Critics Suffering From "Look At Me" Syndrome
This pic is a visual example of what too many video game critics have been doing as of late: using a gimmick to get more people to read their article.
In this particular case, I'm talking about issuing a review that clearly contrasts sharply with the norm, thereby causing a big ruckus and generating plenty of traffic for the author's website. We are in a unique position in this industry, in that the vast majority of journalism happens in the virtual realm and further, most all sites depend on traffic for revenue. In other words, the more people that read our stuff, the better chance we have at getting more money in our wallets. That's just how the game - pun intended - is played. But with so many new and smaller gaming sites out there desperate for attention; desperate to draw a few of the millions away from GameSpot and IGN, I've noticed that some so-called "critics" are using review scores as THE gimmick.
Thing is, in the virtual world, gamers talk a lot about the industry in thousands of forums around the Internet and if you think this doesn't have an impact on traffic, you're out of your mind. Therefore, the winning formula appears to be simple: take a game that everyone seems to love and either give it a much lower-than-normal overall score or simply write an article denouncing it entirely. This serves two purposes: 1. it brings in the aforementioned traffic simply due to the controversy it creates, and 2. the elitist principle that too many critics already suffer from comes to light. We gaming vets are quite familiar with this principle. It's the rule that says "I know more than you, so I'm going to tell you why everyone else is wrong about this." Unfortunately, they're forgetting they're not serving the gaming public correctly by doing this.
I hate to do this, but for the time being, I almost have to recommend that gamers toss out the statistical outliers when it comes to review scores if they come from a lesser known source. The gigantic sites almost have no need for such gimmicks anymore, but those are really the only ones who are immune. When we gave Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 a 8.9, the Comments section exploded. And while the score was hardly given for that purpose, we knew it was going to happen and I'm positive reviewers from sites you've never heard of are writing their reviews for the express purpose of getting attention. Now, maybe you clicked through to this article because of the hot chick and if so, well...you get where I'm going. Just be careful about the scores and make sure you read the actual text.
You may find that while most all critics gave the game a 9 or above, this one gave it a 7, but the complaints as to why it got a 7 are either amazingly thin or just plain fabricated. Scores have a huge impact in this industry, and traffic has a huge impact on websites. If you put two and two together, you get a problem that I think you should be aware of. Just thought I'd throw this out there.
11/20/2009 Ben Dutka