Hardcore journalists & the other games

As the audience for games is become bigger and more diverse, criticism of the hardcore games press is getting louder. We’ve complained about this issue concerning artistic games, but apparent it’s a problem for casual games as well.

On GameSetWatch, Simon Carless discusses the situation with Joel Reed Parker, realizing that perfectly fine casual games sink to the depths of mediocrity on sites like Metacritic, simply because they are not appreciated by hardcore game journalists:

Who can I trust to tell me whether my mother would like specific Wii games, other than me? And what if I don’t know anything about Wii games? This is a major problem.

Jay Barnson argues on Tales of the Rampant Coyote that it’s fine for game journalists to have a bias. But that they shouldn’t all have the same bias:

The real issue is this – who is the audience for these games? I get really tired of reading damning comments by hardcore gaming reviewers for games that were really never intended for them.

The problem seems to be similar to the one pointed out by Kellee in the comments of a Grand Text Auto post, talking about getting innovative games selected in the Independent Games Festival:

Those are the games that typically polarize people. A game will receive either high mark or low marks, and so its final score will be average.

In the games press, the situation seems to be lot more straightforward, though. It seems like games are graded in an almost objective way. Much like teachers in schools, the journalists seem to already know all the answers to the test. And then it is up to the game to deliver. It’s like a checklist of features and the more boxes you check, the more points you get. As a result, perfectly fine casual games cannot possible get a high score because they don’t have explosions, HDR lighting, bumpy monsters, character classes, complicated sphere grids, etc. This checklist attitude also means that journalists are absolutely incapable of dealing with features that are not in their list, or in the school test analogy, answers to questions that they didn’t ask (aka creativity).

On Lost Garden, Danc complains about Super Mario Galaxy, which was praised to the high heavens by the press but ultimately turns out to be much too difficult for the unsuspecting Wii player:

Each player has their own distinct playing style and many of these preferences are rarely captured by the hardcore journalists who review most games.

I disagree with Simon Carless that

this may be the moment in the history of games where the reviewers start diverging from the mainstream in a major fashion

as happened in movies some time ago. Simply because I don’t consider hardcore games to be on par with art films, culturally. But I am glad that we are starting to notice the discrepancies between the rhetoric of the games industry and the reasons why many people are actually playing games.


(click for a huge-ish version of this ;))

Happy new year to all who may be reading our blog! Thank you for your thoughts and comments, here and in the forums, over the last year! And big love to all who play The Endless Forest, you’ve made it a wonderful adventure to work on and play in!

An 8 themed card for 2008. I’m hoping that this will be a portend, may we get that project back on track this year!

Tales of Tale of Tales of 2007

2007 has been a very full year, here at Tale of Tales.

Game Developers Conference Museo Tamayo

We crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice. After over 5 years of personal boycott against traveling to the USA, we flew over “for business” to participate in the Game Developers Conference in San Francsico. We showed The Endless Forest and a teaser for The Path in the BGIn booth on the exhibition floor. It was the first time we attended the American GDC. In August we crossed the ocean again, but this time with the much more pleasant destination of Mexico City, where we helped set up our first ever solo exhibition in Museo Tamayo. On the way back, we met with Jarboe, The Path’s music composer, in her black crow’s nest in Atlanta.

The Path demo prototype alpha 1 The Path demo alpha 2

The Path was our main focus this year. In January we implemented Drama Princess in the prototype of what was then still called 144. This marked the beginning of the real preproduction period. In May we had a first playable prototype for internal evaluation. And in October we submitted a second one with revised interaction design to the Independent Games Festival. In December The Path was selected in the “Excellence in Visual Art” category of the festival.
In November, CultuurInvest granted us a loan for the production of The Path. Realizing that there was this large chunk of money that we have to pay back, forced us to take the commercial aspect of the project a lot more seriously. This lead to the decision to release The Path via retail as well, and not just through digital download.

This very blog was started in February 2007. It was a big step for us because it signified our official acceptance, if reluctantly, of “web 2.0” after extensive nostalgia for the good old web of the 1990s that we still miss dearly to this very day. But the blog has been good to us. It allowed us to share our ideas about game design with the world and doubled the amount of visits to our website. In August, 36,000 people vistited this website, a personal record.
The most popular blog posts were Good games, bad games, ugly games, Games journalists and The New Games, Player-created gameplay, our interview with American McGee and the controversial Ten reasons why computer games are not games.

The Endless Forest Phase Three Day of the Dead in The Endless Forest

The Endless Forest continued to grow as well. We proudly crossed the 10,000 players mark in January, only to cross the 20,000 players mark in October, after releasing Phase Three of the project in September (almost exactly 2 years after the release of Phase One). There were several days when over 300 registered players visited the forest, one day even over 500. In November, the Forest turned dark and misty in celebration of Halloween.
Throughout the year, The Endless Forest was also on display in several art exhibitions around the world. There was the big Gameworld exhibition in Spain, curated by Carl Goodman and Daphne Dragona. And there was Rasa’s traveling Pixel Me exhibition for teenagers. There was the show in Mexico city, another one in Novi Sad, Serbia, one in Lleida in Spain, and in Lancaster, UK. We even showed the game in our home city of Gent, Belgium, at the birthday party of Vooruit.

2007 was also the year of Indiecade, with shows in US and the UK where 8 and The Endless Forest were on display.

The Kiss: Incorporator Vernanimalcula

In November, we remade a 2001 piece entitled The Kiss:Incorporator for a Muhka-curated exhibition in the Flemish Parliament (right in the middle of that funny Belgian government crisis). And in the beginning of the year, we released our first piece of corporate art: a screensaver called Vernanimalcula for the National Bank of Belgium.

The Path in Edge magazine Game Connection 2007

In 2007, we had several interesting contacts with the games industry. The double spread feature about The Path in Edge magazine is certainly a highlight. But our personal conversations with people from Steam, Sony, Nintendo and Ubisoft made a big impression as well. Not to mention the marathon meetings at the Game Connection in Lyon with Electronic Arts, Microsoft, THQ, DTP, Buka, 1C, Playlogic and many more.

All of this setting us up for a wild ride through 2008!…

Happy New Year!