Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Polygon’s Bayonetta 2 Review is Fine

So, in between the Brianna Wu media tour and the emergence of #StopGamerGate2014, #GamerGate for the first time in weeks actually attempted to bring up something that was almost something something kinda like Journalistic Ethics.  As you may know, #Gamergate declares that journalistic ethics and integrity is what this is all really about (although that’s built on a total sham, is ignorant of actual problems and allergic to actual journalistic ethics).  But hey, maybe they got it better this time!

bayonetta2

Oh dear.

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For fuck’s sake, do you know how ethics work?  How about a blog post:

saying something like ” Bayonetta 2 could have been a fantastic game but it’s need to provide fanservice holds itself and it’s audience back” because then you are attacking your readership indirectly, you’re implying that there is something wrong with them for enjoying/purchasing a game like this since it offends your moral compass…don’t do that.

Christ.  Okay, let’s just get a few things clear:

1) It’s not an ethics problem. There are probably a million op-eds, reviews, and blogs printed daily that you disagree with.  Reviews are, at their core, opinions.  It’s not unethical, it’s what makes you a unique and beautiful snowflake.  And it’s definitely not ‘corruption’.  It’s just a media outlet with a different point of view.  Lord knows, I hate Fox News, but I’d never say they have no right to exist for having people with different opinions.  Judging from the reviews, there are at least 10 major games sites who represent the standard ‘sex and violence is awesome!’ viewpoint, so lets just call that point of view covered.

2) I’m amused at how it’s like the opposite of collusion. Remember that word?  Remember how Ben Kuchera and Polygon were evil for forcing everyone to print the same story (allegedly – this is also bullshit)  Now, some people are mad at them for being the only ones who didn’t freely fellate PlatinumGames with their review.  In fact, they’ve got a lot of integrity for going against the grain and saying what they believe.

3) He’s probably not talking to you. If you’re in #Gamergate, there’s a good chance you’re not in Polygon’s target audience, because Polygon believes in talking about social and progressive issues in video games, and most of #gamergate doesn’t seem to give a rats ass about that.  Which is fine!  But here’s the thing – the goal of a review is not whether or not the reviewer is representing the opinions of anyone on reddit.  The goal of a review is to represent the concerns of their audience. If you review “Atlas Shrugged”, you’re going to write a very different review if you review it for Daily Kos vs. whether you review it for Breitbart.

Polygon has a slant on how they report games -that more cultural/progressive angle, and they have an audience.  That audience appears to be one of the fastest growing audiences in the games press right now, and appears to still be perfectly health despite gamergate.  Whether or not this review bugs THOSE readers, I don’t know.  But THOSE are the people who Polygon is trying to satisfy with their reviews.

4) Talking about whether or not the sexuality is ‘over the line’ is pretty crucial to ANY review of Bayonetta 2.  There are a lot of people who like sex in their games, and there are a lot of people who don’t.  There are also a lot of people who like it ‘up to a point’ – Soul Caliber is fine, but Dragons’ Crown is not.  I found Taki’s outfit awesome in Soul Caliber 2, and awful in Soul Caliber 4.  An open and frank discussion about how far the game goes is in fact CRUCIAL to a customer making a purchasing decision.  And if Polygon’s audience cares about that, it definitely merits discussion and factoring into the score.

5) Bayonetta 2’s overall coverage is fine.  Their Metacritic is still a sterling 91.  I mean, that’s awesomely good.  Oh, and by the way, getting a review that says ‘this game is pretty awesome but the sex might be TOO FUCKING MUCH FOR YOU’ is actually going to sell a few copies.  In fact, that’s exactly the sort of line that PlatinumGames’ marketing is HOPING will hit the press, because that sort of controversy sells games.  Seriously, do you think Dragon’s Crown would have gotten more than cursory coverage and sales if it wasn’t for the Sorceress character Boobs McTits?

6) Suggesting that Nintendo blacklist or give less preferential treatment to sites that give them critical review IS an ethics problem.  I mean, seriously, this is exactly the sort of stuff that people like me say #Gamergate SHOULD be investigating as insidious ways that the AAA publishers completely blanket the press with feverishly positively deceptive press, and instead you’re suggesting it as a solution?  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  The fact that anyone suggests this shows they are utterly non-serious about the issue of ethics in reviews.

So yeah.  This little ‘scandal’ pretty much establishes further that #Gamergate has not a clue about what journalistic integrity actually means, and that at the end of the day, the movement is about silencing opinions that happens to differ from theirs.  I continue to find this one of the most insidious and odious part of the movements.

And I say this as someone who may buy a Wii U solely for this game, because God Damn do I love me some Bayonetta.

52 Comments

  1. Allan Schumacher

    October 16, 2014 at 4:07 am

    I agree. I’m no fan of game scores in general, but I’m not really affected if a person has an opinion that differs from others. I doubt the game’s success has been compromised, and one thing I *liked* about something like this is seeing other women basically demonstrate “Us feminists can have different points of view.”

    Leigh Alexander finds Bayonetta Empowering. Anita Sarkeesian finds the design problematic. And that’s okay and the world will keep on spinning.

