Always look on the bright side of life.
I recently completed Watch Dogs; whilst it’s undoubtedly true that, in terms of technical fidelity and ambition, it is a far cry from the demo that Ubisoft showed us at E3 2012, it is on the whole a solid new IP with room for improvement in the inevitable sequel. However, take a quick glance at the average user score for Watch Dogs on meta-critic and one would mistakenly assume it to be one of the worst games in recent years. “This game is broken beyond repair” says one protester, “Ubisoft should never attempt to to produce anymore open world games, for their good and ours” says another. One particularly dis-aggregated consumer, who gave the game a 0/10 (as did many others), decrees that “Watch Dogs genuinely displays everything that is wrong with video gaming”.
Now, I can understand that many gamers who were caught up in the ridiculous hype train that Ubisoft created when publicizing Watch Dogs are rightfully frustrated with the final product, but these criticisms of the game are ridiculously unfair. As a gaming community, we need to ditch the irrational hyperbole and become a little bit more sophisticated if we want to review video games in a legitimate manner.
“But”, you might say, “our opinion of a video game is just that! You can’t tell us how to review a game just because you disagree with us!”. Absolutely. And I really am glad that so many of us are so passionate in giving advice and voicing our opinions to one another about the latest gaming developments. But we still do seem to be becoming just a bit too cynical and pessimistic in our attitudes towards video games; a trajectory which has no doubt been accentuated by the increase in the use and popularity of internet forums. Take a step back and look at Watch Dogs again, for instance; are we really saying this game is, judging from the meta-critic user scores, of a lower quality than Goat simulator?
Most of us also don’t know that much about the video game development process, which is why we really shouldn’t be as nit-picky as we are. IGN editor Brian Altano puts it brilliantly; “Game developers all over the world get together to create wonderful universes full of beautiful creatures, epic stories and experiences for generations to enjoy […] and we complain that we can’t go into every house and open the fridge and drink the fake milk”. We get so caught up in finding the smallest things to rant about, that we end up missing out on enjoying the bigger picture. So what if there’s only one NPC in every car in Watch Dogs? I get to ride around on a Harley Davidson causing mayhem with the touch of a button!
Don’t get me wrong; we should be critical and we should protest at publishers and developers when they do the wrong thing. Our voices resulted in Microsoft performing a major U-turn with their Xbox One, EA finally ditching their DRM policy with SimCity and Robin Williams being memorialized in World Of Warcraft. But let’s also try to enjoy games more than we moan about them because, in the end, there is definitely more to enjoy out there than there is to moan about.