Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Quality vs. Quantity

On The Phantom Gourmet, a restaurant's rating is derived equally from the quality of its food and its location. This means restaurants that serve great food can suffer for being in a lousy neighborhood, whereas places that give you lukewarm poop in a bowl are rewarded for having a downtown address. This doesn't make sense. Sure, location matters. But what's more important to you when you're trying to decide where to eat?

Apropos of the general reaction to Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, I've been thinking recently about a similar flaw in the traditional game criticism metric: the idea that more game equals a better game. In the broadest sense, I do not care how much of a game there is -- only how good the experience is. Sure, it's great when a game like Resident Evil 4 takes 20 hours to complete. Burnout Revenge took me over 24 hours of play to complete 90%, which I did gladly. But those are exceptional games. We all remember when Bo Jackson was kicking ass in both baseball and football -- that doesn't mean we should penalize other athletes for playing only one sport. Nor does it mean that anyone should have encouraged Michael Jordan to try his hand at baseball. Yet reviewers, while generally praising Table Tennis, apparently can't make it through a review without tsk-tsking Rockstar for not including a career mode. Why?

The original Tetris had two modes. Two. It didn't have a story or even require a tutorial. Yet people played it until their Game Boy batteries died, and almost twenty years later Nintendo is still profiting off of the core design. On the other hand, EA Sports keeps force-feeding their already bloated properties every year, and the games are starting to burst like the gluttony victim in Seven. In EA's case, more is too much. Table Tennis, in a sense, is the anti-Madden. The point of the game is to replicate the one-on-one table tennis experience. That is the standard by which it must be judged.

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