Reviewing the reviewer and reviewing the score is a rather controversial topic. People seem to never be satisfied with a score a game they admire received; it’s either too high or too low. The comments posted on any review from any site invariably seem to be infested with an abundance of insults and misunderstandings. Complaints about the words or numbers are commonplace, but are they justified? Do any of the critics criticizing the critics have a point? Do any of these points deserve to be explored?
A popular comment I read posted on reviews is the “non-subjective” comment. Certain individuals hold the belief that a reviewer should never place his or her opinions on a review. In other words, a review should only be done from a technical stand point: gameplay, music, graphics, etc. Any comparison to any other games is immediately shut down as trying to live up to certain expectations; a game should be reviewed as it stands: a single entity. I completely disagree with this thought process and find it hard to believe that some individuals actually mean it. T.S Elliot wrote: “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artist. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. Poetry should never be judge as is.” A review should always have comparisons “to the dead” (past games) of whichever genre it occupies. It is impossible, and wrong, to not compare games to each other. This is how the medium will grow, not by limiting our review process, but by looking at past games (in its genre) for inspiration and improvements.
Another common critique is the number system. A scale from 1-10 is commonly used in many game sites, but is it fair? Does it have any place in a review? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because the number gives the reader a quick and unambiguous answer as to the quality of the game and, no, because a review should stand on its own -- the words in a review should be enough; it doesn’t need to hide behind a number. People seem to take the number scale literally. For instance, if a game is scored a 10, then it gives the impression that it’s perfect, but we all know no game is perfect. The number scale is pretty simple to understand; a 10 doesn’t mean a game is perfect, but that the reviewer highly recommends the game. In a perfect world, everyone would look at the number and read the review, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and many people only look to the number. This begs the question: Should the number scale be abolished? Should such a accommodation be done for the handicap? This is something that’s been debated for awhile, but it seems that the complaints are from overzealous fans. This brings me to another point I want to make: Genre.
Another typical comment used is the “how can you give game X the same score as game Y” comment. Genre should always be considered when a reader is reading a review. If game X is a shooter and game Y is an RPG and game X is scored slightly higher than game Y, it’s not because the game is better, but because it’s better in its particular genre. Comparing apples and oranges will get you nowhere. This absurd sensitivity has been widespread because of the internet. This quick reaction to games the consumer has yet experience is demented and show nothing but loyalty to the absurd. But it is useful to examine this absurd behavior that always lies in the realm of pretentiousness, which takes me to my next point: Preference.
Reviews always have the opinion of its writer, but what if the reviewer reviews a game in a genre he or she knows nothing about or even hates. Let’s take Catherine
, for example. Jim Sterling stated many times that the game is not for him and if he was reviewing it, it would have gotten a low score. I tend to agree with comments that say, “Why did you review this game if you hate the genre?” But there’s always a little voice in my head who thinks it’s positive to have a fresh voice to speak about a game -- A different t perspective might highlight some blemishes a reviewer comfortable in the genre would overlook. This question is more complicated than the others and I have no solid answer, but I do have a suggestion: a mini review. Let me explain, you have the main review and also have a mini (a small paragraph) review of someone not accustom to the genre giving his or her thoughts. Comparisons between two different gamers are always welcome and can help the way we look at games.
Reviews are always criticized for its content and suppose “bias,” but we must all take a step back, take a deep breath, and think before we judge. There are always some legitimate complaints. Take a look at any controversial review and tell me the comments aren’t always out of line. Is there a perfect way to review a game? I really don’t know, but I think the first step is respecting each other in the comments and being accepted of others opinions, and take what they say seriously. They may have a point.