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In Defense Of Professional Video Game Critics Everywhere

Considering that I'm well aware of the massive egos and rampant superiority complexes amongst gamers online, I'm certain I will catch a ton of flak for saying this. But before I get to the crux of the matter, let me clarify a few things right off the bat; I do this because a shocking and depressing number of people rarely read the actual text and simply notice the headline. This practice is both embarrassing and insulting, fellow gamers, so knock it off.

Firstly, in no way am I saying that critics "know more" than everyone else. I'm not about to discount the knowledge of the typical game consumer, especially when the vast majority of fantastic titles are excellent sellers. Secondly, I don't believe it's a requirement for a gamer to check reviews before he purchases a game (I merely think it's typically a good idea). Thirdly and lastly, I am not singling out any one reviewer or source in this article. With that out of the way, I have to say a few words in defense of professional (note the word, "professional") video game critics, who routinely receive the brunt of the ever-expanding hatred in game forums today. Of course, as is the case in most any industry where there are critics, the critic can never win. He is never loved. Half his would-be readers simply believe he's either paid off, or he just doesn't know what he's doing. The other half think the critic is a pompous, overpaid blowhard who doesn't know what "fun" and "entertainment" really is. You may hear the latter argument when a critic trashes the latest popular action flick.

I think we can all accept this. But believe it or not, critics are critics for a reason. And I am not counting any of the so-called "journalists" masquerading online, or the dude who started a blog and writes game reviews. No, I'm talking about those whose full-time job it is to handle game news, reviews and the like. The reason I make this distinction is because there are so few of the latter; you can typically only turn to a handful of sites to see such reviewers (and if you're wondering, yes, PSXE is one of them). It's not that they "know more" or are "more intelligent;" it's more that their experience is greater than most. This is always a prime catalyst. For instance, I'm not about to claim that I'm a food critic just because the duck I had the other say was amazing. I could describe it appropriately, simply because I work with words for a living, but does that mean I can compare it to other fine cuts of meat? Do I eat enough of it? Of course not. I simply don't have the experience, and I wouldn't deign to make a judgment outside of personal opinion.

Which leads me to the next part: anybody who believes that everything about critical assessments of entertainment products relies entirely on opinion is incorrect. It's not true. There are indeed subjective aspects to any given game production, but of course, there are objective aspects as well. Nobody will say the graphics of Gran Turismo 3 are better than that of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. That's ridiculous. There is also such a thing as better depth, voiceover talent, mechanics and control, and other technical facets that factor in, and are not subject to personal opinion. Or, to be more specific, they're not as subject to opinion. Personal preference does not, and has never dictated inherent quality. The Big Mac is not a "better" piece of meat than my duck just because you "liked" it more (and if you really did, I weep for you). The only problem with this is that we're talking about sliding scales; the closer in quality two products become, the more subjective the analysis becomes (provided one recognizes the quality in both).

And this is where the critic comes in. He has the experience to discriminate. He has the experience to pick out pieces of the production that either fail or excel, and as such, contribute to the overall experience. He has a backlog of games in his head to act as mental compare-and-contrast facilitators. Any fool can see that Prologue looks better than GT3, but it may take an experienced individual to spot minute differences in the graphical presentations of Prologue and Killzone 2. And let's not forget that the primary goal of the critic is to serve the public; to cater to the consumer. It's his job to make a recommendation, regardless of whether the reader takes it or not. As such, there is responsibility involved, and mistakes can be made. But at the same time and for the most part, the right person really is reviewing the product. Don't you think that if anyone could do it, there wouldn't even be any competition for such jobs? Do you honestly believe that the only question on the application is, "so...play a lot of games?" Trust me, there's more to it than that.

I'm not about to go review the latest tech gadget because I have little experience with things like Blackberries. I just don't care, and I'd be the wrong person to ask concerning a possible purchase. But if you ask me whether any given game is "worth it," than I can give you my best guess. Is it infallible? Of course not. Even the best games are hated by a select few. But more often than not, if you listen to what the best critics say, you will likely be satisfied with your purchase. It isn't any coincidence that, as I noted earlier, the best-reviewed games of all time are also some of the best selling games ever. That's a testament to two things: the knowledge of the gamer and, let's admit it, the accuracy of the critics. Is there any other way to see it?

P.S. I better get mad props for that pic. ;)

6/18/2009 Ben Dutka

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Comments (26 posts)

LegendaryWolfeh
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 10:11:29 PM
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Lol Muppets are great(haven't seen them in forever) Sadly I'm really not that good at analyzing paragraphs and such to make a big response, so all I can say is I read it, understood it, and agree with it as some of the best words, especially since I spent the last couple hours on GT looking at their videos, then reading the comments of how every either says they're [insert here] fanboys or paid by [insert here] company and such and such. It's pretty double standardish...but oh well, people are people sadly and they'll continue doing the same things they do because they don't know any better.

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Robochic
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 10:17:58 PM
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The muppets AWESOME BEN!!! I love those guys.