  2. Honestly, if anyone actually read the review and likes shit tons of fanservice and stripper-pole scenes, they’ll be MORE likely to buy the game.

    Yeah, this necessarily affects the Metacritic composite, but I’ve got a trump card in this equation.

    THIS IS A WII U GAME. EXCLUSIVE, PUBLISHED BY NINTENDO. HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW WHO ACTUALLY OWNS OR PLANS TO OWN A WII U?

    And Damion says he’s going to buy a Wii U just for this. Well, la di frickin’ da. Nintendo probably hopes he’s not the only one.

    • You know that WII U sales aren’t as bad as you say they are, you’re so uninformed. It surpassed Xbox One with 7.3 Million copies or more as we speak, and ONE Exclusive title boosted it to surpass the Xbone and that’s Mario Kart, Imagine what Bayonetta 2 can do with the highest critic score to date on the next gen console (Excluding Last of Us). Don’t even mention Super Smash to that. Bayonetta was a great game, not for it’s fanservice which is more funny than anything else because it’s that much ridiculous, but for it’s gameplay which is so much better than any hack n slash game out there for sure. The second one will be just greater, so if you don’t like it without even touching it, don’t buy it then and stop complaining about it.

      • “so if you don’t like it without even touching it, don’t buy it then and stop complaining about it.”

        I didn’t see Damion do this at all. Are you sure you read the article he posted, or did you read something else, perhaps something you imagined, and then accidentally click to reply to it here?

      • Yes. Congratulations to the Wii U for surpassing the next-lowest selling console on the market with a full year of lead time. Truly, an amazing debut.

        And before you troll *me*, let me just say that the consoles I’ve purchased in the past decade — a GameCube and Wii — were both Nintendo consoles. That doesn’t make the Wii U any less of a turd or failed opportunity. Nintendo moved early and had a chance to define a critical niche for themselves. They bet they could hit gold with a tablet controller the way they did with the motion controls on the Wii.

        They failed.

        That doesn’t make the Wii U a bad console. It *does* mean that the Wii U will never occupy the monstrous sales position that the Wii held for years. Nor will MS and Sony be falling over themselves to bring their own controller peripherals to market because Nintendo did something everybody else wanted to copy.

        • One thing GG / antiGG needs more of is console warz!

        • There was a really nice piece by Daniel Cook some years back, looking at the role of innovation in Nintendo’s approach to hardware design and their business model.

          The problem with tying your business to constant innovation, though, is that sometimes you miss. The Wii U was a miss. 🙂 I’m hoping that their next console is more successful. I can imagine a games market without Nintendo, but I’d rather not.

    • Look at this dumbass and his to bit comments. This game is gonna do great. You can sit on the sidelines and watch.

  3. IMHO there is a definite need for a big, well known and connected game news site that offers game critics from viewpoints different from the social-progressive-left angle. However, trying to boycott a site with an established line of thought to change it looks to me like solving the issue with a destructive solution, trying to destroy value instead of adding it.

    I don’t see a reason why another, new, rising news site couldn’t offer a Conservative, Libertarian, hell, even a National Socialist leaning review of the content and spirit of games. I think many of the actual disconfort amongst gamers, who fuel the gross of the ranks of the hashtag has to do with the dissonance between the political leaning of the majority of the game journalists and the diversity of political stances of gamers themselves.

    Such a site could offer a way to vent that disconfort in a civil way, avoiding the formation of hate echo chambers or character assasination campaigns.

    • Damion Schubert

      October 16, 2014 at 4:46 am

      I think that that already exists, really. IGN and Gamespot basically have audiences that cater go the ‘classic gamer’, and their reviews tend to be more straight down the line. The recent review of Dead Rising 3 is interesting not because it was written, but in that it was written for Gamespot.

      • Well I see several currents of sentiment amongst GG-ers, some want Polygon to have the same exact review on games than other sites, some want ‘de-politicized’ (i.e. without any cultural commentary) reviews, but I think the real, poorly articulated message behind the scenes is the need for sites that provide meaningful cultural commentary and criticism of games from a viewpoint different from the leading left-feminist slant that many writers share. Like Critical Distance but for non-left-leaning gamers.

        By the way, for you who moderates online spaces this could be interesting:
        An anonymous user traces the story of #GamerGate to Internet griefer culture:
        https://pixietalksgamergate.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/gamergate-as-a-defence-of-internet-culture/

        If so, I fear that online griefers learned that organizing hate campaigns ending in harassment to woman they dislike has no consequences to the perpetrators.

        Also some people replied once here about Anita Sarkeesian being non radical, this article shows the parallels and connections between her rhetoric and McKinnan / Dworkin’s:
        http://gamesided.com/2014/09/08/sarkeesian-truth-part-1-straw-feminist-trojan-horse-censorship/

        It’s sad that the only online place that has given home to Anita’s dissenters is a movement created originally to harass a developer. But maybe if more civil dissenting spaces are created, people will flock to them instead.

        • Virtually every claim in that link is laughably, hilariously wrong.

