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A Voxel Odyssey

The thread popped-up on the Eurogamer forum much like any other – but the title caught my eye more than most : ‘Jaded Gamers Wanted’.

Dismissing my initial thoughts of medical research, I duly read, replied and was soon recruited into the VoxelArcade fold. I say recruited; the experience was closer to an indoctrination. A world without scores, you say? A review with no number at the end? What is this witchcraft thou speak’st of?

If you’ve ever written a review, you’ll appreciate that our Simon is absolutely right: when you know that you need to finish with a number, the entire article is guided towards it like a drunken middle-manager to the dancefloor at a Christmas do. The only thing that you’re really bothering to do is to justify said number, as opposed to conveying how you really feel about the experience.

Having done a handful or reader-reviews (such a seedy term – always makes me think of wives), I thought I was up for something a little more independent in nature. Six months and (far too) many articles later; the transformation is now complete.

It's like those energy efficiency stickers on fridges: bullshit

It’s like those energy efficiency stickers on fridges: mindless bullshit

Writing for VoxelArcade has, quite literally, renewed my faith in games. I’d reached the point where I’d become an automaton to the industry. No more was I bothering to read reviews (at all) but was merely scrolling down to the bitter-end before blurting out my ill-considered thoughts all over the comments thread. Anything less than a 7 was an instant ignore. Anything more than an 8 was an instant buy.

How could my love for such a wondrous, creative medium have been boiled-down to such a puerile, mathematical mechanic? How had I allowed myself to become so numb to the rich variety of options available? More importantly: why was I putting so much emphasis on the opinions of others?

You could argue that this is a tale of the global corporatisation of the games industry over the last two decades. No more is this a world fuelled (at the bleeding edge) by bedroom-coders and do-gooders; this is an industry now ruled with an iron-fist by suits, budgets, share-prices and scores. People want to see a return on their investment and a boost up the stock market. What better way to ensure said results than by brain-washing the masses into staring at something so simplistic and instantly recognisable that they won’t dream of questioning things further: a number. And what better way to ensure that number is an acceptable one than by cosying-up to the mainstream gaming press?

On my command, remove his eyeballs with sandpaper.

On my command, remove his eyeballs with sandpaper. Slowly.

It’s hardly an original tale; a strategy long-employed by all manner of industries. Because it works. But there’s something more at play here.

I’m a huge fan of music and films as well as games, and I honestly can’t remember the last time that I listened to anyone before purchasing an album or a film. I’m guided by my gut-feeling and by my own impressions – period. I couldn’t give a shit what some critic I’ve never met before thinks of my choices.

So why was I behaving in the exact opposite way with regards to games? Is it the hike in investment that a game represents over an album or film? Is it the arguably more multi-faceted nature and complexity of games as product that requires more background research to be convinced of their worth? Or was it just because I’m a bigger nerd when it comes to gaming than either of the other two?

I’m honestly not sure. But the fact remains that my obsession with the gaming press, quite literally, ruined my love for the medium. It tainted it with the despicable pretext of numerical worth and peer-pressure that stood before each game like a bully in the playground. Strange, really: I never was one for being pushed around.

I bought this because I like Star Trek. The end.

I bought this because I like Star Trek. The end.

And so here I am, dear Voxelites: a reformed man. One who is once again in-love with the medium of game in all of its forms and in all of its guises. No more am I guided by a number sat rudely at the bottom of an article. No more do I really care. It’s like being a child again, walking into the games shop and basing my choice on what moves me on a first impression and a gut feeling.

It’s all about me.


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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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  1. Fantastic article. I loved reading every word of it! Even now I still sort of fall for this ‘gimmick.’ When looking through old games, I tend to use the scoring route to filter out a lot of the crap, but how many times have I enjoyed playing a game that ‘unknown persons’ rated as 5.0? Loads of times! 
    I think a scoring system would have been more useful back in the day, when we had no demo’s or gameplay footages on Youtube or whatever. At least with these you can half-review the game by yourself.

  2. You are one of us now. I shall call you Number Two, and you shall rejoice

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