Stop Getting So Mad About Video Game Reviews

It's easy to take personal offence when you disagree with a game review. It's easy to believe dissenting opinions mask ulterior motives.

"How could that guy love Dragon Age 2?" you might think to yourself. "That game sucked! EA must have paid him off."

Or maybe you're angry about a video game's ending. Or a designer's disparaging comments about Japanese games. Whatever the subject, it can be easy (and gratifying) to get together with likeminded gamers and form a digital mob to take down your newfound opponent (who you will go on to forget about after a week or two, when the next controversy comes along).

Posting on his blog Insult Swordfighting today, writer Mitch Krpata has penned a reasonable essay asking mobs to tone it down a notch. Here's an excerpt:

The way so many people default to this line of attack tells me that they don't have anything substantive to say. They just want to gang up on someone. They want to elevate a simple disagreement into a clash of good versus evil — with themselves radiating pure white light, of course, no matter what garbage they sling, because they are armed with the correct opinion about a video game.

...

Really, though, it's not this particular case that bothers me as much as the pattern. Whether it's a negative review of The Witcher 2, or the ending of Mass Effect 3, or somebody saying he felt weird at PAX, the story is the same every time. The mob moves, locust-like, from one controversy to the next, with no sense of perspective or decency. They'll pick Bobby Hunter's bones clean today, forget the whole thing within a month, and then swarm the next one who strays from the pack. Guaranteed.

Read the whole piece — it's a great reminder that passionate disagreement is almost always a good thing.

An impassioned plea for apathy [Insult Swordfighting]


Comments

    This article should be titled "Stop getting so mad." Would be much more accurate.

    And I reserve the right to be mad about reviews, but mostly when publishers use them as an excuse to not pay their employees money (see: Obsidian missing out on bonus because of an 84 on Metacritic).

      Pretty much this, in a perfect world the author would have a point. But games are quite literally MADE around how well they can do on metacritic. Reviews may not be directly important, but when trash is reviewed high and original brilliance is review mediocre the industry as a whole is just going to head in a bad direction.
      Want people to stop being mad at reviews?
      Maybe 'journalists' should stop being bad at reviews? :O

        I agree. I like the kotaku yes/no system but the review system is flawed. In the past 5-6 months gamespot have gotten really good with reviews, but IGN and stuff score everything ultra high. What's the point then? Review the game, don't just fanboy praise it.

    I don't read game reviews any more unless I'm on the fence, I've played so many games now that I kind of know what I'm going to like and what I'm not going to like. It always bothers me where one, particular aspect of a game is dissed and it takes up all the oxygen online.

      You're actually right, I'm in the same boat. I think it's because there's so many games out, sometimes there's stuff that surprise you like the ME3 ending but generally I know what I like and I buy it before release and like it when it comes. Like I knew I'd like Catherine and I know I'm going to like Lollipop Chainsaw, regardless of reviews.

    People are stupid, but there's not much you can do about it.
    I don't understand why people still pay any mind to professional reviews, much less take them to heart.
    I find reading user reviews, weighing up pros and cons from people who have actually played the game from their own perspective, watching some gameplay and trying a demo if possible a much more accurate representation of a game's quality than a 2 minute ign review. But getting upset because someone is misinformed or doesn't agree with your opinion is just silly.

      Plenty of people don't pay mind to them for their own purchasing decisions. Publishers sure as hell do though.Bonuses are awarded based on metacritic reviews, developers are forced to add certain element based on market research from reviews and metacritic. Getting upset because someone is misinformed or doesn't agree? Sure that's no big deal. Getting upset because someone who is misinformed or doesn't agree (and justifies it extremely poorly) is having a net negative impact on the entire industy... bit less silly.

    I take reviews with a grain of salt. I watch a show called Good Game and people me i shouldnt bother with such a crap show. I watch it so i can watch the game play footage and make my own deceision of a game)

      I like Good Game.

      More people should support it; I don't want all my "gaming shows" to be Americans talking to Americans on American networks with XXXXXXTREMMMMMEEEEE everywhere.

        Nothing beats the 1990's The Zone though, maybe...

        http://youtu.be/Fraz4OhNh48

        I watched it for the first time the other night (I knew about it because of the Junglist controversy but had reservations about how it presented in the ads). Unfortunately it seems to be targeted at the people who aren't core gamers so it didn't really tell me anything I hadn't already read or watched online.

      I watch it for Stephanie Bendixsen... also that Bajo guy is painful to watch, he is a weirdo.

