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LONG BLOG

Response to Jim's Joys of being a Game Reviewer

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Do you want to enjoy video games less? Become a video game reviewer.

I say this as a person who has reviewed games for the last six years. Unlike Jim Sterling I have done so as a hobby and not a job, from the websites 411mania to Inside Pulse to Diehard GameFan (places I'm sure most haven't heard of) I have written reviews with the roughly the same group of guys as something we do because we like writing and video games and not for money. Each of us started for the same reason, we liked video games and thought it would be fun to review them.

It's a lot less fun than you would think. The thing I discovered quickly that it seems Jim has seen a lot of is the fact that in general the online gaming community doesn't want your opinion of a video game. They want you to validate their opinion of a game they just spent money on. Don't believe me? Check out a site like Metacritic that gathers scores from multiple places and averages them. For entertainment like movies, TV, books and music the average review score is lower and the tone more critical than it is for video games.

It has reached the point where one reviewer has a negative opinion on a game and fans take it as a personal insult.

The worst part about this is the pressure for higher scores isn't just on the consumer end of video games. Most people don't realize this but PR companies for publishers can have things like their bonuses tied to the Gameranking average for the game they represent. These are often the same people who send out advance and review copies of video games as well as pay for ads. They don't take kindly to people being rough on their games.

On top of all that there are plenty of reasons reviewing games aren't much fun. Like when you want to play a different game but you are under the gun to play a lengthy title and have a deadline for writing the review. Or when you work hard on a review only to have people skip the review and argue about the score. Or when a game flat out sucks and in order to do a proper review you have to keep playing instead of playing...well something good. That's why the guys who do it all the time get paid to do so because if you like games it's a fun job, but don't be fooled. It's still a job.

So when Jim says FFXIII wasn't fun it isn't surprising to me anymore that people are upset. Some of the comments are pretty hilarious though. He's just a troll because he rates a game low? No one wants to spend their time playing a game they don't like, only to have to spend time writing about it, then have to listen to people tell you how much you suck for presenting your opinion. If every game was amazing then being a video game reviewer would be the best job in the world. Every half done Wii title, underwhelming sequel, or major series whose developers shifted into neutral is something that no one wants to spend the majority of their time playing. Or writing about. Or being personally attacked about.

It's just much easier to make fans, publishers, PR guys, and so on, happy by just throwing out a good score and it takes some balls to just give your honest opinion in a culture that wants to be placated instead of challenged.

This is getting long, but one other thing I've read is criticism that Jim did not finish the game. Seriously? Take a look at every video game magazine or website. Check out the number of reviewers versus the number of games they review versus the completion time of those games. If you see a game reviewed before it's released, especially if it is a long game, they didn't play it all the way through. There's a lot of pressure to get games reviews out there on the day of release, which means that likely it hasn't been played all the way through.

Regardless, if after 30 hours if a game isn't fun, then how the hell does it deserve a decent score? No one would put up with a 20 hour long boring movie, a long pointless book, or a dull CD. Even if the end is the best thing ever created, the journey isn't worth it.

The reaction to Jim's review shows that while video games as a form of medium have grown, the audience hasn't matured.
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About Whiptone of us since 5:26 PM on 03.17.2010