PSP News: The Ultra-Clarifying Truths About Video Game Reviewers - PSP News

Members Login: Register | Why sign up? | Forgot Password?

The Ultra-Clarifying Truths About Video Game Reviewers

Every now and then, I feel the need to stem the rising tide of hate and mockery that often floods toward the game critic. It'd be lame to voice the overused, "we get no respect!" sentiment as it would likely only spawn more mockery, but as we head into yet another insane holiday rush loaded with about eight trillion titles, a refresher course is needed. Ready, class?

99.99999% of the time, a critic isn't "paid off"

I assume it has happened in the past; the first example that comes to mind is last year's Gerstmann/GameSpot/Eidos controversy that was never 100% clarified, as far as I know. However, I can essentially promise you that the vast majority of reviewers aren't "paid off" by the publisher or developer. I've been reviewing games for a long time and not only have I never been approached with even the hint of a bribe, but I don't know anyone else who has, either. I imagine this may be more of a problem in the future - and that's just a guess, as the industry gets bigger and bigger - but as of right now, I wouldn't worry about the reliability of most all reviews. Feel free to disagree all you want, but to run around in circles like a child yelling, "he was paid off!" is not only intensely annoying to reviewers like me, but it's also completely inaccurate.

Playing all games through to completion is impossible

Whine and moan and complain all you want. We're not talking about 2-hour movies, a CD that can be listened to in even less time, or even a book that can be read in a few days. We're often talking about 15-20 hour experiences (and many are even much, much longer) piled atop one another week in and week out. To pay a staff to play through every single release to completion would require the budget of California, and an allotment of time that probably doesn't even exist. And the truth of the matter is, critics don't need long to know if a game is worth a consumer's time. Yes, there are times when a review is submitted and the critic might find something much later in the game that might alter the score. But it's almost never by more than a tenth of a point or two, and their overall opinion will almost always stand. The bottom line is that you do not see many - if any - examples of games that didn't get a fair shake because the reviewers didn't give it due attention.

At no point in the history of this industry has a reviewer played three or four hours of a 10-hour adventure, given the game a 9, and after completing it said to himself, "damn, I was so wrong; this game deserves only a 6!" That doesn't happen, and it's because if a game is great, we know - we all know it - almost right off the bat. If you don't believe it, you don't play games enough. Trust me, reviewers do.

Not every reviewer is out to browbeat the reader into submission

For some bizarre reason, there's a common belief that critics just like to hear themselves talk, and they would never accept the opinion of someone else. It's like we're the most close-minded individuals on the face of the earth; all egotistical and self-centered with massive elitist complexes. In all honesty, this only boils down to jealousy (as a lot of critic-bashing does). Few will admit it, but such complaints are fueled by the underlying grief that some guy out there is getting paid to review games, and you're not. Most professional reviews are not written with an authoritarian "believe me or you're an idiot tone;" that "tone" is a myth created by the jealous masses. I will freely admit that some critics use their considerable power to really annoy some people on a consistent basis - I've seen it done before - but for the most part, they're just trying to do their job.

No...you DON'T always know "just as much" as the reviewer

This doesn't only apply to game critics, but to critics in all other entertainment-related industries. I know the fan always wants to believe they know just as much (if not more) than the reviewer, especially in the world of video games. I know they pick apart reviews in a desperate effort to prove that "anyone can do his job." I know that if a reviewer ever makes a mistake - God forbid - the readers will likely grasp it and hold on for dear life, milking the slip for all its worth. I know they believe everything is "all subjective." Yeah, this is one of my biggest pet peeves; everything is not all subjective and every gamer can't be critics. I like good food. I'm a fan of quality gourmet dishes. But I only know what I like; do you honestly believe I pretend to know as much as professional food critics? People who compare and contrast more dishes in a week than I've done in a lifetime? Give me a break.

In short, I think a lot of gamers need to get over themselves, accept that most game critics are in their positions for a reason, and lastly, I would like to once again reiterate: the best selling and most popular games in history all got great reviews. Well, most all. Believe it or not, we just might know what we're doing. Thanks.

