Shank’s Spiel: Mainstream Ignorance

http://youtu.be/ceKfc_jsXA8

I prioritize graphics over gameplay. I always have, and I always will. I am completely unapologetic and unashamed to say it. I will play the most beautiful, most realistic looking game ever created even if the gameplay is absolutely horrid. What I won’t do, what I absolutely refuse to do, is play a game consisting of fun gameplay but truly abhorrent visuals. This is why I will never play Minecraft. It genuinely looks awful.

I make no apologies for it. This is how and why I enjoy games. If you disagree, well, feel free to disagree. If I’ve upset you in any way, if you feel genuine rage towards me for what I’ve just said, I am allowed to play games for different reasons than you.

How does this tie into today’s topic? Well then, on to the issue at hand.

The mainstream industry outlets are completely ignorant. Rather than address all aspects of a game, they pick and choose what they want to focus on because “that’s what the average gamer wants”.

This is wrong. This is ignorant. And as professionals, you should be ashamed to pass off information as “whole”, when in truth, you completely gloss over and outright ignore major components of the game in question.

I’m going to mention individuals and outlets by name because you – the reader, consumer, and gamer – deserve to see for yourselves who these outlets are and bear witness to their blatant ignorance of an entire segment of the industry.

Where to begin?

First, let me address my increased frustration with mainstream outlets. If you’re a professional journalist in the industry, it’s not a huge leap for me to assume that you cover all aspects of a game – story, gameplay, emotions, audio…and visuals. However, time and time again, visuals and technical aspects are cast aside and relegated to a meager sentence, if even that.

Yes, I’m talking about you, IGN.

Similarly, whenever I read any articles from other industry outlets such as Kotaku, PC Gamer, etc, there is a complete and utter lack of any discussion regarding the technical aspects of the game.

They seem to conveniently forget that, even in visually simple games like Minecraft, without the tech, there would be no game. Period.

What I am left with are insipid, bland reviews which completely gloss over the technical side of the house. Instead, we get uneccessary praise for the visuals of console games just because most people own consoles.

This is unconscionable and utterly disrespectful to not just the industry, but to video games as a medium.

I’ve come to two conclusions. Either these “professional” journalists legitimately don’t understand the technical aspects of games, or, even worse, they are aware of the technical aspects and willingly choose to ignore them.

Both of these conclusions are unforgivable. By no means do I expect an industry professional journalist to masterfully understand absolutely everything in the industry, but as a professional, it is your job and duty to us, the paying consumer, to carry with you a conversational knowledge of all aspects of your trade.

It’s a disservice to consumers. It’s a disservice to you and your reputation as a professional journalist. It’s a disservice to the competency of our industry.

Just because you don’t talk about it or don’t understand it, does NOT make it any less important.

Let’s move on to the perceived ignorance and downplay of the most powerful, most open, most customizable, and resurgent platform – the PC.

Ever since I got into PC gaming, I’ve noticed a few things. The PC is a very viable platform to play games. It’s been experiencing a huge resurgence since 2011, especially as the last console generation dragged on unnecessarily. This is a great thing for the industry at large.

I’ve also noticed a blatant ignorance of PC capabilities and power among the mainstream industry outlets. I’ve noticed this assumption that it’s “ok” to not discuss the PC versions of games in detail and describe their visual differences from the console version, simply because “a lot of folk don’t have a PC”.

thumb

Even if “a lot of folk don’t have a PC”, that doesn’t mean it’s all of a sudden “ok” to simply gloss over technical aspects and visual disparity of the PC – a very viable and competitive platform. My anger and frustration should be palpable by now.

What’s worse, sites dedicated to PC gaming, like PC Gamer, complain when a certain feature or game isn’t coming to PC (like GTA V), but when it comes time for review, they only review the gameplay and don’t even mention the technical side. Don’t believe me? Simply check out their Crysis 3 review. Nowhere do they mention the visuals and technical wizardry that Crytek painstakingly brought to life.

These reviews read just like any other console review and you wouldn’t know it was from a site dedicated to PCs if not for the site header. They fail to discuss how the PC version of the game differentiates from other versions, completely ignoring graphics options and detailed examples of the features.

If this isn’t ignorance, I don’t know what is.

Oh but hang on, dear reader, for I am not done yet. Let’s talk about these industry “awards”.

Again, PC games (and their version of a cross platform game) are totally ignored. On the docket is, you guessed it, IGN’s Best of 2013 Awards. Specifically, let’s take a look at their Best PC Graphics category.

