Realism, exoticism or… an expression of the protest? What influenced how Poles rated the games?
- July 30, 2021
- Karolina Cieślak
In our recently published article Do Poles evaluate games differently than the rest of the world? we argued that the ratings of Poles for both culturally dependent and independent games are not significantly different from those of global players. We decided to take a closer look at the games where the differences between the ratings of Polish players and people from abroad exceeded 1.1 points (on a scale of 1-10). Unfortunately – for methodological reasons described in the previous text – we are unable to test whether the differences at the level of these individual games are statistically significant. Nevertheless, we decided to try to find out where they might be coming from.
Games rated most differently
The biggest differences between the ratings given by Poles and global players were observed in the case of five games (we studied 48 games in total). We classified them all as culturally dependent games:
- Jotun – Poles rated this game on average 1.2 points higher than the rest of the world;
- My Summer Car – Poles rated this game on average 1.2 points higher;
- Kentucky Route Zero – Poles rated this game on average 1.9 points higher;
- Operencia: The Stolen Sun – Poles rated this game on average 1.45 points lower;
- Paradise Lost – Poles rated this game on average 1.85 points lower.
Below is a detailed discussion of each game listed, along with hypotheses about the provenance of the differences in ratings.
Jotun is a game very much rooted in Norse mythology, then again references to Scandinavian myths are nothing original among modern cultural goods. Recently, many such productions entered the market – suffice to mention Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or God of War. God of War was also included in our list of culturally dependent games, and it turned out that the ratings of Poles and foreign players in the case of this game were not significantly different (Poles rated the game 0.2 points lower).
So what makes Jotun different? Above all, fidelity to the original Norse mythology.
Despite the fact that Nordic mythology is increasingly pervading mass consciousness, it is a fact that many cultural texts present it in a modified way, adjusted to the creators’ intention, or are inspired by it in a very loose way. Examples include the AAA games we mentioned above – God of War and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.
Jotun stands out among them in that the references to Scandinavian myths agree with the original legends; there are very few changes from the original. Interestingly, the game also features a lot of easter-eggs alluding to themes from Norse mythology that are little known in pop culture. – For example, to the story of the sea goddess Ran or the story of Loki, forced to sew up his mouth.
Therefore, thanks to Jotun, players can learn about Norse mythology anew and gain new information about it, as well as look at it from a slightly different angle than the one they’re accustomed to AAA games and western movies that only loosely draw on Scandinavian myths. Only Icelandic dubbing is available in the game, which can add an exotic element.
Ergo, we can assume that Poles are attracted to the freshness of this production on the one hand, and the realism, understood in this case as faithfulness to the original mythology, on the other.
My Summer Car
My Summer Car is another production where only the original (in this case Finnish) dubbing is available. The whole game is actually quite specific, as it combines a car mechanic simulator with a survival game.
My Summer Car does not have a specific purpose. The player is supposed to fix the car and just “live” in the presented universe. Interestingly, in order to bring the car to working order, real knowledge of auto mechanics is highly advisable, including knowledge of engine construction and repair methods. There are also a lot of realistic elements present in the game, such as insects whose noises disturb you. Moreover, the main character has a number of needs that must be met in order to survive. The player must take into account random events, such as power failures caused by bad weather conditions. All this may make My Summer Car seem exotic, fresh, and original to Poles, who are not used to this type of game combining the “calm” genre, which is a simulation, with the “less calm” genre, which is survival, and that may translate into higher ratings. Other than that, as with Jotun, there is realism here, with this game dealing with car mechanics, the needs of the character, and the nuisances of everyday life.
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero is the game where we saw the highest difference in ratings, reaching 1.9 points in favor of the Poles.
It is a very artistic production, ridden with references to American (but not only) culture, art, and history. The action is set in the United States, but it’s not the United States we know today. This is the America of farmers, miners, ordinary people, and the hardships of everyday life. This makes realism present again in the story, despite the atmosphere of weirdness present in the game.
Visually, it draws on the paintings of Edward Hopper and the paintings and photographs of Edward Ruscha, which depict typical American scenery. The mine, which is one of the locations visited during the game, is modeled on American mines from the times of the Great Depression (the creators drew in this case from photographs by Russel Lee).
The presence of so many references to cultures other than our own may be interesting and intriguing to Poles, which is a potential explanation for such high ratings of this game among Polish gamers. In addition, the storyline touches on real problems encountered by people, which may be another reason why Poles rate the game higher.
Operencia: The Stolen Sun
The most interesting title from the perspective of differences in ratings between Poles and global players seems to be Operencia: The Stolen Sun. It’s a Hungarian RPG with a turn-based combat system containing references to the folklore of Central Europe.
On closer inspection, it turns out that the low rating given by Polish players is mainly due to Operencia‘s low rating on games-online.pl – 3.9 points. This is significantly less than on ppe.pl in foreign services.
It turns out that users of games-online.pl gave Operencia low ratings en masse (even before the game even came out!) as a protest against Epic Games Store’s monopoly on this game.
After all, for a year after its release, Operencia was an exclusive game on Epic, which players didn’t like. We conclude that Poles’ low rating (especially in one media outlet) is not due to their assessment of the game’s quality, but was an expression of protest against the publisher’s business decisions.
Paradise Lost is an adventure game telling the story of a Polish boy, Szymon, who discovers the secrets of a German bunker. The game is set in an alternative universe where World War II lasted 20 years and Poland was almost completely destroyed because the Nazis used nuclear weapons.
One of the main objectives of Paradise Lost was to show the combination of advanced technology with Slavic folklore.
The fact that Polish players rated a game referring to Polish culture lower than the rest of the world may seem surprising at first glance. On the other hand, it’s very possible that Poles are much more demanding towards Polish games referring to their native culture and history, which could have translated into lower ratings.
Summary – what influenced how Poles evaluate games?
Among the games rated lower by the Poles were Paradise Lost and Operencia: The Stolen Sun. The first of these games may have been judged more harshly, due to the greater demands Poles place on Polish productions. Operencia, on the other hand, was probably rated low mainly due to a kind of protest against Epic Games’ monopoly, organized by users of the games-online.pl website.
Jotun, My Summer Car, and Kentucky Route Zero are rather niche productions and, due to the specific elements they contain, may seem “exotic” to Poles, and thus more attractive – especially given the references to cultures rather distant from Polish players. An additional common feature of these three games is the realism they contain, broadly conceived. It can be hypothesized that Poles rate higher those games which, on the one hand, are something fresh and original for them, and on the other hand, are realistic in a way.