If you’ve been keeping an eye on Adventure Rules this week then you know that I’ve been posting my answers to questions that I received as part of the Charming and Open event. Lots of talented bloggers accidentally visited my page (I mean, how else would they get here?) and for some reason decided to ask me questions so I could answer them. I took advantage of the opportunity to ask them some questions as well, and that’s the whole event in a nutshell! All of these neat folks will be posting their answers to my questions, and all December long I’ll be posting my responses to theirs.
Today’s question comes from Daniel over at True Video Games, and it’s a doozy – probably the most involved question I have been asked so far! To make sure I convey his intent clearly, I’m going to paste his wording here so you can fully understand what I’ve been asked:
Which would you choose?
You can play any game of your choosing months before before anyone else. You have exclusive rights to review it before anyone else, but you would have to dissect it piece by piece. You would have to write up the bugs and flaws of the game and, once it is released, never touch it again.
You can play any game once it is released, but you will not be allowed to give your opinion publicly towards the game. Instead, you will only be allowed to write the creators exclusively. They will take your ideas and use them, but you will never receive the credit or be mentioned.
Now THAT’s a question! As a blogger this is particularly challenging because there are pros and cons to both sides of this deal. Let’s dissect this thing one piece at a time.
THE REVIEW CODE OPTION
Option one sounds like any aspiring game journalist’s dream. Getting exclusive access to a game months in advance in order to thoroughly play the game, ruminate on your experience, and pen a review is a pretty awesome thing. Typically with reviews either you’re playing and writing on a time crunch to beat the release date, or you’re writing the review after the game is already out and you’re unlikely to draw much traffic. This scenario gives us the best of both worlds, and being the first person to review a new game – setting the standard for any expectations to come – is a very special thing.
There are clear cons here, too. While the typical expectation of a professional game review might be to explore 100% of a game in order to intelligently comment on every aspect, that’s not something I am often able to do. I’ve discussed before that I’m not a completionist because I’m not motivated to accomplish things just for the sake of doing them – if going out of my way to finish a game isn’t fun, I’m not going to do it. Having to review every single aspect of the game in detail, bugs and flaws all included, would probably push me to stress myself out in an effort to finish the game.
Then there’s the fact that you can never play the game again once you’ve reviewed it. That to me is a huge dealbreaker. There are a number of games in my life that I revisit over and over again, games from my childhood that had a huge influence on me and are still some of my favorites. I frequently replay older Zelda titles like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Wind Waker. Paper Mario and its sequel The Thousand-Year Door get regular revisits as well. Plus there are aspects of this proposition that get really tricky – does this mean I can’t return to a favorite multiplayer title to play with my friends? Does it mean I can’t return to a game that has new DLC released, or that is a remake of an older title I have played before? I may not revisit games now as much as I used to in my youth, but the ability to do so isn’t something I can just blindly give away.
THE UNKNOWN CONTRIBUTOR OPTION
The second choice I’m offered here seems pretty cruddy at first. Sure, I can play any game once it is released like normal, but I cannot publicly share my opinion of it at all. Which would basically mean saying goodbye to Adventure Rules, and probably all forms of social media since it would be very difficult for me not to talk about how I feel about video games. Why would I sacrifice my right to talk openly about a game?
That’s where things get interesting. My thoughts don’t go to the public, but they do go to the creators of the games I play. Those developers take my thoughts seriously and actually incorporate them into future decisions when making more games. That’s pretty awesome and at that point I am basically a game designer, contributing ideas to the creation of the game directly. That’s the dream, right?
There’s only one problem: I am never credited as the one behind the ideas I contribute. The developer will take and use the concepts I present but will never publicly acknowledge that I am the source. So while I’ll be making legitimate creative contributions to the development of games, I would never be recognized for my work and ultimately would fade into obscurity.
So let’s look at these ideas side by side. On the one hand, I get exclusive access to games to review them and can publicly express my thoughts from a unique platform but can only play any video game one time. On the other hand, I can make legitimate contributions to the world of game development and play games as much as I want, but I couldn’t speak publicly about games and my input would forever go unnoticed. There are distinct pros and cons to both, and things aren’t even as simple as they appear. I’m ultimately making two decisions here, decisions that would normally be unrelated but for the purposes of this question are inextricably linked.
The first decision is whether I would rather continue playing games normally, able to come back to them whenever I want, or only play them through once in exchange for special access to them. That decision, in my mind, is easy – I would never want to lock myself out of returning to an old favorite. Revisiting games from my past is something I enjoy doing and games can mean something different to you later in life than they did when you first experienced them. So that’s one point in favor of option two.
The second decision is a little more complicated. Option one gives me a great platform for expressing my views to the audience of games – other gamers. Meanwhile, option two gives me power to influence the creators of video games. So which one do I care about influencing more? While I am fascinated by game design (particular for tabletop RPGs, but that’s a totally different topic), I am more interested in navigating the world of games alongside the other people who play them. When I do a review on Adventure Rules, or write a guide, or share an opinion piece, I’m not trying to influence the developers. I write articles for gamers, the people like me who experience games as the audience rather than the “performer.” From that perspective, I would favor option one and the ability to write reviews early and influence other players’ thoughts on the game.
“That’s one vote for each option!” That’s why this is so tricky. There’s one aspect of each choice that appeals to me – no matter what I choose I have to sacrifice something that I want. Either I give up the ability to play games freely the way I want to, or I give up the ability to talk to other gamers and share my thoughts about games with them. The question then becomes, which of those is more important to me? Is revisiting old games worth silencing my voice? Is having special access to review games worth burning my bridges to those same games?
Choice of evils lie before your feet…
Ultimately, I think I am going to have to go with option one and exchange my ability to play games freely for the opportunity to review them first. I’m not so much voting FOR this option as I am voting AGAINST the other one – losing the ability to share my opinion about games is a concept I can’t really stomach. I mean, I’m a blogger. Adventure Rules exists for a reason. I love sharing my thoughts and talking to other gamers. I value the companions I have met here and enjoy talking and collaborating with them. Now if option one meant giving up video games entirely, maybe my vote would be different, but I’m only losing the ability to play video games a second time. That I can deal with a little better – there will always be another game. And in this theoretical scenario where I am getting special access to review copies of games, I’ll be so busy playing the next big thing that I realistically wouldn’t have time to go back to an old favorite. I can always relive those older games by talking to other people about their experiences.
At the end of the day, option one asks me to give up only one aspect of one of my hobbies – option two asks me to give up an entire hobby. When framed that way, to me the choice is clear.
What about you, adventurers? Where would you fall if faced with this dilemma? Let me know in the comments below and remember to check out Daniel’s blog at True Video Games to look out for his answer to my question. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!