Monday 20 June 2011

New Review Format: Worth Writing Home About?

Worth Writing Home About? is a new type of content for this blog: it's a review. But not just any review - it's one that focuses on innovation, and on interactive drama. Things have improved a lot over the last ten years - we have more voices than ever highlighting the new, the avant guarde and the ambitious in games; but there are still few mainstream outlets that would dare give a fun, polished game 50% because it doesn't do anything interesting. Too often games are treated as if they contain objective quantities of fun.

Worth Writing Home About? is supposed to recognise that taste is subjective, that entertainment isn't our only demand, and that in order for us to continue making better games we need to respect the ones that take the risks.

The Polish score is equivalent to most scores: how fun, how pretty, how successful is the game?
The Tilt score expresses how much a game changes the rules and progresses our medium.

Polish scoring goes like this:
0/2 -  Rough as balls. You'd be hard pressed to enjoy this, though it's conceivable.
     eg Boiling Point, ET: The Extraterrestrial
1/2 - Conceivably holds entertainment value for many. This is 90% of cases.
     eg Half-Life 2: Ep 2, Duke Nukem Forever, The Ship
2/2 - You'd struggle not to have fun with this, it's a real masterwork.
     eg Portal, Mario Galaxy, Okami

Tilt scoring goes like this:
0/2 - Does nothing we've never seen before
     eg GTA IV: Episodes From Liberty City, Mafia 2
1/2 - Innovates in at least one interesting or successful way, but nothing groundbreaking. This is 90% of cases.
     eg Duke Nukem Forever, Portal 2
2/2 - Does something that future games will (or should) learn from
     eg Portal, Darwinia, The Ship

I know I'm not the first person to shout, "AAA isn't innovative!". I know I don't have the resources to be reviewing everything out there. But I do hope that when a game is interesting enough for me to have stuff to say, this will prove a useful format to encourage/discourage your interest in it. Naturally there's going to be a bit of scoring skew - I'm unlikely to be playing many 0/2 on the Tilt scale.

Finally, these won't be narrative themed reviews in particular, but do expect a natural bias.

Keep your eyes here for the LA Noire review coming shortly (yet still way out of date).


  1. The other idea here is that this should simply be a place to express and discuss our thoughts on pieces of game design. I'm rarely going to get a review out in time for release, so as a buyers' guide really this will only prove useful for thsoe still sitting on the fence a few weeks later. Still, that's all most magazines can muster anyway ;-)

    As ever, any comments/queries on the concept do shout here.

  2. This probably figures into Tilt, but how is potential considered? I understand that a game isn't better on its own just for having a great, risky idea with awful execution, but if we're respecting innovation...

  3. Huh. I literally cannot think of another review system that tackles games holistically while still having categories.

  4. @Sid
    I'd consider potential a part of tilt. I'd be very comfortable giving a game 2/2 if it entirely failed to deliver on its big ideas, provided that those ideas were solid and significant enough for other games to build on.

    Ha, fair call. The general idea is that the scores at the end are so limited (good, average, bad) and so broad in scope as to encourage reading the text itself and coming up with your own idea of whether or not it's for you. An 80% score kinda says "You're gonna like this". A 1 out of 2 says "It's a functional video game. Check it out, you might like it."

    Having said this, the LA Noire review I'm currently editing feels very matter of fact.

  5. Makes sense. Score systems like Gamespot's or RPGFan's always felt a bit naff as it's as if they're purposely missing the forest for the trees, but at the same time subcategories are useful in that they force the reviewer to look at the game from different angles. This feels like a good compromise.