          “First, she presents feminism as a monolith…”

          Wait. So now, in order to talk about feminist critique, we must first identify every single aspect of feminism?

          If we apply this across life, it’s going to get really difficult to write anything without a 5,000 word disclaimer on the front of it.

          “She behaves as a would-be censor,”

          Please, show me the video where Anita Sarkeesian has ever said “No one should be allowed to make or buy this game. This game is so evil, it should never be allowed to exist. All copies should be destroyed.”

          That’s censorship. That’s the behavior of a would-be censor. She’s never done it.

          “Her research suffers from non-transparency, clear confirmation bias, and an unreliance on actual scholarship.”

          Let’s break this one down. First, she’s not transparent. What form this transparency should take is unclear. What does that mean in a context where someone discusses every video game they talk about? Her criteria for choosing games? Her credentials? These have all been discussed and disclosed.

          She is a feminist researcher critiquing from a mainstream feminist perspective. When the Catholic church or the Cato Institute publish a piece discussing a social trend, they’re both engaging in scholarship and, yes, approaching from a particular viewpoint. That’s not confirmation bias. That’s doing your job.

          She can’t be both non-transparent and obviously underreliant on scholarship. Again, vague term. “Scholarship.” As defined by who?

          Fourthly, her criticisms…inaccurate or unreasonably uncharitable.”

          Inaccurate is debatable. So’s uncharitable. But neither are proven. Nor is it clear how her YouTube videos of specific game critiques suffer from “double standards.”

          “She structures her arguments so as to make them unfalsifiable.”

          Translation: “I cannot actually state the reasons I object to her without sounding like a total fucking asshole.”

          Sixthly: “Her theory of gender relations is unrealistically antagonistic.”

          Translation: “I am made uncomfortable by some of what she says.”

          Seriously. This is what you throw up as serious critique? As evidence of a supposed Dworkin – Sarkeesian link? This drivel?

          • So, we have first wave, second wave, third wave, conservative and sex-positive feminism.

            Every single one of these brands would have something different to say about Bayonetta 2. So pitching the angle that tits and ass are *always* bad, even though there are female gamers who are drawn to them, is horse shit to begin with.

            And, in fact, we have wars even between various feminist schools of thought and the LGBT community.

            Presenting feminism as a monolith pretends like feminism has a clear, agreed-upon agenda. To be honest, GamerGate is clearer about what it wants from journalists than feminism is about what it wants from society, men, or women.

    • This comment, and the original article, sums it up pretty well. Kudos.

      I mean, I understand the frustration of people who find their views challenged. Especially in places where they don’t want them to be challenged, like “harmless” game review. But nobody has the right to be insulated from diverse opinions. Internet sites are profile-creating machines. They form and cater to specific communities.

      Throughout the years, I’ve been part of numerous gaming communities – GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Destructoid – and it is truly remarkable how different and unique both their audience and their editorial policies are. This diversity is important and beautiful, and I wholeheartedly think the gaming community needs its own “Fox News” to cater to that particular crowd.

      But it’s also about the shifting cultural landscape. Notions of “social justice” have permeated people’s attitudes, and the fruits of minority-empowering movements have made possible the creation of black and female lead characters who aren’t completely stereotypes. This has led to progressives getting bolder, but also conservatives starting to fight back. When the change of pace is threatening, this sort of stuff happens. People start to argue.

      I call it a moment of awakening – NOT about some big corruption, but about the inherently political nature of ALL life, including gaming, and game journalism. Hopefully this will lead to a more rational understanding that video games are a contested part of culture, too. In understanding that, we can agree to disagree on where it should go next.

  4. I think most of the GG crowd thinks that there is something wrong with the review process and would like more transparency, See -> http://imgur.com/JSsJqgM as an example.

    There was a young woman on the Huffington Post earlier who called it corrupt, I think it’s more a matter of the process being hidden away hence it seems corrupt to which I can only agree.

    • You should totally start your own review site and don’t pay anyone to write articles, or accept review copies. You’ve got it all figured out, my man.

      • You would not agree that the practice seems shady from the outside? Damn that’s very big of you.

        • As a reviewer and journalist of the past 14 years:

          You might think that getting review hardware or software is “payment” for good coverage. It isn’t. Let me explain it like this.

          Let’s say I walk up to you and say: “I’ll give you a free video card if you write about it.” That probably seems like a pretty sweet deal, right?

          Now I say: “I will loan a video card to your website. You will have between 7-10 days to write an article in which you compare this video card to 5-7 other video cards. Because I have released new drivers, you will need to retest all your old video cards. You will need to test these 5-7 cards in 5-8 games, possibly in 2-3 different resolutions and detail settings.

          Because some of your cards are from Manufacturer A and some are from Manufacturer B, you will have to image and install a Ghosted image of Windows twice in order to ensure none of your data is corrupted by the presence of other drivers. You will need to install additional software for monitoring performance. You may need additional *hardware* depending on if you test with FCAT or FRAPS for frame time latency measuring.

