"Game of the Year"?! Part Three
Where did things go wrong?
So what pushed members of the gaming media to become so enthusiastic with Scribblenauts coverage? What encouraged reviewers to ignore or flat out dismiss a terrible control scheme? What caused them to neglect to mention how basic most summonable things are?
IGN makes a slight excuse, and mentions that the Scribblenauts E3 display booth as cramped:
"Despite being shown at only two cramped kiosks in the Warner Bros. booth at the very back of the Los Angeles Convention Center, Scribblenauts built serious buzz and garnered numerous E3 honors, including IGN's Game of the Show award. As the game marched toward its Sept. 15 release date, my expectations were high that the game that wowed me at E3 would dazzle me at launch. Instead, it let me down hard and became my biggest gaming disappointment of the year so far."
So, as a starting point, we know the conditions to play and test drive the game at E3 didn't provide journalists with much more than a minimal amount of hands-on time. Still, other major gaming conventions occurred between E3 and the game's launch, and 5th Cell and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment provided demo units in full force at places like Gamescom, considered the European equivalent of E3, nearly a month before Scribblenauts' release. Don't forget, 5th Cell and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment provided large amounts of hands-on time with the game with in-office visits and preview builds. Since we've found many journalists had a more robust hands-on experience than one might initially suspect, we must draw our conclusions elsewhere.
Personally, I believe most journalists saw it as an easy way to capture page views, perhaps to fill a quota. Since the game is straightforward, and simple to show examples in its basic levels or sandbox mode, that's exactly what many in the gaming media did, and it sure did generate buzz. Take IGN's "Random Thoughts In Scribblenauts" column. The first time, we see Craig Harris write about one of the puzzle stages in the game. However, upon noticing fans' cries to see objects summoned, volumes 2, 3, and 4 result in clashes between random words Harris, forumers, and fellow journalists decide should be summoned, rather than serving as an extension to the coverage of the gameplay's depth or stages.
Again, this type of journalism, while entertaining to watch or even read in bite-size pieces, unsurprisingly avoids illustrating the heart of the game with much detail. From my perspective, I find it intriguing that the first "Random Thoughts" article is the only one with anything close to the true representation of the game's content, and even in such a shallow stage, a few hints of the flaws in the game's design peek through. Wouldn't it make more sense to spend time showing and discussing much more of the game in action, rather than crude fights between animals?
So, rather than delving into the content the game provided as time passed, we see that most journalists only ventured into the shallowest aspects of gameplay, and continued down precisely the same path as we saw in basic previews from E3. It's notable that several previews laud the "Starite in a Tree" and the "Cat on the Roof" stages, and it's noticeably more apparent as time passes that the same journalists didn't progress very far beyond these stages, instead, opting to test the game's vocabulary and watch various creatures clash. I'll be fair, there's nothing wrong with being "wowed" by Scribblenauts system, but at some point, one would expect these journalists to spend at least an hour's time playing the main game modes, rather than obliging lists of words commenters and forum members shortsightedly wish to hear about. One wonders, if they had, would the previews of the game be full of such praise?
Tomorrow: I take quick look into reviews, as well as an analysis of the reaction Scribblenauts’ marketing campaign chose as a follow up to premature raves of the game.