Do Gamers Need Reviews?

[Please note I am not bad-mouthing any major news sites or critics, I regularly visit many sites like IGN and I only use them as an example]

We, as gamers, are intractably situated in a very strange and conflicted position. Hordes of us hate fervent fanboys that cling to the last scraps of dying franchises, benighted to the quality of their hefty purchases, but we would also so frivolously begin a change.org petition to smoke a reviewer who dares to take a critical approach to Grand Theft Auto out of the industry. We blame AAA studios for being out of touch with the demands of the consumer, but will so easily succumb to clickbait culture and pre-order games to feed our pre-conceptual fantasies, which are too often reflected back to us by lenient and forbearing opinions. Reviews have an extraordinary amount of influence on today’s increasingly more impressionable gamer, but what happens when, according to sites like IGN, games no longer have any problems? Let’s review the review.

Sadly, in modern games media, if a renowned website’s review is around 8,9,10, it means largely nothing. It’s merely a lazy reflection of ‘why video games are so cool’ instead of an assessment of an individual title as a contributor to videogames as a whole. More often than not, people won’t read these reviews expecting advice on weather or not to purchase something, but rather as an affirmation that they’ve made the right pre-order. If someone dare say that a major AAA game is just below perfect, they are met with barrages of hatred for directly insulting a consumer’s taste in purchases, because, the review is really about the consumer, isn’t it? There are many reasons why I believe this; let’s take a look at reviews of a AAA game for example, say, CoD Ghosts. The major site reviews all take a dangerously undaring critical angle towards Ghosts, only pussyfooting around the important issues that are lost, vaporised in the indifference of the consumer. For example, any review has room to accommodate a paragraph about Call of Duty’s unbroken theme of xenophobia, and its romanticism of the war on terror, but many choose to instead say that Ghosts takes a refreshing break away from Russian and Middle-Eastern enemies, ignoring the fact that Ghosts perpetuates the idea that it doesn’t matter what kind of enemy you shoot, as long as he don’t speak our language.

Positive reviews for Ghosts also represent insignificant gimmicks as ground breaking. For example, many talk about the ‘extinction mode’ as a hail Mary, comparing it to wave based games like Left 4 Dead, but then not actually comparing it to games like Left 4 Dead. Reviewers of Ghosts would dogmatically lay down comparisons like this without actually exploring them. This is something that really frustrates me, as it keeps the review so unprofessionally short, it makes the review complicit in keeping the wider discussion small, and it creates a small echelon for franchises like CoD to fit into, protected from comparison and therefore criticism. Games should not be judged solely as sequels or instalments in franchises, but as contributors to gaming as a whole. These kind of preachy reviews address only 2 of Goethe’s 3 questions. They address what the developer wanted to do, how well this aim was achieved, but all these reviews are missing a crucial viewpoint: was the game worth making? To me, besides the larger social and political questions about Ghosts, the most interesting thing about it was its very existence, launching into the world knowing it would die after a year, and its audacity to stand up against its predecessors. But most reviewers keep their heads down on that very narrow road they set their mind on, and ignore all these larger questions. Even on the aspects of the games they do address, reviewers are hardly ever specific. One of the things I hated when looking at reviews for The Walking Dead Season 1, was that so many reviewers used empty weasel words to describe the character development. ‘The voice acting was particularly good’. ‘The character development was great’. How? Reviewers need to start citing examples if they want to be seen as invested and trustworthy. Instead of ‘exceptional voice acting’, go deeper, ‘Steve Ogg has a perfect sense comic timing; he will easily create a sense of suspense with his slow articulation when speaking and then break it with his violent outbursts. He was perfectly cast alongside his motion capture partner, whoever it was’.

And, unfortunately, this kind of hesitance reviewers exhibit to be critical gets through to the audience. Nine times out of ten reviews are not intellectual discussions and debates but rather superfluous recommendations to games that their audience has been brainwashed into buying anyway, through an era of pre-order promises and dishonest E3 demos. We need to abrogate this trend of lazy reviews, or we will never achieve a gaming meritocracy, games will sell based of a name, and brainwashed, jingoistic gamers will perpetuate the success of AAA titles that reviewers insist are consistently amazing. But this contempt I have is only applicable to a small subset of reviews for AAA games.

The reviews I enjoy the most are the ones that address these points no one else dares to notice. I recently read an article on how Ghosts reflects similarities in WWII (http://killscreendaily.com/articles/reviews/call-duty-ghosts-turns-you-terrorist-and-nazi/), which I found extremely interesting and imaginative, but these kind of discussions are hardly noticed, and if a major site dares to address a social, political or ethical issue, they are hated. For example, Carolyn Petit, a former writer for Gamespot, focused on the misogynistic aspects of the game GTA V, and the plausibility of some characters’ actions, where no one else did. The review was detailed, well informed and diverse compared to ubiquitous, insipid praise. This was met with widespread anger, because the author happened to be a transgender woman. I mean, people claim that they were frustrated because she ‘was trying to push her agenda’, but she was just trying to push her criticisms of a game. There was even a change.org petition started to try and get her fired, the comments on it are riddled with sophomoric transphobia and misogyny. Isn’t this a shining example of what mainstream reviews have become? They have become exactly what the consumer expects and nothing more, they have grown to add absolutely nothing to conversation, they actually take away from it by denying opportunities to discuss the topics necessary to discuss if we want gaming to stop being seen as juvenile.

