The problem is simple...Trolls and kids...while they exist, there will always be this kind of stupidity.
Allegations of corruption and bias of video game reviewers and even entire websites have been around for nearly as long as reviews themselves. Be it due to post-purchase rationalisation or blatant fanboyism, the notion that lukewarm receptions of highly anticipated games are driven by grudges and money rather than valid complaints about the games themselves has always been attractive to many disappointed gamers. That these accusations are often unfounded or downright irrational is of lesser concern. More recently, this 'corruption card' has been played as a means of damage control for not only negative, but also positive reviews. Particularly high scores on games they do not like are enough reason for the more cynical gamers out there to accuse the responsible reviewer of being bribed by the publisher. In almost all cases, this is an infantile knee-jerk reaction to the seemingly inconceivable revelation that other systems may also have good games.
"It is painfully naive to think that publishers are handing out unmarked dollar bills to reviewers."
Still, it does not take much empathy to understand this sentiment. When you are young and can afford only one system, it is tempting to try and justify your choice by trivialising the merits of other systems. Even more importantly, some of the doubts about the integrity of video game journalists are not completely unfounded. Taking into account the inflated review model, as well as numerous anecdotes of reviewers being pressured into giving out high scores, there are indications - some stronger than others - that there is something peculiar about video game journalism. More explicitly put, it would take a great deal of optimism to take a closer look at what is going on in the video game branch as a whole today, and conclude that all parties are in perfect balance with each other. But to think that this imbalance is the mere result of publishers handing out unmarked dollar bills to reviewers, is painfully naive. The truth about this problem is, sadly, even more grim, for we, the gamers, are as much a part of this process as are the publishers and journalists.
Anyone with a basic understanding of how our current economy works will grasp the concept of supply and demand. When a certain product or service is required by a substantial group of people, this demand is likely to be met by a company or institution. As such, it is not terribly far-fetched to conclude that, to a large extent, gamers get what they ask for. This not only applies to video games themselves, but also to video game coverage. When we, through clicks or comments, indicate that we want excessively positive, score-focused reviews, that is exactly what many of the major gaming outlets will supply us with. And both the current state of video game reviews and the behaviour of gamers suggest that this is exactly what most of us want.
Even with the most highly acclaimed titles, there will always be a handful of reviewers that are less enthusiastic and judge the game more harshly. What is always fascinating about these reviews, albeit in a slightly twisted sense, is that their writers are often subject to criticism (and mind that I use this term loosely here) from angry fans. Defiant opinions nearly always cause a backlash, with a portion of the gamers even ousting suspicions of a conspiracy, convinced as they are that the relatively mediocre reception is just there to generate hits from ticked off gamers who want to behold the heresy with their own eyes.
"It is no surprise that people who do not walk in line are frowned upon."
Although the possibility that some reviewers defy the norm mainly to be edgy and different cannot be excluded entirely, it is rather bizarre to think that only reviewers willing to ride the hype train are entitled to voicing their opinion. But in a community that is dictated by rampant Metacritic fetishism and a focus on cold numbers over meaningful content, it is no surprise that individuals who do not walk in line are frowned upon. Consequently, it should come as even less of a shock that video game outlets respond to this sentiment by rating games on a 7-10 scale and supplying reviews that are largely void of thoughts that do more than just scratch the surface.
Dramatic as it may sound, there should be no doubt that video game reviews are currently in a deplorable state. This is the result of there being several misconceptions about what a review entails. Reviewing a game does not mean listing the main features and commenting on them briefly. Nor does it convey systematically throwing around overused superlatives supported by circular reasoning. Yet a large chunk of the professional reviews out there can be captured in either category - sometimes even both. When reviewers praise the enemy AI in an action game, they frequently limit the supporting argument to 'they can flank you'. Even more often are graphics lauded for their technical qualities without any mention of how they contribute concretely to the overall experience. The music fits the action on the screen perfectly, we are told time and again. But the details of this claim are omitted almost as often.
"In absence of objectivity, it is diversity of opinion that must guarantee a balanced offering of information."
