Stuart's open letter to the games industry

December, 1994

Rise Of The Robots, eh?

How has this happened? Clueless buffoon that I am, I really thought that the days of huge, ridiculous hype campaigns leading to the release of unutterably dreadful rip-off games were finally dead and gone. Never again, I thought, would poor unfortunate gullibles fork out six months' pocket money on a game so desperately awful it would quite conceivably (and rightly) put them off the idea of ever buying another one for the rest of their lives. Who among us, in all honesty, could blame some burnt-fingered adolescent for resorting to the car-boot sale and the dodgy market stall for ever, sending every other format the way of the ST and all the 8-bits before it, if they'd just blown anywhere between 40 and 60 quid on a stinking, rancid pile of shite like Rise Of The Robots?

How can it be possible for a game to take so long to come out, have so many apparently talented people working on it, and still be such a stagnant pool of horse wank? We're talking here about a two-player beat-'em-up, after all, in which it's literally impossible for player two to win a game if player one holds down a certain direction on the joystick. We're talking about a beat-'em-up in which holding down that certain direction results in the defeat of every computer opponent on all but one of the four difficulty settings. We're talking about a game in which thousands of hours of artificial intelligence development have resulted in a computer opponent who cowers in a corner at the player's first move and stays there, immobile, until it is defeated. We're talking about a game that a seven-year old can complete within 11 minutes of first loading it up. Without looking at the screen.

I mean, a lot of people work for Mirage/Time Warner. Didn't anybody fucking NOTICE? Didn't it strike anyone as a bit off that in a game genre where the two-player versus mode is everything, only one player actually ever had a chance (and a 100% chance at that) of winning? Am I being stupid here? Does it really not matter? In all that time of artificial intelligence work, didn't it occur to anyone to see if maybe, just maybe, holding down fire and the up-right diagonal resulted in the defeat of every single opponent? Anyone AT ALL? Maybe some of Mirage's playtesters could write in and explain to us all exactly what the fuck they've been doing for the last 18 months? I, for one, would be interested. For professional reasons.


And while we're here, how come this slimy turd from a dead dog's arse managed to score more than one 90% review? Didn't any of the reviewers notice either? Or has the single word "Exclusive" really come to represent the entire text of the reviewers' Holy Bible? How, in 1994, can a game score 3%, 5%, 19%, 20%, 33% and 35% in six reviews in very different magazines covering five different formats, and 90% and 92% in two other ones? "Personal opinion" really doesn't cover it in this instance, does it? I won't name the reviewer who, when I quizzed him about the surprising nature of his high score, gave the response "Arms were twisted... let's leave it at that," but perhaps the practice of reviewing games at the publisher's office with the entire PR department looking over the reviewer's shoulder is becoming a little, shall we say, unreliable? Or is it just paranoia on my part to think that there's maybe something a little sinister going on when the supposed release of the year isn't shown to any magazines before it hits the shelves, save for one or two "arm-twisted" exclusives, coincidentally generating scores five to 30 times those of most other reliable reviews? Scared of something, are we?


Maybe I'm wrong, of course. Maybe it IS just me. Maybe come the spring, when everyone's read all the reviews and had a chance to see the game for themselves, it'll still be riding high in the charts. Maybe everyone's sales figures will still be buoyant as happy software purchasers storm the shops looking to blow huge wads of cash on another instant classic. Maybe they really do wish all their games were this great. Maybe nobody really does give a gnat's cock for games being any bloody good any more. But who cares, eh? Long-term future, schmong-term future. I've already got my flashy sports car, after all. Mirage and Time Warner, I sincerely and truly hope you all die.

Stuart Campbell
Saffron Walden, Essex