I’ve been noticing more and more recently that there’s a group of people that believe that a game shouldn’t be judged by the quality, sales figures, critical scores, or really any other widely used metric normally applied to the judgement and comparison of games. Instead they believe the only thing that matters is the amount of people that worked on a project and by extension, the amount of work put in. I even got into an argument with one of these people on Twitter (of course).
This is an odd, nonsensical point of view that has no place in reality. Especially not the highly competitive, very crowded entertainment sector known as the gaming industry. Judging a game, or really anything, strictly by the amount of work put in makes no sense. No one does that in any other field. They can spend years and millions of dollars making a movie, but that doesn’t make it good (glances at Suicide Squad). It has to actually be good. What if you walked into a restaurant and ordered a steak. Then the waiter brought you a cold, under cooked piece of meat smothered in ketchup with rotten vegetables to go with it, but when he served you he said 10 people worked on this over the course of 5 hours. That wouldn’t suddenly make you appreciate the steak more, or at all. If anything that would make you even more unhappy with it because it means an entire team of people did a shitty job and no one said or did anything to fix it. Just because a lot of effort is put into something doesn’t reflect the quality of the finished product or, more importantly, the value of that finished product.
We have a very rigorous and competitive system for critiquing games. We have Metacritic, professional reviews, amateur reviews, opening week sales figures, total sales figures, and game awards shows just to name some of them. There are so many techniques used today in order to figure out the quality and value of a game and arguably we still haven’t quite figured it out. But no one with half a brain actually cares how much effort is put into it in a vacuum. People care about the final product. Many games take a long time to make, but that doesn’t mean they end up good. Remember Mass Effect: Andromeda? And let’s be completely honest, The Last Guardian was good, but it wasn’t 10 years of development across three gens good. And really the less time and staff it takes to make a game, the more impressive it is, both for the consumers and the publishers. So why would we ever use the amount of staff and work that went into a game as the means of judging its actual value? Paper value for investors sure. That makes sense. But actual consumer value? That would only hurt consumers in both the long and short run.
I had a guy argue with me about Battleborn. Battleborn is an average at best game. It reviewed at a six to low seven. It did not sell well. It did not last long. It didn’t win any notable awards. The servers were quickly dead. And yes it did have to compete with Overwatch, even though the developers said it wasn’t trying to, but that excuses nothing. If it was good, people would have played it instead of Overwatch. By all counts it was a bad game. But some guy tried to argue with me that none of those things matter. All that matters is that a team of people worked on it and because they worked hard, supposedly since we have no way to actually prove that, it should be respected alongside any other game like Horizon Zero Dawn, Monster Hunter World, or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That’s some of the most ridiculous bullshit I’ve ever heard.
People don’t even get judged solely on their effort. You can work your ass off at just about any job. You’ll still be judged on the quality of your work product and output. No employer will allow you to do a terrible job and keep your job just because you always show up on time and work hard while you’re there. That’s not reality. And really I can’t even believe I had to take the time to write a blog post about such an obvious fact of life. And I wasn’t going to till I saw this same faulty line of reasoning show up in multiple places in references to multiple terrible games. And I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again soon in reference to Sea of Thieves as well.
Imagine a world where all games are considered equal. A world where The Last of Us, Neverdead, Super Mario Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Mighty No. 9 are all treated equally within the market. It would be chaos for consumers. Games would cost way more than they already do. The quality of product would be severely lacking. Esports would be more of a joke than it already is because they’d be featuring terrible games. There is absolutely no sense in judging a game based on the work put in. Especially if it’s not a small indie game made by a kid in his basement. The amount of work and time in no way reflects the quality of the final product. And we as consumers shouldn’t allow developers and publishers to even try to value games that way, even though they already try to. Because if we do, every game will end up being No Man’s Sky . . . pre-patches.