Too many reviews are essentially just a culmination of clichés systematically implemented into flaccid, descriptive accounts of the games' main features, resulting in articles more reminiscent of marketing blurbs than actual reviews. Let us not forget, though, that this is what we ask for ourselves. Every time we boast about a Metacritic average; every time we shoot down a review based on its score, we are tacitly endorsing a uniformity of opinions. If we wish to still pretend that reviews serve to inform us, such behaviour is utterly counter-productive. Because, contrary to popular belief, reviews are still subjective. They are - ideally - argumentatively grounded in technical information and correct observations, but still subjective. And in the subsequent absence of objectivity, it is diversity of opinion that must guarantee a balanced offering of information. This raises the question whether gamers turn to reviews to be informed, or to feel good about the game they just purchased.
Despite the strong tone, this article does not intend to insult or patronise gamers. Our behaviour is perfectly understandable when one considers how brilliant video game marketing is in the modern era. While many of us are still inclined to think of marketing as seeing an advert for a product on TV and going to the store to buy it, it embodies so much more. The way hype is built for a game, the way release dates turn into events of their own, and even our very perception of a certain game or series: they are all influenced by the manipulation of marketeers. Manipulation may seem like a scary term, but in this context, it means little more than effecting the way we feel about a certain game, usually by taking existing sentiments and making them stronger. Activision capitalises upon the image of Call of Duty as a social phenomenon, just like Namco Bandai spared no expense to promote Dark Souls' notorious difficulty. And Mario games certainly did not turn into 'fun for the whole family' by themselves.
The flip-side of such ubiquitous marketing buzz is that it is very easy to be drawn into the hype to a point where you swear by the product long before you actually get your hands on it. Assassin's Creed's live-action trailers, for instance, are traditionally very successful at getting people excited for the next instalment, even though they have virtually nothing to do with the game itself. It is this sentimental involvement that explains why gamers tend to include titles in their 'best games' lists long before they are actually released: they are so convinced that the game they have been anticipating for so long will be good, that it is going to take nothing less than radical disappointment for this opinion to be revised at any point.
As long as a long-awaited game receives positive reviews, everybody is happy. The reviewer is happy, because he has played a good game and now gets to tell people about it. The publisher is happy, because it knows better than anyone that bad scores can spell disaster for the performance of products that took years to finish. The gamers are happy, because for so long had they been anticipating this game and, if the score is anything to go by, it appears to have lived up to each and every of their expectations.
"We must be prepared to start judging reviews based on the validity of the content rather than the desirability of the score."
But then steps in a reviewer who criticises said game thoroughly, providing deep, analytical thoughts supported by excellent argumentation. The fans are furious, because the impertinent writer tried to burst their bubble by telling them the game may not be as good as they had hoped. And if it lowers the Metacritic average enough, what do they have left to boast about? The publisher is furious, because it was nice enough to supply the rogue reviewer with a free copy, only to be repaid with a score that is sure to scare off some potential buyers. Lastly, the reviewer is unhappy, because he now has to face the fury of the gaming community.
If we want to ensure the integrity and quality of video game journalism, we must, as gamers, be prepared to start judging reviews based on the validity of the content rather than the desirability of the score. It is true that the 'reviewed' (i.e. the industry) have an abnormal amount of control over the 'reviewers' (i.e. the media) in the video game branch. However, as gamers, we can certainly do our part by ensuring that some balance remains in this chaotic industry. This we do exactly by showing that we appreciate thoughtful, critical content, rather than patting ourselves on the backs in a microcosm void of worthwhile information. If we wish for video game journalism ever to be taken seriously, we need to start taking ourselves seriously and find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes. Or we can pretend nothing is wrong and choose to forever live in the Hype Matrix.
"Equo ne credite"
Written by Draugen for System Wars Magazine
The reason I started visiting gamespot several years ago was because I found their reviews would speak good and bad of a games different aspects, and i'd totally agree with them. Nowadays I dont come here just for their reviers, but I still find them spot on. And a bad review never stopped me from getting a game I wanted to play.
