Triple A Problems: Are Game Reviewers Accurate?

Gamers today are victims of their own insecurity and pessimism. They are entitled and are quick to grab their Internet pitchforks, railing against big name studios and rallying behind an indie game just for the sake of it. They even think that game journalism is a morally bankrupt industry that sells out to the highest bidder.

They may have a point.

Game reviews have become a stomping ground for fan boys and internet white knights hell bent on trying to prove that “The Man” has his grubby little hands on whatever piece of journalism going out to the public. They cite the constant 85-100 scores of every Call of Duty game, or the dubious “perfect” rating some sites gave games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto 4.

The problem of course is that the only gamers complaining about these scores are the ones that didn’t like the game.  I’m not sure at what point people stopped accepting that not every game was made for them and started accusing game reviewers of trying to manipulate their wallet.  It’s a problem that I feel isn’t going away anytime soon, but also one that didn’t need to happen in the first place.

When I was a kid oh so many years ago, I was subscribed to both Electronic Gaming Monthly and Gamepro, two magazines that were pretty much the only source of my video game knowledge intake every month. I relied on those magazines to know just how good or bad a game was, and for the most part, I trusted them. If a game got a bad rating, there had to have been a reason for it.  I didn’t think twice, and I certainly wasn’t going to challenge them by wasting my allowance on a crappy game that I couldn’t return.

Now, at 28 years of age, I have about 30-50 review websites to go to for my information. Almost every game has scores that range from A+ to C, and the fan reviews are a bi-polar seesaw of perfection or failure. I have Internet forums that I can go to if I want my opinion confirmed, and I have other forums to go to if I want to argue against the opposing opinion.

In short, we’ve all become a bunch of confirmation bias enthusiasts that hate being told that our opinion is wrong.

Of course, the other angle of this that doesn’t exactly help sort things out are review sites that do seem to pander to big name companies. Take what happened this morning with Robert Florence, a columnist of Eurogamer that stepped down after he wrote an article slamming game journalists and their relationship to big name companies. Some of his removed quotes are as follows:

“Just today, as I sat down to write this piece, I saw that there were game journalists winning PST3’s on Twitter.  There was a competition at those GMA’s – tweet about our game and win a PS3.  One of those stupid, crass things. And some game journos took part. All piling in, opening a shared bag of Doritos, tweeting the hashtag as instructed. And today the winners were announced. Then a whole big argument happened, and other people who claim to be journalists claimed to see nothing wrong with what those so-called journalists had done. I think the winners are now giving away their PS3’s, but its too late. It’s too late. Let me show you an example.”

 

Later on after quoting he continues with:

“Instantly I am suspicious. I am suspicious of this journalists apparent love for Tomb Raider. I am asking myself whether she’s in the pocket of the Tomb Raider PR Team. I’m sure she isn’t, but the doubt is there. After all, she sees nothing wrong with journalists promoting a game to win a PS3, right?

 

Then:

“I want to make a confession. I stalk game journalists. It’s something I’ve always done. I keep an eye on people. I have a mental list of game journos who are the very worst of the bunch. The ones who are at every PR launch event, the ones who tweet about all the freebies they get. I am fascinated by them. I won’t name them here, because that’s a horrible thing to do, but ….

You get the point. He was fired the next day.  But he didn’t say anything that enthusiasts of the industry weren’t already aware of. Back in the mid 2000’s,  another game reviewer by the name of Jeff Gerstmann was fired for his negative review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men at the same time that Eidos was heavily marketing the game on Gamespot, his employers website.  Both Gamespot and their parent company, CNET ,never gave any details as to why he was fired but swore up and down that it was completely unrelated to the negative review. That specific website has never really recovered since, and many people outright dismiss Gamespot, but the damage had been done.

So what exactly ARE we gamers supposed to do when there are new games we want to buy? Who do we listen to? Who do we ignore? Who do we argue with or against and most importantly, when do we start to form our own opinion of a game.? 60 dollars is a lot of money to drop on a hunch, but at the same time, are you only going to base your decision on what a website tells you?

I don’t really have all the answers, because I am simply a guy that enjoys his video games, but I really believe that there needs to be a multi-pronged attempt at researching a game you are interested in before you decide whether or not to buy it.  Look at YouTube videos and Quicklooks to see how the game plays. Read some reviews of websites and editors that you’ve previously agreed with,  but also read some of the negative reviews so you aren’t just getting one biased opinion thrown at you.  Ask yourself if you’ve enjoyed games of that genre before, and if you are likely to invest your time and energy in the game, regardless of the hype generated by big name websites.  Grow up, form your own opinion, and if you really believe that websites like IGN and Gamespot are corporate shills, then just stop visiting them. It is a waste of time and energy to verbally attack anyone online, let alone a reviewer who could really care less if you think he should die in a fire because he gave Dishonored a 7/10.

You may have noticed that I haven’t really given my opinion of whether or not these websites are being bought out by “the man”, but at this point,  it’s an irrelevant argument that could quickly become a straw-man for anyone trying to start a fight online. I don’t believe that reviewers should take any merchandise from game companies. I don’t believe that reviewers should take part in review events or be given special treatment, because then their credibility comes into question almost instantly, and then I can’t fault gamers for starting this war.

But if you are so dense and weak minded as to rush to the nearest Gamespot and pick up a game just because an IGN review surrounded by advertisements of the very same title tell you that the game is amazing, then you need to re-evaluate how you decide to spend your money.  I will never buy a Madden game, no matter how high the review score gets every year, because I know I don’t like sports games. If you aren’t a first person shooter fan, then don’t buy Black Ops 2 when it is released.

If we are to accept that games are artwork, then we also need to acknowledge that not everyone appreciates the same piece of artwork, no matter how “good” or “bad” it may be.  After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not in the hands of someone holding the free PS3 they just won because they hash tagged about Tomb Raider on twitter.

Your own opinion matters, now use it.



Categories: Games, Rant, Technology

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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