Read it, agree with it and done commenting on it :)

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fatelementality
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 10:18:34 PM
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Great article. Yeah, the pic is fantastic. I think that because you have a title doesn't always mean that experience is behind it. Your case is different though. You were a gamer from birth. It saddens me to see alot of uninformed critics in the world nowadays. It just makes the things we hold dear become unappealing. Everything can be enjoyed in it's own right. It depends alot on mental capacity, interests, influence, and environment. I know I'm rambling, but I liked Wildcats which is a total X-men rip-off. Nobody likes Wildcats.

P.S.
Look up 'Muppets Brick House' for a good laugh. I think the clip is from Muppets from space.

Last edited by fatelementality on 6/18/2009 10:20:05 PM

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N a S a H
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 10:33:04 PM
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Ben, you know it's true. My Big Mac tasted better so therefore it's better than the duck I never tasted :) LOL

Great article. I have respect for paid critics. I have even more respect for the ones who don't abuse their position. I'm sure if Arnold gave Prototype an 8 or 9 a few more people would have bought it.

However, he just gave us the plain truth and compared it to inFAMOUS & Red Faction. Which is what I wanted anyway. Why would I buy a game which is similar to one I already have and inferior?

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Scarecrow
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 11:04:02 PM
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Haha you definitely made me read it all. I read all your editorials anyway, but that headline really did it.

Example of what you said 'bout reviews: FFX-2, got great reviews, sold well.

Despite insecure males out there.

The sad part of it all is that most stupid gamers will go against the truth.

Those who are fixed on hatred will not accept the truth*

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Qubex
Thursday, June 18, 2009 @ 11:49:47 PM
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What you say is true Ben... that is why you wrote it!

Q!

"i am home"

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NiteKrawler
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 12:48:52 AM
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That's the reason to find a good reviewer, and learn if they think like you. Ben often does and so I know that I should listen to his reviews. And Arnold of course! Also, anyone who looks at the title, and score and not the text is an idiot. Some of the things the reviewer doesn't like could be stuff the reader would like, or wouldn't think was a big deal.

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Fatcat3788
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 1:22:31 AM
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HAHA I love those two old guys! They were the best part of the Muppets! Anyway, I just wanted to say I agree with you for the most part. I just think that CERTAIN reviewers are no longer reviewing games for the right reason... Which is what you were saying.

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fluffer nutter
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 1:35:34 AM
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LOL @ your final comment because I immediately smiled over that pic. They are the reason why I was up at 5 AM, watching The Muppet Show before I was off to school back as a youngster.

As for the article, yikes. I sense the frustration in there and I can surely relate. It boggles my mind that people just "wing" it to do "just enough" to get by and don't care about providing a quality product or output. Truly sad.

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Jed
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 1:53:58 AM
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As NiteKrawler was saying, you also have to find a good reviewer.

I read PSXE because I kind of know what the guys are like. I know that they have similar tastes in gaming, if not ducks, than I do.

Different critics will say different things about a game. This is painfully evident among the "wannabe" critics, but can still happen among the professionals. That is why I think it is good to find a critic, or critics, that have tastes similar to yours. If you find a critic that ends up scoring games pretty close to how you score them, you probably wont be disappointed with any of their recommendations.

Almost forgot. Great Pic. I gew up on the muppets. Perfect for this article.

Last edited by Jed on 6/19/2009 1:58:57 AM

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OriginalSin
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 2:11:15 AM
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Yeah I fully agree. Unfortunately there are a lot of "bloggers" and wannabe's out there that just messes things up for everyone...

By reading this I think you've had a specific someone or group of people in mind...

Like yesterday I read this total piece of garbage on destructoid or something like that, about this dude going off on why Prototype is better than inFamous and all that. It was sad... and really bad. Especially for actual journalists that does this for a living. I mean by reading what he said it made me loose faith in online journalist/bloggers or what ever they call themselves. because if someone can be that idiotic and uninformed AND TOTALLY BIASED why should I give a f****

Don't get me wrong I respect you guys here at PSX and as of yesterday it will be my only source of gaming information and reviews as I have never been disappointed with your reviews or recommendations. I might not have always agreed 100% but it's been as close to my preferences in games than it possibly could be.

And as for the whole issue that guy had with inFamous and Prototype.... Well I do not agree with anything he said...or should I say lost... But also the review on PSX was maybe bit harsh in my opinion but it did however give me facts and a good guideline on which I can make my decision....

Your review made me a bit wary at first but after reading it again I decided that I will get both inFamous and Prototype. Even thou they seem similar on the surface they are two different games. Also I now don't have such high expectations of Prototype and therefor might even enjoy it more as I will take it on with an open mind and not filled with too much hype and be left disappointed.

For me that's what a good review is about, as long as it doesn't blatantly slander a game/cd/book/movie or whatever purely because of a personal opinion. There days it seems that everyone's opinion matters and they will cause havoc where ever they go just to get that point across... That p**** me off and I loose all respect to anyone that uses their opinion in that regard...

Good journalist and good writing & reviews are fading at a rapid rate. We just have to defend and respect the good ones and keep them around by supporting them. Without them we'll all be playing shit games because some prick thought it was the best thing since sliced cheese. In fact we'd all own an Xbox because apparently it's the best choice according to them...

