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As If Days Gone Wasn’t Stupid Enough, Now Deacon St. John Is Lying About Journalists

There’s a dangerous misconception in video games that reporters and critics have an agenda or are in some big money tycoon’s pocket. Score a game well and you’re paid off, score it poorly and you’re against the developer – when people online have their own personal opinions and biases, you’re never going to please everyone, nor is it your job to do so in the first place.

It’s frustrating enough when this kind of rhetoric is touted by anime avatars online, although at least that’s relatively easy to ignore. What makes the issue significantly worse is when people who should know better jump the gun and say something extremely irresponsible, which was exactly what happened when the actor for Deacon St. John in Days Gone hosted a spontaneous Reddit AMA yesterday afternoon.

According to Sam Witwer, the man behind Days Gone’s protagonist, journalists who scored the game poorly based on legitimate critiques simply didn’t play it to completion. This, reader, is similarly galaxy brain-esque to Days Gone creative director John Garvin blaming the game’s lukewarm critical reception on “political correctness” and saying things like “if you love the game, buy it at fucking full price” on David Jaffe’s shitty podcast.

Witwer’s false claim comes in response to a Redditor stating that they originally steered clear of Days Gone due to critical reception, but grew to love it after eventually giving it a try. That’s completely fine – what’s not for you might be for me, and vice versa.

“Well, I read a review today from a website/publication that will remain nameless,” Witwer says after a brief preface stating that he doesn’t (read: does) care about what people think. “In it, the horde mechanic, the show-stopping center piece of the game, it wasn’t mentioned once. Not ONCE. There were other tells, but it was pretty clear that this reviewer played the game for several hours and then wrote his review. He did not complete it.”

I’ll be honest and say this: a review is a subjective piece of writing that weighs up countless aspects of a cohesive product. Sure, the horde mechanic might be a big deal, and if I personally reviewed Days Gone, I might have discussed it in detail. But that’s just my prerogative – nobody is obligated to write a review in the same way as anyone else, and the best reviews are often the ones that are distinct for tackling unique subject matter not covered elsewhere. It’s not just a checklist of graphics, mechanics, audio, story, and gameplay – it’s a critical piece designed to convey an experience in terms of how it was felt and may feel for an enormous readership comprising innumerable people from all walks of life.

Witwer’s main point is that Days Gone is supposedly this slow-burning masterpiece, where the best story beats are confined to the later parts of the game. Conversely, I’d be of the opinion that burying your best work beneath dozens of hours of lukewarm rubbish makes for an effort not worth making during time intended for recreation. There are countless games that wrangle with slow-burning subject matter with real finesse – sadly, Days Gone just isn’t one of them.

“These journalists rush in,” Witwer writes on Reddit. “They do NOT take their time, they do NOT play the game on the terms the game presents, because it is their job to put out an article on a deadline.”

Are you sure about that, Sam? I’m a journalist and I can help clarify the reality of the fabricated nonsense you’re touting to randos on Reddit. I have had to rush games for review before due to strange embargoes and personal circumstances, and it’s true that we’re not given six months to play a game prior to launch – that’s not on us, though. What’s more, the vast majority of people I know absolutely finish the games they’re reviewing. Considering the mention of “tells” earlier – if someone says Commander Shepard gets married to Tali and they live happily ever after on Rannoch at the end of Mass Effect 3, they certainly haven’t finished the game. If someone doesn’t mention a single loyalty mission, though, they’re just writing a review that’s accurate to the most standout moments from their time with the game, for better or worse. As for deadlines, I’ve never met a decent editor who would rather run a bad piece early instead of a good one that’s had enough time to be beaten into shape.

“I think that’s not only too bad, but misleading to actual audience members who would like to read an actual review of what we actually did,” Witwer says, ironically displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of the discipline he is attempting to critique while claiming to be misunderstood, before going on to talk about a record he made. It’s also worth noting that when we review a game, we’re critiquing a project that the creator has consciously labeled as finished – Witwer is making things up about people he doesn’t know a single thing about.

If you’re reading this, I urge you to actually think about this from a perspective that’s not “bad game good!” or “good game bad!” Criticism is multifaceted. It is long, difficult, and ultimately honest work that might make some people who read it wet the bed, but the onus is on writers to tell you the truth, and all of the good ones always will. Sam Witwer used his AMA to complain about journalists and spread misinformation about their profession while also stating that natives aren’t hired for roles because it’s “cost prohibitive.” Use your head here, folks.

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