          You will need to test these 5-8 games across 5-7 cards in 2-3 resolutions after installing Windows and all its myriad updates 1.5x (to account for the Ghosted image) in a 5-7 day period while performing your other newswriting and review duties. Because this work is not coordinated with other major companies, I cannot promise that we will launch within 7 days of an event from a major competitor, Intel, Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, or any other company you may also cover.”

          Game reviewing is not so very different. It’s not just about playing the game. It’s about looking for all the bugs, the oddities, the little quirks, the tests, the perks, and sinking 15-20 hours of your life into a title you might not even *like* very much, not counting the time you spend assembling assets, writing the review, talking to PR folks and the developers themselves, and getting the package whipped into shape for publication. If a game gets 20 hours of playtime, you can bet it gets 10 hours of backend work between writing the review, putting the images together, doing comparison tests, and publishing the whole thing online.

          That’s 30-35 hours of work for one game. A hardware review, if it requires significant retesting, can burn 50 or 60 hours.

          But people think that a $60 title or even a $500 video card on loan is guilt by association?

          It’s not.

          • Dammit. Above should say 5-10. It varies quite a bit. I’ve had as little as 72 hours and as much as three weeks.

          • I’m sorry you spend that long explaining something I understand fully.

            I’m saying that the review process, especially review scores, from the outside can seem shady.

            I’m not commenting on anything you or anyone does, merely how it looks from the outside.

        • Not sure how it’s shady from any perspective. Do you think that Top Gear pays for the cars they test? When they put a couple million dollars worth of sports cars on their test track, do you think they *bought* those cars?

          Book reviewers don’t buy books; publishers send them ARCs, which stands for ‘advance review copies’. Movie critics don’t pay to go see movies; they’re invited to special pre-release screenings.

          It is only through the bizarro-world lens of gamergate that this nigh-universal practice is in any way ‘shady’. It’s how reviewing is done. Why is it somehow a concern when it’s games, rather than books or movies or cars or CPUs or any other thing-that-gets-reviewed?

          • It’s not shady, I’m saying that it can easily be seen as shady from the outside when you’re not familiar with the process.

          • Then quit busybodying about it and make your own goddamned site.

        • I admit I don’t know about each site’s editorial policies, but I really don’t care. If one reviewer on one publication is allowed to make a review that breaks from the crowd, so long as that review gives the reasons why, then that in my mind means the process is MORE free and MORE transparent than it would be if everyone gave the same high scores.

    • (disclaimer: I work on the technology platform that powers Vox Media sites, including Polygon, but don’t influence editorial in any way beyond occasionally breaking the site by pushing a bad build)

      (also I loved bayonetta 1 and besides the Xenoblade sequel, bayonetta 2 is basically why I got a Wii U)

      What kind of “transparency” are you looking for?

      Are you talking about if the gave was provided for free? On Polygon’s review, they state: “Bayonetta 2 was reviewed using a “retail” download code provided by Nintendo.”

      Are you talking about more insight into exactly what a specific score means?

      In the case of Polygon , they make it extremely easy: http://www.polygon.com/pages/about-reviews

      Here is a 7 game:

      “Sevens are good games that may even have some great parts, but they also have some big “buts.” They often don’t do much with their concepts, or they have interesting concepts but don’t do much with their mechanics. They can be recommended with several caveats.”

      Here is an 8 game:

      “Eights are great games, and easily recommendable with caveats in mind. They’re examples of consistently sound design, or a novel concept well-developed around a functional core. A game that executes well enough to be remembered, even if there are better contemporaries.”

      7.5, which falls right in between the two descriptions, seems to be about right given the TEXT of Polygon’s review, wherein they say they really, really liked the game except for what the sexualization.

      As for the “corrupt” review process, that’s actually not what the women on the Huffington Post interview was talking about at all. Indeed, the women exhibit the exact same problems that Damion has mentioned in prior posts: a complete lack of understand for what reviews mean, a lack of understanding of what “ethical” means, and having this weird definition of objective as meaning “lacking opinions I don’t like” .

      Here is the part where one of the women (who the other women in the interview ultimately agreed with) talking about “the real issue” that #GamerGate is trying to solve:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtzrUsi6Y1s#t=550

      Her initial point:

      1. There is nepotism in gaming journalism, and that because of the relationship in the industry between game devs and game journalists, there might be favorable reviews that are unwarranted.

      She follows this up by talking about the Polygon review, but no in any way that actually related to her initial “the real issue” thesis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtzrUsi6Y1s#t=580

      And I’m just going to quote her now, because it’s kind of amazing:

      “But one website that happens to be involved in this collusion, docked points because they deemed it incredibly sexist. Now, this kind of thing shouldn’t be in an objective review. If you want to talk about feminism in gaming, do it on another platform. If you’re going to give a review of a game, you need to be objective, your personal ideology is not here — we don’t want to know what your personal ideology is, we just want to know if the game is good. That’s all we want to know.”

      So, several things:

      1. What happened to collusion? What does feminism in gaming and talking about it in a review have to do with the “real issue” of collusion? The author of the review has no personal relationship with Platinum Games, and most definitely did not give a favorable review.

