A couple of writers for this site recently proposed that we stop previewing games.
We could still talk to developers before games come out, they suggested. We could still visit studios early or even play games before release, but somehow, some way, we'd no longer write previews.
Given that I prefer to be absolutist only about not being absolutist, I nixed this idea. If you declare you're not writing previews pretty much all you do is voluntarily roadblock one avenue of reporting while opening yourself up to criticism that the thing you did write about a game is a preview in masquerade.
The problem with previews, though, is that they mostly suck. You might agree. So let's talk about that and how to do previews right.
Previews mostly suck because they rarely serve any of the constituencies we want them to serve. There's you, the reader, who we figure would like to know about a new game. So we go to some hotel suite or development studio and play a game early. Or we watch someone play a game early. We chat with a producer who may or may not have been closely involved with the development of the game. We hope that 10 minutes of access to the game and a handful of questions that we politely or rudely throw at the producer can produce something we can share with you—something that will be edifying about the game.
Previews mostly suck because they rarely serve any of the constituencies we want them to serve.
Our inner critic worries that we're having to size up a game that won't be out for six months based on little more than a tease. One might more effectively predict the quality of some future meal by sampling one of those cubes of cheese they put on toothpicks at the supermarket.
Our inner reporter worries that whatever truth there is to know about the game we're previewing is not on display. A guy can check out 50 things that are in Assassin's Creed III, but of course, he won't know about the bugs that wind up being in the finished game.