Game journalism and The Last of Us.

Posted by durden77 (303 posts) -

I really like The Last of Us. But it's also helped continue to make me dislike gaming journalism.

I myself have ran into sound glitches, graphical glitches, and other general problems like "super gamey" parts. And even just for a bit, when a game is so strongly designed for a cinematic experience and not much else, those type of things can bring that experience to a screeching halt, and make you remember that you're playing a game.

The problem is though, I shouldn't have to remember that I'm playing a game. I want it to be a game. What I'm saying is, in a game that is very linear and that basically has one purpose, I've had a different experience than what it seems like most of the universal acclaim have had with it. But not because of me, because of the game and the way it's designed.

Games are so special, but not necessarily because of stuff like the way The Last of Us is designed, (although in certain ways, it is very special) but because of the fact that no one else will quite have the same experience you're having because you're pressing the buttons. Gameplay will always be, and should be, the true life blood of games. You don't need direction to create an immersive experience, you just need yourself in control and a game that doesn't get in the way of that, whether they use any sort of direction or not.

The Last of Us was not designed with gameplay in mind. It was designed with immersion in mind, and how to build the gameplay around that. But because of that, the game shoots itself in the foot at times because it breaks it's own illusion with the fact that it still is a video game and still has the problems of one. It's almost as if it hates that it's a game sometimes.

It's still a very awesome game, and I'm not trying to attack it. Not all games should be the same, and it strives for an ambition that not many other games have. Naughty Dog truly has done incredible things with the PS3 hardware, and It deserves a large amount of the praise it's gotten. This is about game journalism, not the game itself, and it's just depressing to see that things like super fancy graphics and gaming constantly trying to chase down and lick Hollywood's scrotum seems to make so many of these major gaming journalist blind to anything else, especially stuff that really matters.

Oh, and this is in no way targeting the Giant Bomb review. To be honest, I haven't even read it yet. I plan to after this.

#1 Posted by TheHT (11777 posts) -

I dunno duder, you say it's not the case but it really sounds like you have a problem with game design rather than games journalism.

Are you saying that the technical hiccups or the more 'gamey' parts should be weighed more heavily by journalists than what the game's trying to portray through atmosphere, story, and visuals?

#2 Posted by Oldirtybearon (4882 posts) -

@theht said:

I dunno duder, you say it's not the case but it really sounds like you have a problem with game design rather than games journalism.

Are you saying that the technical hiccups or the more 'gamey' parts should be weighed more heavily by journalists than what the game's trying to portray through atmosphere, story, and visuals?

If technical hiccups actively impede the atmosphere, story, and visuals (i.e. the point) then I absolutely believe they should weighed against the game.

#3 Posted by RE_Player1 (7526 posts) -

Opinions.

#4 Posted by JasonR86 (9726 posts) -

@msavo said:

Opinions.

Yeah. Pretty much. Fuck scores y'all. These dudes are describing their personal experiences in a way that is entertaining and informative. Take it for what it's worth. Buying advice, not gospel.

Also, how many times are we going to have this thread and am I going to have this exact same response?

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#5 Edited by durden77 (303 posts) -

@theht: Yes. That's pretty much what I'm saying. Or at least just as much so, but I myself prefer more so. And @oldirtybearon: clarified it more. Games should be judged on gameplay, and what they set out to achieve. If the game's gameplay impedes at all on what the game attempts to achieve, it should be judged just as actively, no matter how pretty it may look while it works.

I still stand by that this is against journalism though. I really love The Last of Us, but I just don't think it's right that it's flaws go almost completely unnoticed by most of the gaming media.

#6 Posted by TheHT (11777 posts) -

@theht said:

I dunno duder, you say it's not the case but it really sounds like you have a problem with game design rather than games journalism.

Are you saying that the technical hiccups or the more 'gamey' parts should be weighed more heavily by journalists than what the game's trying to portray through atmosphere, story, and visuals?

If technical hiccups actively impede the atmosphere, story, and visuals (i.e. the point) then I absolutely believe they should weighed against the game.

Absolutely they should be weighed, but how much is what I was wondering if durden77 was talking about. He starts talking about gameplay being king, but then says he's not talking about the game itself.

Maybe he's saying that games trying to be more than just games in order to garner praise from journalists is a bad thing? It's all a bit unclear.

#7 Posted by LoktarOgar (410 posts) -

It sounds to me like you're saying that the "gamey" aspect of a game cannot coexist with immersion, which I find problematic. I'm not willing to accept that it has to be one or the other. I think The Last of Us is still very much a video game in all respects, and that the immersion aspect is just something it does leagues better than most other games. If you feel a disconnect when you realize you're playing a game, doesn't that just mean that the immersive aspect is so good that you're not used to it from other games, and that it feels weird that a game can be both "gamey" and immersive? I don't think the game is so much trying to be a movie as it is trying to take that which makes movies immersive, and use that for its own purposes (and does a remarkable job of it). It sucks to hear that it was glitches that provided a "wake up call", such as it is, but I experienced no glitches. But even though that was the case and I had the problem-free experience I can only imagine reviewers were thinking about when they gave this game their 10/10, I never once thought or wished I was watching a movie instead of playing a game.

More to the point, I fail to see what your complaints have to do with journalism. Are you saying that journalists haven't paid enough attention to the gameplay aspect when reviewing TLoU? If they have, and I'm not saying that's the case, it's because even though the gameplay is fine (better than fine even, I'd say), there are other things the game does much better than the actual gameplay (such as the story telling and more than that, character building) compared to other games. I can respect that you think gameplay should come first, but that's just not the kind of game this is, or at least where it shines brightest, even though there's a whole lot of it. In that respect it's a less extreme version of The Walking Dead. Do you feel the same about that? At the end of the day, that game is also linear, and gameplay wise it doesn't have much to offer.

#8 Posted by YOU_DIED (703 posts) -

Does anyone ever actually "forget you're playing a game"? What's the difference between that and being so interested in what's happening in a book or on screen that you stop caring?

#9 Posted by TheHT (11777 posts) -

@you_died said:

Does anyone ever actually "forget you're playing a game"? What's the difference between that and being so interested in what's happening in a book or on screen that you stop caring?

If you can accept the controller as you accept turning a page or a changing scene, you can totally lose yourself as you would reading a great book or watching a great movie.

But I find it hard to believe that someone could actually forget they're playing a game, or experiencing a book or a movie. Maybe when the Oculus Rift comes out we'll be closer to that sort of physical immersion that I think is needed to actually forget.

And then we'll get holodecks, and then crippling addictions to virtual realities indiscernable from actual reality will become rampant, and then society collapses, and then at some point we block out the sun, and then the immortal Keanu Reeves saves us all.

#10 Edited by durden77 (303 posts) -

@loktarogar: That's not exactly what I meant about gameplay and immersion not being possible together. Honestly, I kind of just typed this on a whim and pasted it here. So I could've been more clear about things.

I'm saying when a game's main purpose is immersion, and does it very well, but it's gameplay hinders that in any noticeable way, it should still but judged accordingly. I don't necessarily think that gameplay should be over all, especially considering everyone's opinion on gameplay can differ wildly among many other things, but whatever gameplay the game decides to incorporate, it should be considered from just as many angles.

It's hard to incorporate gameplay and strong immersion well really, so again that's why I really didn't want this to come off as an attack on The Last of Us. The game that Naughty Dog has made really is something special, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

And of course I don't mean that I literally forget that I'm playing a game. When this game uses all this awesome atmosphere to really get me into it, but then Ellie goes through me and a bad guy while kind of poking her knife in the air for the animation to stab the bad dude in the back, it's just kind of especially harming to a game like this.

#11 Posted by LoktarOgar (410 posts) -

Okay, but then aside from not having gliches, what do you think the game might have done differently so that the gameplay doesn't hinder the immersion? Because now it mostly just sounds like you're saying "I experienced a bunch of glitches that the reviewers didn't seem to have, and that is the only thing that bothered me about the game." Jank comes with the territory of being a video game. I don't think anything is going to ever change that. If anything, as game development gets more ambitious, it's only going to get worse.

#12 Posted by Angouri (233 posts) -

Uh, so you care more for the technical parts? That's fine. Would you have taken Skyrim and raked it over the coals for being busted left and right, and downright broken on the PS3? Sounds like you would, but I still think that a large portion of gamers would agree that Skyrim is a game worth experiencing.

And that is also my opinion for the Last of Us. It is an experience worth having for its combo of atmosphere, tension and vision. I also noticed that Ellie sometimes would be dumb and run at a clicker, but I forgive and forget for moments like right after the museum fight scene. The fuck, man.

You don't want to be reminded you're playing a game: that's unfortunate, because it is a game. If the Last of Us was a 15 hour animated cut scene, it would lose that immersion. The fact that I pushed Joel through that hell, that I had to make those combat choices and those stealth choices, those are the game. The struggle with the controls and with the combat situations coupled with the story and animation is what made the game so great.

#13 Edited by MiniPato (2751 posts) -

Your point is confusing cause not every game is reviewed by everyone by the same standard. Some people will review The Last of Us based purely on gameplay and others purely on immersion, while others will weigh them equally. For instance, I find immersion completely overrated and there is never an instance where I forget that I'm playing a videogame so long as there's a HUD, ammo counter, and health meter. Animation bugs are par for the course in videogames and many of them are purposeful for the sake of gameplay. Like seeing NPC companions walk in front of dudes completely unnoticed. Would I want them to have a physical presence in relation to enemies for the sake of immersion? No, because that would fuck up my stealth approach. My first time playing through the intro, there was pop-in with the whole bar building when I turned the corner and it obviously didn't load in in time. That didn't take me out of the game cause the end of that intro still got me and I still felt like I was in a dangerous situation. Some people will bump down the game a whole letter grade for that and others will just see it as a minor hiccup. When games are as complex to make as they are these days, zero games are flawless and you just take those things are par for the course unless they break the game. Perfect scores don't mean a game is perfect, it means that it's really really great. Maybe if you're rating things on a ridiculous 100 point scale those things should matter, but not really in a 10 or 5 point scale.

