Things I’ve Played and What I Think of Them

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

I don’t know if I ever finished all of the stuff in Forsaken when I rolled into Shadowkeep, but that’s okay. Shadowkeep adds more missions that further the Destiny 2 storyline in meaningful ways, though it does stop a bit short from really satisfying. It takes place on the moon, which is a location from the first Destiny, and reuses some of those areas in ways I found mildly triggering. I spent so much time on that moon already. Still, it’s kind of great to know pretty much exactly where everything in the old areas are. If you know what Destiny 2 is, then you probably know if you like it, and you should play Shadowkeep if you like Destiny 2. If you don’t know what Destiny 2 is, it’s free to play for a really significant amount of game that is out there, so play that first.

Tormentor X Punisher

Twin stick shooter, really bloody, everything dies in one hit. The trick is that your primary machine gun shot runs out of ammo until you use the secondary shotgun shot. It’s fairly difficult even with everything dying in one hit and bosses usually introduce some walls and obstacles in the open arena so they don’t die as quickly as everything else. Not my favorite twin stick shooter, but it’s got a lot more flavor to it than most of its competition.

Mafia III

I play Mafia III off and on for a while. It’s okay. It’s slower paced than a lot of open world games of its ilk. It looks great though, and it nails its atmosphere. I guess the thing that keeps me from spending more time with it is the fairly rote gameplay and the somewhat unsatisfying combat. I’m just not chomping at the bit to get back into it, so it becomes the game that sits on my hard drive forever because I don’t love it.

Disco Elysium

All the comparisons to Planescape: Torment are warranted. I like the tone of the game, though I find myself unable to will myself back into it because it really is a lot of walking around and reading dialog. It’s one of those games that’s an exercise in trusting that there’s a reason for all of this reading and it will eventually pay off.

Minit

It’s like Zelda except you die and restart every 60 seconds. And I kind of hate Zelda. It’s cuter than Zelda though, and the death gimmick makes me like it more than Zelda, but dying every 60 seconds just means I have an out every minute, and I end up taking it after about 5 deaths.

Distance

Distance is a driving platformer. Yes, that’s right. You drive in a mostly straight line, jump onto platforms, float onto platforms, and wall run (drive). Maybe it’s closer to an endless runner? Except it ends. It’s got a good look to it, but there’s not a lot there.

ECHO

I slowly walked around in an empty world for a half hour and I still haven’t experienced any gameplay.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2

How did they make a big battle Star Wars game that’s so boring? It’s pretty, but that’s it. The single player is an absolute slog. This is barely fun.

Untitled Goose Game

HORRIBLE GOOSE! This game is more fun in memes and fan art than it is to play. Or maybe it’s funnier with a group of people watching? But playing it alone, it’s just mildly amusing to mildly frustrating.

Criticism about Criticism

I’m mad about two separate but related things that have to do with media criticism.

A 10 Point Scale is Bullshit

The 10 point scale is terribly common and it’s also terrible. Here’s all criticism of the 10 point scale boiled down to one simple question:

What’s the difference between a 6 and a 7?

If you’re doing qualitative reviews, and nearly every media critic is doing qualitative reviews, then there’s essentially no measurable difference between two adjacent points on a scale. You get the perfect 10, which is never used, and the garbage bin 1, which is also never used, and those are your only absolutes.

The middle of the road changes depending on whether you perceive a 5 to be average or a 7 to be average. A 5 average makes the most sense strictly from a numbers point of view, but the 7 average aligns with a C grade from school, so it’s extremely hard to escape the perception that anything less than a 7 is below average. When you, or your audience, perceives a 7 to be average, then you will use far less of the lower end of the scale, because it doesn’t matter. If it’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s less than average, and your perceived average is a 7, then it doesn’t matter whether you give it a 4 or a 5. There’s no functional difference.

Since the 10 point scale sucks, we have to look at alternatives. Of the numbered options, here are the most common:

  • 2 point (up/down, yes/no)
  • 3 point (up/neutral/down)
  • 5 point (5 stars)
  • 100 point (percentage)
  • 1000 point (percentage with decimal)

I’m going to bin three of these right off the bat. 100 point and 1000 point have the same problems as a 10 point scale. If there’s nothing quantitative to differentiate between a 91 and a 92, why are you even using a 100 point scale? I’m also going to bin 2 point up/down scales too, for having the opposite problem of no nuance. Some things are just average, or they really work for a niche but no one else, and 2 point scales don’t allow for anything but good or bad. They work for probably 90% of scoring needs, but really don’t for the rest. Criticism demands a space for something other than worst or best.

This leaves three point and five point scales. Both scales escape the problem of the 7. Both scales have more nuance than up/down. Both scales have obvious differences between scores (unless you’re doing a 5 star scale and using half stars, then you’re just using a 10 point scale). I lean closer to the 5 point scale for preference, because those extra two points between best of the best and worst of the worst can save a lot of criticism from scoring everything as mediocre. But this leads to my next complaint about criticism.

No One Uses 1’s or 10’s and That’s Bullshit

Perfect and worst scores are rare on a 10 point scale. Why? Because they represent the absolute pinnacle and the absolute pit. When you have a 10 point scale, the temptation is always there to give a 9 instead of a 10 because 10 represents perfection. But nothing is perfect. 10 and 1 are essentially unattainable; reserved for the best of the best and the worst of the worst when everything is scored at a moment in time. Even if you do something like a look-back review, your score isn’t likely to increase over time. It’s more likely to decrease if anything, because you’ve got newer works to compare it to, or because it’s being looked at outside of its bubble in time.

By making 1’s and 10’s off-limits, reserved for exceptionally exceptional works, your 10 point scale becomes an 8 point scale. 2 and 9 become comfortable because they should be 1’s or 10’s but we can’t get over that need for perfection or utter failure. Now combine this with an assumed 7 average, and you end up with the IGN problem: everything great is an 8.

I’m 100% guilty here. I’ve given 9 scores to excellent games, games that should be a 10. I’ve also been reticent to give a 1 to anything I’ve finished because, hey, I finished it right? Even worse, when I’ve tried to translate 10 point scores to a 5 point system, I’ve found myself rounding down, so those 9’s became 4’s. I’ve given reviews to things I haven’t finished a 2/5 because… why? I didn’t finish it! Isn’t that a sign that something’s very wrong?

It takes some bravery to give something a 10 or a 1, but I want to see more bravery in criticism. I want to hold myself accountable to this. Great work deserves a 10. Garbage/DNF stuff deserves a 1. Mediocre things should be a 5, because a 7 average is wrong. And all scoring of media is bullshit, because it shortcuts the actual criticism and lacks nuance, but it can be better if we stop using a 10 point scale, and start using the far ends of whatever scale we’re working with.