9/8/2009 9:54:23 PM Ben Dutka

Put this on your webpage or blog:
Email this to a friend
Follow PSX Extreme on Twitter

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Share on MySpace Share on Delicious Share on Digg Share on Google Buzz Share via E-Mail Share via Tumblr Share via Posterous

Comments (75 posts)

Highlander
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:00:22 PM
Reply

Oh Yeah?

Oh Yeah!?

Well, that still doesn't explain why Leisure Suit Larry : Box office Bust got such good reviews! It's a conspiracy I tell you! A conspiracy! You can't handle the truth!

Last edited by Highlander on 9/8/2009 11:02:19 PM

Agree with this comment 14 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:14:46 PM

Highlander shouting, WOW!

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:59:31 PM

Well, LSL:BOB was such an unmitigated disaster and still IGN and Gamespot gave it 1 out of 5. It's a conspiracy. They were paid off, it's the only explanation. They all got assurances that if they game it 1 out of five (rather than zero) they'd never have to review another Leisure Suit Larry game again!

Surely, that's gotta be worth a shout or two?

Last edited by Highlander on 9/9/2009 12:00:19 AM

Agree with this comment 7 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Randomhero1
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 2:19:33 PM

Yea that game sucks. my gosh... the controls are plain HORRIBLE.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:18:03 PM
Reply

Did someone tell you your penis was too short? What brought on this article?

I think it's clear people respect your opinions in the realm of Videogames Ben since this site is bombarded with traffic every day of the week. In regards to your last few sentences, not sure that's a sign that critics get things right, I personally think a monkey could see that Uncharted is an amazing game.

Agree with this comment 7 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:19:33 PM

This isn't a personal thing. It's in reference to the general attitude of gamers towards reviewers.

Agree with this comment 6 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:28:17 PM

Ah, well I certainly view those at IGN as idiots. I value yours and Arnold's reviews far more. I've noticed a trend in reviews from game sites being more a synopsis of the game rather than a subjective, informed review of specific game categories.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:47:39 PM

@LV,
I think that trend is due to a larger number of 'lay-reviews' being written by bloggers who have delusions of journalist-hood. As Ben pointed out there is a substantial time commitment involved in reviewing a game, and a lot of places will take reviews from users, edit them a little and publish. When they do that, nut cases like me get a chance to do their best to sound smart...

The synopsis format is a temptation for reviewers who are new to writing (believe me, I know this from personal experience). It's easy because you can simply recount the game plot with a few positive and negative comments along the way. Throw in a score at the end, and you're done. The result is generally a very poor critical review.

Real writers, folks who've actually done English Lit. or Journalism degrees, or have worked as a print journalist, don't easily fall into this pattern. Folks who know how to write a piece of critical interpretation at least perform some level of critical analysis.

I agree with you, the reviews here are generally much less plot synopsis and much more critical review.

Agree with this comment 5 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Wage SLAVES
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:05:56 AM

@Ben

You know there is a very faded line of discernment of professional reviewers on the net. Thats the sad part, anyone can have a nice looking site and in it reviews of complete sour bashing. I've seen plenty. Limited referred IGN and I agree but there are plenty others.

I guess what Im saying is if I want ANYONE's opinion (being a natural rebel I don't care what people have to say) but the ONLY one I RESPECT is this site. You and Arnold are great, unbiased reviewers. You guys haven't let me down once. So don't defend ALL reviewers (cuz they do need defense) your reviews stand on their own accord.

Last edited by Wage SLAVES on 9/9/2009 12:06:59 AM

Agree with this comment 6 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:16:49 AM

Wage: Thanks, that's flattering. :) And I know there are a lot of so-called reviewers out there who really shouldn't be doing any game analysis, but I'm trying to defend those who deserve the defense.

Agree with this comment 6 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Hezzron
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:38:15 PM

I'm seeing a trend in the recent PSXExtreme articles lately. First the Administrator laments about the non-stop bombardment of music "Hero" games and how tiring it is. Then he goes on to give the latest 2 big name installments in that genre some of the best review scores of the year. Now this article. Some people must be calling for his head!

