The Top 7... Things we hate about modern gaming

2 – Microsoft’s abandonment of the PC

Guest entry by Evan Lahti

The PC is in the midst of a renaissance. StarCraft II is the current apex of competitive gaming and e-sports; top-grade hardware is cheap; digital distributors like Steam host insane sales several times a year; indie gems like Minecraft blossom into two-million selling sensations; mods like GoldenEye: Source wow us as passionate expressions of user-generated content.

But it’s baffling that we’re living in a world where the people that make the PC’s operating system—Microsoft—not only has a non-interest in being a platform holder and carrying the banner, but takes every opportunity it can to muck up the PC with half-hearted initiatives.

Games For Windows Live is a disaster, and it continues to be rejected by consumers and developers alike. Initially a paid service when it launched, Microsoft blundered by porting over an aesthetic, payment scheme (Microsoft Points) and functionality that mirrored (a neutered) Xbox Live. More recently, a leaked video revealed Microsoft’s one-time vision for the service to be a microtransaction-laden, avatar-driven Frankensteinian horror that only a crew of out-of-touch marketeers could’ve hatched. Today, the service continues to be plagued by connection problems, lacks dedicated server support that PC gamers demand, and sees games like Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution, Fallout: New Vegas, Kane & Lynch, and Red Faction: Armageddon abandoning GfWL as their matchmaking or DRM solution on PC.

Above: Two horrible ideas, in a single, years-late package!

Other sins: in 2009, Microsoft shuttered ACES studio (responsible for the long-running Flight Simulator series) and Ensemble Studios (creators of the acclaimed Age of Empires franchise). Prior to that, it closed FASA Studios (MechWarrior) after the developer’s final product, Shadowrun, “failed” when Microsoft launched it in the midst of the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, and with mandated cross-platform functionality that made Xbox 360 players easy targets for anyone playing with a mouse and keyboard. Halo 2 released on PC nearly three years after it did on Xbox—even then, it was used to promote Windows Vista, the only OS on which it could be played. Fable III was promised as a day-and-date release on the PC, but will be available seven months later through the Games For Windows Marketplace and—in an interesting admission of who’s taking ownership over PC gaming—Fable III will also be sold through Valve’s Steam store, the PC’s current closest thing to a platform holder.

It’s a testament to the platform’s health that the PC doesn’t need millions of marketing dollars to be successful as a gaming platform, but we can’t help but think that it would be an even better place to game if Microsoft hadn’t abandoned the PC—the gaming platform that put it on the map—like an unwanted bastard child when the company began to pursue the Xbox.

1 – The obsession with Metacritic

Metacritic does not want you to read words or contextualize opinions, or think for yourself. It has no respect for the human element of gaming, either on the side of the player or the reviewer. It wants to break down all the little quirks, idiosyncrasies, personal tastes and subtle predilections that make interactive entertainment such an eclectic personal joy, and replace them with nothing more than a cold, meaningless number. In short, Metacritic wants to make you and your game-buying decisions stupid.

It’s the seething epitome of that idiotic “screw the review, just look at the score” mentality that proliferates through the gaming community. Not only does it put the emphasis even further upon what is only ever, let’s face it, an arbitrary subjective number used to support however many hundred words of insight and context, it utterly devalues that insight on a grand scale.

Every score (if placed by a competent and talented reviewer) has a whole stack of carefully reconciled pros, cons, nuances and niggles, deftly argued and appraised, sitting right behind it. In Metacritic’s world though, you can fuck that shit. Every opinion is grouped together into one big voiceless, homogenized mass, reasoning and perspectives be damned, behind one big dubious number made up by a primary-school-basic maths equation.

Of course Metacritic will tell you it weights review scores based on publication relevance when calculating its over-simplified mathematical appraisal, but doesn’t doing that make a mockery of its own review-averaging system, given that doing so openly admits all reviews are not created equal? And when you then consider that Metacritic converts non-percentage-scored reviews (and even those without scores) to numbers of its own choosing, it’s just plain hilarious. And rather disturbing. Who the hell’s opinion is really reflected in these numbers, once they’ve gone through the Metacritic mangle?

And worst of all? Most dangerously, damningly, hatefully of all, Metacritic makes it easier than ever for the unimaginative, non-creative corporate bean-counters of the world to stick their oar into the developmental greenlighting process. Metacritic, you see, makes it painfully simple for them to appraise things in the language they understand. Basic, isolated numbers, given a sense of officialdom and a falsely definitive aura based on a woolly, lumpen, shoehorned mechanism that serves no-one well, reviewer, developer or gamer. But those guys love numbers, so they view the Metascore as the word of God. But they’re wrong.

