“Oort Online will be funded piece-by-piece over an undetermined stretch of time, targeting extra features according to votes from the playerbase,” reads a recent post at Joystiq.
How do you review something like that? When — if ever — should you assign something like that a score? And are you rating the game as a sum of its parts or does the experience of participating in its creation defy grading? Are we in an era where it’s more fun to help create a game than it is to play it and how do you report on that? This is a paragraph full of questions and it only leads me to ask even more questions.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and it’s why GameLuv has no official ‘review’ tag or category. When we started the site in 2006 it was the dawn of micro-blogging. People were out there posting and chatting more publicly than ever as they were playing games, not solely when they were finished with them. Even at that time it felt like there was more to games coverage than plowing through something as quickly as possible and sealing the book on it with a score.
As social media has expanded and the voice of the people moves from text into video it’s become even more pointless to pen a traditional review of a game. That said, they’re not going away anytime soon. They’re polarizing, blasphemous to some, justification to others and they generate plenty of pageviews. But these critical evaluations are becoming less relevant as games go on to evolve after the review has been written. Some sites are starting to toy with the idea of updated or revisited reviews but I don’t think it’s enough.
What I’ve tried to do at GameLuv is write a connected series of posts called “Now Playing” as I work through a game. A post after the first night, another recounting a particularly memorable moment or when a mechanic finally clicked. I’ve even gone back and rounded up all my disparate tweets and photos to compile a timeline of my experience. My work has been sloppy and unevenly paced but I think a frequent check-in with someone engaged in an “early access” game is the way to go. I get an overview of the game’s progress as well as insights into its community and if it’s ready for a less sociable player like myself. It could be a written diary post, a ten minute podcast discussion or a heavily edited video. Hell, it could be a combination of the three all wrapped up together under some new banner of content.
The challenge is that one person would be stuck with one or two games for weeks, months or maybe even years. You’ll have your correspondent on The Forest and your embedded Star Citizen or Minecraft journalist. Outlets are already chewing through writers, reviewers and editors at a record pace. Why not give them and the army of freelancers a regular (if meager) paycheck to do some long, meaningful coverage that isn’t just another written review? The social media populace is already providing that commentary for free and the current blog format is only going to be profitable for so long.