I wrote a Review Policy quite a while ago. Of course, things change, and so does the variety of writers and otherwise on Theology Gaming. As such, it’s time for an update to that written policy in the form of this essay. What’s changed, then?
1. Reviews will be written by people that we deem “expert”-ish in their field of gaming. In that respect, I’d call myself, Zachery Oliver, a connoisseur of 3D character action games in the vein of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, Ninja Gaiden, and God of War. As well, I hold a particular inclination towards playing any and all kinds of JRPGs and fighting games. Thus, I will primarily review these products because I can make a meaningful and relevant genre comparison when assigned a rating and/or discussing the game. Theology Gaming will cover other genres and types of games with other authors who can do the same as the above example in different respects.
2. As such, we will assign a similar number rating as we did before. Number ratings will indicate its quality both quantitatively (star rating) and qualitatively (written review) within the genre it fits, deemed by the author of the review. For future reference:
(*) One Star – a bad game, plain and simple. Has obvious deficits in mechanics, experience, immersion, music, or any number of other aspects that never coalesce into a fully formed game. These are reserved for things we do not like much.
(**) Two Stars – a bad game made as such by certain key deficiencies, yet still fun in certain respects. Elements of the game are excellent, yet fail to inspire or excite overall. These games, unfortunately, fail at their goals, even if they contain new and interesting ideas.
(***) Three Stars – a mediocre game. It’s simply an average game. It may have a few exemplary qualities to its name, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before or done better. I imagine mediocre games sit in a worse place than bad games that do new things; hence, the necessity of the written review comes to light.
(****) Four Stars – a great game, only limited by a few key flaws that prevent it from reaching the upper echelons. Minor flaws or major flaws can prevent a game from scoring a five star rating, depending on the discretion of the author.
(*****) Five Stars – an exemplary game that represents the medium at its peak. Not flawless, but certainly every element works together to create a great challenge, experience, or both. We would definitely prefer both, but it’s obvious the medium exists in a state of flux for the current moment.
3. All reviews going forward (and retrospectively, when time allows) will also contain an “Intended Audience” descriptor. We here at Theology Gaming realize that not all games exist for all audiences, and many games contains reams of inappropriate content for younger players and/or certain people. To give you the general ability to discern the game’s appropriateness for you or other people you know, we will pithily describe the game’s intended audience in a non-condescending way. In other words, we will not list cuss words or bad things in games, but at least make you aware of the game’s possible offensiveness to you.
Update for July 17th, 2014 – I have decided not to do this anymore. Just seems like other sites could cover that, really.
4. Reviewers are under no formal word limit or topic discussion. Of course, we will assume they will write about their personal experience with the game, its story qualities (if it has any), whether or not the mechanics hold up to the designer’s actual intentions, etc. And as should be obvious by the title of this here website, we demand some discussion of the game’s theological relevance from a narrative or mechanical standpoint. Optimally, we’ll try for both, but realistically some games will support one or the other.
5. Since we come from a variety of Christian experiences and denominational background, we will certainly vary on what constitutes a “good” game versus a “bad” one. This comes with the territory of critical analysis, and should be fairly obvious from just a cursory glance at MetaCritic. However, our common call for the cause of Christ means that we all arrive at different conclusion under the shared knowledge that we are children of God. You will relate to some reviews better than others, but this is normal! Diversity will happen!
6. In that respect, we will also have a “Second Opinion” portion in each review if entirely possible. A second reviewer (who may/may not have experience with the genre) will weigh in with his perspective on the game in the same manner as the primary review. However, the secondary review will not contribute or affect the primary review’s overall score. We will contest the score itself among our editors, who will determined whether the written primary review fits the score, and adjust this accordingly. Long games (say, fifty hours role-playing games), though, may not receive the same treatment due to the feasibility of two people playing it, and this will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
7. Review scores are final. They indicate the state of the person writing it at a particular place and a particular time. They represent the feelings of the author at the time. If they wish to write a further addendum to their original review, this is their choice, but the review stands. Shifting scores do not make much sense when trying to make relevant comparison, but additional text will sort out the details.
8. The combination of these elements will hopefully establish a unique voice for each author as well as covering what’s important to them without diminishing their contribution to the whole. We will be critical of the games and ourselves in this process. As we know from Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another,” and we intend to do so. The sum will create a database of games old and new in a theologically substantive way.
In conclusion, then, I hope Theology Gaming’s Reviews section turns into a resource of much insight and help to those looking to engage theologically with games, make purchases relevant to their interests, and also a guide to engaging pop culture under the rubric of Christ’s love. I’m looking forward to seeing the shape that such ideas will take us and, God willing, we will surpass our own expectations.
Zachery Oliver, Editor-in-Chief