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:41:10 PM
Reply

I'm trying to agree with you on all these points, but I don't.

You're right that not "anyone can do this job." But a lot more people can do it than are actually doing it.

I also personally think it's a crime that a reviewer has the nerve to write up a review about a game they haven't even played to completion. Games aren't food. You can play a game and think it's great up until about 90% completion where there's a glitch that doesn't even let you finish the game.

If it's impossible to finish all the games before reviewing them then hire more reviewers or only review the games you took the time to finish.

Agree with this comment 5 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:19:15 AM

And what game have you played that was bad-ass awesome, and you found a "glitch" that ruined the entire thing? People use these examples and they hold no water, because it never happens.

No critic can finish all games NOR do they need to. You're going to have to accept that and no, in my experience, I think a lot LESS people can review games than gamers believe. In fact, I find that those who THINK they can do it are the worst at it.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Wage SLAVES
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:30:26 AM

For someone to refrain from injecting their own personal opinions in a review is difficult in itself. That eliminates a good sum of the population that shouldn't write reviews.

Games don't need to be completed to be reviewed. They don't make mountainous leaps later in the game like better control implementation, or general graphics or sound. That type of thing just doesn't happen.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:10:20 AM

*sigh* I was having a fantastic time until I just ran into this Vampire glitch in Oblivion: Glitch of the Year Edition. It is unsolvable on PS3 without a non GOTY edition and I am PISSED. Ruined the whole thing for me because being stuck a vampire kills the game.

But I suppose it wouldn't ruin the review when broken down to mechanics, it has changed my opinion of Bethesda (who won't issue a patch) though.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 9/9/2009 1:11:52 AM

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Advent Child
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:48:35 AM

I couldn't finish Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360 because a glitched caused my game to crash every single time I walked down this certain hallway near the end of the game. Annoying as hell.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

robinhood2010
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 9:56:50 AM

Sorry Alienage, but that is quite unreasonable. This could be true if all games were 4 hours or less. But to ask someone to review, for example, Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion, on completion, is ridiculous.
The amount of side-quests there are in that game, excluding expansion packs, is too much for what you are suggesting.

Yeah, OK, a game like Flower or other PSN titles could be played to completion, but that is because they are much shorter.

But are you really expecting Ben or Arnold to complete Final Fantasy XIII or Gran Turismo 5 before they give you their review on it?

I didn't think so.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

Aftab
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:32:29 PM

Yeah, it's obvious certain games needn't be completed (sports, racing, etc...), in order to be fairly reviewed.

However, there are games of other genres that naturally require more time for a fair shake. GTA4 was a game that jumped up a point or two for me only after picking it back up after a couple of months and playing it from where I left it ( a few hours of play ).

Does that mean such games must be played to completion? Cut-scenes and endings can make a difference in the overall impression, as do glitches, and things like the progression of difficulty really have to be witnessed first hand.

Now, could a fraction of point make a difference? Between 8.7 and 8.8? Not to me. 8.9 and 9.0? Yes, and especially to some publishers.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Hezzron
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:45:01 PM

Those who can't create become critics.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 5:37:10 PM

I really liked Far Cry 2. I came into that game shortly after the patch so the bugs were fixed. But ask anyone who paid 60 bux on day one if they're happy with the high scoring reviews. That's a recent example. An old example would be Ultima Underworld. Play the whole game. Last door to the last boss won't open. Patch releases and you have to start from scratch.

@ robinhood2010 - I would have to agree with you somewhat. Playing every last side quest and mini game in an rpg would not really be necessary in order to review a game. But if you picked up Batman and have only played five hours, you don't know squat about it and shouldn't be reviewing it.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Wage SLAVES
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 8:03:40 PM

You guys really expect a super human reviewer to complete every game huh? I guess that can go for another reason not just anyone can be a reviewer.

Jeeze. How bout a little credit where its due? I'd of wasted my money plenty of times if it weren't for these guys.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 8:25:10 PM

@ Wage SLAVES - I actually said "hire more reviewers or only review the games you took the time to finish."