The solution? Screw Metacritic. Just find writers you trust, read their words, and decide how those words relate to you. Numbers are just the garnish.

Apr 25, 2011

The Top 7… Hated habits of the mainstream media
See how videogames turn respectable journalists into raving lunatics


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Hardware problems, games crashing and systems on fire


Games we once loved but now hate
So much for nostalgia – the more time passes, the more these suck

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  • coltsfanca - December 5, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    I hope Bethesda is reading this...especially the "broken games" section. I just got Skyrim and have already had plenty of PS3 lockups to go around. Hopefully patch 1.3 will solve a lot of the issues...but most of us had the same hope for 1.2 and that didn't go so well.
  • DreamWeaverPL - May 9, 2011 6:28 p.m.

    Best article I've read here in a very long time!
  • crumbdunky - May 3, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    I've ALWAYS hated devs letting games go into the public realm unfinished just so we can PAY for the honour of doing their bloody QA and online beta testing for them(BETHESDA-you lead the world in this SHIT. Hope the new engine for Skyrim rids us of game breaking bugs many of which you bastards NEVER even patch anyway!!)-and it's getting more and more prevalent on console and PC. The nadir came with Blops in my eyes. We basically got the same damn game they'd released the three previous years yet it still doesn't work on PS3 and PC and barel on it's(Acti's) chum the 360. We get ever briefer and sillier SP campaigns that may or may not be there ONLY to differentiate between yearly releases and the only change to MP is that it gets less well balanced and has more bugs EVERY year post COD4. Which leads to the sickest joke of all-in 2011 NO COD game has dedicated servers on ANY console. If Sony can get it right in 2007 on the fledgling PSN with Warhawk why the hell can't the universe's biggest FPS franchise? Is it the insistence on wasting everything saved on testing on effing marketing and court cases with the former talent? Christ, i don't even PLAY COD these days and STILL the lack of proper servers on HD consoles makes me think how little respect the industry gives legit gamers. We get that they hate piracy(I do too-I'm a musician FFS and it steals from my kids mouths)but the way round it shouldn't be hammering those poor souls who DO buy the games with untested games, draconian DRM and creaky P2P servers in 2011. Add in the idiocy of timed exclusivity-which reached it's own blackspot when MS supposedly paid for a WEEK of exclusive access to a RE5 demo!!!!!-stupidly extended dev cycles and marketing budgets DOUBLING development and R&Dbeudgets for AAA games and there's a lot TO hate right now. And then we have gamers idiotic enough to campaign for more rights for hakcres when the ONLY predictable end result of hacking a platform is sodding iracy. It's sad that the gaming industry could change all this by includinhg gamers rather than making us legit gamers PAY for the sins of the pirates cos it makes the industry look AS BAD as the pirates we'd otherwise root out for them by making it totally socially unacceptable among gamers to pirate games. Keep making us pay for testing, unfinished games and P2P BS and you give the pirates EVERY justification to get us to turn a blind eye. Show you care and we might too-you know us? the people who pay ALL your effing wages and keep Cliffy in skinny Ts and Jaffe in "vidicle" audiences. Whoa, all that and I didn't even start on Kotick personally!! I must be getting too little hate.
  • TriforcePlayer - May 1, 2011 4:16 a.m.

    Unlike Portal 2, Dragon Age 2 deserved the user scores it got.
  • rxb - April 29, 2011 12:05 p.m.

    #3 and #1 annoy me the most. Totally agree these things are ruining our industry. I think a bonus entry should be made for shameless abuse of DLC.
  • lordlundar - April 28, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    "Just find writers you trust, read their words, and decide how those words relate to you." Which is why I never look at the PS/360Radar's (oops! sorry, I meant GamesRadar, silly little Freudian slip there) reviews.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - September 20, 2011 9:55 a.m.

  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - April 28, 2011 2:46 p.m.

    My No.1 is "quirky" games that the media who go on and on about. Portal, Limbo, Heavy Rain, Brutal Legend, Braid are examples.
  • oni - April 27, 2011 7:36 p.m.

    I've tried to avoid it but this year I finally bought a GFWL game. I didn't encounter any of the problems that PC gamer have constantly rant about in it's magazines over the years. But 1 thing did irked me : I was brought to an X Box live page when I was registering for the first time. Talk about total abandonment of the PC. It's strange and looked very lazy on M'soft's part. They couldn't even make a decent web page for GFWL.
  • Polarzombies - April 27, 2011 5:43 a.m.

    Games For Windows Live is probably the worst pc gaming client. I bought GTA IV from steam and all its DLC for $10 and I can't play any ofit because GFWL will never. work !
  • Eliath - April 27, 2011 12:41 a.m.

    The only reason I go to Metacritic is to point out that Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn for the PC is still the best rated RPG of all time according to Metacritic. I compare every RPG to BG2:SoA, and I probably always will. I actually played it again this winter, and it still looks and plays great. I agree wholeheartedly with everything on this top 7. I love to hate during hate week. As to the people calling the folks at GamesRadar hypocrites, you do realize GR is a business, right? There are readers of GR, as evidenced in a few comments, that would be upset at not having a number the can scan to make a decision. Even if every journalist decided they didn't want to score a game at the end, do you think their management would agree to it? Do you think they like having to give games scores? Just look at the Halo: Reach score and the comments for every game that scored a 9 or better after it came out. Plus, I assume the GR folks take pride in their work. Do you really think they like to know people just click on their article for a number at the end or to read headlines? Numbers mean jack unless you know the author behind it. GR is probably one of the few sites that I can read a number and make a judgement on it unless it was done by a freelancer. I know the Chris Antista is a rabid Disney nut, so I knew Epic Mickey would receive a good score unless it really pissed him off. I love Disney so I knew that if it scored well I would like it. Even though I can just look at the number I still read almost every article every day dating back for over 3 years now because the writing is extremely entertaining to me. In fact my wife and I look through the articles every day when I get home from work. It's an evening ritual at our house. If you think I'm sucking up to GR that's fine. All I would say is I hate you, and if anyone from GR ever ends up in the videogame capital of the world Ottumwa, Iowa, then we need to grab a beer together and play some games.
  • trinidadbermudez - April 27, 2011 12:11 a.m.

    @TheRandomFoo Thank you! I'm sick of hearing how every game is "viseral" and "epic."
  • Twizinator - April 26, 2011 10:42 p.m.

    Now that i think about it, I don't think I've ever been to Metacritic... suprises me a bit. If it is a game I care about i read the WHOLE review. sometimes if I am suprised about the ruling, I will ask around my friends and Google the game reviews. Sometimes I greatly enjoy a game that other people (not strictly reviewers) absolutely HATE (cough-Halo or CoD-cough)
  • e1337prodigy - April 26, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    wow, completely agree. especially number 2. As for the metacritic one, i only go on there when GR haven't reviewed a game yet (as i find your reviews more to my liking).
  • Romination - April 26, 2011 9:47 p.m.

    Are you kidding? Still getting down on Nintendo and "IF ONLY IT WAS HD"? I didn't know it was still 2008.
  • profile0000 - April 26, 2011 9:03 p.m.

    Look, when researching a game, I will read a couple of reviews. If I want to know what the critics generally thought about a specfic game, then I check out Metacritic. I don't care if it isn't 100% perfect in averages or is shit at making them, it just gives me a little idea on what reviewers gave a game altogether. That doesn't sway my opinions or purchase, but it is a good way to get an idea about whether a game was reviewed highly or not, not to mention it is a great source for links to several reviews. Excellent article too. Love the Hate Week...
  • rabidpotatochip - April 26, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    My Metacritic: wait until the game's been out a few months and read user reviews. Obviously I love GR, I use them to figure out what to put on my radar, but I don't buy anything until I hear it's good from people whose paycheck doesn't come from writing reviews. No offense intended, I <3 GR.
  • TanookiMan - April 26, 2011 6:20 p.m.

    The last paragraph of this article is exactly why I keep coming back to gamesradar: writers I trust with words that relate to me. Chris Antista and firing a nuclear device in superman's ass?..... I might be in trouble.
  • DryvBy - April 26, 2011 5:22 p.m.

    You forgot incomplete games that are only complete via expensive DLC when previously, developers released DLC for free. The way DLC SHOULD have worked should have been like the glory days of the PC. Duke Nukem 3D launches. You want a completely new game with it? Expansion pack time!
  • Fuzunga - April 26, 2011 3:33 p.m.

    So... are you going to stop giving review scores? Because you're being pretty hypocritical right now.