Buying a game feels like what it is, an investment in our entertaining. So we allow ourselves to be fooled sometimes... but are really gaming journalists to blame? Aren't they just giving their impressions, their opinions? They are gamers that love games too! I find disgusting that there is a need to write such a large article about this.
"If we want to ensure the integrity and quality of video game journalism, we must, as gamers, be prepared to start judging reviews based on the validity of the content rather than the desirability of the score."
Great read, I think that sentence just about nails it.
Dude. I'm too busy with my fourth play through of Hotline Miami to read, like, any of this.
I knew about it two years ago.
Greatest game of all time. PEROD.
Good read. To me, they should remove score completely because it became completely irreverant now. The score doesn't hold any value anymore ... ultimate is 10, great is 9,5 , good is 9, ok is 8/8.5, and everything below is pure trash. When I started looking for score in a magazine ( more than 20 years ago ) it wasn,t like that.
Now I just think they should get rid of the score and talk about it and all. But people are very extrem with review ... it is only one opinion. Some people are just like ... "dude I love this game and it should have a at least an 9."
This is why I like gamespot, they dare to give a low score or say what they didn't like.
If they can't get rid of the score ... or they get too many whining little brat because they didn,t give a high score for whatever trash they sell nowaday ... then a website like GS should just get rid of review completely ... yeah your eyes didn't deceive you. That way they could just put some videos of them playing the game and let us make our own idea.
@Coco_pierrot What I don't understand is why the 10 or even 100 scale was so heavily adopted by video game reviewers in the first place, whereas, book and movie reviews use grade or star ratings or no ratings at all. There are no benefits I can see for using a wider scale when rating a product.
@Author_Jerry @Coco_pierrot This is indeed a weird. When I write a music review, I never include a score of any kind. But with video games, even outlets such as Edge, that aim for a more intellectual tone, still include an out of 10 score, albeit very subtly at the end of the review. I guess it's just a habit that grew into an integral part of video game reviews at one point. Removing the score altogether could indeed solve the score-centrism of the industry by forcing people to read the review and judge it on its arguments rather than the abstract number beside it. But it would also carry a considerable risk, because you take something away that your audience has grown so used to over the years.
Well I'm on GS for many years now and prior to that I bought many gaming mag ( yeah I'm old ) and it always been there for the most part. I'm also a musician and for a long time I was looking at CD review in Bass/Guitar mag or Classical music mag ... many have abandonned any rating.
Also on Youtube there is a bass player who worked as a session player in various studi that did review of various bass of a guitarworld mag ... on his review on youtube their is no score and he rarely says his liking ... he just play the thing and let the consummer make his own mind.
I think it should go that way with video games.
Love this article. I share many of your thoughts. Tom McShea got a huge backlash from his review of Skyward Sword, but truth be told, despite the great majority of reviewers rating the game 9 and above, when I actually sat down to play the game I found Tom's review to ring the most true. It's a solid game, but it has some serious flaws, many of which Mr. Miyamoto has been content to repeat. I love my Nintendo, but we're not doing any favors by telling everybody what they want to hear. If you want devs to strive to do better in the future, you have to be willing to tell them where they went wrong, not just excuse them because well, they made awesome games before, so it must always be the case! It's *ME* who just doesn't see it!
One of the biggest problems with GameSpot, as well as most other major game review sites, is that they rely on multiple reviewers with different tastes and understandings of how they should rate their games. Although GS tries to set up a rating system for all of its reviewers to follow, ultimately their subjective perceptions of what a rating should reflect will always bleed through. Kevin and Tom tend to be harsher, but Chris and others seem to be a lot more forgiving. As a result, it's not really fair to compare review scores between games as users here often try to do, complaining that one score should have been much higher than the other because X and Y. The scores are from two different people coming from two different perspectives. They're just not comparable.
Movie critics aren't afraid to pan a big budget movie no matter how many dollars were shoveled into it. I'd like to see game critics eventually reach this state with AAA games.
@Derpalon It's true that the problem with a scoring system is that different reviewers have different standards. I do believe that the editors try to coordinate this to the best of their abilities, but at the end of the day, everyone has their own idea of what constitutes an '8', or any other grade. A possible solution would be to omit the score entirely, but as I said in my reaction to Coco_pierrot and Author_Jerry, this would also be risky due to the audience of gaming websites being so attached to a prominent scoring system.
