James Stephanie Sterling
Changing Criticism, Or Fuck Game Reviews
So let’s just cut to the chase – I’m over game reviews.
I continued writing game reviews after I declared Jimdependence because of my passion for traditional games criticism. They were not the real draw for the Jimquisition’s Patreon, but nonetheless I added them in as a means to continue doing something I loved on the side. Trouble is, I kind of don’t love them anymore.
There are a number of factors for this. The main one is that, honestly, the amount of time a game review takes is time better spent on new original work like the freshly launched Commentocracy and upcoming Loose Boys. My passion is in creating original video work, that’s become evident as we’ve begun to put our efforts there.
I had hoped video reviews would mitigate the feeling of burnout I have with traditional games criticism, but honestly that hasn’t helped.
The same old arguments about “objective” reviews, the usual hassle and pressure accompanying scoring systems (which I’ve always defended, but I’m so tired of doing it), not to mention the fact that publishers have pretty much ensured game reviews en masse are tightly controlled (they’re terrified of the “wild cards” after all) means I’d much rather tackle games criticism in a way that keeps me happy and invested in my work.
This doesn’t mean I’m chucking in games criticism, I’m just doing it differently. Here’s the deal.
Jimpressions, formerly part of my ad-supported content, will become officially part of the Jimquisition brand, which it should’ve been anyway with a name like that. Jimpressions will be me talking over footage of games that I’ve captured, focusing on aspects of the game I specifically want to talk about without the same old tired structure of a review format.
The previous Jimpression videos had started to split into two types of very different show – the type I just described, and sillier videos played in real-time and often edited for comic effect, typically playing random nonsense found on Steam. I’m going to make the two things their own separate series from now on.
This ultimately means more content for Jimquisition fans, and allows me the added benefit of getting criticism out there quickly without having to rush through games to beat them – often a problem for game reviewers. This new approach allows me to have my cake and fuck it too – I can give you instant critique of games at or near launch, with more nuanced criticisms after I’ve played more fully.
For example, I plan to put up a Shadow of War Jimpressions soon, but that’s not to say it’s the only Shadow of War Jimpressions video coming. As I play more, get to grips with the Nemesis system, and tackle the Domination aspects of the game, I can give you a second Jimpressions with updated thoughts in real-time.
This is an approach I tried with Dark Souls III last year, producing Jimpressions videos with early gameplay, followed by a video looking at later content and another specifically showcasing multiplayer aspects.
I’d told a few people about this plan, and one concern was that I was the “only reviewer [they] trusted.” I see that phrase come up a lot, not just concerning me, and I have to wonder what the point of game reviews are if people only trust one or two people in the whole industry. Seeing as every major “AAA” release is expected to get 8s, 9s, and 10s regardless of actual quality, I think it’s safe to say the system is busted beyond saving now.
While I certainly wanted and hoped for that cycle of “AAA” reviews to change, it was never going to. I’ll confess I’m jaded by that entire part of the industry.
I can give you criticism and thoughts on games without being part of that increasingly obsolete world. And I’ll admit, I relish the thought of taking more time with games. I used to enjoy the idea of getting through them under pressure, but I’ve long since grown out of that.
I’m expecting some disappointment, hopefully not too much anger, but ultimately I think this is a good move. It’s a good move for my mental health, giving me less stress and more time to focus on the parts of the business I think people are really paying for. It’s good for you, as it gives you more ad-free content and what I believe is a more useful format for games criticism.
And it’ll be good for the poor precious Nintendo fans who don’t want to see another Zelda get less than a perfect fucking 10.
Not that I’ll be letting Nintendo off the hook in any other fucking way.
My other SNES Classic is a Raspberry Pi, after all.