Doki Literature Club for example is something many people call a “video game” but is in fact a story and has none of the meaningful properties of games. (It’s not a story game by my definition, it’s just a story.)

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                    • Wat February 3, 2020 / 12:00 pm

                      “I don’t think most people truly believe that arguments about game design are subjective”

                      Buckle up boy because there were several studies done about similar topic and in every major culture on our planet crushing majority of people think that something like that is subjective.
                      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326776524_De_Pulchritudine_non_est_Disputandum_A_cross-cultural_investigation_of_the_alleged_intersubjective_validity_of_aesthetic_judgment

                      And the problematic part is what do you think by game design being subjective/objective. People usually mean by something is subjective that whether something is desirable or undesirable, tasty or untasty, enjoyable or unenjoyable is on the subject: his genetic and environmental makeup, past experiences and so on, that one person can enjoy something, the other can not enjoy the very same thing and no one is at fault. Subjectivity is not solipsism. And even in something subjective there are objective parts (ice-cream tasting sweet as they are literally made out of sugary stuff) in it which is a nobrainer.

                      I rarely met designers who thought of their area as being objectively mumbo jumbo something. Stuff like that works on observation and statistical analysis: what most people or most people you’re aiming at are prone to react to and in what way and work from there. Reactions are subjective, some people won’t react to whatever you designed in the same way and they’re not wrong for it and people who do that as intended are not right by it.

                      ” as if we did, there would be nothing to argue about and websites like critpoints.net would be as perverse as a website dedicated to convincing people that asparagus tastes better than brocoli because it has more “depth”.”

                      People can go into lengthy discussions about humor, preferences in other people’s
                      demeanour or food. Is food objective because chefs like Gordon Ramsay go into lengthy, passionate arguments? Is food objective because there would be no reason to learn how to cook, get better at it and so on? Self-evidently no. There are other areas of design like graphical one or there are various marketing ones employed in supermarkets for example where they try to manipulate you into buying stuff. Is person that isn’t manipulated by the old trick of artificial lighting and artificially enhanced smell of products wrong? After all he doesn’t adhere to the design goals when most people do… And if some people can without fault not be binded by something like that then we see all well that world didn’t end, marketing and supermarket manipulations still exist and so on.

                      “You’re right, there are valid reasons to not want to play games besides that.”

                      Besides that? I was explicitly talking about that. My father was a player back in the day and he understands stuff like depth or aforementioned things very well. Still he despises games nowadays and he can’t bring himself to play them. And there are no external factors in that, he really tried to get back to gaming, he has plenty of free time and to no avail. Even stuff like being not as sharp mechanically is not that as he has better reaction time and dexterity than me.The “universally binding enjoyability of depth” is not binding to him at all which renders it being objective moot. To me it is classic mistake of mistaking commonality of large groups of people for objective truth.

                      “I would never say such a thing”

                      Then it also renders your point about objectivity moot. If they don’t adhere to it then either it isn’t objective or these people are making a rational mistake.

                      ” But more relevantly, many things are called “games” despite it being arguably a misnomer.

                      That’s why I brought up these examples. Some people do not like game part of games at all despite knowing full well what do they mean or what do they entail. If universally enjoyable depth has no effect then once again, it is either not universal or they are making a rational mistake. There is no eating cookie and having that cookie.

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                    • Yujiri February 4, 2020 / 1:10 am

                      Okay, good job misrepresenting almost everything I said.

                      Buckle up boy because there were several studies done about similar topic and in every major culture on our planet crushing majority of people think that something like that is subjective.

                      Really? Just because people profess something doesn’t mean they truly believe it. There was a reason I put that word in italics and the clause wasn’t meant to be read without the rest of the sentence. They might think they believe it, but all of their actions suggest a belief that it isn’t.

                      And the problematic part is what do you think by game design being subjective/objective. People usually mean by something is subjective that whether something is desirable or undesirable, tasty or untasty, enjoyable or unenjoyable is on the subject: his genetic and environmental makeup, past experiences and so on, that one person can enjoy something, the other can not enjoy the very same thing and no one is at fault. Subjectivity is not solipsism. And even in something subjective there are objective parts (ice-cream tasting sweet as they are literally made out of sugary stuff) in it which is a nobrainer.

                      By “objective” I mean that there is such a thing as a better game, there is such a thing as being wrong to enjoy something. As I explained, without this belief it is meaningless to philosophize about game design.

                      I rarely met designers who thought of their area as being objectively mumbo jumbo something. Stuff like that works on observation and statistical analysis: what most people or most people you’re aiming at are prone to react to and in what way and work from there.

