GDC09: Highlights from the Game Critics Rant

Justin McElroy
J. McElroy|03.27.09

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GDC09: Highlights from the Game Critics Rant

Though it seems like game journalists have a fine platform on which to project their opinions, it's rare that they get to directly address the game developers they cover. Just such a chance was provided by this year's GDC rant session, which let game journalists talk about games and their own writing about them.

Before we begin, keep in mind that we are cherry picking here, and there's a lot of context you miss out on by not being on site. Hopefully, we're at least able to give you a flavor of what was going on.
First up was former journo N'Gai Croal, who pleaded for the use of more accurate language to describe gamers that did away with terms like "hardcore" and "casual," referencing Mitch Krpata's "New Taxonomy of Gamers" series.

Next was MTV's Stephen Totilo, who asked game journalists to improve their writing, specifically banning overused or just unclear words like "compelling", "visceral", "very" and all adverbs.

Leigh Alexander, news director for Gamasutra, followed Totilo, complaining about the "three-way ecosystem of negativity" between devs, writers and the audience. Alexander made a passionate plea for less obfuscation from publishers and PR about the development process, saying "If you just told us the truth to begin with, we wouldn't have this problem. We don't want to get you wrong."

Journalist and author Heather Chaplin asked for game developers to grow up, saying that the idea that video games should be excused for their immaturity was a fallacy. In her words, "It's not that the media is an adolescent, it's you that are stunted adolecents. You're a bunch of guys who should be men who know that they're really children."

Developers got their own turn to speak, including Ubisoft's always colorful Clint Hocking. He had a stern warning for big name devs that weren't taking a lesson from the outside-the-box thinking of indie studios. "If you really care about making AAA games then you had better take this seriously because it's not a f***ing joke," he said. "These guys have learned more from us than we have from them and they're kicking our asses."

Noted Wii fan and Maxis staffer Chris Hecker was a little more targeted at journalists in his talk, "Do Your Job Well, Please," asking them for additional care and consideration before they post their work.

Bringing up the rear was G4's Adam Sessler who blasted Metacritic for reinterpreting other sites' scores to fit their own scale, as well as the publishers that use those scales to determine bonuses, firings, etc. His talk, appropriately, was titled "F**k Metacritic" (asterisks not included).

... Woo, that was a lot of ranting. Now, can everyone please just hug?
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