I’ve been thinking more about what I wrote earlier this week, on Quintin Smith’s pulled Eurogamer review. A few things have changed, granted: the actual review has been reposted elsewhere, Kieron Gillen commented on my blog and challenged my opinions (in a good way!), and the baleful gaze of RPS turned toward my humble little site.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that what I first wrote about Smith’s piece was unfair. I straight up accused Smith of not understanding the context of his subject material. Having not read Smith’s full review, my stance on the subject can be summed up as “ironic” if you’re generous, “hypocritical” if you’re not.
Because, in context, Smith’s comments make alot more sense. He admits that he’s not a current AoC player and that he knows little about the franchise. He sums up alot of the bewilderment a new player who has suddenly been forced to play a max-level character – just what do all these rows do? I’ve also heard that writers don’t get the chance to make the captions for their articles, so that those asinine “Conan vs. Communism” and “East is Worst” comments might not have been Smith’s doing.
But this isn’t a mea culpa on my part, because the fact is, I’ve still got issues with how the review was handled.
No editor in their right mind would assign a review of a World of Warcraft expansion to someone who has not seriously played the game before. Why, in God’s Green Earth, is it acceptable to assign an AoC rookie to cover the game’s expansion?
There is one good answer, and it’s one that Smith calls on: alot of people with little-to-no Conan knowledge are currently thinking about (re)subbing to Age of Conan. In this regard, Smith comes across as the Everyman, the “I’m-new-at-this-too” reviewer.
The problem is that what Smith has been asked to review isn’t new player content – he doesn’t make a new character and play them through Tortage, and into the new Gateway to Khitai zone, and then into the level 80+ zones. He’s given a pre-made level 80 character and told to run around some. On a beta client, for that matter. No wonder he found the game simultaneously boring and confusing.
Repeating my sentiments from the first piece, I think that MMOs should be reviewed in a significantly different way than other video games are. The best analogy I’ve been able to conceive is the difference between movie reviews and television reviews.
Movies are short, self-contained and discrete experiences, not unlike most video games. Granted, videos games can run anywhere between twice to ten or more times as long as a movie, but I think that’s a difference of degree, not of kind. Sometimes movies, like video games, have a sequel; sometimes they develop into a franchise.
When compared to movies, television series are long-term affairs, and their viewing experience is spread out over months. When a new show is released, alot of attention is paid to the pilot; if that pilot fails to entertain, that’s a black mark on the show’s record. But shows undergo change over time, getting better (or worse) with each subsequent episode. And when an individual episode is reviewed, it’s discussed on two different levels – its own merits, and how it can be integrated with the experience-at-large of the television show as a whole.
A new season premier offers viewers and newcomers a chance to come together, to start things over – just like MMO expansions. But the one thing a good newsite definitely should not do is have a novice viewer review the second season premier, a novice whose only knowledge of the show was its crappy first pilot.
And I think that’s what happened here, with Eurogamer and Rise of the Godslayer.
One last thing, before the comments of “tl;dr”. I don’t know why Eurogamer took the review down. The review has problems, sure (IMO, obviously) – but they are problems endemic to trying to release an MMO review the day before the game goes live. I disagree with Smith’s opinions, but at the end of the day, his opinions make sense and can be argued for.
Is it censorship, like Mário Figueiredo states? Well, in so far as it is Eurogamer censoring itself, yes. But I think Figueiredo’s wrong to say that the article was taken down simply because of a page of comments calling for its removal – it’s the internet, guys, and people say mean things on it all the time.
I think that Eurogamer was burned by its coverage of Darkfall, and is understandably wary of claims that a reviewer didn’t “do his research.” But that isn’t the case here, and it’s unfortunate Eurogamer ended up making the news the news when they pulled it down.