Take this site for example. They don't review EVERY PS3 game. The ones they do review, yeah, I expect them to have actually played through the material.

Like I said earlier, games are not food. They're more like books. You expect me to take someone's review seriously when they haven't read the entire book? It's enough for you to have someone read three chapters and then tell you it's a great book based on spelling and grammar? Then tell you that they've read three chapters of many more books than you have, so their review must be accurate?

Ben wrote: "critics don't need long to know if a game is worth a consumer's time."
I for one strongly disagree with that statement.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Wage SLAVES
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 10:15:18 AM

Lol. Its not like books. Unless a book has prettier text or something to differentiate itself from others. Just looking at games you can see some quality difference.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

therabbitkinge
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 @ 11:46:28 PM
Reply

Wow I wasn't aware so much hatred was brewing against reviewers... it makes no sense to me whether your getting paid or not its just an opinion at the end of the day my money is in my pocket and I'll decide what game to buy with it, its as simple as that. When I read Ben demons souls review he wasn't standing behind me with a gun to my head and a knife to my wallet (btw still love that review lol) I respect his opinion enough to buy something he's given a good review to because I choose to. Keep on writing Ben the fans hear ya!!!

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

NoSmokingBandit
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:02:05 AM
Reply

Pfffffft.
I know more about game reviewing than Ben... I could easily do his job.


I kid, i kid...
Ben, you are one a the (very) few game journalists i give a damn about, so you must be doing something right.

I'll admit to throwing a bit of gas on the "omg theyz paid 4 reviewz!!!" fire. I cant help but get the fanboys riled up sometimes :D

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

migabyte
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:08:03 AM
Reply

I disagree that the game doesn't have to be played to completion. I know it is hard, but I think it is important. I do change my opinion of games after a while. For instance I didn't like fallout 3 much (would have proabbly gave it a 6.5) until like 20 hours in (now I give it an 8 or 8.5). Some games grow on you and take a bit of time to reflect on, just as a good movie. IGN always finish the game, that's why they are still the best place for reviews.

Also I don't know about the analogy that you used a food critic. Food is different all over the world, thus a good food critic has been to many places and tried different food. They are not just some guy who hangs out in his basement all the time. Anyone can play any game, they are available everywhere to anyone. Just my 2 cents. Movie critics have no special talents either. Generally you either share the same taste or not.

Some people like to think and like well done games, other people just wanna blow stuff up. There are games and movies on both sides. Generally a critic should like well done movies/games cause the people who like transformers 2 don't listen to critics anyways.

Last edited by migabyte on 9/9/2009 12:11:00 AM

Agree with this comment 2 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:21:59 AM

No. Reviewing movies is not about "taste." It's about analyzing cinematography, direction, writing, performance, and about a half-dozen other factors. Again, this is where people THINK they know just as much as the critics, when in fact, they don't. It's the same as with game reviews.

And access means nothing. Just because someone feasibly could play all the games available doesn't mean they do. You will almost never find a common player who plays more games in any given month than a critic. Food isn't about "taste" (no pun intended), either; just because cuisine is different around the world doesn't mean there isn't a universal set of factors to consider (i.e., presentation, blending of flavors, originality, etc.).

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 9/9/2009 12:22:12 AM

Agree with this comment 4 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

NoSmokingBandit
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:27:43 AM

What people need to realize is that once you start reviewing games you "see" things differently. I write/record quite a bit of music so when a song plays on the radio or something i can point at little details almost instantly that other people may not notice for a while, if ever. I assume the same would apply to games. Ben can notice things right away that might take casual players like myself several more hours to notice. Of course anyone can tell right away if the game is good or bad, but its the little details to make the whole production worth playing, and Ben is better at noticing this right off the bat.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:59:32 AM

Right. People don't get this until they really dive in and understand exactly what it is we do. I can listen to music, too, but as I don't do it anywhere near as often - and I've never tried to make my own - I'm not about to try to review music albums.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Jalex
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 11:03:49 AM

@NoSmokingBandit:

Your analogy would only work if Ben had actually worked on some video games (and, to my knowledge, he hasn't).
I'm not saying that Ben doesn't have journalistic proficiency. But you need a better argument, because by your analogy, only a minority of reviewers deserve their job as only a minority of them have developed video games.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

therabbitkinge
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:15:18 AM
Reply

@wage SLAVES: see now that right there makes sense as well, Ben speak for yourself and your friends in the industry but a general defense of all reviewers is undeserved in some sense because like some people here will say a lot of sites have bad or biased reviews, and no im not going to name any but they know who they are and so do we. Which is why everyone is reading this article here, and responding here, and reading reviews here because here reside some of the best articles I've read on games and the industry since I've become a member. Ben and Arnold more power to ya!!! (Only put bens name first since he wrote the article no offense arnold lol)

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:04:34 AM
Reply

Consider me brow-beaten :)

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Advent Child
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:43:14 AM
Reply

I can think of one game I thought highly of for the first 5-6 hours and then got around the end of the game and decided to lower my score of it about 2 points from a 9 to a 7 because of the incredible cheapness the game throws into the end of the game - prototype.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:19:40 AM

...and what score did we give it? ;)

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Scarecrow
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:44:18 AM
Reply

I know as much as any reviewer..., sorry Ben

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

chucknasty
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:37:35 AM

Agreed, but the usefulness of reviewers is for letting me know if a game I was on the fence about is worth buying because they will buy any game and play it regardless of how crappy it is. I know I will buy Uncharted 2 and AC2, Borderlands on the other hand is a purchase only if everyone else says 'go'.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 6:36:44 PM

I've been reading your comments for a while Scarecrow and no you don't.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Scarecrow
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 6:51:15 PM

Care to prove your point Alienage?

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 1:56:02 AM
Reply

I think what people ultimately are getting at when they scream about reviewers being bought off is that there is a clear bias in many cases. Often times it is just blatant and shocking, other times it is just lazy and based on nothing. The problem is, it is there GOING INTO the review and thus taints it. Disagreeing with the review of technical issues like controls and graphics is one thing, but disagreeing with plain old ignorance is the customer's prerogative.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Banky A
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:05:39 AM
Reply

You hear you, brothers.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Byakko2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:19:57 AM
Reply

I can think of one recent example where gamers disagree with critics, and that is Cross Edge. The game wasn't received well by the press -I personally understood why, and knew it would happen - yet fans of the game went nuts claiming the reviewers had no idea what they were talking about. If they understood how the games are rated then they would think twice before going on a rampage and bashing the critics. Now myself, I enjoyed the game and have played it through on hard difficulty 3 times. That said, I don't disagree with the general press and the average score the game received.

The graphics for one were a awful for PS3 standards. The mesh of 2D sprites (while I liked the sprites being a 2D guy) and low polygon 3D backgrounds was not acceptable for PS3 standards. Story-wise the game had its usual JRPG quirks. Some of the dialogue was witty at times and gave me a chuckle but the mix of all the characters was just that: witty. There was little in the way of character development, which is understandable from a cross over RPG. Where I think the game draws its strength is the gameplay but it's challenging and isn't easy to get into. It did something different which is admirable but that one aspect alone isn't enough to put Cross Edge amongst the top RPGs out there.

All in all, I loved the game still but only because I got addicted to leveling and the combo system. I'm just like that with RPGs; I max out stats and such and see how big the numbers get.

Basically what I'm saying is, gamers who disagree with the scores need to read the reviews, and the lot of them do not do this. No, they simply see the score and act as though the world doesn't make sense because their favorite game didn't get the 10 they felt it deserved. I'm generalizing of course, but it's how these things happen. If gamers are going to look only at the scores, they need to take it differently. Like say for instance, said game receives a 6. My advice is go rent the game, and if you like it, buy it. If it's a high 8, and the genre of said game is of your tastes, then buy it or rent it if you're not sure. Scores of 9-10 are no contest and are likely well-deserved - go buy it.

