Friday, 21 October 2011

"No Hard Feelings" - Insomniac are Classy Gentlemen (and women)

In a day and age where publishers and gamers alike are often quick to complain about not only negative scores, but scores that are less positive than what they'd have liked Insomniac proves that it's possible to take one on the chin and stay classy. Pretty simple when you don't whine like a bitch I guess.

Well first of all let me say that it's good to be back after that short break. Managed to recharge my batteries a little. Looking around for something to share with you all my happiness only increased when I saw something that might as well be the endangered species of the video game review world, or even a minor miracle.

That's right, I saw a company respond to a negative review with aplomb and maturity. I probably sound a bit strange talking about these people like a parent, but even from my minuscule position as a personal blog writer I can't help but be proud of how everyone (something that I will not be stressing enough during this entire article) handled this situation and carried themselves.

It's too often that we hear about things like the infamous 8.8 Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess review, the firing of reviewers over bad scores, companies threatening the blackball either discreetly or overtly as with the Redner Duke Nukem controversy that I covered in one of my first articles when I started a couple of months ago. It's way too easy it seems, for people to blow things way out of proportion, but in this case, this beautiful case, we see the exact opposite happening, and it does my heart good.

To set the table, a bit must be said about Jim Sterling: for those that don't watch his video series or read destructoid, basically what you need to know about Jim is that he's often a fairly contentious voice in the industry, never shying away from his assertions even when they make people froth at the mouth and always quick to point out stupid shit when and where he sees it. The thing is though, is that he is a solid game journalist, and that really shines forth the most when he reviews: in his original review of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One he does give the game an overall score of four out of ten; hardly solid or even passable considering the pedigree of the series. Jim -- while no doubt sometimes snarky -- gives solid reasoning as to why the game scored as it did; outlining problems like the camera, the lack of ammo, and greater issues like the price point and the overall length and scope of the game. He concludes that this would have been a little more forgivable as a $15 PSN game, not a $60 full scale release.

Insomniac knew that a lot of people would be seeing this review, but their reaction is something I believe that should be emulated as much as possible: "It's bound to happen at some point," said the studio during our exchange. "No hard feelings. You backed up [the] score with your thoughts."

That's what they told Jim. A game company whose game he'd just trashed told this gaming journalist that his review was fair. Although I'm certain Hell didn't freeze over, I think the temperature will be a few degrees lower for at least a couple of days. Jim sums it up well himself, stating:

"By no means is this an endorsement of the review by Insomniac. Nobody likes getting slammed by the critics, and Insomniac is certainly not pleased with what I wrote. Did it get upset, demand a rewrite, or complain about the score? I received nothing of the sort. Not from Insomniac, nor from Sony -- a publisher that has always treated me with respect and friendliness, despite the litany of criticisms I've written about the company before (and still stand by, I might add)."

As happy as this has made me, I can't help but feel that it's bittersweet that it's only the fact that this is so far out of the norm that makes it newsworthy. We've all seen the mindless fanboyism, the ranting about games that "should be" getting perfect scores, even though a perfect score should symbolize a rare pinnacle for a game to ascend to. I mentioned earlier and will doubtless mention again the pressure that developers likely ply onto journalists in order to keep reviews favourable, leveraging review copies and advertising for good scores. I'm also by no means saying that a company should go out of its way to say "it's fine" when a review is unjustified or clearly trolling. In this case Insomniac made it clear that they knew that Jim had backed himself up with actual arguments, rather than just going "this sucks and I hate it", which is a very important distinction.

I want desperately, more than anything else, for this to NOT become an isolated incident. Insomniac has done a good job simply by not acting like a spoiled child, I can only hope that other studios, developers, and yes, gamers themselves, can learn from this lesson, and do likewise.

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