Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's F.A.Q. Part 4: Introducing you Ho.R.G.A.S.M.

4.1 Introducing HORGASM... is it some sad joke about gamers not having enough sex?


4.2 Are you in a position to make those kind of jokes?

No... I mean, yes! I'm a gamer after all and I know those things first hand...

4.3 So what's HORGASM?

Ho.R.G.A.S.M. is the acronym for Holistic Review Gameplay Art Story Metrics. It's the name of the system I will use to review and rate games.

4.4 You know, it's really an idiotic name for a rating system. It suits you well!

Thanks, you're too kind. I know: it's a stupid name. But that's exactly the point: I've already said that I find Metacritic score a complete joke. But the gaming community takes it very seriously and I'm talking of all the parties involved: gamers, press, developers and even the people in charge of the business. I don't want people taking the ratings too seriously while reading my reviews. I want them more focused on the text and less on the numbers. I bet no one will take an Ho.R.G.A.S.M.rating seriously! At least I hope so.

4.5 So, you do not appreciate numerical rating. Why use them in the first place?

That's a good question. Well, numerical rating are a convenient and economic way to sort things. There are times when you do not want to read an entire review to know what the critic thinks, for many different reasons (like fear of a spoiler, lack of  time or lack of real interest for the subject). I have no problem with numerical ratings in themselves. I simply despise the way ratings are used by the gaming business and the lack of proper critical standards showed by the gaming press. Having said that, I stand by my position: the heart of a review lies in the text and not in the rating. 

4.6 Ok, I'm not sure you convinced me but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt...

Thanks... I guess.

4.7 What about the holistic thing? Are you some kind of hipster who believes in alternative stuff?

LOL, no! Holism is the idea that systems and their properties should be considered as wholes and not as collection of parts. In my opinion, videogames are holistic in the sense that the experience of the player taken as a whole, matters more than the experience of the isolated features that frame a videogame. In the best games I've played, each feature flowed in to the other seamlessly, creating a sense of immersion, a suspension of disbilief and ultimately an experience of value, care and pleasure. So, the rating is holistic because that's my general position regarding good videogame design and good videogames reviews. 

4.8 Gameplay, Art, Story... what's the business with them?

Gameplay, Art and Story are the three pillars that frame a videogame. Gameplay is the system of tools and rules that enable the interaction between the player and the game. Art is the visual and sonic representation of the game. Story is the narrative told by the videogame. Now, due to the holisitc nature of videogames, the border between gameplay, art and story are pretty muddled. For example, the dialogue system of an RPG belongs to the story or the gameplay? The design of an ambient in an action game belongs to the art or to the story? It's really hard if not impossible to draw a definite line. All we can do is to use those terms with a grain of salt, knowing that each element of a videogame is strictly connected to the others.

4.9 Nice speech.. so, how do the rating system works in practice?

Well, the Ho.R.G.A.S.M. rating is a scale from 0 to 100 that results from the sum of four different scores: gameplay, art, story and the holistic value of the game (called Ho Value for brevity's sake). Each category ranges from 0 to 25: 0-5: Terrible. 6-10: Bad. 11-15: Mediocre. 16-20: Good. 20-25: Brilliant. Easier said than done!

4.10 Great, I think there's nothing left to ask.

Are you sure? Last minute questions? No? Then I guess it's time to start with the goddamn reviews!

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