Not being a fanboy is becoming a very difficult task these days. I mean I respect both consoles and the P.C. But it's hard to stay neutral when everyone else is bashing the one or the other. In the end I am true Sony supporter and I've tried to be open minded and neutral... But idiots that think they know best like that C*** on that site is making me want to war down on everyone that seems to follow his lead...

Unprofessional journalist and game reviewers are making me into one angry F***** gamer. Luckily you guys are around and I respect your views. Just know that if you guys ever go off the "reservation" and become like them I will loose that respect and I'll be gone. I think a lot of people agree. I mean it's not a Sony thing it's a matter of professionalism.

Okay I'm done ranting now.

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ArnoldK PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 3:31:52 AM

Great post. And I'm glad you're still going to give Prototype a chance. My word is not the be-all-and-end-all of criticisms. I am only here writing all of this stuff because I have access to virtually every game that arrives on the market - access that the everyday gamer doesn't have. But at the same time, I'm not the only one of my kind. =)

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 10:27:07 AM

Yes, and just to be clear, Destructoid is loaded with - as Arnold put it - a bunch of "fu**tards."

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 6/19/2009 10:52:49 AM

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LimitedVertigo
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 2:12:01 AM
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Ben I'll say it again, the word "better" is subjective. That and I really enjoyed the article...

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 10:27:49 AM

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.

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Phoelix
Saturday, June 20, 2009 @ 9:56:30 PM

"Better" really is subjective, all the time and every time. Game reviews that assign a value to a game are always subjective. The idea of reviews is that some games are considered more fun by a lot of different people. That's your best bet to have fun with it, too.

Better is just the wrong word. A reviewer can say that GT5 will have more pixels, bigger environments, and more complex shapes on screen than GT3, but "better graphics" is not the right way to describe it.

Same goes for the duck. "Better" doesn't tell us anything other than the reviewer's opinion. We can certainly say that the duck was carefully prepared by the chef rather than produced en masse at the factory, but "better" doesn't sum that up at all. I just might prefer the Big Mac.

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Vivi_Gamer
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 6:32:56 AM
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Hahaha those muppets are terrifying

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Skatejimmy5
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 6:43:02 AM
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Love the muppets.

Great piece, I gotta say. Good job, Ben! I agree with it.

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Beamboom
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 6:54:23 AM
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Better can also be objective. Is gold better than silver? Is it better being rich than poor? Better to be healthy than sick? Better to have fun than being bored? Is freedom better than slavery? Life better than death? Is knowledge better than ignorance? Insight better than prejustice?

None of these can be mathematically proven to be "better" than the other, still few of us have any difficulty giving an objective judgement of what alternative that is the better of them.

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Beamboom
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 6:55:06 AM
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Whoops that was supposed to be a reply to LimitedVertigo further up on the page here.

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tlpn99
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 8:39:51 AM
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Love the muppets Ben, you just cant beat Statler and Waldorf. I have the 2 of them on my desk in work plus a bunch of other toys etc but it is the muppets that get all the attention haha. Good post Ben. :)

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 10:28:13 AM
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MUPPETS FTW!!!

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Dealnightfire
Friday, June 19, 2009 @ 7:00:37 PM
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I respect this site the most because of how you review games and write articles. I like reading your reviews but I do not take them to be the end all be all as maybe we have different tastes but PSXExtreme does give me the closes idea to how fun a game is. most sites seem to gloss over that when going through the graphics and if its awesome or what not. You guys seem to get across in your reviews the technical aspects but most important if i will have fun playing the game.

PS What kind of phone should I buy lol

Last edited by Dealnightfire on 6/19/2009 7:01:05 PM

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Kangasfwa
Saturday, June 20, 2009 @ 1:00:30 AM
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Yeah, *real* critics are important to me. I subscribe to play magazine to get a perspective I won't get anywhere else. That's also why I come here. Other sites just try too hard to be objective (Gamespot).

Honestly speaking, that picture is what got me to read this article.

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SkantDragon
Saturday, June 20, 2009 @ 2:53:58 AM
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By and large, I'm afraid I can't agree. I think game critics were valuable at one time. But these days... in spite of all their claims that people are just conspiracy theorists for calling them on it... there really is no denying that agendas play a significant role in reviews and especially review scores.

You've even called out a few reviewers about that yourself, Ben.

The problem is, game critics have been successful. And they've become so successful that the public really does buy or not depending on what they say. And the powers that be aren't going to leave that influence just sitting on the table.

So no... it's not at all a coincidence that so many best selling games are also the best reviewed. Game sales are dramatically affected by the reviews themselves.

It basically amounts to game reviews being increasingly untrustworthy anymore. And I think more and more gamers are taking notice of that.

Your own game reviews seem to be substantially more honest than most. I don't always agree with you. I did not agree with your assessment of Rag Doll Kung Fu, for instance. But you're complaints were at least a legitimate matter of taste.

I do think that game critics as a whole need to clean up their act. More and more, the public is calling foul. And this is not because the conspiracy theorist nut jobs are multiplying.

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sunspider13
Saturday, June 20, 2009 @ 6:12:10 PM
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Stanley and Waldor were always funny. Good read as always.

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