Very interesting read. Questioning a reviewer's integrity is obviously not a new thing - Matthew Arnold talks about it as far back as the mid 19th century - but I guess people are just quick to believe that corporations have gaming journalists in their back pocket. And to be fair, it's not too far fetched a notion.
I really respect the Gamespot reviewers and value their opinions, so much so that I only buy games that fall between a 6.5 and a 10 in the GS Reviews. However, that is my own personal choice and the only reason I have decided to do that is because I feel I need some kind of frame of reference. If others don't value the opinion of the reviewers then there really is no need to read the reviews.
There seems to be a fanaticism around review scores. In fact, recently I noticed someone say that they thought ACIII should be a 9 or a 9.5 despite the fact that they had not played it. People are always going to get upset when others don't like the things that they like, but to draw an analogy with the US Election - we have fanatics and fundamentalists on both sides, let's just hope that the middle section keeps their heads. Gamespot, continue to keep your heads!
I get tired of consumers (and even critics) thinking that objectivity is absolute.
I had fun playing RE6, I love the Call of Duty series. I didn't have fun playing Dark Souls.
Am I any more or less objective than any other consumer or critic? When it comes to how much I enjoy a game, no. Does the level of advertising I'm subjected to affect my level of objectivity? I'd make the argument that it's miniscule compared to other factors such as my life experience and worldview.
I think it's important that the world of gaming is becoming more aware of the effects of advertising, but this whole notion that the game industry is polluted from advertising is a dull argument. Advertising can increase sales, but not the enjoyment level of a game.
Well, yes, it is naive to say they are handing out unmarked bills. They are most likely handing out normal marked dollar bills like everyone else.
You would think that since video games are pricey and far more time consuming, when compared to movies, gamers would appreciate honest and detailed reviews. Of course, having once been a Nintendo fanboy myself, it's easy to see how IP and company loyalties can distort one's view.
Personally, I don't believe in hype. There's what you think and what other people think, and that's it if you ask me. However if I'm unsure about a game I'll watch/read a review, and even if the negative points are stacked up against it, if they're negative things I can handle I'll still buy the game. This works both ways, if there's a "hype" about something that I don't particularly like (CoD maps) then it will gain no attention.
So my point is, don't listen to what anyone else thinks, whether it's a reviewer or a die hard fan, just go with what you fancy. Hell, if you like, do one thing and say another! No one will ever know. Our thoughts are like submarines, I heard that somewhere once. So if you buy a game purely because it got a 10 rating and based on nothing else, or didn't buy a game because it's 0.5 under what you wanted it to be in a review, who actually gives a shit?
I could disagree or agree, but then I realised no one cares. HA.
@SteelPenguin90 but that's the thing, people do care and there will be those who are swayed by media.
If it didn't have any effect why are there commercials in this world??
@Vince21C Yes, I agree, and I hate it! I think media is the downfall of humanity. I'm not saying it doesn't have any effect, I'm saying it shouldn't, and it doesn't on me.
@Vince21C In fact no, you care too much. I only wrote something half heartedly and you've taken up too much of my time already. I didn't even read your messages, believe what you want but I skipped over it because there was just too many spaces between lines and I could not be bothered scrolling. The only part I noticed was "Halo 4 looks AMAZING" because I didn't scroll any further. One word replies are a hint for, leave me alone because I do not care any more.
@SteelPenguin90 Saying a one word reply isn't going to change the fact that you were trying to undermine my previous messages.
@SteelPenguin90 Yeah but if you read back it's quite clear when you stopped voicing an honest opinion and resorted to pettiness
@Vince21C Nope, just voicing my opinions.
@SteelPenguin90 Sure sure go tell yourself that lol but it's quite evident that you are the one itching to argue after all that's been said.
@Vince21C haha... how can a person not be genuine? I'm not a loser I'm just bored. Unless you're just itching for someone to argue with.
