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Topical Thought: Critique Parroting


With the recent release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on the Wii U we've seen a slew of reviews come and go, all united under a banner of disappointment. As a longtime Sonic fan I've seen a fair share of low review scores attached to the hedgehog's name and all the hubbub surrounding the title did little to stir the electrons in my noggin. However, there is a trend in the online space (particularly when it comes to YouTube's gaming community) I wanted to discuss in regards to echoing sentiments revolving around reviews. I've settled on naming these occurrences "Critique Parroting". Lately, I've been rediscovering my treasured Sega Genesis library and having a ball while doing so. I decided to give Strider Returns a chance since I've been a fan of the original since youth. I was treated to a thoroughly mediocre but admittedly mildly enjoyable romp of a sequel. Whenever I finish with a title for the first time, I make a point to do some research on the game in question. I look for interviews, development diaries and of course, reviews. In the case of Strider Returns, I was only able to come across minimal snippets of development history and one brief but interesting interview. When it comes to reviews, I try to find multiple reviews for both sides but with a game like Strider Returns, that can be a tall order. On YouTube I could find only one critic who found positive aspects about the game to talk about. In response to every other review of Strider Returns, he made this following video:

While I don't think as highly of Strider Returns as this particular critic does, I do appreciate his full review for offering up a different look at it. Now, whenever I discuss games with others online, be it in this blog or on a forum I try to remember the old adage: "Not every game is a masterpiece, but every game is somebody's favourite". I don't tell myself this before writing because I'm trying to avoid hurting someone's feelings in regards to a game they may enjoy, but instead I find it's a great way to remind myself to try and look at the product from all sides to present others with much more constructive feedback. The problem of Critique Parroting is symptomatic of a much larger issue in the YouTube community, and that's a distinct lack of originality. Much like the games industry itself, most YouTubers aren't brave enough to forge their own path or craft a unique identity for themselves. Instead they settle for replicating the most successful formula seen thus far, which means we can expect another twelve dozen hundred copies like The Irate Gamer in our future. And with every copy made, the quality usually decreases.

That brings me back to Sonic Boom, because it shares a lot in common with Strider Returns. Both titles are western developed spin-offs of popular Japanese games. Both were poorly optimized due to inexperience. Both strayed significantly from their source material and both were panned by critics following their respective releases. And yet, I enjoyed both for what they were despite what they weren't. The games in question took their series' in new directions and offered something original. I'm certainly not delusional enough to think that either is a masterpiece or a landmark title for it's platform but I am intelligent enough to find some merit in these games without too much effort and I think that's something a complete overview of any product needs. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more difficult to find a middle road these days. Anytime I scour YouTube for some retro reviews I'm generally greeted with "angry" critics shouting into their microphones before they've even come to any logical conclusions. If I've found something fun in these games, I can't be the only one.

With all of the controversies surrounding reviews we've seen this year, I've been looking for more alternative sources for information. However, it's become apparent to me that no source is entirely free of it's own unique pitfalls. I should note that when it comes to amateur content like this, creators don't have any responsibility to anyone, except themselves. If they want to follow the trends and regurgitate the same thoughts as everyone else, they should feel free to. But isn't anything worth doing, worth doing well? And if you're just going to say the same thing as everyone else without adding anything new, what's the point? What's the point if the only thing making your review unique is the awful capture quality and a weak microphone?

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About segastardustone of us since 2:27 PM on 11.18.2012

For as long as I can remember, I've been a gamer. I was born in the 80s and grew up during the 90s. I was first introduced into gaming by my father when I played video games with him on our family's DOS PC. Some of those old titles included Commander Keen, Duke Nukem, Jazz Jackrabbit, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Wing Commander.

What really cemented my identity as a gamer was when he bought my brothers and I a SEGA Genesis for Christmas in '95, that was the day I was introduced to Sonic the Hedgehog.

From that day I've been fascinated with all facets of gaming and the culture that surrounds it. And despite starting out as a notorious SEGA fanboy (a habit I admittedly haven't entirely shook) I now spend my free time playing a wide assortment of genres across a variety of consoles.