      2. Paraphrasing: “If you’re going to give a review of a game, you need to be objective…we just want to know if the game is good.” Yeah, does not compute.

      Next, the host asks one of the other women if she agrees. This is her response:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtzrUsi6Y1s#t=775

      She repeats the corruption angle: “GamerGate is essentially about corrupt journalism. Jemma made some great points.” But then she doesn’t go into exactly what points Jemma made that were relevant to corruption, and instead proceeds to list sites that she thinks are “corrupt”, with all of the usual suspects you’d expect GamerGate to include as well as NeoGAF, which isn’t even a games journalism site.

      • I just wish that when Len Maltin wrote a review he’d explain how he came to the conclusion. There needs to be more transparency in Len Maltin’s reviews. How can a movie with great graphics like Attack of the Clones only get 2 stars? I heard Len doesn’t like horror movies, so he shouldn’t be allowed to review those. Transparency in movie reviews will help weed out the corruption in movie journalism.

  5. Nice article. Personally I find that Polygon’s review is too sex negative. It feels borderline puritanical, almost like the author is ashamed of their own sexuality. But I’m happy they wrote it none the less because it should be part of the discussion and it will help sell more copies and give Bayo 2 lots of press. Bayo needs press, the first game definitely undersold and I want to see Platinum continue to make awesome action games like this. The outrage is bizarre to me and I think people put way too much emphasis on numbers in reviews. The thing is that Polygon is very inconsistent in this regard. Maybe they are trying to be more “progressive” (although to me it feels regressive) but then if you compare other reviews that were written by them it doesn’t feel consistent. If this was a man no one would really care but for some reason a certain section of the public does not want to see a confident woman in control of her sexuality.

    On top of all this Polygon writes their review as if there is no context. There is a lot of context. First, in the original game Bayonetta kills God – who is a man – that is relevant. Also, when you play through the game almost all the men are total idiots or at less less desirable types. The women, in general, are vibrant, beautiful strong and smart… completely unlike the men. There is a definite feminist undercurrent to the entire proceedings. I really think Polygon dropped the ball by not writing about that sexuality within the context of the game. They write about it as if there is no context at all. So I appalled them for trying to bring more interesting conversation to the review system but then I’m irritated that they refuse to see the whole game in the context of what it is. It’s a nice try on their part, but it falls way short.

  6. Just Another Rando

    October 16, 2014 at 5:17 am

    So you’d be comfortable if some reviewer rated Inquisition 5/10 because it features gay romances in an attempt to pander to conservatives? I don’t get what’s so hard about the idea of leaving politics out of reviews and simply rating the product based on what it’s trying to accomplish.

    Be responsible or you’re going to end up in a world where the above is the norm. You will end up in an endlessly politicized landscape in which people can’t play and enjoy certain types of games because it doesn’t adhere to their agendas. Is this really what you as a gamer want? For our hobby to be turned into this political battlefield?

    #GamerGate is a direct consequence of this irresponsible behavior and things are only going to get worse unless something changes.

    • #gamergate is because someone’s boyfriend wrote a tell-all about her. It’s not that no one’s complained about game reviews before this, but people claimed to know how to read multiple reviews and make up their own g.d. minds.

    • I mean, yes. I read objectionable things every single day. But you know what’s kind of interesting?

      A common thing in movies is the critical bomb that is also a commercial blockbuster. This happens every year. A movie universally panned, but it also makes a ton of money because people still go watch it.

      You know why?

      Because reviews are opinions. Just because you disagree with a review doesn’t mean the game doesn’t exist, or that you can’t buy it.

      You want politics out of reviews? Simple: don’t read reviews with politics in them. If enough people also feel the same way you do, the market will adjust and that site won’t have readership.

      • you don’t like (thing)? well then don’t read (thing)! wow ur insight is invaluable. i will no longer complain about things i find questionable. but if this author doesn’t like sexualized games, why is he writing about one? i mean, if enough people felt the same way as him, the market will adjust and those games will lose their playership. your logic fucking sucks.

        • Or maybe there are plenty of different markets and everyone can have their own opinion? So the people who agree that it’s oversexualized can read the review, agree with his logic, and not buy the game, and the people who like the sexual content can read the review, disagree with his viewpoint, and buy the game.

          You just proved his entire point, congratulations.

          (P.S. I really like Bayonetta 1 and will likely be buying a Wii U for Bayonetta 2, but the backlash from this review just proves how completely out of touch #GG is.)

    • If a game features X, and it makes a person who believes Y enjoy it less, that person has every right to say so in their review. You, as the person reading that review, have the right to disregard their opinion if it’s not something you care about or agree with.

    • “So you’d be comfortable if some reviewer rated Inquisition 5/10 because it features gay romances in an attempt to pander to conservatives?”

      What do you think pander means?

      • The pandering would be from the reviewer via deduction over gay people.

        This does not make the opinion less stupid, because I haven’t seen #GamerGate raise very much stink about CAPAlert and its ilk, because “injecting politics into their reviews” is literally all they do.

