After this article I have a hunch we can scratch off our interview with Mitch at this year's E3!
When it comes to They Said WHAT?!? episodes we usually reserve this space for magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Die Hard Game Fan. But this month we were treated to somebody even crazier than Quartermann. I'm of course talking about Mitch Gitelman, the man responsible for Microsoft's newest first-person shooter, Shadowrun. Despite the generally positive reviews his games is receiving, Mitch decided to go on two major podcasts and bitch, moan, whine and cry about the way he is being treated. Mitch feels that the press is singling him out, being unfair to his game, and not giving him the reviews he deserves. In two different podcasts he complains, which leads me to proclaim, "He Said WHAT?!?"
There are a few things to keep in mind while reading Mitch's quotes (and my rebuttals). First and foremost, many game critics have complained that Shadowrun is a full price game ($60) that does not feature a single-player campaign. They also point out that there are only nine maps and two different game modes. As of press time Shadowrun is averaging a score of 70%, which most sites consider to be in the "good" range. These twelve quotes come from two different podcasts, one from Major Nelson and the other from OXM's podcast. Where possible we tried to retain the quotes context, however, in the case that some of the quotes are pulled out without a set up we have done our best to represent his statement in an honest way. Furthermore, if you would like to actually hear Mitch say the words we have written down then I suggest you click the media player above all of the quotes and read along. After you read this three page article I think you will agree that Mitch Gitelman has completely lost his mind!
Quote 1: Game Critic or Consumer Advocate?
Despite what it sounds like, Shadowrun is a fun game that suffers from a few flaws. That shouldn't keep you from checking it out, just don't expect it to feel fleshed out enough to warrant the full $60 asking price!
"Average review rating: 70% out of 100. Alright, well first of all that pisses me off to no end. I mean, I'm incensed about it and, yes, I read every review and my wife asks me not to because I've become a horrible husband and father after reading the one. And what's interesting is that a lot of them say the same thing: "This is a great game, OH MY GOD this is a great game - seventy, sixty, 6.5." Whatever, because of the price. A lot of them have to do with the price, and again, I don't set the damn price. So there's a value proposition there that people are talking about, I'm going to grade this lower because of the value proposition. Okay, frankly, as a consumer advocate that makes complete sense. I don't know if a reviewer is a consumer advocate, let's maybe leave that to Ralph Nader. I've said this before to one or two people, when you, when somebody reviews a movie, like Moira McDonald from the Seattle Times newspaper, y'know, it's a, y'know, a 45 minute - hour and fifteen documentary you pay seven bucks for it and they review the content. And then you get Pirates of the Caribbean, three and a half hours, you pay seven bucks for it again they review the content. Nobody says, "Well, it's not worth the money" in the review. They just review the content, the skill of the execution, the creation. So to have that knock us down in as many reviews as it has really ticks me off because they are talking about what the game isn't versus what the game is."
Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson) tries on Halo 3 masks ... and doesn't have anything bad to say about Shadowrun!
So this is how it starts, this is the very first thing that Mitch Gitelman complained about to Major Nelson (Larry Hryb). Despite the fact that there are tons of points he makes in this one diatribe, it mostly has to do with the same main issue. Let's face it, Mitch is pissed off that his game, Shadowrun, is averaging a 7.0 from most of the major video game websites. I can certainly understand; you spend years of your life working on something and you hope that everybody else loves it as much as you do. Unfortunately you never know what the reaction is going to be like, and it's understandable to be a little disappointed that your game isn't getting the high scores you feel it deserves. But at the same time there's something to be said about keeping yourself in check and letting the cards land where they may.
Mitch's main problem with the reviews is that people are taking the price into consideration. He argues that respected film critics, such as Moira McDonald of the Seattle Times, don't take price into consideration. He suggests that they rate a 45 minute long documentary the same as they would a three hour epic. While this is certainly true, he's ignoring the fact that neither of these features are $60. Around the country most theaters charge under ten dollars, and if you wait a couple of weeks you can
Perhaps Mitch should be more like Brian Robbins. Do you think that Brian cares that none of the critics liked Norbit?
usually find these movies at the second run theaters (for two or three dollars). It's true that Shadowrun will probably go down in price as well, but I don't see that happening for at least another four to six months. The difference in economics allows movie critics to have a slightly different criteria compared to their video game reviewing peers.
His argument is that the critics are complaining about what the game doesn't have, versus what it actually does have. Unfortunately that's not true, he's right that people are docking him for what the game doesn't have (mostly because the aspects of the games he's missing are standard in most other games), but they certainly do address what the game has going for it. Most of the reviews out there are conflicted, they want to like the game because it has great ideas and is a lot of fun, but at $60 it's hard to justify the purchase ... especially when compared to what you get with similar games.
The one theme you'll notice throughout this entire article is that Mitch hates people bringing up the price and feels like he's being personally attacked. He hates the fact that the game is getting scores in the 7.0 range and suggests that it hurts him personally. Certainly Mitch is entitled to his own opinion, but as we go through this list of quotes I hope to explain that what he views as attacks and unfair practices are actually people complaining about relevant problems. Whether you like the game or not, Mitch does himself a disservice by attacking the critics and comparing himself to other games that are better values.
