One Sunday afternoon about a month ago, I sat down at my computer to review a game called Red Jets. It’s a budget dogfighting game from Graffiti Entertainment, where you pilot Russian planes in mortal konflikt against fighter jets flown by people who are presumably not Russian. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, you see, because I never got to play Red Jets. I sort of skimmed through the manual and looked at the box art and then wrote a couple of paragraphs to review it. “But Dominic,” you say. “You are a game reviewer. How dare you review a game you did not play?” It’s actually pretty easy to do when you have an ego the size of a former Soviet Republic.
You see, Graffiti Entertainment shipped me a copy of Red Jets that was nigh-useless. The setup.exe file hard-locked my PC repeatedly, the copy protection accused me of using a duplicate disc, and not even a No-CD crack of dubious legality could help me break into Red Jets. I spent a few hours trying to get the game to run, until finally I gave up. I decided that if Graffiti Entertainment could not be bothered to send me a working game, I could not be bothered to review it.
However, Dear Reader, that would be too easy. I have received preview copies of games that chug along on my computer, or simply refuse to run. Europa Universalis III, for instance, was an unpolished gem in alpha form, when it first graced my hard drive. I don’t fault games or game companies that have less than perfect alphas. (Fun fact: EU3 cleaned up real nice, and is about to get a damn fine review from me.) But Red Jets arrived in a retail box, replete with UPC and MSRP. This was, officially, Graffiti Entertainment saying “all done!” They were going to charge you for trying to play this. My colleagues have pointed out that patches may be forthcoming, but I harbor an antiquated, Leave It To Beaver-esque belief that a man buys a game to play it, not to wait for it to be patched up to functionality. A game that arrives in a retail box is a sign to me from the publisher that I am free to take the kiddie gloves off.
So I did what any self-respecting journalist would do: I ripped Red Jets like an overweight gym teacher’s short-shorts when he bends over to pick up his clipboard. Let us be very clear: my original review did not make a single qualitative claim about Red Jets. The more educated among my readers will note that my “review” of Red Jets was an account of my attempts to install and subsequently run the game, during which I fail to state a single fact about Red Jets the game. I mentioned vomiting in a fictional white-water rafting game, I stated that I pounded nails into my thighbone, I “considered” burning down my apartment, and I professed to cursing so loudly that my dog now runs at the mere sight of me.
But I did not defame Red Jets. To do so without having played it would be irresponsible. The reader with even the most tenuous grasp on reality this side of a cult leader’s paper cup of Kool-aid will likely understand that none of those relate to Red Jets at all. The only parts of Red Jets I reviewed were the install CD crashing my computer, the license agreement, the copy protection refusing to let me play the game, and the No-CD crack not working. I explicitly stated on both pages of my review that I never played Red Jets. I felt secure in the knowledge that no one of sound mind and/or body could mistake my satire for a real review.
Fast forward to my receiving word that Gamer’s Mark is pulling my review at the behest of one Linda Shannon from Over the Moon Management; apparently, she takes exception to a negative review of a product she represents. Her claim revolves around the fact that I never played the game: she refuses to consider that I might be entitled to review other aspects of Red Jets beyond the graphics or controls or the sound or the adrenaline rush I get from engaging in thrilling air-to-air combat. You know, like the fact that it won’t do silly little things like “install” or “play.” The pluck of those kids at Gamer’s Mark!
I am disappointed that Graffiti Entertainment sent me a game that was unplayable. I am disappointed that Linda played the “how dare you” card about my review of their bargain-bin production. I am disappointed that Gamer’s Mark ultimately chose to react in the manner in which they did, and I am disappointed that this situation warrants this defense of a lackluster review of a lackluster video game.
So, in an effort to avoid this sort of e-drama in the future, here are some new ground rules from which I advise all publishers to take notes. Consider these words verily chiseled into stone hewn from the living rock of Mount Sinai’s bowels; such is their sacrosanctity and general awesomeness.
- Thou shalt not send me games that I have to try more than three times to install. This is because I have better things to do with my time than stare, slack of jaw, at a frozen setup program.
- Thou shalt recognize that everything you send me is fair game for review. This includes, but is not limited to the box art, game manual, poorly worded license agreements, the description on the back of the box, the screenshots in the manual, the way the box smells, the lame font on the CD, and the actual game itself. Attempts to apply this ex post facto have failed, but you may consider this fair warning.
- Thou shall not beget thy panties unto a bunched state if my review takes your game to task for its shortcomings. If your product isn’t very good, it will not get a very good review. This isn’t IGN.
In conclusion, I would like to announce my undiluted rage will be directed against the following people at a time and place of my choosing, but probably the next time a game company does something stupid like sending me coasters they plan to charge $20 for: these jerks. Also, maybe some of these people, too.
You can see the original review, re-posted, here: