Sim City Has Shown Me That Reviews Don’t Work, So I’m Not Writing Them Anymore

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Depending on whom you ask or what review you read buying the new SimCity through Origin is either a completely normal and fun gaming experience or a sign of the end of times (Thanks Reddit!). I know everyone is entitled to their opinion and that differing opinions and critiques can often be good for the game industry, but these days I can’t tell if reviews are actually honest or are just written as reactions to what people already want to hear in order to increase the amount of people who come to a site. Kotaku even wrote not one but two “Sim City Doesn’t Work” posts in two days while also managing to write another piece to give players tips when playing the game.

It just seems like one gigantic mess; there are reviews for people who like the game and articles for those who don’t. To me this isn’t actual coverage, but pandering to those who have already formed an opinion as to whether or not they will buy the game. What about when someone like me just wants an honest review of the game before they buy it?

I haven’t bought the game; I’m thinking about it, but I’m waiting for the dust to settle before I make a decision. See, I don’t think of myself as a game journalist, I’m just a normal guy who was given the privilege to write about games once a week. I don’t get paid and I don’t receive games for free, so when it comes to deciding whether or not to buy a game I make my decisions just like everybody else; by reading reviews, watching gameplay videos, and listening to my friends. I knew there would be blowback regarding EA’s online-only policy with SimCity, but I figured I would be able to sift through all of the pitchforks to figure out whether or not the actual game, and not just their business model, was for me. I was wrong.

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Bandwagon or truth? I can’t tell. 

To me all reviews are inherently flawed. Many publications receive games before release which means they aren’t actually playing the same game the rest of us will, especially if they’re playing a multiplayer or online game where the servers aren’t crammed full of people who just bought the game. Of course a game won’t lag when there are only 1,000 people online in the world; I want to know what it’s like under normal circumstances.

What about those who get the game for free? How can a person honestly say a game is worth $60 when they actually paid nothing? In my opinion, if a game is free you always get your money’s worth.

Then there’s the elephant in the room; the online-only connection. I get why everyone tends to hate it, but I also don’t get why everyone is so mad about it. It seems that people feel entitled that a game should not only be released, but released in a way they want. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck, especially if your connection is crummy, but it’s not as if it’s a surprise. Anyone who purchases an online game does so knowing full well that this is how it works and that there may be connection issues. If you didn’t want to risk the problems associated with an online game you shouldn’t have bought an online game. You may disagree with the business model, but don’t feign outrage when you bought exactly what you paid for.  I’ve never played an online game that doesn’t have connection issues, especially on the first day. That doesn’t mean the game itself is bad.

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That’s really my point; mixed into all of these reviews about SimCity is commentary, not about the game, but about the game’s business model. EA’s business model, love it or hate it, has little bearing as to whether or not the actual game is any good. If a person logs on with no problem then the whole online-only argument is almost moot, yet if there is a problem and a person can’t log on, it’s not the game that’s a problem, it’s the business model. I’m a big boy, I understand the risk of buying an online-only game and I don’t need some reviewer to explain it to me, I just want to know if the game itself is any good and I’ll be the one to decide whether or not to take the risk.

But I’m not some omniscient game writer, I’m just a normal guy and just as guilty as the rest. I’ve written reviews for this site in the past, but despite my best efforts I can’t honestly say whether or not my opinions are genuine or are just a reaction to the pre-launch hype or post-launch bandwagons. Every reviewer likes to be the one person to disagree with everyone else, even if it’s just for the attention. Maybe a writer wants to bring an overly-hyped game down a peg or maybe they want to focus on the good parts no one seems to be mentioning; you never really know.

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I’d be pissed about downtime too if I just wanted to play Single player, but that was a known risk when buying it

Because of this I’ll probably stop writing “reviews” for this site and call them what they are; recommendations. I only have this one article a week and there’s no point in just writing about a game because everyone else is. I play lots of games, but I usually only write about the ones I really enjoy, that’s not a review it’s more like a heads-up. From now on when I play a game I enjoy, I’m just going to give you all a heads-up and stop pretending that I’m capable of giving an unbiased opinion. All opinions are biased, that’s why they’re called opinions.

About five minutes ago, in the middle of writing this, a buddy of mine messaged me and told me I need to buy SimCity, and that so far, in his words, “it’s amazing.”  I asked him about all that I’ve read, “What if I can’t play it, what if it doesn’t work?” He just said, “I don’t know, it works for me and I like it.” So far it’s the most honest review of the game I’ve read.

18 Comments

  1. InspectorSpacetime March 7, 2013
  2. gmx March 7, 2013
  3. shri March 7, 2013
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    • Paul Tassi March 7, 2013
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  13. bmw801ts March 17, 2013
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