Video game reviews may be one of the most controversial topics in gaming today because of their subjectivity. I find myself commenting on other people’s posts and tweets about my opinions on some aspect of game reviewing so frequently that I have decided that I’m going to make one big post on all of my reviewing opinions in frequently asked question style. Get ready for some crazy controversy as we dive on in!
Accurate picture of me being concerned about what I’m about to get myself into in the comments section.
Question: How long should a reviewer play a game before writing a review?
Answer: For the most part, I want reviewers to finish games at least once before reviewing. Since timelines can be tight, I understand this can be an impossible task, but there are a lot of aspects to gaming that can only be determined by playing the game to the end. For example, if a reviewer only plays an eighty hour game for twenty hours and gives the game a high score, there is a lot of potential for that unreviewed portion of the game to have a terrible ending, poor characterization, or gameplay that wears thin after another twenty hours. If a reviewer cannot finish a game for any number of reasons, I want the estimated amount of game that has been reviewed stated clearly, allowing me to decide how much faith I should have in the review based upon what has been played.
Question: How good should reviewers be at games?
Answer: Generally speaking, I don’t care how good people are at a game when they review it. Personally, I actually think that having reviewers from all skill levels playing the game is a good idea, as it allows all gamers to find someone who has a skill level that matches their own. There will always be a great number of people that are experts in a given genre to review a game, so having a few people thrown in there with a little less experience isn’t going to hurt anyone. The only thing I’d like to see is more open and honest disclosure as to what skill level a reviewer has when playing a game.
Question: Do you believe that good reviews are “bought” by AAA developers?
Answer: No, but I do believe in human psychology. In short, I do not believe that games publishers require positive reviews of anyone that gets free copies of games or sponsorship deals. I do believe that for some reviewers, there may be an unconscious bias here that, because they received a free product, they like the game more. When I receive a game code from a publisher, I spend a lot of time with the game making sure I really like it and am not just living off of a high from getting early access. This bias happens more often than people would probably like to admit, but that’s why reading multiple reviews is a good idea, because it can help get a more well-rounded understanding of the game.
Question: On a classic 1-10 review scale, what scores would be considered good, bad, and average?
Answer: I look at a 1-10 scale as something of a seesaw for my positive and negative opinions of a game. If the positives and negatives completely balance each other, the game gets a five, meaning that it’s an average game that I have neutral feelings towards. If a game has more bad elements than good, it gets a score closer to one, and if it has more good than bad, it gets closer to ten. Using the seesaw metaphor instead of a strict number score system works a lot better for my brain.
Question: What is your opinion on controversies that involve one reviewer giving a game a much lower score than everyone else?
Answer: I know this is a vague question, but it’s because I don’t want to date this FAQ by using whatever the latest scandal is. In general, my answer for every one of these controversies is that reviewers have a right to an opinion. Attacking a gamer for not having the same reaction to a game is a toxic view to have, no matter what that review may have done to that game’s Metacritic score. At the end of the day, reviews are opinion pieces, and we all have different opinions.
Question: How many reviews do you check out before buying a game?
Answer: I like to check out a few diverse reviews by checking out some reviews from large sites like IGN, some bloggers, some Youtube reviewers that have gameplay, and anyone else I can think of that would be relevant to making my decision. Personally, I believe looking at multiple opinions is much more powerful than just one, as it helps to eliminate the biases the individual gamers may have by themselves.
Question: How do you pick out the reviewers you trust?
Answer: I try to change up who I read reviews on from game to game in order to get as many different opinions as I can, but in general, I tend to find people with similar interests and skill levels, as well as some people that have the exact opposite interests and skill levels. For example, if I’m planning on picking up a new RPG, a genre I’m pretty good at and play a lot of, I would find more seasoned gamers that have been around the RPG block a few times, as well as try and find a few reviewers that prefer first-person shooters and haven’t played an RPG in the past five years. Both of these opinions on a game will complement each other and give me a more complete picture of the game I am considering purchasing.
Question: Who are a few reviewers that you trust?
Answer: As I stated before, I tend to find different people as much as I can, but there’s still a few I trust and tend to come back to regularly. One such person is ACG, who does great reviews on a scale of how much money the game is worth, instead of a traditional 1-10 rating system. I also like reading reviews from Jason Schreier over at Kotaku because I think he has a strong writing style and is good at giving his personal history with every game he reviews.
Well, that’s it! Hopefully this gives some insight into my own reviewing process, as well as what my own opinions on reviews are in the current gaming industry. If you want to borrow these questions for your own personal use, feel free to use it like a tag post. Let me know your own gaming review opinions in the comments below!