Reviews have become a part of nearly every industry. Consumers have begun to depend on reviews more and more as retailers adopt a ‘Comments’ section or offer a legitimate space for them to share their opinion on a product.
They have become so much a part of our world that people have been able to make a living off of reviewing items. There’s something wrong with the system though, reviews have been more divisive than ever. Some communities have even begun picking up their pitchforks and attacking reviews (or reviewers) they disgree with.
Whether it’s a movie review or a game review, there’s a flaw in the equation.
So, the question is this: What’s wrong with game reviews?
While I believe that game reviews are entirely necessary, I think that there are two thing that ruin them: The reviewer and the reader.
If you’re picking someone to review a game, it shouldn’t be based on which person has the console it plays on, be first come first serve or be decided via rock, paper, scissors. The reviewer should be picked based on which genre of games they like, if someone doesn’t like JRPGs, don’t make them review a JRPG – it will show in the review. The person reviewing a game should be familiar with the gametype. In addition to that, the people looking up the reviews are people that were already interested in that game, so do them a favor and pick the appropriate reviewer (this goes for movies too).
As far as the reader goes, somewhere along the lines people forgot that reviews are opinions. Reviews are not objective, they are created from a single person’s experience with a game. That’s how they get their individual scores. If you want a review void of an opinion… you don’t want a review, you want an overview – go to Wikipedia. There’s also the issue with scores themselves. People skip the entire review and go right to the score, which for the most part, only exists because of review aggregate sites like Metacritic that help give sites a bump in traffic and because some people want to validate their opinion of a game (even though they have yet to play it). Reading the reasons why a game got a specific score has has become less important than the bullet points under a pros and cons list and a big fat number.
However, it doesn’t end there – the more of a soapbox people have, the less willing they are to accept anyone elses opinion than their own (and that goes both ways). The entire method, execution and reception of reviews is a mess.
There is a fundamental issue with game reviews, and the same goes for film reviews too. Generally, people just don’t want to spoil things before they get a chance to experience it for themselves. I mean, that isn’t supposed to be a blanket statement because some people actually are interested in reading into the pros and cons of a game before forking out some of their well-earned cash, but it shows in the numbers.
Unless a review gets a significant amount of exposure, maybe if it’s shared by the game’s developer or even some of the people involved in the product, chances are… it isn’t going to get many clicks. This comes down to a conceptual dilemma that, for me at least, makes writing reviews a very arduous task. I mean, don’t get me wrong, from a writer’s standpoint, it can be really fun. Play the game, write about the game, it’s enjoyable to do. But, unfortunately the amount of time put into a comprehensive review just isn’t worth it any more.
Let me give you a scenario. I could write a news piece about Call of Duty and the story will take twenty minutes to produce, it gets 30,000 views. On the flip side, I could write a review on Call of Duty which involves playing the game for a few days, planning out a review, and after eventually writing it in a few hours of my spare time, it gets 1,200 views. It’s a sad reality to see this happen because a review allows both a writer’s opinion and emotion to shine through. But, the fact of the matter is, journalists exist to write for the readers and if the readers don’t want reviews, writers will eventually stop producing them.
Stance: Clueless Reviewers.
There are plenty of problems with reviews today, but the biggest comes from reviews being given to people that have no right to make a commentary on that particular game. I dislike RTS games, and almost never play them, so why would you trust my word on if the latest RTS is good or not? You shouldn’t, because I have no clue what makes a good one. Now if you need a review of what makes a good character action game, platformer, or Souls-like title, I’m your man, because I have extensive experience with those genres and the systems they use. I can recognize great games in those genres and tell you why they’re great.
Unfortunately, understanding the game you’re reviewing is a rarity for some of the bigger sites. Why should you give a fuck what Arthur Gies thinks of Bayonetta 2 or what Dan Stapleton thinks of Legend of Korra? You shouldn’t because they have no fucking idea what they’re doing with those games. Their reviews can’t even be used as toilet paper. Even if you printed them off, they’d just smear more crap on. Readers see that garbage and start to think the critics don’t get it, and that affects the respect the public affords all critics, including those of us that know our sh*t.
That’s what’s wrong with game reviews today.
What’s wrong with game reviews is that there’s no universal 100% perfect way to review games that will make everyone happy. Some people hate the notion of the numerical score because it pidgeon holes the game into just a number while (many) others just scroll to the bottom to find that number to decide whether or not to buy it. Game websites live and die by their traffic, so they need both parties to click on their articles in order for them to be worth anything.
Games do need to be quantified in some way, because the reality is that there are some universal traits that make certain games better than others. Obviously, you can’t discount bias. A person who plays Strategy games all the time will never say, “gee, The Witcher 3 is waaaaaaay better than Age of Empires”. But if you put both games on the same pedestal and had to pick one to be the game of the year to a crowd of gamers, the results would be unquestionably lopsided in favor of Wild Hunt.