@SteelPenguin90 and I don't think you are genuine, Just to be clear :)
@Vince21C for the record, I don't really think it's the downfall of humanity, I was exaggerating. Just to be clear. :)
But hey all that stuff is behind us now, at least I hope so...
Review games as objectively as possible while not being bias
For the record Halo 4 looks AMAZING and again, I'm glad it got a great review!!!!
GameSpot has always been awesome sauce themselves though sometimes there are the rogue stuff that gamers don't agree on, but it's all good. Hope to see more good and genuine stuff!!!
I'ma go grab some beers now at the beer store.
This post, it's basically telling gamers to stay silent and go with the review scores, which YOU SHOULD NOT!!!
I hate to say this but... Shows such as Feedbackula, which mock outcry of the general public, is trying to psychologically silence them.
Think about it this way, if a game is bad then there will be outcry from the gamers, if the game is good then there will be outcry from gamers for a bad review.
That is why you should not stay silent and if you have an opinion you should VOICE IT!!
People must also be aware of psychological vulnerabilities which journalists have power over:
Let me show you another psychological phenomenome:
Capcom releases RE6, get's terrible review scores
---> outcry from fans
Those who control the media can then sway through metacritic scores of "RE" users by making bots
----> Fans now are confused and are willing to conform.
----------> Some see the reviews as faulty and unjust thus they speak out against it
------------------> Feedbackula mocks and tries to silence public outcry by belittling them as petty fanboys.
Where there is conflict there will always be a hero.
--------> And here comes HALO 4!!
But if I am so inclined to ask -WHO- was the one to start all this conflict, and for what reason???
Ahhhhhhh now your thinking with portals...
Personally I think Halo 4 is a great game and there is nothing wrong with it and I'm glad it got the praise it's getting. But just realize that it's not the same with other games and gamers MUST speak out about it and let other people.
"If you ever get bitten by a zombie tell the group, ALWAYS tell the group"
The rabbit hole versus the hype matrix.
@Vince21C This piece is not telling gamers to stay silent; it's telling them to attack the content of a review rather than the score if they feel the need to disagree with it strongly. The opinion of a reviewer can only be undermined if you attack the arguments supporting it. If you are going to question a review because of the score, you're just going to come across as a fanboy.
I know what i want to play for several years now because i play what i whant and not follow the hype. But for new gamers or gamers in search of what they like its a maze i believe.
I base most all of my game buys from reviews I have seen online. I think a lot of people do this now because of game prices. Three games come out that you really want to get, but you may not be able to pay 180 bucks for all three, so you go with either one or two with the highest rating. And there's the people defending their favorite games, believing they should be scored higher. I enjoyed the read and agree with you on a lot of it.
I only need a demo to be sure what interest me will be fun as I expect. Also ... the price isn't that extrem ... a NES game could cost around 75$ ... some N64 and PSOne games cost 80$ ... it was like that ... now every game cost the same price no matter of the quality ...
I base my decision on what other players or friends say about the game that have similar taste in games to myself. Problem with going by online reviewers is that they are bound by there personal preferances and likes and taste. And yes people who will defend a game even if it is bad just because they are a fan of past games make me laugh.
A fine editorial, Draugen. What you say, however, is as often true about book reviews or any critical reviews, really. There's nothing [i]specially[/i] wrong about hype generated for, or reviews written for, video games that you can't also find for other entertainment, as it's prevalent in marketeers and critics for all popular mediums. That lends support for the effectiveness of these methods in delivering what we want.
Let's admit it: more work would have to be done to better inform consumers and for consumers to be better informed about their purchasing decisions. It's easier to make a general statement about the quality of a thing than to provide support for that statement, just like it's easier to peer at a review score and skim through its contents than to read the whole review or seek out reviews that are more thorough in their analyses. With so much entertainment available, all demanding a bit of the limited time we can allot our attention to it, it's inevitable convenience wins out so often. Unfortunately, I don't see an end to it in sight.