        Bajo makes me think of Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) without the Quantum Physics degree...

      I love the cheesiness of the show, and Bajo and Hex's genuine friendship and nerdiness. Its endearingly silly.

      Yeah, Bajo can be annoying, though ya get used to him after awhile. David Wildgoose (of KotakuAU and current Hyper>> editor), has an excellent 10 minute section each episode now too!

    This article makes me so angry for the aforementioned reasons in the referenced article.

    I'll stop getting so mad when people are losing their jobs because of them.

      Correction, "...when people stop losing their jobs because of them."

        Maybe he meant when shitty reviewers lose their jobs because of their shitty reviews?

    I read the original review by Bobby Hunter on Witcher 2. It wasn’t a great review and the number rating at the end seemed extremely out of sync with even his negative points – giving a very dismal number far below anything else I have ever played (let alone loved). That said, my reaction was that I had a scroll through the comments section for a few chuckles and then closed the tab – likely never to return to that site again.

    I think we need to revisit what exactly the purpose of a game review actually is. I think the initial idea might be to give gamers an informed choice on whether or not they should purchase a game. But lets face it, the vast majority of people reading these reviews already own the game, played it and formed their own opinion. Why are they bothering to read a review of a game they’ve already played? I would say likely that they are simply looking for a confirmation of their own opinion, making it seem more valid to them. If the review of a game they like is bad, they take it as an attack on their extended identity and ability to build an informed opinion.

    I don’t really have a solution to this – a lot of it is human nature. I think some of this reaction is in the hands of the reviewer. I very much doubt that a reviewer is unaware of the general opinions of a game they are reviewing – if you are going to go against the herd then it might be a good chance to acknowledge this fact and discuss why the positive points others have brought up do not resonate with you.

    I care, because there are plenty of people who buy games based off review scores, there are plenty of executives who base performance on review scores, and there are plenty of developers who get paid bonuses based on review scores.

    Hence, when PC Gamer gives Dragon Age 2 'RPG of the decade', gamers rightly believe that the game will be decent, boosting sales figures - and resulting in Bioware interpreting this feedback as being 'on the right track'.

    But yeah, when people argue over score differences of 0.5, it is a little pointless.

    With specific regard to video game reviews, the websites like IGN, Gamespot etc. and the various blogs/sites that post reviews potentially have tremendous power to encourage someone to purchase a game - or not.

    If someone purchases a game based on a stellar review, then plays the game and finds something not in-line with their interpretation of the review or the reviewer missed things, exaggerated the good points while glossing over the bad or was deliberately misleading then the rage starts to crop up.

    Developers / publishers hype their products. They want our money. They want our (free) word of mouth advertising. They want our emotional investment. They can't ask for all this when the majority of their players are supportive but not want it when the majority of their players are unhappy. Casey Hudson wanted to 'polarise' the Mass Effect community with the third instalment - he said as much in his interviews. He got it.

    There's always a new 'shiny' game on the horizon - so if trust in the developer/publisher of the current game is lost or the game does not meet expectations people tend not to stick around. If they were originally drawn to the game based on a review they can feel 'betrayed' because the reviewer essentially endorsed the product which led to the player purchasing the game.

    In short - game players are CONSUMERS - which means they pay for a gaming experience - and by extension, they have paid for the right to their express discontent and dissatisfaction. I will concede that it can get a little extreme at times but developers/publishers/reviewers should not be immune to criticism.

    I've stopped bothering with reviews altogether. I might read them, but I don't put any stock in them. Review sites put out whatever review helps them pay the bills, and that sometimes includes bombing a good game jsut because a low score gets as much attention as a high one, and you're less likely to have your credibility questioned for a 3/10 than a 10/10. If you give something a ten, you're a corporate shill. If you give it a 3, you're just telling it how it is, or people accept maybe you legitimately had a shitty experience.

    Whatever. Lollipop Chainsaw GOTY.

    The issue isn't with getting mad with the score it's that too much of the industry is based around these scores in the first place.

    You can go and see a 2 star movie and still enjoy it more than some of the blockbusters because the reviewer decided it was juvenile or they hate scary movies and shouldn't have reviewed it in the first place.

    Personally I want review scores gone altogether people should be reading the review to see if they will like the game not making a gut call based on a number scale.