    • If the site had claimed to be progressive in the past, I’d be annoyed that they gave a reviewer a platform for their homophobia. But I’d prefer that to a case where a reviewer is angered by the sexual orientation and trumps up other reasons to give a low score. But even if an openly conservative site posted reviews like that, I wouldn’t write to advertisers to boycott them, or even post angry comments on their forums. Presumably if you advertise on AntiGayGameReviews.com, you know what you’re getting into.

      Critics have the right to wear their subjectivity openly. No objective review is worth reading, because I can get a broad consensus on that stuff by following forum threads; a subjective review by someone I disagree with CAN be worth reading.

      Transparency doesn’t mean “people remove politics from their reviews.” It means they self-examine and explain where their scores are coming from. Or, here’s a crazy idea: we stop relying on score aggregating sites to judge games, and instead read what people have to say!

      • Yeah.

        Then you end up with people saying: “I really just want a quick score i can reference without reading six page of txt lol.”

        or “TLDR, what’s the score?”

        PR departments like scores. Readers like scores. Editors like scores. That’s why people use scores — stars, bars, points, percentages, etc.

    • There are a number of “Christian” review sites, that DO give caution on games that are too non-christiany. Inquisition probably won’t get reviewed because why would you have to when it’s named “Inquisition”? You can tell that the game won’t contain a single altar call without even looking. (Mass Effect 3 got a “Strong Caution”; it’s possible they didn’t like the ending, either.)

      None of the ones I’ve seen give a score out of ten, though.

  7. TBH, I’m surprised that I never hear anything from religious believers in these arguments anymore. It seems like, years ago, they had a lot to say about sex and violence in video games.

    I guess things have changed.

  8. If anyone was actually concerned about REAL ethics and REAL corruption, they would be asking Polygon to stop Buckling under AAAAAA publisher leverage and lower the score of GTAV which got a 9.5 despite having more content of this nature talked about, of far more severeness, yet didnt affect the score at all, because of WHO the game came from, Clearly going against polygons stance and impacting their integrity.

  9. Personally, I am okay with Polygon’s review because they clearly stated their reasons. I don’t think Metacritic should weight sites that use moral frames for reviews as heavily, but that’s a separate argument.

    It’s okay to have a point of view, to have a bias, as long as you’re honest about what it is. I think that moral POV should be separated from the rest of the review (inset box or separate article), but that’s an editorial decision.

    –Dave

    • Why should it be the reviewer’s responsibility to pre-digest their review that way? At best, it would simply become the “box where reviewers show off how progressive they ostensibly are without actually having the nerve to let it affect their scoring.” At worst, it would be dishonest. If I play a game that’s aggressively grating to my own beliefs, there’s no point in pretending that I can compartmentalize that. That’s not how human beings work; cognitive bias is real.

      I don’t want to see a review where ChristianGamesJourno pans “Abortion Clinic Tycoon” for “the gameplay” and then adds, in a little sidebar, that they also find it morally objectionable, just FYI. That’s what gamergate people want? “Sanitized” reviews?

      Gamers have the right to peacefully pressure publishers for any reason they want. They also have the right to stick French fries in their nostrils. Reviewers, however, have the obligation to state what they think of a game, and all that entails. And if that’s political, then so be it.

      • Like I said, it’s an editorial decision. “Objectivity” may be impossible, but impartiality is not. As a designer, I find a cultural and ideological viewpoint useful, if a reviewer says that something made them uncomfortable, that makes me sit up and pay attention: I might see a way to *use* that, explore the implications of it.

        As a player making a buy/don’t buy decision, I don’t find it useful, and I wouldn’t have much interest in sites that based their scores on such factors. But if it is a clearly stated editorial position, that’s fine.

        The problematic part comes with Metacritic and contracts that tie bonuses to their overall score, especially if more sites take up the same standard. If bewbies meant a statistical 5 point penalty on Metacritic, that is going to have exactly the kind of “soft censorship” effect that the GG crowd is worried about. The way that games are made, and even the very nature of the games themselves, could be warped by ideological critique that actually meant little to most players.

        • But what does it mean to be impartial here? Suppose someone reviews a hypothetical super-misogynistic game. This’d definitely affect the experience for a lot of players.

          Ignoring that wouldn’t be impartial. It would be, at best, taking the stance that the misogyny isn’t a factor that affects enjoyment of a game, that it’s just not worth caring about when scoring something.

          What about less severe cases of sexism? As long as it was enough to make some gamers uncomfortable, it’d be worth mentioning by at least SOME reviewers who felt that way.

          You may not call this kind of reviewing impartial, but that’s how movie and literary reviews have worked for a while! Art has to be judged in context. You could say that games aren’t art and should be judged as disposable diversions, but I don’t think you’re saying that.

          I do agree at least partly that “the problematic part comes with Metacritic and contracts that tie bonuses to their overall score,” for what it’s worth. But the solution isn’t to ask that reviewers disregard content when they score a game. The solution is to either:

          a) Use better metrics than Metacritic scores to hand out bonuses.

          or

          b) Make games with enough integrity not to scrounge for every last lousy point from every last critic.

