Criticizing Video Game Reviews

The Kinda Funny crew spent last week live-streaming from GDC (Game Developers Conference) and they had their former co-worker Vince Ingenito on the Gamescast. I’ve always liked Vince on IGN. I think he’s a fantastic writer and you can tell he has a wealth of knowledge about games. Recently he’s been taking some flak for his review of “Tom Clancy’s The Division”, which is very popular right now. Topic 2 of the Gamescast is all about criticizing game reviews, and why people react so strongly to negative reviews of games (or things in general) that they love.

I think that reviews are very important. Whenever I’m looking forward to a new movie, video game, TV show, or album, I almost always check out a review before I buy. And there are a lot of times where the outcome of a review is the deciding factor to whether or not I buy/watch/listen, especially in regards to movies and games. If I see that a movie or game has received a particularly low score (below 7 out of 10 is a red flag for me), I might pass on it entirely. If I’ve been looking forward to a movie or game for awhile, I usually decide to go for it and come to my own conclusions, but a low review score is disappointing. Batman v Superman is a great example of this right now—critics are hating it, but I’m definitely still going to see it.

The developers of video games know how important reviews are, but it’s not always about the review doing well. Just having your game reviewed gives it coverage, and companies know that some consumers who were interested before the review will still purchase the game to decide for themselves if it’s good or bad. I think the claim that big video game websites get paid off to give good scores is completely ridiculous.

I understand why people feel upset when something they love gets a bad review. I’ll admit that when I love a game, I like seeing reviews that share that love, and seeing comments from other fans that love the game too. There is something validating about other people sharing your opinion, and it’s nice when someone you respect (like a critic) shares your view. On the flip side, when a critic or group of people hate something that you think is awesome, it’s almost unfathomable—how could these people be so blind to the greatness that you experienced? But that doesn’t objectively mean that the critic is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and the great thing about reviews is that there are usually lots of them, so it’s easy to compare and decide for yourself who you think is right—I usually go with the opinion I trust or respect the most.

I’ve written a few reviews this year, and I plan on writing many video game reviews in the future. From what I’ve experienced, reviewing is not an easy job. I have a newfound respect for people that do it for a living, because there is a certain pressure and accountability to having your name on something and putting it out for the world to see. On a website like IGN, these critics play a game, write a review, send it to their editors, and then it becomes a sort of representative opinion of what the entire site thinks of the game, regardless of other staffers who think differently. Even though it’s just one person giving their opinion and picking a score, that score becomes representative of the company. That’s a  lot of pressure. But perhaps we as consumers should try to remember that a review is just the opinion of one person, and that the company they work for simply supports the opinion. It’s possible that not everyone agrees with the review, but instead everyone supports said person’s right to their opinion.

How much do reviews affect your decision to consume media? How does it make you feel when a reviewer knocks something you love? Let me know in the comments.

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