Game People Calling: Reviewers Should Have Experience, Not Expertise

Game People | 11 Jul 2010 13:00
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We game reviewers like to think of ourselves as experts, but in fact that's kind of impossible. We can be experts in something specific like gaming, but because that overlaps all sorts of other areas of life we soon find ourselves out of our comfort zone.

This is when our life experience should carry us through. There should be a change of gear from authority to opinion as we venture beyond the bounds of our knowledge. But that is hard to do and more often than not we simply continue the same vein of expertise.

Most of the time, our shortcomings aren't noticed because we can stick to the games we know. But then, a game comes along that forces us to engage with something new. The danger, in that moment, is that we decide to borrow language from those disciplines without really understanding them. It's then all too obvious that we don't really know what we are talking about.

I don't know much about cricket, but I can tell from the comments on this post in the Guardian that the writer has ill-advisedly edged into unknown territory.

Readers have come to the review because they like cricket and want to know if International Cricket 2010 is a decent videogame rendition. "How on earth do you fine cut to mid on?" they ask of the reviewer's unusual use of these terms. "This is a cricket game for cricket fans, you wouldn't buy the game if you didn't like the sport so why get some guy who is clearly clueless about cricket to review it?" another commenter adds.

It's so easy to bring in a quote or some terminology from an area you know nothing about to add some bite to an article. So here's a review from someone who not only understands cricket but plays it regularly, David Kenson.

International Cricket 2010 has me caught in two minds. It offers significant improvements to the genre in terms of realistic perspectives and intelligent tactics, but the experience is hamstrung by a limited single player mode. I'd love to have been bowled over, but as it is I'm remaining fairly stiff upper-lipped.

With the focus of the British sporting media having switched swiftly from England's fairly predictable World Cup exit to Andy Murray's failure to secure his first Men's Singles title at Wimbledon, I can't help but feel a little sorry for England's cricketers, and cricket in general for that matter. After all, our boys have just completed an impressive ODI series win against the Australians, winning the first three matches to secure victory before the Aussies could get a foothold.

The niche appeal of cricket is perhaps no better illustrated by the fact that Codemasters saw no reason not to delay the release of International Cricket 2010 until after the World Cup, presumably resigned to the notion that cricket fans will find it regardless and that detractors are beyond conversion. Certainly the latter seems to have been confirmed by several early reviews I've seen.

However, while I've not always been a huge fan of cricket games, and harbored reservations about previous Codemasters offerings Ashes Cricket 2009 and the Brian Lara series, I have to say that I found IC 2010 pleasantly surprising.

International Cricket's main boast is the new over the shoulder Action Cam which hugs the camera to the batsman/bowler giving us something close to their view. This new perspective, like the new first person view in Tiger 11, gives the action a more realistic feel, and breaks out from the dull constraints of the ubiquitous broadcast camera-angle.

Like anything new, Action Cam has strengths and weaknesses. While it makes bowling feel more realistic, it also makes it more difficult to see exactly where you are aiming your delivery. Given time though, I developed a much more cultured eye for pitching deliveries right where I wanted them, and I felt the learning process gave rise to a deeper and more satisfying experience than using the usual, simple system.

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