          What gaters are demanding here is that not even ONE reviewer be allowed to dock one or two points because of a factor at least some players care about, because that factor – which would definitely make some players uncomfortable! – is political.

          If you’re worried about people pursuing some kind of ideological purity agenda in this case, better focus on the people to whom a 7.5 score from one reviewer is reason to demand advertiser pullout.

          • Addendum: That said, I don’t want to minimize the actual difficulty of dealing with publishers who use arbitrary metrics. I understand that you can’t just tell someone, “Hey, stop using Metacritic to give out bonuses, it’s a dumb way of measuring merit or long-term profit!”

            But the solution DEFINITELY isn’t to apply advertising pressure to get reviewers to change their reviewing style so as not to hurt games on Metacritic. That creates homogeneous press-release criticism.

          • …Blech.

            Looking back at that post, it comes off way more condescending than I’d meant it to.

            Let me just try to break it down as an argument. I wish I could delete that post.

            Your argument, as I understand it, is:

            * Reviewers may point out perceived sexism. This could reflect an ideological stance that many gamers don’t care about.

            I agree that this is true.

            * Those reviews could still affect a Metacritic score.

            I agree that this is true.

            * That, in turn, could cause developers to get lower Metacritic-based salary bonuses, leading to an incentive to alter their work.

            I agree that this is true.

            * Therefore, reviewers should not point out perceived sexism for ideological reasons.

            I disagree here. I would say:

            * Therefore, when handing out bonuses, it’s important to look at what the critics actually wrote. It is better to change how bonuses are handed out than to insist on ideologically pure criticism.

            There. That’s less confrontational.

  10. The problem with the Polygon review is that it fails at being a useful review.

    It says basically nothing about the game. The review could read “if you’re a prude you won’t like it, otherwise you will” without losing any meaning. It doesn’t give the reader information to draw their own conclusions.

    Imagine a SWTOR review that said “Star Wars is tripe. 7/10.” That’s a valid opinion (that’s MY opinion, I hate Star Wars!) but it’s not a good review.

    The idea that a review should be about subjective personal experience is fine but the Polygon review crosses into absurd territory where the review is much less about the game than it is about the author of the review.

    This is a common theme of Polygon reviews regarding games with risque content. (Except for big western titles like Halo 4 which get a free pass because reasons) The reviews say nothing other than that Polygon dislikes risque content – they simply aren’t useful as tools for the reader.

    Now, it’s not “unethical” or collusion or anything like that, sure. But it’s a bad review.

    On a separate note the Wii U easily has the best library of new consoles right now, so if you don’t own one you’re missing out!

    • “It says basically nothing about the game.”

      This is untrue. You should read the review again. Most of the review is actually about the gameplay. It praises “witch time”, the more forgiving difficulty curve and the weapon slotting systems. It’s just sandwiched between gripes that it’s too sexy.

  11. Love the people on twitter saying that they will buy a Wii U and Bayonetta 2 just so they can tell Nintendo that they didn’t like the Polygon review. I’d like to think that this plays out like this.

    SCENE- KYOTO, JAPAN
    THE CAMERA PANS OVER THE HEADQUARTERS OF NINTENDO

    SCENE- OFFICE

    Iwata-san: Sales in America have shot through the roof! Quickly, get Fils-Aime on the phone!
    Reggie (on phone): What’s up, chief?
    Iwata-san: My friend! Why are sales suddenly so high in America?
    Reggie: Oh, a bunch of people got mad at a review on a site called Polygon, so they bought up Wii Us in droves to complain about it.
    Iwata-san: Let me get this straight. This site upset them so they bought Wii Us.
    Reggie: That’s about it.
    Iwata-san: They went to a website and what they read made them want to buy our product.
    Reggie: Yep.
    Iwata-san: You know what I’m thinking, right?
    Reggie: DOUBLE MARKETING BUDGET FOR POLYGON?!
    Iwata-san: YES!
    Reggie reaches through the phone and gives Iwata-san a high five! Both turn toward the camera and give a thumbs up. They smile and the light reflects off of their perfect teeth with an audible ‘ting!’. Freeze frame, roll credits.

  12. I feel like I’d have a similar stance with you… but I don’t know that I would ever say anyone with any opinion has a right to exist. That doesn’t mean you kill them, that means you debate their idea and prove them wrong, convince others to not listen, or unfortunately go and shut them down from expanding or acting. I say this because I know the power of an opinion, I say this because I acknowledge the power of words.

    I don’t want to say every opinion has a right to exist even if I don’t agree with it, even though that idea of differing opinions might be something I largely celebrate, because Nazis exist, because the KKK exists, because ISIS exist, and while you sit there and say “I disagree”, implying all opinions are at equal footing (As if my opinions on Drone Strikes matter as much as the President’s), they are respectfully murdering and recruiting people in the name of their beliefs.

    Again, Free Speech is a right, we have a right to say whatever. Of course a business making an ethical practice towards its customers is probably more right to their economic bottom line, because when they get exposed for what they are… those customers often get angry, trying to shoo that anger under the carpet and making aspects of the customer being naive forgets their place as suppliers, and causes a non-stop acceleration for controversy of Toyota proportion.