Quote 2: Is Blender Still Around?
Knowing Blender they would probably give my full priced CD, "This CD Only Has Four Songs", five stars out of five. That seems to be how they roll!
"And a lot of [the critics] also say, "there's no single player." Like, no shit there's no single player! What did I go around telling people that there was totally single player and then bait and switch them? Since the very beginning every interview we do, every article that's written about the game, it's a multi-player only first-person shooter. Yeah, there's single player bots and stuff like that, but we didn't misrepresent anything."
Let's tackle his with an analogy. Let's say that you released a CD called "This CD Only Has For Songs." Even though you only decided to record four short songs you (or the distribution house) decide that it's a good idea to charge the full $17.99 manufacturer suggested retail price for the 16 minutes of music you painstakingly recorded. Is that a good value? Of course it isn't, especially when you compare it to any new CD put out by any number of musicians. It doesn't matter that you warned people that they are only getting four songs for your $18, the fact still remains that compared to the "standard" album your CD comes up way short.
Do you not think that Rolling Stone or Blender Magazine would ignore the lack of songs? It's not like the artist misrepresented what was on the album, it plainly states that there are only four songs on both the front and the back; you should know what you're getting yourself in for. But since it's such a bad value one has to assume that it would be mentioned (even if just in passing) by most major music critics. Sure Mitch told us that Shadowrun was going to be online-only, but that doesn't mean that it's not worth mentioning in the full write up on the game.
Quote 3: Price and Value!
Shadowrun is a fun game, but it's Gears of War that is an "amazing" game!
"So could you have gone a different route? Because all everybody looks at is the review score and sometimes they don't even read the reviews. Could you give the game a solid review going, "wow, that was amazing! 8.5 out of ten, this is one of the best games." Let the buyer beware, though, there are only nine maps in here or blah blah blah or something, reviewing the content so that people can see, wow, this is an amazingly high quality game and then putting a caveat in there saying, "however, we don't think it's worth sixty dollars." Do you think the dollar amount of the thing justifies the lowering the review score so much that people don't actually see past the number?"
To me it sounds like Mitch wants to write his own review. He seems to think that people just aren't willing to read reviews and give games with a 7.0 a chance. At least, that's what I gather from this bizarre statement that practically begs critics to go against their better judgment and give the game a great score even when it does have a number of flaws. The problem I have is that despite the fact that I review video games, most of the time I'm not actually telling the development team how to do their job. I personally don't know how to do their job, so you won't hear me telling them better ways of doing this and that. Rather, what most critics do is mention that the gameplay isn't good or that the graphics could be better ... things that any reasonable person could surmise based on playing the game. One shouldn't have to know how to program games in order to review them. And the same goes for game developers. There's no reason for Mitch to try and tell game critics how to do their job. I can understand being upset, but there is a world of difference between reviewing a game and making one.
But even beyond that, my issue with this statement is that at no time did I proclaim that this was an awesome game. He asks why we didn't just say, "Wow! That was amazing! This is one of the best games." The biggest problem with a statement like that is that I never felt that way about the game, and I have a hunch that most of my game reviewing colleagues felt the same way as me. Did most people have a good time playing Shadowrun? Of course they did, the game is an enjoyable experience full of great ideas. But just because your game is fun and has good ideas, that doesn't mean that you deserve to be raved about. We live in a world where good games come out every month, it takes a very special kind of game to be considered "amazing," and sadly Shadowrun is not that game.
Quote 4: Mitch Doesn't Read Reviews!
Video game playing cats may not need to look past the review score, but Mitch has no excuse!
"Because when I read reviews I look at the number first and then I decide whether I want to read the review at all. If it gets a seven then I don't even read the review. If it gets a five or a four I'm going to read it because it's going to be funny. And if it's an eight and a half or above I'm going to read it to see if it's for me."
One of my biggest pet peeves about the video game industry is that very few gamers actually read the full reviews written by me and other talented game critics (I even bitched about it in last week's This Week In Defunct Games podcast). So often I hear people complain about a score and then wonder why the writer thought the game was bad ... something that could be easily figured out by just reading the review. That's all you have to do, read the review and figure out why something is good or bad. We don't spend our time writing those reviews just so people will look at the score and ignore everything else.
But I digress, the fact that this is a game developer admitting that he's no better than the snot-nosed thirteen year old Pokemon fan who only looks at the score makes my heart hurt. If anybody would understand how frustrating it is to only look at the scores it's
Shadowrun isn't a "5.0" game ... Joust is!
this guy. Game developers have to put up with the same things, like people who only look at the graphics or the people that judge a game long before it actually comes out. You would think that this guy would be a little more willing to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and actually read the article before bitching ... but apparently that's not the case.
And while we're on the subject, from a writer's point of view the hardest reviews in the world to write are those that get a 5.0. That score means that the game is average in every way. It doesn't try to be anything impressive, yet it isn't one of the worst games of all time. A 5.0 doesn't mean that it's going to be a funny review, if anything it means that it's going to be a boring review because it's hard to talk about something that is unremarkable in every way. A 7.0 is still a good score, it's not an 8 or a 9, but it's still worth playing. I think the biggest problem with Mitch is that he doesn't understand how the review scores work.