You guys are so mean to game reviewers. In sincerity, though, as games themselves seem to be creatures of far more depth than they once were, the role of the game reviewer has come under increasing scrutiny. I like to think that we're all trying to do the best, most ethical and most useful work we can, and so there's been a lot of talking amongst ourselves in the games press about what the ideal way of doing our jobs is.
Gus Mastrapa posits in his column at GameDaily that writing really well is the game reviewer's highest calling, and he goes on to point out what he feels are the reviewer's seven deadly sins - Measure, Dullness, Doubt, Diplomacy, Forgiveness, Purposelessness and Obsession.
For example, the sin of "Measure" indicates when a reviewer has to apply a score or rating, and factors in the aggregate as he or she does so:
It's tempting to aim for the middle and grant a score that'll best conform to popular opinion, but to do so is tantamount to handing your guns over to a corrupt sheriff. It's better to score like you mean it and use the numbers, letters or stars to make a point.
I often feel like I'd prefer to do away with scores altogether, as we've done here at Kotaku, but I can also see the merit in needing a quick-hit evaluatory number, after we're so habituated to it.
Another one of Gus' points that jumps out at me is the sin of Diplomacy - worrying about the reaction, the reviewer is often tempted to try to please everyone:
In a post about Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Tycho from Penny Arcade pointed out a bit of game review weaseling that I myself have been guilty of. "Most reviews I have read," he said, "can be simmered down to 'If you like Metal Gear, you'll like it.'" This kind of wishy-washy language is, itself, unforgivable. It's a way of avoiding the fight that should be at the core of your review. If you don't like Metal Gear you should be illustrating the series' weaknesses and the way they materialise Metal Gear Solid 4. Reviews are no place for peacemaking. Make your arguments and back them up.
A fight at the core of a review, huh? Often, it seems reviews cause fights even when you try to be as genteel as possible.
So, Kotaku readers, what do you think are the worst things reviewers do - and how can we do better?