Monday, May 21, 2012

The Big Bad Review

It’s hard sometimes as a gamer when you see a game that you love or are very interested getting sunk by a shoddy or lazy review. It happens, reviews are for the most part subjective, ‘one man’s treasure is another man’s trash’ so to speak. Reviews have the power to make or break a company in the case of Obsidian and Fallout New Vegas. Obsidian missed out on profit sharing by a few points in its aggregate review score. It happens; sometimes reviewers let personal issues cloud their professional judgment, as we like to say ‘they’re only human’. You never like to see a shoddy review even when it bumps the metacritic score up. It always feels so un-American; you know the whole equality for all.
Reviews are necessary, they put things in perspective, and they give a measuring stick on the quality of the game. A good review and a bad review can oftentimes have the same language but vastly different scores. On the other hand gamer reaction to a popular game being reviewed harshly or vice versa is often vitriolic; not that writers are not without fault. I cannot count the number of times when a review has been positive or negative and yet the score in no way shape reflects it, combine that with the various times I’ve read a review where the author clearly did not finish or understand the game and you have problems.

Reviews are not going away. As subjective as they are, they are necessary, but at times writers and gamers are too focused on the score rather than the quality of the review itself. Not all game writers are made equally but simple common sense dictates that a review explain the good and bad and why it is so as the writer sees it; when writers fail to do this there is conflict. Just because a review is subjective, doesn’t mean that arguments can’t be made as objectively and fairly as possible.

Sometimes a review seems like a hatchet job, the review that is such an outlier from the rest that it seems to serve no other purpose than to be noticed; the smug kid saying cool is so uncool. To quote the Matrix ‘the problem is choice’, reviews are opinions; at best they are educated guesses on what is good and what is not. At times while we might not agree with the content, grade, or even skill level the choice to write a review and the choice to read a review is always ours, gamers and writers.

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