I try and write a review of a game every week. [You can read my reviews here. This link will take you off site and open in a new tab/window.] So, every weekend, I sit down and I go through my library of games and I try and think of something I want to experience. Typically, these are older games, now – about the newest games I’ve tackled are “Wolf Among Us” and “Back To The Future,” both episodic Telltale releases.
But I’ve been reading reviews for a very long time now, and let me tell you: people think all kinds of things about products, music, movies and books.
But gaming? Gaming is in an odd place. People don’t always like that someone will look into a game and critically dissect it to point out its faults or to praise it. And this...it puzzles me.
A Review Is Simply A Stated Opinion
Assuming the reviewer is doing their job correctly and assuming their observational skills are on point, they will make notes as they go about things they like and things they don’t like. They will then take these notes and string them together to form a coherent “narrative” about their time with the product.
What you end up reading is that person’s narrative, their particular take on the game in question.
In large part, what you are reading is THEIR STATED OPINION on the matter.
You're Allowed To Have An Opposing Point Of View
One of these is someone saying in screamy capital letters that THEIR OPINION TROUNCES YOURS BECAUSE IT IS MORE RIGHT NEENER.
Here’s the thing, though: Because a review is basically just a distilled opinion, it means that your opinion is often equally as valid. And that’s quite healthy, but it’s only healthy if it’s done in a non-screamy way. Remember, we’re all here to talk about the games, not get frustrated at one another because we hold opposing points of view.
(Interception by Dr. S: Opinions are never equally valid. Mine trumps everyone elses)Besides, if done in a non-screamy way, your opinion might very well change people’s perspectives on that particular game. I am not – for example – a great fan of third or first person shooters at all. [in fact, anyone who’s been following my writing or any length of time is probably aware that I think shooters are generally the dregs of gaming] But I will – begrudgingly admit – that after having read about Portal, I was swayed in that one particular case.
You Didn't Play Enough Of The Game To Be Well Informed!
The problem with MMORPG’s is time and scale. For the most part, a MMORPG isn’t something you can sit down and beat in sixty hours or so [like a “good RPG”] and, consequently, this creates a writer’s dilemma: at what point, exactly, do I put pen to paper?
Some would argue that if you don’t “have fun” in the first hour or two and you’ve seen most of the simpler systems and you don’t like those, then that’s enough to run with. Others will argue that the only time you can write a review is if you’ve been in the trenches, playing the game and you record its state /just/ before it drops a new content patch and/or expansion.
The answer – for reviewers – is that they need to play enough of the game that they can discuss it in a reasonable manner. This happens to be the case for other reasonably-sized games, too. And for those of you keeping score at home, sometimes, that means playing for a week or two and then writing about that particular experience. The land of reviews is vast, and there’s always something new you need to be tackling.[For the sake of clarity: I’m generally in favour of writing a review-over-time for something like a MMORPG – that is – you note your first impressions, then keep playing, updating those impressions until you’re “happy” with your final opinion. But not every reviewer will feel this way.]
You Got Paid To Write This Review!
I am sort of atypical in reviewer-land in that I tend to write reviews based on the games I actually own. In other words, I sit down, look through my library of stuff and decide “hey, I think I’d like to review the following, this week” but not every reviewer works this way and not every publication does things in this manner at all.
Typically, a games site [or magazine] gets what’s known as a “review copy” of a game from a publisher. That publisher expects that you will review the game in good time. [Usually before the release window.] Sometimes, they will place an embargo on when you may go public. That is: you may have your piece written well in advance, but you may only publish it on the day of release.
If all of this is “working as intended” then NO money should ever change hands at all [in this particular setup, anyway] – so, a good 99% of the time, if a publication has scruples, they will be getting a game, reviewing the game and publishing that review without “any interference” from either side. The only point where money exchanges hands is where the publication [the games website] pays the reviewer for their review.
So a great deal of the time, this is just a knee-jerk statement from a person who’s read the review and doesn’t always agree with what’s being said.