Thursday, August 08, 2013

Review Copies and Timely Reviews

Earlier today, Rhianna Pratchett posted a message on Twitter asking if there were any game journalists looking for Steam codes for Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, which looks like an amazing game.

I had thought about putting in a request, even though with the neglect and change of focus and the resulting loss quite a bit of my former audience, I likely wouldn't have gotten a code.

However, in thinking about the whole thing, I also realized a few things about myself.

One thing is, I don't like to rush through a game, and in general, I don't tend to play games in long sessions anymore, but because of the timely nature of a review, I would feel a lot of pressure to get through the game and get something written up. I like to take games slow, smell the roses and take things at my own pace, and rushing just doesn't appeal to me. I could conceivably play a game I was reviewing at my own speed, but I think I would feel stressed out thinking that I should be working on that game all the time.

And what if I couldn't finish it... because honestly there are a lot of games that I don't finish for one reason or another, and that is certainly a valid concern since it is a medium which gains a lot of its value from difficulty.

If I didn't like it, I would still feel obligated to play it until the end, and unlike movies and books which take a relatively short time to complete, a game could stretch on for hour after hour after hour, and if I was reviewing a new title, I'd have to keep going and see it through.

And truth be told, when I've spent my own money on a game, I think I may be inclined to review it more honestly and have a greater willingness to point out the flaws. I am going to tell you a story. Back in university, I was a reviewer for the paper there, and I was assigned someone's first novel, and it was terrible. Like no glimmer of hope that they were going to get better and it was a real slog reading it even though it was very short, and I was ready to give it a completely and brutally honest review. But I just happened to see my editor right before I was going to start writing it and she told me that the author was really looking forward to reading my review, and at that very moment, I was put in a position where I could not write the review the way I had planned. I went totally wishy-washy and didn't go for the jugular.

Because of that, I am worried that when presented with a situation where someone offers me a review copy, I may feel that same internal pressure to not go full-bore into something I really don't like because I know the developer is waiting for my review. And my last two reviews were for things that had come out relatively recently, so I think it hasn't been too bad.

At the moment, if I review a game here, I've finished it and likely enjoyed it, and looking back, that seems to be the general pattern of how I've written reviews for things in other media, like movies and such under the term "remembering". I don't think that is really a bad way to go.

Am I categorically saying I would never take a review copy? No. But I won't aggressively pursue one either. 

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