Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gaming Journalism is Garbage

I read gaming websites a lot, and hype articles are getting to the point where they just aren't good for useful anymore. Yes, there are bad articles on all the time. I know this. But what pissed me off enough to write about it came from IGN, which considering how long they've been in the business, they really should know better.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if this article is taken down, although it's been up for over a week, so my guess is probably not. I got linked to it from somewhere else, as I don't actually read IGN, because I guess I figured everything they wrote was trash.

The article, in case you're too lazy to read it (I probably would be!) is about how JRPGs are fundamentally flawed, and the writers have their own special, magical ideas about how to fix them. Yes, you heard right - writers - that is to say that unlike most trashy gaming journalism articles, this one went through peer review. I can really only imagine what kind of peer review. Was it where they look at the other's brilliantly typed words and fawn over how witty they are? Did they even stop to think for 2 seconds about the PR disaster it might cause?

I think this is the stupidest piece of gaming journalism I've ever read. I'm no industry demographic genius or anything, but it doesn't take a lot of thought to know that bashing on a hardcore gaming genre is going to send the fanboys in droves and they aren't going to be happy.

Also, the next time I read somewhere that Deus Ex is a western RPG, I think I'm going to barf. Deus Ex is western awesome*, not an RPG.

The real worst part of the article is that it's mostly just preferences. It's funny when they claim #9 (grinding) when most modern JRPGs minimize mandatory grinding, and have since the PSX days. Some games (like Lost Odyssey) penalize grinding by adding diminishing returns to EXP awards. Sure, some games still do it, but the fact is that tons of people like grinding EXP for their characters. That's why asian MMOs are still popular over here.

Other things, like improving presentation and reducing cliches are already prevalent in JRPGs. Should we call out Dragon Age for having cliches, too? NO. What IGN calls a cliche is more accurately called an 'archetype', and there's a lot of room for flavor inside those archetypes. Female magic users, being an example they used, are perfectly fine things with plenty of variations. Loner swordsmen are too. So are drunken dwarven berserkers, or cops who are pissed off at the system and think they should pursue justice outside the law. It's about the quality and robustness of the writing.

For western RPGs, the average quality is usually higher just because there are fewer of them, and Bethseda and BioWare really can't do wrong. In Japan, there are a lot more RPGs released in general, because their market is different (they like grindy, stat-based games more than we do). If we compare the Japanese RPG market to the western shooter or action game market, you'll find that the average quality is probably closer (probably worse, in the case of the US action game market).

Sure, JRPGs are a smaller market share, but seriously - does IGN need to bash them for doing what they do? I don't see any reason why a gaming publication should go and genre bash. You don't see me bashing 3D fighters... yet.

Out of the 500-some odd comments on the topic right now, I think there was a 2chan invasion too. Wow, go JP players for being awesome.

*actually closer to a stealth action game

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