A good review is not merely rote description, but thorough and careful critical analysis. This Old Neon does not turn a blind eye to the implications of any element of a game’s conception or presentation. We provide our audience with reviews that are interesting to read while at the same time uncovering some insight about a game’s relationship to culture, whether that be the web of influences that heralded its creation, or the socio-political climate into which it was born.
The 10- to 100-point scales that have come to pervade video game criticism are problematic in their message and intent. They give a fundamentally subjective experience the illusion of objective value. Publications that use them must justify their use by describing scales and point breakdowns in detail, or by attempting to imbue them with special meaning and significance. Scores can certainly be useful for helping to summarize a vague critical consensus in aggregated form (and even then the outliers generally evoke the most passionate interest), and numbers have the practical value of being easily marketed, but they are redundant in the context of an individual review.
Differentiation between good and great games is important, but the scores themselves have become pre-loaded qualitative monoliths. What is “good” has become increasingly bounded by expectation to the point that a score lower than 8 is perceived as an insult to a generally well-received game. This inflation leaves a couple of points off-handedly devoted to mediocrity, and a wealth of arbitrarily precise categories for bad games so earnestly fine-tuned that they read like thesaurus entries. Most readers see no meaningful difference between an “abominable” 1.5 and an “abysmal” 2. They want to know if a game is bad or good, or perhaps even great.
This Old Neon does not score reviews.
The strength and purpose of a review is in its content: the author’s research and analysis of evidence; descriptions and interpretations of mechanics, story, design, and direction; and the informed opinions and conclusions presented in the context of an individual’s experience. Reviews become valuable when readers are able to determine to what degree their own opinions and predilections align with those of the author. No lonely numeral can adequately convey these complexities. But reviews that are presented in a single dominant voice can suffer from blind spots and imbalance.
For these reasons, This Old Neon strives to publish reviews with at least two opposing voices: one largely positive or sympathetic, and the other more critical and demanding. In this way, we hope it will be possible to shed a more comprehensive light on contentious subjects, to illustrate for readers the tensions present in the subject matter, and to demonstrate the subjective nature of interpretation in a fair and evenhanded way.