"Woke" Reviewers Aren’t Giving Your Game Mediocre Reviews

Whatever you may have thought of Days Gone, it was certainly a video game. It loaded on a video game system and had many of the features most video games share. You pressed buttons when you were supposed to press buttons. There was a gruff man with a gruff past. There were zombies. Sometimes the game asked a question never before asked in any zombie story ever told: Are the humans the real bad guys here? Whoa.

But did you know that Days Gone would’ve been Game of the Year across the board if it weren’t for an army of elite woke reviewers giving it 7/10 rather than 9/10? John Garvin, the director of the game, thought so. He said the game received poor reviews from – and I swear to god this is the funniest thing – “woke reviewers who couldn’t handle a gruff white biker looking at his date’s ass.”

Of course, Garvin doesn’t work for Bend Studio anymore. The world is too oppressive a place for a victim like him to stay there, making gems to be ignored by pigs with their woke college textbooks. Or something. Fortunately, after Garvin’s brilliant explanation, the game’s developer released a statement to the effect of, “Of course we don’t agree with this stupid idiot’s moronic opinion.”

The thing is – woke reviewers aren’t giving your game mediocre scores. Let’s break this down a bit.

First of all, complaining that game reviewers don’t like your game because it featured a “gruff white” guy with a girlfriend is so fucking funny. It’s some real “you hate me because I have a girlfriend in Canada I met at camp” shit. And this isn’t limited to a man so purely and traditionally masculine that his last name is “Garvin.” There’s this idea that a shadowy cabal of media reviewers (whether it be TV, film, comics, games) are deliberately ignoring the greatness in art when the main character is a white man. Nay, they are intentionally sinking that greatness! They are the real racists here – the ones who don’t give perfect scores!

Except, look the fuck around – white guys ain’t doing too bad in games. What is Garvin even talking about? Almost every zombie action game features a white lead – often at some point having a sexy fun relationship with the (double air horn) laaaaadies! White dudes aren’t an endangered species in games. I’m sorry if being able to choose the skin color in Cyberpunk 2077 is a shock to the system or something. But literally just a week or two ago, one of the designers on Final Fantasy 16 was like, “Our lead is white – deal with it.”

Also, it’s fine to criticize a game having a cliched hero doing cliched things in a cliched way. It’s normal for a reviewer to go, “Hey, this story might’ve been more engaging if it wasn’t led by the same exact person we’ve seen again and again and again.” Let me reframe it: If your game featured the exact same combat system we’ve played since 1987, a reviewer might point that out. If your game featured the exact same sound effects we’ve heard since 1987, a reviewer might point that out. If your game contains the exact same characters we’ve seen since 1987, a reviewer might also point that out.

But let’s say your game was under siege by theoretical college students who want to use their unnatural hair colors to crush any sort of real art. Days Gone got fine reviews. It didn’t get overwhelmingly great reviews. But it was reviewed fine. People’s general reaction was, (SHRUG) “It’s alright.” That’s not how culture warriors bent on your destruction would ruin your game. If woke reviewers found your game problematic, they wouldn’t be like, “I am outraged by this white male lead! How dare they! How dare they?! I give this a B-.” They’d give it a bad review. If they were the villains against free speech you believe, they wouldn’t leave the review at “pretty good, maybe patches will help.”

I don’t doubt the fact reviewers mentioned that the lead character in Days Gone is a cliche. I also don’t doubt that some were like, “Hey, this is stupid that we’re seeing the same guy dealing with the same problems.” That’s not a full assault on your culture. Nor is it the reason that Sony – not the reviewers – put unfair sales expectations on a game that looked virtually identical on the surface to another Sony game with a far higher profile and advertising budget.

Also, my dude, “woke” reviewers aren’t the powerhouses you think they are. Do you know how little reviewers make? Sure, some who’ve been at the same website for 15 years might be putting together a decent living while in constant fear of corporate playoffs. But in all likelihood, the reviewer of your game is a freelancer making much, much less than you while very, very much hoping they enjoy a 40-hour game they’re being paid $250 to write about.

There are a thousand reasons a game might not review or sell well. Your zombie game might be buggy. It could be that the story doesn’t properly pay off. There might be a glut of great games and yours just happens to be caught in the wave. You might be releasing a zombie game after decades of zombie games and maybe there’s a new undead monster we could switch up to. But saying the game didn’t meet your expectations because of a specific subset of criticism that wasn’t reflected in the game’s scores is lazy.

Look, I get it. I’ve worked on projects that weren’t universally beloved. And I’d love to blame it on malevolent outside forces trying to crush me for who I am. But, in reality, it was just often that what I was making – whether I loved it or not – might not have been for everybody. Or, sometimes, I just couldn’t make the exact thing I wanted the right way on time. Those are both normal reasons for something missing expectations. Neither of them are a personal attack on me. It sucks emotionally, but none of them are personal.

I empathize with Garvin. It sucks to put your heart into something that doesn’t get the response you want. It can suck more to get an “eh” than a “fuck this,” because at least a “fuck this” means you’ve elicited a real emotional response. But if you’re directing a triple-A for Sony, you’re not somehow an oppressed victim of the system if your game doesn’t get over 90 on Metacritic. Dorks.

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