Ubisoft's real-guitar game Rocksmith has gotten a pretty mixed critical reception. Some writers enjoy the game's take on the music game, while others (including me) have been critical.
Speaking with Gamasutra, Ubisoft's executive director for North America Laurent Detoc expressed frustration with critics and the broader gamer audience, taking issue with the tone of some Rocksmith reviewers. From Gamasutra:
"As much as they claim they want innovation, they don't," he says. "What I see when I read the reviews is a lack of enthusiasm for something that is new. … We, as human beings, tend to like what we know. But more importantly, we call ourselves gamers. Are we gamers — or players?"
"I think the 'gamer' label has actually been hurting the industry. As our industry evolves, we need to be more mature and find a way to look at content and judge it as if we were real consumers instead of as gamers."
Detoc, it's worth noting, wasn't on a rant against critics in his exclusive conversation with Gamasutra. He explicitly said that he understands and appreciates the need for them and believes they are a necessary part of the process to get developers to constantly raise the bar. However, he said, too often they're tasked with reviewing too many types of games — and are expected to be fully knowledgeable about each genre.
And while many of those sites maintain an editorial independence, he believes they're ultimately part of the video game industry, rather than a separate entity that reports on it.
"[Review sites] are a part of this industry," he says. "We need to judge the products for what they are. You can't compare, say, a Just Dance to an Assassin's Creed. We can't expect critics to be experts at everything."
It's not clear in the interview whether Detoc's initial "they" is a reference to gamers or to critics, though his point is that in his estimation, there is a general lack of critical enthusiasm for innovative games.
What strikes me about this is that often times, the opposite is true—I've spoken with plenty of critics about how they favor innovation in games. How often have you ignored a game or seen a review turn negative because the game "brings nothing new to the table?"
For my part, I called Rocksmith "uninspired and ultimately forgettable," not because it wasn't innovative enough, but because its execution was flawed and it felt soulless. Its level of innovation wasn't really a factor for me—I was more concerned with whether it worked, was fun, and accomplished what it set out to do: teach music. I thought that it came up short.
But in Stephen Totlio's review of Kirby's Return to Dreamland, he articulates how safe and uninteresting the game feels, how he enjoyed recent experimental Kirby games and wished to see more of that kind of experimentation in Return to Dreamland.
In other words, every writer is different, and every game warrants different criticism. Critics (and gamers) don't favour or fear any one thing. The newness of a game's design is but one aspect of a more complicated whole. "Innovation bias" (or the lack thereof) is certainly worth keeping an eye on, but I don't get the feeling that it's responsible for Rocksmith's middling reception.