On the other hand, you have those (not naming any names) who are so painfully hell-bent on being ‘progressive’ that half their review of, say, Bayonetta 2 is written about the misrepresentation of women in videogames. Half. The half about sexualised women is extremely well written and the half about the rest of the entirety of the game is vague and under processed. This isn’t necessarily better than the polar opposite, where none of these issues are explored. Critics also have to be realistic about proportions of content that needs to be addressed vs proportionality of writing. This kind of eager-to-please ‘progressiveness’ I find to be more helpful to SJWs and in contrast retrograde to the games industry.

This was just a little piece about my thoughts on game reviews. I just wanted to talk about it because way before I was really into gaming, I was watching and reading game reviews. It’s interesting to think weather gamers need reviews, because gamers only seem to want them when they align with or exceed their personal expectations in terms of score, but achieve that conclusion in as little effort as possible. It’s more a question of ‘do gamers like reviews?’. I mean, reviews are some of the most visited pages on major gaming websites, so we have to bear in mind that these ‘professional critics’ are being well compensated. What do you think? Should we talk about ethical issues, or leave them for the consumer to consider?

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34 thoughts on “Do Gamers Need Reviews?

  1. A large spectrum of games must be played so that the numbers have value, name how many sites have given a 2 or 1 out of 10 and you’ll be stuck searching for hours. It isn’t “oh its a 7 must not be worthwhile” cos ratings are bad, the ratings are unrepresentative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point; a lot of sites like Kotaku are beginning to abolish review scores, but replacing it with a small paragraph instead, so that the reader is more inclined to form their own conclusions.

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      • Someone brought up a good point about review scores though: what about someone with dyslexia? Reading at all can be varying levels of difficulty per person, a score is a simple shortcut.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good point as well, especially considering that many dyslexics choose to reside in gaming due to their axiomatic inhibition towards reading, learning an instrument, and even reading comic books. Videogames are inherently a most likely hobby for a lot of gamers with visual problems, you can tell because of the implementation of ‘colour blind mode’ in games like Titanfall and Call of Duty, and I think major news sites need to address this visible trend. It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it?

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          • Very interesting, although a part of me wonders what it is like when I imagine those susceptible to epileptic fits playing video games and having to just check off large groups of games because of their condition.

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            • Not just games, genres. Spectacle fighters like Bayonetta are focused on these ‘flashy’ set pieces. I think a solution would set in motion if devs began to pro-actively hire those with these kind of afflictions, so that bigger games will begin to have different viewing modes and are therefore easily accessible to a wider audience. They have special screenings for films, why do we not have special screening modes in an industry as large as cinema?

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              • Even spectacle fighters don’t often go to the kinds of visual displays that set of photosensitive epilepsy, its often a specific kind that is used. I don’t think hiring someone who has it would make it better or even be necessary, just a better education into the kinds of afflictions that bring down so many gamers potential game pool.

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                  • Indeed. I do wonder though where to draw the line though, I recall happening upon a site that judges games based upon their accessibility for various impairments, one of the most common issues is the requirement of motor controls. Maybe its just me but motor controls are kind of a very central part of the interface, hard to get around honestly.

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                    • Very true, this is something I’ve never really thought about. I’m guessing this would concern people with dyspraxia and cerebral palsy, and the like. Perhaps microphone control is the way forward for these people, where you voice your commands.

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                    • Couldn’t agree more, although perhaps it is slightly a result of the tech simply not being up to scratch, so many Kinect games can’t keep up with simple gestures.

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                    • It’s just not useful. Developers need to realise that it doesn’t immerse you into the experience, and that an Orwellian camera always watching you is not at all flattering. I believe that certain party games that utilize it can be quite fun, but, really, how large is that market?

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                    • Oh, Jesus. I was a victim of that legislation. I’ve never plugged it in after that first week, honestly. I think that was a subsidiary of Xbox’s original ‘let’s make everything shit’ campaign.

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                    • I still cry when I realise people clapped at Sony for not doing the things the Xbox One was planned to do, as if being a moderately decent person was worth merit in the industry. How far the bar has dropped.

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                    • The implementations of new consoles into the gaming industry are just those one-mile-humps we must face every few years; which could admittedly be so much smoother.

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                    • The most recent was the worst given it is the plateau of gaming graphical jumps which have been at the forefront of what makes a console stand out among its predecessors.

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                    • I can slightly forgive Nintendos start as this is their first endeavour into HD development, they should have gotten used to it before they brought out the console but I can somewhat understand. The other 2 have no excuses.

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                    • Honestly I think the actions of such by Nintendo do not come from the long standing members of Nintendo but rather the new faces of marketing that don’t understand how the industry and its consumers are evolving. Nintendo are pretty good people, it seems like the complete opposite with stuff like the Partner Scheme to the point I’m suspicious.

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                    • It’s a trend with a lot of Japanese companies, SEGA are very likely to pull down YouTube videos that shed a negative light on their products.

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                    • Their company is plummeting as we speak, unfortunately they soon face the death of a public image. I mean, what IPs do they have right now? Sonic certainly isn’t cutting it.

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                    • They have a very large pool of them, however they don’t bring them to the west and when they do I don’t hear a damn peep.

                      I discovered their Hatsune Miku games via a PSN demo, their Yakuza games through a friend telling me about a LP and their Phantasy Star game THROUGH a reference in Hatsune Miku! Unless it is a blue hedgehog they are so quiet about everything.

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                    • I’m not really into the [I’m assuming] JRPG scene, but that is a good point. There’s a huge potential for Eastern games to strike luck in the west and vice versa, just look at how many Koreans play DOTA professionally and how Japanese games feed the Westaboo culture here.

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                    • It’s odd how they often categorize games going to the regions of America, Europe and then….Japan, as if one country can make all that big of a dent in sales. The west is hungry and they simple refuse to believe anything will sell.

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