Garry’s Incident – Bad Reviews Happen (Opinion)
Recently, TotalBiscuit (The Cynical Brit) released a video explaining why his review of a game by Wild Game Studios entitled Day One: Garry’s Incident was removed from public access. So, why is everyone so upset about one video taken down from YouTube? The answer is a simple one, and it enrages game reviewers all over the world: if it can be done to one review, it can be done to them all. Wild Game Studios isn’t the only company to do this to a game critic, and they won’t be the last – but they should be.
Most of the smaller review sites don’t even make enough to do anything other than keep their websites afloat, spending tireless hours and money from their personal pockets to feed their passion, and inform the communities they’ve come to love about the content that’s out there. Blaming monetary gain on something that is so blatantly misleading, especially when other sites have the same content up. Review codes are given to critics so they can give consumers a chance to know what they are purchasing, and unless there is an embargo, both the publisher and the reviewer have a written understanding that the content and how it’s portrayed is fair game, and any advertisements are there for the same reason TV shows, newscasts, and even radio has advertisements: so we can keep doing what we love. It’s also understood that reviewers will attempt to respect artistic licensing, review a game based on its merit, and maintain as unbiased a review as possible. Most legitimate websites and companies keep this honour system, so when that trust is broken, it hits very close to home.
Wild Game Studios has hurt themselves even more than if they had let the review slide. Now, not only have they become a poster boy for everything that is wrong with censorship of game reviews, and generated a negative image of themselves that is tenfold what one bad review would have been, but they have cut themselves off from potential customers, advertisers, and companies that would be willing to work with them in the future. Who will want the bad press associated by teaming up with them now? There is even a Change.org petition to request that Valve remove the game from Steam, which sprang from this entire incident. From Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media outlets, people online are lashing out against the game itself, telling everyone they know not to purchase the game, and nicknaming the game “Gary’s Shitty Incident”. I know this should make me feel better somehow, but it really doesn’t. It means that one more game company has crossed the line that is understood you aren’t supposed to cross, and instead of learning and growing from the experience, has caused yet another unnecessary rift between consumers and everyone in the gaming industry.
Let’s not take up arms against all game companies here. Many of the hard working people that take real pride in their work often take a bad review and use it to either better the next title, or improve upon the games they’ve already released. There have been a few game series where I have personally pointed out issues with the game, that I was happy to see patched with updates, or completely vanish as an issue in new installments to the series. When companies of any size take a genuine interest in the feedback from their fans, everybody wins. Without honest critiquing, anything can stagnate, and if you silence the bad voices and amplify the droning cheers, gamers stop trusting their critics and game companies start losing revenue.
Does it monetarily hurt a company to get a bad review? Usually, the answer is yes. But on the flipside, there are games that get such poor reviews, they’ve made more money off of people buying it just for the novelty, like QWOP. In fact, sometimes the most difficult, absurd games get their fame because they are so horrible it’s funny. And then you hear the age-old justification of “don’t make a crappy game then,” but the truth is any game being developed takes a big risk that the public will enjoy and want to spend money on their product. Something that seems like a fantastic idea can flop very easily, and even worse still, amazing ideas can get little to no recognition until the company has long been dissolved. This is yet another reason game reviewers and game companies need to work together instead of against one another, so they can produce honest material to the community, with honest representations of each game.
Can we also pause to appreciate how beautiful this video is? No, not because of TotalBiscuit’s accent (though we can all appreciate that), but because if he was working for a big game review company, he may not be around to publish the video in the first place. Posting a video of this nature is sure to cut ties with Wild Game Studios, and even one bad review makes some game developers/publishers take pause before providing a review code to the media outlet who published it ever again. Sure, freedom of speech is an option, but try having freedom of speech at a podium with two audience members as opposed to a million, and no material to draw from. This is a big reality for companies small or large, and can create a lot of need for political correctness for many who want a voice. We shouldn’t be sugar-coating our voices; we should be putting them behind a megaphone.
What makes me incredibly happy is the support and the passion flowing in from the online community. How social networking has brought us that much closer to transparency in the gaming industry, and shows everyone that those of us releasing and promoting such a major form of entertainment should be held accountable for what we say and do on the internet. People don’t like being lied to, and even if there were legitimate reasons for taking down a review, handling it this way creates severe mistrust, which sends waves of anger and hostility rippling through the entire community. Why don’t we stop trying to shove unpleasantness under the rug for once and start listening to one another? You never know, we could learn a thing or two.
In case you wanted to see this incredibly pointed video for yourself, check it out here.
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