In my experience, you can still appreciate a game you are reviewing even if the genre isn’t your cup of tea. A lot of that has to do with a game’s design pillars. If you can identify what it is the devs are trying to accomplish, and then see how well they succeeded in meeting those goals, then you can at least appreciate any game in a rational manner.
What is wrong with game reviews? Let me answer that question with a number; game reviews are a four on a scale of one to 10 or maybe a three on a scale of one to five. Or how about a five on an eight point scale?
Now, if that made any sense to you then you are either insane or–well no, you could only be insane. The fact of the matter is there is no consistent way of reviewing games one review is five out of 10 might be another’s one out of three and in the end those numbers don’t really mean anything. They don’t actually provide you with any information about the game. For example, does an 8/10 in graphics tell you if the graphics are early Playstation era 3D or rendered on a new GTX 1080? How does an 8/10 for 3D graphics compare to an 8/10 for a game that is a 2D sprite based game? Does a 10/10 mean that you should buy the game?
Review numbers make no sense and looking up the review scores of 90% of all games doesn’t tell you if you will personally enjoy the game. Just like movies, there are some people that will enjoy a bad game because it was either part of their childhood or because “It’s so bad it’s good” (e.g. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room) and there’s nothing wrong with that. A review score doesn’t tell you anything about why a game is loved and if you would love it for the same reasons or if you would love it for a different reason.
In the end review scores are just a pointless number that have no value, 0/10.
The problem with reviews are the scores. A score can mean several things to many different people, a 5 may be considered average to some or a heaping pile of broken trash to others. Scores are different for everyone.
Some outlets even score on a 5 star scale instead of 10 points, so a 4/5 is an 8/10 which affects a Metacritic average score significantly. The reviewer could praise the game but give it a 4/5 because they ran into some bugs, but the quality of the review may look more like a 9/10. Scores are confusing, especially when you’re looking at multiple review outlets.
Readers are the main problem in reviews and it’s their lack of comprehension on what an actual review should consist of. A review is an opinionated look at a certain piece of product, may it be a movie, tv show, or a new video game it is all going to be an OPINION piece on what they thought of their experience.
It’s not that hard to understand, truly it’s not, but the internet has decided to not accept this as common knowledge. In a day and age where people are too lazy to read a review and rather scroll straight to the bottom to check the score and then ultimately complain about it gets us nowhere.
I like scores, but they are getting harder and harder to use in today’s time, but if everyone were to accept and understand what they mean, it could make a lot more sense. Comparing a review with a score of 9 to a review of an 8 doesn’t necessarily make 9 better. There’s no checklist or no rubrics chart that reviewers check off, objective reviews are dumb reviews, and therefore don’t exist. If that were the case, then why would multiple reviews be necessary? Let just have one reviewer sit down, pull out the chart, and figure out if the boxes checked off equals an 8 or an 8.5 .
This is only the surface of what’s wrong with reviews. You have got people complaining whether if it is a male or female reviewer, people who think the sites get paid off, and people who compare scores across platforms without even reading the review. It’s scary how many times you must explain this stuff to people, but we can only hope that it eventually starts to stick on.
Game reviews will always be an opinion piece, but this is not how it is presented most of the time. Publications aim to remove the writer as much as possible from their review, but this only confuses some people into thinking that this is how the game is, versus how the reviewer felt about it. Those are two very different things, and results in misrepresentation that ultimately can be misleading to readers who do not agree with said reviewer.
Reviews need to be presented more as an opinion, with the writer heavily featured. This will allow readers to understand more the reviewer’s tastes and expectations, and see how much their views aline. Therefore, if a review for a game comes out, a reader can make a more informed decision on whether they would be inclined to agree with the critique or if they know that they’d fundamentally have a different outlook. It’s got nothing to do with scoring or not scoring; nothing to do with whether it’s broken into different sections like story and gameplay. It’s all about how the review is presented and making it clear that it is one person’s opinion by having their signature all over it.
Honestly, I don’t even care about reviews, they are obsolete, a thing of the past. There’s a structural problem that goes so deep that it is basically impossible to change within at least the foreseeable future.
I don’t even read reviews anymore, they are a thing of the past. If I want to know more about a game I’m want to get I look up a Let’s Play, a stream, or what the community in general has to say about it. If it’s from a a franchise that I’m already invested in, in that case, I don’t look up anything about the game to not get it spoiled. I definitely don’t look up a review, someone’s biased opinion, I look up a Let’s Play or a stream that shows more of the game than a review ever could.
Again, reviews are a thing of the past and aren’t needed anymore. Time to move on to a better medium that can show a game even better than one random dudes opinion, an opinion that more often than not is the complete opposite of mine.
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