How can you tell if a videogame is rubbish?

Iain Simons asked many clever game developers this brilliant question and got some great replies in his book (with James Newman), Difficult Questions About Videogames ( I met up with Iain this week in Nottingham, at GameCity’s Antenna HQ, and had a great afternoon chatting about games and how Bruce Everiss is now blogging about shaving ( , amongst other things.

I like Iain a lot (I’m not just saying that because he may be getting more involved with this crazy project, which I’m very excited about) and as one of the founder’s of the National Videogame Archive you feel our treasure is in the right sort of hands. What the wrong sort of hands are, I don’t know, but they a probably gloved in black leather, stroking a white fluffy cat.

Anyway, back to that question: How can you tell if a videogame is rubbish?

The first time I fired up Gears of War 2 I would have said “if it looks like this”. I wasn’t impressed, thought it just an insanely amped up Operation Wolf as it’s very clearly on rails. This was about 5 months ago. I revisited it this week after reading Tom Bissell’s interview with Cliffy B. Tom’s portrait of Cliffy was someone who was instinctive and obsessive about creating great games, in fact when asked what he thought of people thinking he “played games all day” his reply was that he spends all his time “fixing broken games until they’re ready for you to play”. I liked this take on it so I went back and grabbed GoW2 and stuck through the dodgy dialogue.

That was yesterday and now I’m almost a whole day behind writing a 4 page funding pitch document for my game project. Thanks Cliffy!

So to answer Iain’s question, I’ll do it in reverse

Q: How can you tell if a videogame is not rubbish?

A: When you literally spend the whole day repeating the same phrase…

“Okay, just one more go”

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