    I've seen reviews that lampoon the game and give it a great score and those that say its great yet one tiny element of the game causes the score to tank sharply(even if that same element is a problem in another game they reviewed highly)

    (Slightly off topic)

    All the points raised by people so far are valid but I don't tend to read reviews any more for a different reason. For me, a lot of game critics, or perhaps it's just the ones on sites I frequent, seem to have grown very jaded over the last few years. It feels as though it's the cool thing to do when a critic sardonically yawns and pans a game, bandying about terms that make them seem above anything but the most revolutionary of experiences.

    As a subculture, I think we are sliding into a trap where we no longer actually enjoy video games for the light fun they provide. We sit back and snidely dismiss anything that does not meet our lofty and rarefied tastes. I am of course, before I'm torn apart by the locust swarm, not saying that we shouldn't have standards for video games, far from it. Instead what I am trying to say is that I'm getting a bit tired of the pervasively cynical atmosphere that is creeping over the industry. You can't be excited for a new game without being labelled a frothing fanboy or corperate. You can't be disinterested in a particular game (particularly indie games I've found) without being branded a tasteless, soulless philistine. Game companies can't make major changes without being subjected to rabid condemnation by the masses for irrevocably ruining the IP. By the same token they can't win by sticking to tried and true formulas to which the critics sneer derisively at for their lack of originality (yet continue to buy in bulk anyway).

    In short, it seems like gaming culture is becoming dangerously similar to the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't mindset of the hipster culture. "I was into [Latest Indie Sweetheart Here] before it was cool." And we all know how much we hate THEM.

      EDIT: "without being labelled a frothing fanboy or corporate *shill." ~ that should say.

    I had to stop reading reviews. I don't care about the number at the end, I got mad because of some pretty glaring omissions. The final straw for me were the reviews of DA2 that didn't mention the location reuse at all, even though this is up there with fetch quests in terms of hate.

    People have been pissed off at any review ever since Avatar didn't win the Oscar it was supposed to win (which was given to some shit film no one has heard of, and no one bought on dvd)

    the main issue with reviews these days is that 7/10 is considered the score an average game gets, while 5/10 is something that shovelware gets, and while 1-3 seems to require the game to be at the level of big rigs, superman 64 and other horrible games, either that or it has to do potential damage to the computer/console it is one (like soul calibur 3 and its memory card corruption issues).

    I also think that Famitsu has the right idea, with the final score being a total of the scores of different aspects (that is, separating things like graphics and gameplay)

    as people have also already mentioned, even on a ten point scale, a difference of 0.5 is basically meaningless, so arguing over how your favourite game scored less than a point less than the new game of a series you hate is pointless.

    All this, of course, ignores the fact that reviews are not entirely important, as the section of gamers who rely entirely on reviews to decide what they will buy is getting smaller. Independent gamer blogs have just gotten too numerous (and popular) for scored reviews (and therefore, metacritic score, which I believe is totaly unfair to have publishers use THAT to decide how much they pay the devs as bonus rather than amount bought, or general public reaction to the game) to be THE thing to decide on the game.

    the main issue with reviews these days is that 7/10 is considered the score an average game gets, while 5/10 is something that shovelware gets, and while 1-3 seems to require the game to be at the level of big rigs, superman 64 and other horrible games, either that or it has to do potential damage to the computer/console it is one (like soul calibur 3 and its memory card corruption issues).

    I also think that Famitsu has the right idea, with the final score being a total of the scores of different aspects (that is, separating things like graphics and gameplay)

    as people have also already mentioned, even on a ten point scale, a difference of 0.5 is basically meaningless, so arguing over how your favourite game scored less than a point less than the new game of a series you hate is pointless.

    All this, of course, ignores the fact that reviews are not entirely important, as the section of gamers who rely entirely on reviews to decide what they will buy is getting smaller. Independent gamer blogs have just gotten too numerous (and popular) for scored reviews (and therefore, metacritic score, which I believe is totaly unfair to have publishers use THAT to decide how much they pay the devs as bonus rather than amount bought, or general public reaction to the game) to be THE thing to decide on the game.

    Game reviews? Lol, why do they matter to anyone but the publishers? The 3 games I'm getting this year I pre-ordered (The Witcher 2, Assassin's Creed 3 amd Halo 4) so I don't need any reviews to influence my purchases.

    watching a 20 minute quick look on Giantbomb is enough to tell me these days if I will enjoy a game or not. The guys over there seem to be pretty honest about how they feel about a game. whenever reading a review from another site, I kind of just skim it to pick up objective pros and cons, disregarding the score.

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