The candidates are Metro Last Light, an admittedly pretty game, Rayman Legends, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and BioShock Infinite. Now, “Best PC Graphics” should mean that you are looking at literally the best looking games in the industry from 2013. There should at least be some semblance of respect for that.

Instead, we are presented with Rayman Legends and Final Fantasy XIV. Really? In a year that gave us the technical masterclasses that are Crysis 3 and Battlefield 4, Rayman Legends and Final Fantasy XIV are in this category? Really?!

Games that contain objectively superior technology, such as Crysis with CryEngine and Battlefield 4 with Frostbite 3, are either not even mentioned or are totally sidelined. Instead, games that are popular on consoles are given the spotlight.

This is unbelievably toxic and dangerous to the industry.

If the PC version is visually superior and contains objectively superior technology (as is the case in most instances), reward it. What exactly is so wrong with recognizing something that is truly better than something else? Perhaps it’s a stigma against the PC where people think if the PC wins, then there must be a bias.

But the cold hard fact of the matter is, the PC version of cross platform titles WILL look better in most cases. These games and technologies push the best performance from the best platform, providing the absolute best looking version of the game.

As industry professionals, it is your duty to recognize and award the best of the best, not the best of the average.

If you can’t tell by now, I am thoroughly frustrated with the mainstream industry outlets. This is why in every preview or review I write, I aim to cover that aspect of our industry that is blatantly ignored and downplayed by industry journalists – the tech.

You might not understand what ambient occlusion is. You may not know what submorphological antialiasing is. Frankly, I don’t expect you to. But, it is important that you at least recognize that these things exist.

After all, you are a professional journalist in this industry. It is your job to cover all aspects of gaming.

All aspects.

3 comments

  • You prefer graphics over gameplay. Meh, ok, i see your point. But….really?
    I mean, you’re not saying “hey, this game might not be as good, but the graphics are awesome” which i would understand. Even i think graphics is a huge plus for me.
    But no, you’re saying “Even when the gameplay is horrid, i would still play it”.
    Really dude? Really? You don’t want to play a game then. You want a visual Demo/Benchmarks, like 3Dmark.

    I’m not raging, i just truly don’t think you want to play games then, if you really mean what you say.
    It’s “Game”-play.
    Just to throw an example: you love playing boardgames, not because of the gameplay, but how the dice/cards look AMAZING.
    No… you just love looking at the dice/cards then.

    In the end, i don’t think you actually mean what you said.
    Just say ‘graphics are a huge deal for me’. Don’t exaggerate.

    And I do agree with your points on reviews. I love seeing before/after pics on reviews with mindblowing graphic options off/on, and can’t wait to see it myself.

    • Thanks for the comment. Let me clarify.

      By no means am I exaggerating. I simply enjoy games for a different reason than you. You can define “games” however you wish, but the enjoyment I get remains.

      For example, many don’t consider Dear Esther a game. They consider it a glorified demo. However, I believe it IS a game because of the experience you gain from it. Plus, I thought it was technically and visually beautiful.

      So, yes. I actually do mean what I say.

      I refuse to play a game if it looks horrible, even if the gameplay mechanics are unbelievable.

      Conversely, I will absolutely play a game where gameplay consisted of picking flowers in a confined 3×3 cube but was visually and technically gorgeous.

      I enjoy games for different reasons than you. That shouldn’t be too difficult to understand.

  • I love when people think differently, diversity is such a good thing.

    But still, though graphics are a good thing and certainly make a game much more appealing.

    I consider graphics as means to convey a feeling; for example in minecraft which you may percieve as an ugly game can be seen as astonishingly beautiful for others because, as other people have said, video games are art.
    That means their perception of beauty is extremely different and you could not judge them by a singl criteria.

    Apart from that, I agree completely with what you say, games should have an included section in reviews with the technological aspect which would be relative to graphics and the different options they have in the PC (which graphic wise, like you said, holds the upper hand) and how well they are managed.

    Guess that’s all I have to say.
    Anyways Shank, love your job and think you’re an awesome dude, I’d like to hear ESOTR live soon (never had any time to do it since you guys started) so I can talk to you guys while you broadcast since I really love the podcast and I almost can’t play Elder Scrolls without an epsiode.

    I realize I really changed this into a fan letter, so before I ramble on anymore I end this with my regards.

Leave a Reply