Should reviewers explicitly admit their total time with the game?Posted on September 28th, 2009 4 comments
Dengeki Games, a new Japanese magazine that launched its first issue last week, thinks so. This shot of a review page (for Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver) I swiped from Hachimaki-ko. In it, you can see that within every EGM-style cross review is a little bubble showing how many hours each writer played the game — in this case, 12 and 15 hours each. I figure that if you’ve already played both Pokémon Platinum and the original Gold/Silver, 12 to 15 hours is long enough to intelligently gauge out all the new things in this remake. I’m betting that most readers would agree with me, too.
The mk2 series of websites, popular outlets for user-submitted game reviews in Japan, make writers give out hours-played with each review they submit. Not so in the professional ranks. The only “high-tier” game media I can think of that ever did this before Dengeki Games is Saturn FAN, a Japanese title from Tokuma Shoten that covered the Sega Saturn, and even they did away with it after awhile.
Around 1999 or 2000 (I need to fish out the actual issue), Famitsu published a discussion between then-EIC Hirokazu Hamamura and Japan game-biz problem child Kenji Eno. The two did not exactly have the rosiest of business relationships at the time, and it was one of the better interviews Famitsu ever published, but I remember Eno asking Hamamura at one point why his mag didn’t reveal “time spent in the game” with each review. “I’ve thought about it,” the EIC responded, “but it depends too much on the individual. My one hour of play’s going to be different from someone else’s one hour of play, especially if one of us skips past all the cutscenes. I figure it’s just better to man up and say ‘I play it until I’m sure of what I want to say about it.'”
Whenever some net commenter badmouths “professional” reviews. one of the pieces of conventional wisdom that always gets thrown around is “you know they only play it for half an hour, WTF do they know about this game?” But what do you think? Is printing total play time with the review something that encourages you to trust the reviewer, or would you cynically think they’re lying about that, too?
(My personal opinion: I played through every single game I played for Newtype, including the goddamn Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game. This is a bragging point for me, and I’d like to show it off to as many people as possible, because come on, are you ever gonna play through that game? Hell, if I was still working full-time for media, I’d love to have a webcam pointing at my cube during work, outfitted with timers for this and that game I’m “working on.” Pageviews would be through the roof. I swear it.)
It would be pointless: the people for whom this is an issue, as you already noted, still wouldn’t believe it and would continue to heap scorn. (And, in all honesty, a lot of it is justified.)
For most everyone else, they really only care about the numerical score and the text is just filler. (Hell, i think it’s safe to say that we’ve all read tons and tons of reviews where the numerical score doesn’t have any rational bearing to the review text, so I’m guessing a lot of ‘have our cake and eat it too’ (insofar as dumping on the game in the body of the review but rescuing it with an average score for whatever reason), pro, reviewers don’t care, either.)
I think that “hours played” is a useless metric in general (see points made by ECM above).
A more useful metric might be “% of game completed”, but this isn’t always measurable and risks being inflated as well.
Honestly, the only way for a reviewer to gain credibility is for him/her to write a solid review.
I certainly think that “total hours played” has novelty value, and it would be fun to compare a reviewer’s stats over time (against him/herself), but that’s about it.
hours played it’s pretty relative and mostly irrelevant number, and you could never be sure it’s true. i’ve read some reviews that i was sure were written by someone who didn’t even get past the first level, but i don’t think the writer would admit that’s the case.
A little more information doesn’t hurt, I suppose. Readers will do with it what they want.
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