                      Observation and statistical analysis are what we would use to study game design if we thought it were subjective, because then the only question in game design would be “what will people enjoy and/or purchase”, and that would be a matter for empirical study. Since I believe game design is objective, I form beliefs about it based on logically consistent principles which I can still believe if it turns out most people don’t share them.

                      Reactions are subjective, some people won’t react to whatever you designed in the same way and they’re not wrong for it and people who do that as intended are not right by it.

                      Circular.

                      People can go into lengthy discussions about humor, preferences in other people’s demeanour or food. Is food objective because chefs like Gordon Ramsay go into lengthy, passionate arguments? Is food objective because there would be no reason to learn how to cook, get better at it and so on? Self-evidently no.

                      Going into “length discussions” != trying to convince people that their preferences are wrong. Has anyone ever tried to convince you that your pick for favorite fruit is wrong? If so, that person was being completely irrational. They can “discuss” about it, but there are no objective value judgements, while for game design there are objective value judgements.

                      You mention learning to cook, but that is a complete red herring because learning to cook doesn’t mean learning what food is “objectively tasty”, but learning to make food as you intend.

                      There are other areas of design like graphical one or there are various marketing ones employed in supermarkets for example where they try to manipulate you into buying stuff. Is person that isn’t manipulated by the old trick of artificial lighting and artificially enhanced smell of products wrong? After all he doesn’t adhere to the design goals when most people do… And if some people can without fault not be binded by something like that then we see all well that world didn’t end, marketing and supermarket manipulations still exist and so on.

                      I’m not even sure what the relationship between this and my post was supposed to be.

                      Besides that? I was explicitly talking about that.

                      Yes, I meant besides not liking depth (since no one does that).

                      My father was a player back in the day and he understands stuff like depth or aforementioned things very well. Still he despises games nowadays and he can’t bring himself to play them. And there are no external factors in that, he really tried to get back to gaming, he has plenty of free time and to no avail. Even stuff like being not as sharp mechanically is not that as he has better reaction time and dexterity than me.The “universally binding enjoyability of depth” is not binding to him at all which renders it being objective moot. To me it is classic mistake of mistaking commonality of large groups of people for objective truth.

                      I know nothing about your father beyond what you tell me, so even if I take everything you say for granted, it’s absurd to expect me to explain his psychological phenomenon. You might as well ask me to debug your server without giving me shell access, and claim that if I can’t, it’s because I’m mistaken about how computers work.

                      Then it also renders your point about objectivity moot. If they don’t adhere to it then either it isn’t objective or these people are making a rational mistake.

                      Nope, that whole paragraph explained why the two don’t conflict.

                      That’s why I brought up these examples. Some people do not like game part of games at all despite knowing full well what do they mean or what do they entail. If universally enjoyable depth has no effect then once again, it is either not universal or they are making a rational mistake. There is no eating cookie and having that cookie.

                      That whole paragraph explained this. Some people don’t want to play games, and that has nothing to do with which gmes are better.

                      Like

                    • Wat February 4, 2020 / 3:01 pm

                      “Just because people profess something doesn’t mean they truly believe it. There was a reason I put that word in italics and the clause wasn’t meant to be read without the rest of the sentence. They might think they believe it, but all of their actions suggest a belief that it isn’t.”

                      You didn’t prove that at all. You assert things without backing them up with anything. Multiple studies were done about the topic with different metodologies and they all support conclusion of the paper I linked. Take it as you will but so far there is evidence on the table for what I said and there is none for what you said.

                      “Circular.”

                      ?
                      I’m explaining what I mean by subjective because I wasn’t sure we’re on the same tune, lol. And it happens to be one of the most common definitions.

                      “I’m not even sure what the relationship between this and my post was supposed to be.”

                      It explains how we can talk about design while still not believing in objectivity religion.

                      “Since I believe game design is objective, I form beliefs about it based on logically consistent principles which I can still believe if it turns out most people don’t share them.”

                      Cool. But I was asking about evidence, proofs, justification and I got none. No one cares whether you believe something or not, why you believe something and what is your justification is the most important thing, Philosophy 101. And I want to remind you that onus probandi is on you all this time.

                      “Going into “length discussions” != trying to convince people that their preferences are wrong.”
                      Have you ever watched Hell’s Kitchen? Ramsay literally threw out people out of his kitchen because he claimed their food tasted like shit, among other things.

                      “They can “discuss” about it, but there are no objective value judgements, while for game design there are objective value judgements.”

                      Yeah, yeah. There are no objective value judgements there because not and in another area there are because there are, the end. No justification, no evidence, no nothing. Just mere assertions.

                      “You mention learning to cook, but that is a complete red herring because learning to cook doesn’t mean learning what food is “objectively tasty”, but learning to make food as you intend.”

