Having played video games for a large part of my life, it's only recently that I've started earning enough money to buy games as and when I want them (within reason). This means that I can purchase new releases on day one at the full asking price. Some of these purchases have been absolute turds. I accept that fact with this particular hobby of mine even if said hobby happens to be one of the most expensive hobbies to have. In order to avoid the disappointment of buying too many turds that become difficult to flush -trade in- I turn to reviews to help me make an informed decision on my purchases. Don't get me wrong, a review is a guide not a definitive answer on whether I buy a game or not. Quite often I find myself buying a game that gets an awful review score and find that it's quite good (other times its definitely a turd). What I want to talk about in this post is the point of reviews. There's a fair amount of furore over some review scores and how they are interpreted by consumers and developers themselves and I just feel like putting my two cents into the debate.
The only game I replayed as soon as I finished it.
As I mentioned, I use reviews to guide me in my purchases. I also use reviews simply to get another persons view on a game and sometimes just as an interesting read on a topic that interests me. For others however, reviews are used as the absolute measure of a game. 'If a game gets a 8-10 out of 10 then I can assume that it is good and I must buy it'. This isn't a problem until someone disagrees with the score. If I think a particular game is the pinnacle of video-gaming thus far, and some reviewer goes and gives it a 2 out of 10, then fuck them! What the hell do they know?! Well, actually a fair bit if they are a paid reviewer. They are usually someone that follows the industry, has played a shit tonne of games and generally has some experience of critique-ing a game. However, what they don't know is what interests you in that game. For example, Borderlands was often criticised for its repetitive missions and this was reflected in the review score. I however, didn't mind the missions and enjoyed the gameplay so played the fuck out of Borderlands and gave it my game of the year vote on some internet site. I would have given Borderlands a 9 out of 10, probably even a 10. But, that is because I personally enjoyed the gameplay, the humour, the art style, the looting etc. If you don't like that in your games then you will feel differently and therefore score the game differently. This disparity between a reviewers opinion and the readers opinion is what causes the shit-storms around games like Modern Warfare 3 getting a 9.5. The only difference between the two points of view is one is paid and usually well written and considered whilst the other is unpaid and often a sentence or three written in spasmodic English (or a variation of).
But why should a reviewer know or care how you feel about the game? It's only their opinion after all. The problem that I have with reviews is the tone that they are often written in. Yes they are one persons opinion and cannot and should not be taken as the final word on a game. However, I often find myself reading reviews and coming across criticisms that are written as if they are a base observation rather than an opinion. Let's get one thing straight, a review can point out the bugs or mechanics in a game that are objectively broken and score it lower because of that. I have no issue with that. What I do have an issue with is when people say things like 'repetitive combat' or 'un-interesting storytelling' as if that is something objectively true or, if it is true, to the detriment of the game. The storyline of Bayonetta was confusing as balls but the gameplay was fun which made up for that. Others thought the gameplay was so over the top and had little to no value in the story that they thought it was a shit game. What I'm saying is, is that how you feel about the nuances of a game and its mechanics are not the same as whether or not they work in a technical sense. Reviewers are paid to do something that I would give my left arm to do (actually I wouldn't because then I wouldn't be able to hold a controller but you get my point). To a certain extent they have an obligation to present the facts about a game and give their opinion of it in a considered fashion that does not confuse or conflate the two. Some people do base their buying choices off review scores because they can't afford to risk a large some of money on a turd and aren't in the privileged position of being given a copy to review. This is something that I think a few reviewers need to take into account when they word their reviews and should be aware that their opinions often come across as trying to be something more than that. Like cinema, game reviews have the potential to stray into pretentious elitism if they don't separate fact from opinion. When someone reviews a balls-out action film and criticises it on its lack of narrative or character development I say fuck you reviewer, fuck you. That kind of film was never made for those qualities so why judge it on them? Or perhaps caricatures of personality are all some people need or want and a simple story line that lacks 'depth' is just fine thank you very much. I have recently read some games reviews that follow a similar to those kind of film reviews path and my feelings toward them are the same.
I believe that all 'gamers' are reviewers and will ultimately assign their own 'score' to a game. I think it would be safe to assume that if you really
wanted a game, a review score isn't going to change that fact. Perhaps the idea that reviews stop having numerical values is a good idea. Perhaps not. I am not a professional reviewer and I'm not trying to tell those that are how to do their job. In fact, if people like Jim Sterling (Destructoid) and Adam Sessler (G4TV) stopped giving their honest opinion the world would be a poorer place for it. We need opinion and debate surrounding our favourite past-time so that those who make what we play, continue to improve their craft and continue to give us better games. All I am saying is that the tone of a piece of writing is essential in getting across a piece of work that is both objective in its criticisms and subjective in its opinions.