@Author_Jerry Oh, I agree. Similar articles could be written about music and cinema journalism, although I still think video game journalism has the most growing to do, mainly due to the comparatively huge influence of the video game industry over the journalism branch. It's indeed a question of convenience: why put effort in a detailed analysis when you can get away with just briefly commenting on the game's main features? Still, I don't think it's as much about giving advice to consumers as it is about creating a solid branch of journalism. The review in particular can be an excellent thought exercise to verbalise the appeal of a certain video game, and not enough reviewers capitalise upon this. In music, for example, some of the more thoughtful reviews have helped me view a certain album in a different light, appreciating it more than before. With video game reviews, this rarely happens, which I think is a shame.
You make a good point. The immaturity of the video game industry probably has something to do with the immaturity of its reviews. When it comes to video games, I'm more cynical for its capacity as art, seeing how very few games I would qualify as such are deserving for the kind of thoughtful analysis more common in reviews for other mediums. What kind of review would a fighting game inspire that a Michael Bay film or a James Patterson book would likewise inspire? It's not that video games can't be art as much as books or movies, but they certainly haven't reached a level of maturity that a reviewer might justify additional effort on his part in the writing of reviews, as I must sadly admit. Video games are no less exempt from capitalistic regurgitation than other mediums, if not exceptional in that regard for relying on it. That doesn't mean standards for video game reviews shouldn't increase, but the state of the industry shows little incentive for it presently.
@Author_Jerry I think you're right, because I've actually attempted to review games in a, shall we say, more 'erudite' manner, but it only works with a few games. I find it a lot easier to do this in music reviews, because, snobbish as it may sound, the medium just seems to have more 'artistic merit'. Video games also have a lot of technical aspects that reviewers tend to cover, resulting in articles that are more similar to pure product reviews (such as graphics cards) rather than analyses of any 'intellectual' or otherwise artistic ideas that may be present in the games. But I think that even with the peculiar nature of games, reviewers could at least try to focus more on their experience with the game as a whole rather than breaking it down to a list of features with some superficial observations.
And I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what your little quote at the end means. It looks like Latin, right? Do you recommend I Google it, or would you be so kind as to explain it por favor?
Great article. Did you go to University? LOL But seriously, I think we may have to keep living in the Hype Matrix. A majority of gamers don't seem interested in (or open to) reviews of the depth and scope you describe. "The music fits the action on the screen perfectly, we are told time and again. But the details of this claim are omitted almost as often." How many gamers (what qualifies someone to even be called a gamer, hmm?) would really like to sit down and read another two to five sentences about how the game's soundtrack suits the tone and pace of the gameplay? Very few, unfortunately. Until more gamers actually "appreciate thoughtful, critical content," I say let them enjoy living in the Hype Matrix.
@NedDaVdeoGamGuy I'll be honest: I severely doubt that a lot of gamers would be prepared to change their mentality anytime soon. But what I also wanted to point out is that there is no use in claiming that video game journalism is corrupt or substandard when you don't show that you deserve better. Both options in the choice between the so-called Hype Matrix and more honest information comes with a consequence: if you want to get better and more honest information, you should demand it. Contrarily, if you are fine with how things are, you should accept that a large chunk of video game journalism isn't actual journalism, and that many reviews aren't actual reviews. Or not good reviews at least.What I said about the music argument underlines that: in a good review (or article for that matter) a claim is always substantiated by a concrete argument or example. If a reviewer can't do that, he isn't really reviewing. It's true that this method would take up a few lines of space, but that doesn't necessarily mean reviews have to become longer: many reviews contain too much clutter of unnecessary information. For example, reviewers tend to dedicate entire paragraphs to describing the story, while I think this is information best left for gamers to find out by themselves.As for the Latin phrase, don't mind it. It's just a pretentious habit I adopted from my favourite writer (Nescio), which seemed in place given the slightly erudite nature of this article. It means "don't trust the horse", in reference to the Trojan Horse.And yes, I did go to university. ;)
I'll take the more negative route and tell you that gamers will be far too stupid to actually learn to accept review scales where a 7 is acceptable for a high profile game, and lower scores are more of a norm. Good read though.
@jg4xchamp hell...I even love some games that is rated as 5 or 6...Even myself give it a low rating for some games that I just love....Like Baroque or Orcs and Mans...