                      When you’re learning how to be a chef in restaurant you’re not learning how to make food as you intend but how to make food that is tasty. Much of top restaurants aren’t purely about mechanical copying from recipe but experimentation and stuff and no one will do shit like aging pasta in oaken cask for spaghetti.

                      “Yes, I meant besides not liking depth (since no one does that).”

                      Again, “no one does that”. Because I say so. You know what, I’m tired of it. Thank you for discussion but I’m out.

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                  • Wat February 3, 2020 / 12:04 pm

                    Accidentally I cut out this part.

                    “here would be nothing to argue about and websites like critpoints.net would be as perverse as a website dedicated to convincing people that asparagus tastes better than brocoli because it has more “depth”.”

                    Chris himself admitted that he uses depth in the same way I described how design and its goals work: to predict how large number of people, how certain audiences will react to design of each game.

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                    • Yujiri February 4, 2020 / 1:13 am

                      I can’t say for sure whether Chris believes that, but I’d prefer a link to him saying it over just your word, given how much of his content is telling other people that their game design preferences are wrong (Hbomberguy on Dark Souls 2, and the Batman Arkham Asylum articles, I think). If he does turn out to think it, it would not be as if that threatens my point. It would just make him inconsistent.

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                    • Chris Wagar February 4, 2020 / 2:17 am

                      I use depth as a metric because I think it has practical benefits with regards to the core thing that makes games fun, that being “I want this to happen, I’m not sure if it will happen or not, and I’ll enjoy it more if my odds improve over time”. We have a neural mechanism that’s aligned with skill acquisition. Depth creates a scenario where we have many individual metrics for improving in consistency.

                      I don’t think that depth is necessarily positively received in every game, 3d beat em ups and fighting games have certainly not performed well, despite their depth, same with arena shooters, but Starcraft did extremely well twice, as did Smash Bros Melee. It’s rare that the deepest games perform the best.

                      I’m going more for “most intensely stimulates the ‘fun’ sense”, which is a general human thing, but not every person necessarily cares as much about it, even if it might be more fun for them if they did.

                      I think my philosophy has application in a broader sense, for targeting specific common design issues, “this thing is too shallow” etc, but making the deepest game ever and not caring about anything else clearly isn’t a winning strategy.

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  4. Yujiri February 2, 2020 / 3:01 am

    It’s a pretty interesting topic, but I think it’s necessary for any game design philosopher to believe that opinions can be biased (and illegitimate) despite the point of games being enjoyment. For example, we’d all agree Tic Tac Toe would be bad as a serious game, but that’s not because the value of games is mind-independent.

    It may be that we can draw a line between things the mind inherently enjoys (like depth) and things that people only find enjoyable because of an irrational expectation or artificial, preconceived belief about game design (like unnecessary graphics / other traits of “immersion”).

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    • Yujiri February 2, 2020 / 4:51 pm

      Okay, that comment was supposed to be a response to Wat. This wordpress comment system still confounds me in some ways. Or maybe I just misclicked, IDK.

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    • Wat February 2, 2020 / 8:59 pm

      Opinions surely can be biased and surely can be illegitimate. Take something purely subjective as taste of food. If someone tells you he likes strawberry ice-cream because they are salty then that someone is very wrong (or he eats some strange type of ice-cream). Despite it being subjective you still can be wrong and your reasoning questionable.

      Sure, we as people have much in common, especially true if we are raised in the same or similar culture. But people mistake arbitrary consensus of a group of people for an objective truth and belittle those who do not fit into that consensus which is problematic. I think everyone has met himself with a situation where someone insulted another’s taste or another person directly because that person didn’t like something that was perceived as good or liked something that was perceived as bad.

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  5. Yujiri February 17, 2020 / 10:02 pm

    Okay, honestly, I’ve been thinking about this some more, and I want to raise an objection to “Never mark a game down for being hard”. Imagine a hypothetical Dark Souls where everything moves twice as fast, all the enemies have tripled health and deal doubled damage, there are twice as many in every room, and you can only ever carry 2 Estus (I would have said 0 Estus but I guess having Estus contributes to depth in some ways). If no human would reasonably be able to beat it, can’t it be fair to mark a game down for that? I can’t think of any games I would claim this for, I’m just making a hypothetical case.

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    • Chris Wagar February 17, 2020 / 10:18 pm

      Difficulty affects depth. The problem isn’t that the game is too hard, it’s when the difficulty contracts how many viable strategies there are. If the enemies mob you and don’t give you a chance to fight back, you need to cheese them all. If the only strats are cheese strats, then the game loses depth.

      Games should aspire to a goldilocks difficulty, hard enough to encourage additional strategies, easy enough that you should be able to do more than 1 thing.

      This is the problem with masocore games, not that they’re necessarily hard.

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