@feenwager Definitely.

Tangentially related: Catherine is out very soon in the UK, so a lot of UK outlets have been reviewing it. Most of them have been panning it for being too hard while simultaneously complimenting it for being daring and mature with its subject matter. If I hadn’t already played the game, the text of the reviews would intrigue me enough to want to play it, but then the scores offered by some outlets (it got a 4.5 out of 10 from one place, despite a relatively complimentary review) would seem to tell an entirely different story.

It made me think a couple of things.

1) Review scores are dumb. We know this. The fact that some people are too lazy to look at anything but the score is a dumb excuse and the worst kind of pandering to the lowest common denominator. Not only that, when publishers use Metacritic and sales figures as their sole metrics of whether a game was “successful” or not, that leads to all kinds of bullshit where the making of money becomes more important than the creative work. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have our money-spinning blockbusters, but it’d be nice to see the big publishers spending some of those earnings on taking a few more risks at times. But that’s a discussion for another time.

2) Not everyone can review all games effectively. A number of reviews of Catherine completely missed the point and reviewed it as if it were something that should appeal to everyone. This, I feel, is a bigger issue to the critical part of the press today. While in the early days of gaming, you could happily say that you were “into games” and that would be the end of it — you’d play the vast majority of everything that was released because you could. Nowadays, however, I think we’ve adequately shown with even our recent discussions that it is no longer either possible or desirable to keep up with everything there is on offer. As such, why should reviewers be the same? Someone who loves Battlefield 3 is unlikely to look at Catherine in the same way as someone who appreciates the more cerebral pace of, say, visual novels like Katawa Shoujo. And a puzzle game enthusiast might look at it still differently. Similarly, a younger person may find the story plodding and cumbersome, while someone a bit older may appreciate the layers of nuance that are in there.

I’m not entirely sure how the latter issue could be resolved, but it’s seemed particularly pronounced with a few recent titles including Catherine and, oddly, Minecraft. Having been in the middle of the mainstream games press and now having taken a step back from it, it seems utterly bizarre for outlets to continue down the same road of reviewing all games by the same criteria. Not all games are equal. Not all games are going to be blockbusters. Some are always going to be niche interests played only by people in said niches. It’s been the case in other media for years; is now the time we should be looking at the diversification and segmenting of the games press? Should we start to see specialist outlets focusing exclusively on particular genres/”levels” of games? Should we start seeing the game-focused magazine equivalents of “Empire”, “SFX” and whatnot?