Your thoughts on computer game reviews.

Discussion in 'General Gaming Discussion' started by FAST6191, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. FAST6191
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    FAST6191 Techromancer

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    On GBAtemp's own review section, out there in the world and on the forums the discussion of computer game reviews comes up a lot. In this thread I would like to get some discussion going on what troubles them, what you like to see in them and general thoughts on the concept. A far from exhaustive list of things I often see come up will follow

    Review scores.
    For some it started as a visual shorthand and now we have sites like metacritic, OpenCritic, rotten tomatoes (ish and more for films). If you want to contemplate dev bonuses being decided by compilation sites then so be it but seen as it probably has not happened to you or yours then the extent of your comments is likely to be "yeah it sucks and is mathematically a silly idea when the mechanisms for those compilation sites are as wonky/hidden as they are".
    There are all sorts of related problems -- the middle number between 0 and 10 is 5 or if you prefer 5 is average. For various reasons though 5 is not considered average by many, such an honour going to 7 these days.
    Personally I would not bother with a review score if it was done off my own back (as in I buy a game and decide to write about it), however if it is sourced by the site or some such then I will, not necessarily under protest or anything but it does take me a long time for something I ultimately do not care for.
    I do also find it amusing when people tell me a game I said was bad was good and point to other review scores to try to back it up, not as much as those that try to tell me what my opinion is though. Alas I have yet to personally experience reviewing a game and then getting the fanboys after me because I did not say the latest game in the franchise (which they likely have not got as many hours in as me at this point) was not a true masterpiece, one day perhaps.

    Review embargoes.
    Usually done for individual games that a dev/publisher/pr firm sends out a copy of the game to a hopeful reviewer, however I have seen general publisher agreements come into play here for other things so I can not imagine they have not been tried in games world as well. Anyway here you might be told not to release your review until a given date, sometimes said date being after those which others might have been given and sometimes technically even after street dates (and almost certainly after someone might have managed to get their hands on it by some other means).

    Directed reviews.
    This starts with the fairly acceptable "don't spoil the story unnecessarily" and gets to all sorts of levels like you can only footage from certain levels, not talk about things after a given level.... and eventually warps around to almost advertising type stuff (the shadows of mordor stuff being one of the more noted examples but hardly the only one).
    There is also the related concept of "if we send you this we would like a preview and some coverage".
    Obviously "give it a good score" is no longer a review and most of these are not that, some of those could still be distasteful though.

    Review vs critique
    A tricky thing to define. Generally a review is "the controls work, the graphics allow the game to be played, the game lasts ? hours, the story is not terribly engaging and the difficulty is enough" where a critique might contemplate themes and contrast things within it. Elements of both can used for the final product.
    In the recent Yo-Kai Watch review I saw a comment along the lines of games should not be reviewed by comparing them to other games which damn near blew my mind. (best if you have the full context there so http://gbatemp.net/review/yo-kai-watch.410/ ). That said if it is purely to be a review as might be defined using the thing above then compare and contrast with other games could be a thing. Not something I could go in for, not least of all because my leanings are towards critique, but theoretically something that could pass for logical under some circumstances.

    The unknowing reviewer
    My personal concern at present. I ask a film reviewer what they thought of the Dutch angle shots and they will first tell me the Dutch angle is dead and should not be used but they will know what it is. I ask a game reviewer what a Nash equilibrium or the Prisoner's dilemma is and I am not sure what I might get back. I would hold such concepts to be equivalent in their being baseline knowledge. A related one would be how many people working what would traditionally be journalism related jobs not being such in games "journalism", not necessarily a bad thing (see also why you want politicians to have actual skills beyond politician and maybe lawyer)
     
  2. Taleweaver

    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    I rarely watch game reviews and read them even less. Granted, I sometimes glance over metacritic (mainly if there are many games in a series, or when it's about a reboot, remake or something...to quickly compare said game to other versions or others in the series), but other than that I don't care about scores. As such, the following paragraph is to be taken with a huge grain of salt:

    The way I see it, half of the game's score is based on conventions set by what's common in gaming. Does it have decent controls, does it install correctly, controller support (for PC games), no controversy around it, that sort of thing. If it ticks all the positive boxes and none of the negative (e.g. anno 2070 and some other games are score-crucified for being on uplay) it has a five to start with...no matter what the game actually has to offer. Unfortunately, that's where most objectiveness ends. No matter how obscure or unique a game is, parallels will be drawn with another game or other games ("this is like <insert other game> with <unique feature>" or "this is <game one> meets <game two>"). And the scores usually reflect that more than anything else. (note: I mostly can't distinguish professional reviewers from casual ones). To a degree, this is obviously: it's safe to assume this won't be the audience's first platformer/racer/FPS/... But with an audience that largely goes by the highest numbers, game designers tend to go with what's already known and keep innovation at best to a single unique feature or a blending of two already "compatible" games.

    What's interesting is that I've discovered that I can ABSOLUTELY CANNOT TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REVIEW AND A FIRST IMPRESSION. I have honestly no idea if this is a flaw of mine or of reviewers, but in the end I'd rather go with first impressions. Oh, and critiques (meaning: zero punctuation and honest game trailers), which IMHO are easy to distinguish: these only hammer on the negative side of things. It's a nice counterpoint toward reviewers who...sometimes are more optimistic about games than the audience (try reading/watching a review of a game you hated).

    A valid point of the unknowing reviewer (I had no idea what a Nash equilibrium was). One I thought of using in a writing or blog myself, as these days I watch quite some "the dice tower" lists (I want to buy some good board games but have few ideas but what I already know). Aside from the fact that the visuals matter on board games as well, I learned that there was quite some lingo to pick up. And it goes beyond just naming board game categories. That, more than anything, tells me about a flaw in video games: jargon to describe mechanics and systems are barely known to gamers, despite the very fact that they identify theirselves with their medium (it's kind of like an athlete who doesn't know what a curve ball is). And while this goes beyond just professional reviewers, I do put the blame on their end: the average gamer isn't a kid anymore, so reviewers shouldn't avoid "hard words" to describe and name game mechanics (or even blatantly using them and assume that their audience is smart enough to know or look up what e.g. the prisoner's dilemma is, and how it's used in a game).
     
  3. foob

    foob GBAtemp Fan

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    * many review sites have incestuous relationships with their software suppliers. I'd like to see this vanish but it never will
    * scores are useful at-a-glance guides but never tell the full story. Scores and awards also help the site giving the score or award to be linked on other websites. In this way, awards and scores encourage traffic to the site. Scores and awards are sales tools, much like the Grammys for the music industry or Oscars for the movie industry; they are just a sales tools that benefit the industry, both the software vendors and review sites. They both win
    * annoying 'tv people' doing reviews & talking down to their audiences in their caricature unnatural voicings should - in a more perfect world - be involved in more unfortunate accidents
    * reviewers that write reviews in an unnatural tone that is worded totally unlike their speaking voice...ideally they should become fossils
    * reviewers with little knowledge of the genre can be a benefit (or a curse) to a review. Depends on what you get out of their words

    It's easier than ever today to find out the ins-and-outs of a game you want to buy, thanks to the internet. Corporate reviewers talking BS should have less sway with Joe Public. All that said, you have to know what types of games you like. That is the most important thing. Low scores and high scores (and no scores) are meaningless without passing through your own personal filter.