Monday, December 27, 2010

Our New Mission Statement

You may have seen that our new mission statement is “Analysis without the hype cycle.” You may wonder what we mean by that. Here’s the explanation.

You may remember this article, where I talked about the problems plaguing game reviews. One of the problems with game reviews and reviewers is this: They’re too close to the industry. They depend on exclusives and advertising from the industry to fuel their own traffic and give them something to write about.

I’m not saying this in a conspiratorial, us-versus-them manner. It’s the God’s honest truth. For example, looking at IGN right at this instant, there are ads for Mafia II from Direct2Drive, Adventure Quest, Tron Evolution, and OnLive. Gamespot is skinned with Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Maple Story, Kinect Joy Ride, and EA’s iPhone games.

I’m not criticizing these publications by any means. I mean, it makes sense to advertise games on a gaming website. A lot of journalists are great, fine, upstanding individuals and I would never state that their journalistic credibility is suspect. But when your salary is literally paid for by the companies that you sometimes need to tell people to avoid, it adds an extra dimension to your already-taxing job.

However, that’s not where the largest part of where game journalism fails, since most reviewers try and be honest. It’s actually a little bit deeper of a problem.

Above all else, what does every gaming company wan? They want you to buy the latest game, system or accessory that they’re producing. If you stop buying their products, they’ll go out of business. If they go out of business, the game sites and magazines close up too. So what’s a game site to do?

You’ll notice that a lot of game sites focus on what’s coming up, what’s new and what the best games are of this year. They don’t spend much time looking into the past or putting games in historical context. They also have a tendency to hyperbolize newer games at the expense of older ones. Every new game is one of the Best Ever, so you can throw out your old copies of game X, or, even better, trade them in.

It seems that a lot of the sites get involved in the hype cycle, which is kind of like this:

1. “What game is next?”
2. “Ooh, can’t wait for this new game!”
3. “It’s out! Quick play it!”
4. “Good, huh?”
5. “What game is next?”
6. Go to step 2.

Once again, I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not saying that all game reviewers are immoral and purposely trying to get you to waste your money. However, with all sorts of sites all around the globe talking about what’s new and coming up next, very few discuss what’s happened and how it matters to what’s going on today.

There’s a problem with this approach. One, many games are meant to be savored and enjoyed. If you blast through them without glancing to your left and right every once in a while, you miss out on some really cool stuff.

Two, the only people that can legitimately keep up with this approach are teenagers or adults with no responsibilities. As you get older and approach middle age, like most of the gaming audience is doing, you can’t keep up. You end up in a very frustrating position while the rest of the world passes you by and your backlog mounts.

Three, it creates an economic strain and beefs up the power of places like Gamestop. In order to keep up, you have to sell Game X that you just finished QUICKLY before it loses value, and eBay and Glyde take too long. Gamestop’s just down the street and they’ll give you something for it. Go! Go! Go!

Downwards Compatible has always been about avoiding the games that are hyped out of control and focusing on what’s enjoyable to play right now. We’ve never formally made it our mission statement, though, and that’s what we’re doing today.

Downwards Compatible: Analysis without the hype cycle.

It means that you’ll be able to talk about what’s already come out instead of what’s coming out. We’ll focus on new technologies, sure. We’ll talk about interesting things that we see happening in the world of gaming, most definitely. However, we’re not going to go chasing after rainbows and trying to find that elusive game that will somehow make us happy. We’re going to take our time, chew thoroughly games that we like, and figure out why we like them.

Hopefully, you’ll stick along with us for the ride. Thanks for reading.

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