I'd also disagree and say that The Last of Us is designed largely with gameplay in mind. It's trying to weave some of the gameplay mechanics into the game world, but at no point do I ever think that it's trying to pretend to be something else. Even if we were to say it was immersion first, those quirks you mention like weird animations not connecting, that's during gameplay moments where you don't really care about the fiction of the universe, you're worried about a game over and so you are always aware that it's a game during those parts. I don't know, sounds like you're forcing other people to review games based on your standard and what you think the game is trying to do. It doesn't sound like a games journalism problem, it sounds more like a differing opinions problem. For your point to apply, other people have to agree with your assessment of what the game is trying to accomplish first.

#14 Posted by warxsnake (2650 posts) -

Didnt expect this from a naughty dog game rated perfectly by 9000 reviewers, didnt even try to find stuff like this specifically, simply was backtracking in a certain area looking for loot and a big gaping hole in the level mesh shows up, breaking all immersion the game was trying to build. Still, I love the game.

Also this is more my fault, not the games fault, word of caution, dont play this game on your 27" 2560x1440 PC monitor :D

#15 Edited by audioBusting (1672 posts) -

I kinda took that from the Polygon review and GB Quick Look. A lot of reviews make it pretty clear that the gameplay isn't the main focus of The Last of Us. Metascores are supposed to be taken with a grain of salt, because not everyone is looking for the same thing. It's like comparing Starseed Pilgrim or Antichamber to Uncharted or Tomb Raider -- they are all good games in obviously different ways, so scores and general critical reaction aren't really good measures for whether we'll like it or not. (To be fair, it is pretty hard to find good video game reviews these days; I follow just a couple of sites that I trust and I still read the whole reviews before purchasing the games.)

P.S. Polygon's review of Animal Crossing scored it a 9 out of 10. And, well, it's Animal Crossing.

#16 Edited by Redbullet685 (6084 posts) -

@warxsnake: I don't know if it's just something with those screenshots but damn, that looks terrible.

More on-topic, I actually love the gameplay in The Last of Us. I think it plays very well. Sucks that you don't like it @durden77

#17 Edited by durden77 (303 posts) -

This really didn't go in the direction I thought it would. I really, really, like the Last of Us. And I think the gameplay in it is good as well. I haven't responded for so long because I've been playing it actually.

Oh well, guess it's kind of my fault. Probably should've thought a bit more before posting this. But basically I guess the just of it was this game does have faults, and I'm just not fond of the way shiny things can make certain reviewers with (I think) a certain amount of responsibility completely forget about those. I'm not trying to say it doesn't deserve the praise it's gotten, or even that there's enough problems to bring it down from it's highs, but there are certain things that most have just glossed over in all the worship.

It's not just glitches. For instance, I have picked up and moved a lot of planks and ladders. And wooden slabs in water.

But just never mind this. At this point most of you guys just think I don't like the game. Sorry if I gave off that impression, that's not what I intended. But right now, I'm enjoying the game too much keep going with this conversation that I didn't mean to start. Cool comments and such guys, but I think I'm gonna close this now.

EDIT: If I can figure out how to close it at least....oh well back to the game.

#18 Posted by fuzzypumpkin (389 posts) -

Just because a journalist gives a game a perfect score, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's perfect. That's not really possible anyways. There's always going to be some minor issues. It's more that the person felt that, minor issues aside, it was a truly special experience. I do kind of get what you're saying though. There are parts that bring the mood crashing down. Still, I would definitely say that this game would be in the mid to high 90s if I rated it on a scale of 100. I actually liked your topic also.

#19 Posted by TruthTellah (9472 posts) -

@durden77: I think some people just thought this was a rather weak criticism as far as game journalism is concerned. I mean, you kind of set yourself up with the title and focus on suggesting that there's something wrong with the praise it has gotten. You could have rather easily just written your own review after you finished the game, providing your thoughts on why it's good but not flawless. I really don't think anyone has or would suggest that the game is flawless(technically or otherwise), but I can see why you might feel that it deserves noting.

Anyway, you can PM a mod to Lock this topic if you would like. You can also edit the original post to indicate that you feel there was some misunderstanding. :)

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#20 Posted by Ares42 (2796 posts) -

Already said what I have to say about this topic in other places on this site, but yes I completely agree that immersion-factor and storytelling has become the graphic-whoring of this generation. It's sorta ironic considering a lot of the people that despise graphic-whoring is pretty much commiting the same sin in a different way. It's just not good practice to disregard flaws just because you really enjoy other parts of the game. That sort of mentality quickly means that every game is great, or rather every game that focuses on the thing you enjoy is great and everything else is bad.

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