    That is where the gamer gate stuff comes from, and at the end of the day, whether you agree with them or not, you kind of want those people to calm down and not be so angry at you. See, the thing about free speech is that it protects your right to make the claim, it doesn’t say anything about protecting the reactions or impressions others get from it after. So even if you can say it, it might be better to be an adult and think about what you actually want to do before one vomits words into an article that attacks a significant majority of your readers.

    Now with something trivial like a Bayonetta 2 review that seems off-center for not basing a game review off an aspect of it as a game, the context of that doesn’t matter. (Who cares, a review is just an opinion) However it feels that Polygon is craftily throwing not only this game under the bus, but Feminism under the bus, and they know it, because they are doing it for the money and attention. They already had to put out some kind of clarification for this latest stunt, I can only hope people can help them to disappear by not even bothering with that article either, (because it’s not like they have even been around for that long). They know the connotation with gamersgate being that they were already directly involved in it, let alone just being an industry topic for something they are to be experts for. They notice what is going on, and play up the anti-feminist angle to distract from their misconduct and they are doing it this time with Bayonetta to get a profit.

    Meanwhile, as they do this, knowingly trying to paint this as a feminist stance, while what he actually is representing is a conservative stance: Bayonetta does not get depowered, she does not get damseled, and even though you can argue that the angles or shots themselves, though not even explicit enough to merit an R rating in a film equivalent, are used to service perverted male thoughts, that aspect is 100% on his own sensibilities and morals. Never once does the player get the ability to strip her down into nothing and force the character into sex acts, nor does any part of the game’s narrative force such actions like other such games that have dodged this criticism. Bayonetta, despite a game character, is completely in control of her own sexuality, is an empowered woman expressing herself freely of feeling burdened by judgement of others. Even the aspect of promiscuity in the title isn’t without reason as it fits with the most traditional image of witches.

    So really, if one wants to oggle that, then that is completely on them. They are the ones jerking it in a nude beach. They are the one calling Bayonetta a slut. They are the one trying to get her to cover up because THEY personally don’t approve. That is NOT a feminist stance! To bring this message as feminist or progressive, albet indirectly, not only continues to taint the image of Feminist in the minds of gamers, but it also sends messages to young adult women that it isn’t okay to be a strong willed person like Bayonetta, that expresses herself sexually however she wants. That is not okay, that to me feels unethical in the context.

    This reviewer could have just left his opinions as a warning to readers who may be uninformed and scored it for what he really thought should represent the quality of the game, independent of such silliness, but instead he chose to throw everyone under the bus (by saying his personal beliefs are the reason for the attention grabbing score) because he knew that he was about to start a mini-firestorm that might make him an all star for at least a little while.

    However, honestly, when was the last time you agreed to a code of ethics as a consumer? Maybe a User License Agreement or at the Pharmacist on getting instructions for taking a prescription drug. The point is, don’t expect ethics out of the consumer, that is just… dumb, sorry. (Not you, but the thought of such) Double standard? Maybe, but not actually if one remembers the consumer-producer model we adapt to. One definitely can apply one to a consumer, but there is no default, one can’t expect one to be there (and really, as a producer, you are only giving one to gain consumer trust, that is why it isn’t a double standard. Business have ethics and standards to give consumers trust, while consumers give businesses trust by providing them real money, either directly through a payment, or indirectly by being an actual person counted as a view to an advertiser or bringing a hit to helping expand the potential audience of the provider).

  13. The thing I took offense to(Polygon obviously doesn’t write for me)is that 75% of the article WAS focused on oversexualization, and it came off as more agenda pushing than an actual review. I can’t see someone giving a game a 75, praising every aspect of it, but honing in on one aspect and using that to drop 25 points off a score. It’s a disagreement at the end of the day and it to me came off as more of an Op-Ed than an actual review, thus why I feel it should have been that and not an actual review. I mean it sits at a 91 on Metacritic because most reviewers looked at it as a flawless action title. I feel that if you’re going to inject some agenda to your work fine, but where’s the justification in losing 25 points because you’re upset that she dresses provocatively? I mean we can go into the loong and otherwise pointless debate of the character being designed by a woman, and you can wax poetic about Hideki Kamiya having final say thus he’s OBVIOUSLY MISOGYNIST RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE, but what good does it do? Where’s the Polygon outcry that Lara Croft was almost raped in Tomb Raider? Where’s Polygon docking 25 points off Arkham City because Catwoman dressed comic accurate and thus provocatively, in addition to the evil misogynistic bullies that called her mean names(to be fair, there was outcry but it was so ignorant it made me laugh. The rape threats weren’t rape threats, in fact the only rape threat mentioned in the game was towards Bruce Wayne in the beginning…yet no feminist is standing up for male on male rape advocation). The point is, it’s inconsistency in their agenda, and no I’m not some vocal majority for the people who found problems with B2’s review, most of them clearly took offense to the ideology. My issue is they’re woefully inconsistent and if you’re going to espouse some progressive ideology to your reviews, that are clearly frustrating to the majority, why should you be featured on an aggregate site?

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