Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Opinion] The Problem With Video Game Reviews

I normally don't read reviews nor write reviews on video games. I'll play the game, like or dislike it, and move on. As a gamer, I know it's an odd thing to do. I should be singing praises on how Chrono Trigger is one on the best JRPGs ever made, or how much of an atrocity 2013's Tomb Raider was because of its “rape scene” and how it depicts Lara Croft as a weak little girl.

But see, here's the thing. I'm not a video game journalist with a degree in journalism. So there's really no creditability on what I say, right? And just because I think the majority of Kotaku is run by bat shit crazy click-baiting bloggers that think they're creditable journalists, that makes me a horrible person and I should stop playing video games?

There are too many reviews in the media in which the reviewer expresses a lot of bias, whether if it's because of the console the game is on, the series the game is from, or the company/studio that's making the game. It's not a good indicator whether or not someone should play a game because not only people's tastes are different, but also bias is usually seen as the reviewer being very closed minded and that they only like one particular thing. It can also been seen as the reviewer feeling that their opinion is the only one that matters and everyone else's opinion is wrong.

There are also many reviews on games that have a lot of acclaim – or “hype”– to them that end up being click-bait rather then actual constructive reviews. And even those reviews tend to go on a tangent, rather then breaking down the issues and addressing them directly.

Now, I say click-bait because those types of reviews are usually done as a bandwagon tactic: “Hey, these people seem to really hate The Last of Us, so I'm going to hate it, too!” In most cases, these reviewers haven't played the game nor have seen/read any of the “behind the scenes” interviews. As a result, they end up not understanding what the developers were striving for while the game was in production. They just want the attention and view numbers. Their reviews usually end up as either reiterations of what a reviewer says, or they read or watch videos about the game and go on from there.

On the flip side, click-bait articles are also used to over-hype an otherwise bad game, with the backing of advertisers plastering their ads all over the website and/or a bribe from the game company to the reviewer and/or review site so the game has a perfect high score. (IGN was known for this for quite some time, namely for Mass Effect 3, to my understanding.)

Then there's the hypocrite reviewer that will shut down the game for being terrible at first, but then turn around and say that it's a great game because they want to be part of the hype, and vise versa. You either like the game or you don't. It doesn't go both ways. Sure, you can like a game despite its flaws, but don't go around and say you hate it because everybody else does.

Remember when I mentioned creditable journalists with a degree in journalism? This can be a slippery slope, because they also fall into having bias or not having basic knowledge in video games. I've also seen too many reviews in magazines and newspapers of a journalist reviewing a game that's outside of the genre of games they usually play. It's common sense not to have a reviewer that only plays FPS games like Halo and Call of Duty review a sports game like the next NFL game from 2K Sports, but it's usually not the case.

But despite all that I've said here, not all reviewers and review sites are as bad as this. There are people and places that actually do great reviews without the bias and fanboyism, without monetary bribes from game companies and ad revenue, and without the hype and anti-hype. All you need to do is just go out and look beyond what's out there. Not all reviewers and review sites are created equal, because they cater to different tastes. Some sites review all genres of games, while the other might only cover niche games. Find the reviewer and review site that's right for you. And if it turns out that it's not working out for you, just back away. There's a fine line between constructive and destructive criticism. Don't be that guy that disrupts everyone's enjoyment by making empty complaints for the sake of complaining in the comments.

But in all honesty, the best reviewer is always going to be yourself. Only you know what you like and don't life, not what the reviewer or review site says. And the best way to know about a game is doing research on it. “What's the game's storyline and characters?”, “What genre does it fall under?”, “What are the game mechanics like?”, the list goes on. And if you're still not sure whether or not you'll like the game, rent it. Borrow a friend's copy. Or if said friend only has the digital copy or the game or neither of those options are available to you, ask them if you can play the game at their house. Or heck, see if the game has a demo available for you to try out. By actually playing the game itself is how you're going to know whether or not if it's for you.

Or you can always by a used copy at GameStop, play it and return it within seven days if you don't like it.

I was joking on that last sentiment.

No comments:

Post a Comment