I too am getting a little tired of gamers and their holier than thou type attitudes because they have the time to play all 40 hours of a game. People who put it on a scale of right and wrong are dumb; it simply isn't that easy. I guarantee you if you filled their plates with about 5 games for 1 month and they tried to review them with a deadline, they would stop taking you guys for granted.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

___________
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:50:43 AM
Reply

i dont know about that.
what about devs saying you can only review their game if you give it a certain score?
like what hapend with MGS4 or batman AA.
that sounds like a bribe to me.
and i still to this day cant figure out how and why GTAIV got a 10.
give me enough time and i will come up with 1M reasons why GTAIV does not deserve a 10.
the only game released last year that deserved a 10 was MGS4 and most sites only gave it a 9.5 or so.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 3:08:44 AM

To me, that could never happen. If I were a gaming journalist and a developer told me I couldn't review any of their games unless I gave a certain score. The story of that threat by the developer would be a far bigger scoop than any advanced review could be.

Bribes and threats are exactly the kind of thing that will get reported.

As for MGS4 getting 9.5 instead of 10...why is that even an issue? It's 5% difference in score. That's an insignificant difference and not relevant to this discussion at all.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

___________
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 7:43:54 AM

where did i say its a issue?
the point of bringing that up is that the points system is flawed.
who here seriously believes GTAIV was a better game than MGS4?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

SkantDragon
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 4:25:11 AM
Reply

I'm afraid I can't agree. Sorry. If reviewers in general are getting a bad reputation with the masses, I think it's been long in coming and well deserved.

While I think it's likely to be true that reviewers themselves are not often paid off directly, I think there are many cases where pressures are placed upon them in more indirect ways. I think it's pretty difficult to claim that pressures for bias don't exist and are not a factor. Especially when there are so many publications and sites which display bias in rather overt fashion. You've called out some sites over this yourself in previous articles.

As for playing games through to completion, I have read professional game reviews for games I was already familiar with where it was immediately obvious that the reviewer had barely even tried the game. They read like book reports scribbled down at the last minute after glancing through the book. At least one of the ones I read made it clear the reviewer couldn't have played the game for an entire hour.

These same reviews usually do make or break a game's sales. It shouldn't be any surprise that the best reviewed games are usually also the best sellers. There's a lot of self fulfilling prophecy there.

Reading reviews for games you already have and have played through completely can be rather illuminating.

All that said, your own reviews are some of the better ones out there and don't seem prone to these pitfalls. If other reviewers were more like you, I don't think the gaming public would be complaining much.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:25:03 AM

Bias is a tough thing to get around. We're all human and we all have personal preferences. I would LIKE to think that most GOOD reviewers do what we all need to do: regardless of those personal preferences and opinion, we score the game on its merits. I'll be doing reviews for a couple flight games soon, for example, and while I basically HATE them, that doesn't mean I can't play them, and it doesn't mean I'll give them lower scores because of my own feeling on the genre.

And while you will find those incomplete reviews, I don't think you'll find them at major publications. And if you do, I admit that's a problem. But you probably won't find it for very high-profile reviews, and in my case for instance, I will play games nobody really cares about (Riding Star on the PS2, for instance) for less time before doing a review.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Wage SLAVES
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 8:16:39 PM

@Ben

I could never be a reviewer. I know I have an overarching nature to skew things, even if its subconsciously. I can admit it.

You know, Im a HUGE shooter guy and Ill always sway in their favor. Im just built that way. Say if I were to compare a given shooter to an RTS Ill probably give an FPS a favorable angle.

I can admit it. I've "gotten over myself" you can say. I think that is the first step here.

And to everyone else, Ill leave with a quote from the admirable DR. Phil...

"You're RUINING your life!" (gotta imagine the accent, lol!)



Last edited by Wage SLAVES on 9/9/2009 8:26:52 PM

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Kangasfwa
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 9:50:34 PM

@ Skant Dragon

Tim Schafer's games are always well reviewed and yet they almost never sell well. How is that a self fulfilling prophecy?

Last edited by Kangasfwa on 9/9/2009 9:54:40 PM

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Doosharm
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 5:21:08 AM
Reply


I think your last point is exactly why many gamers have problems with critics. We feel like we're being talked down to by critics who are "egotistical and self-centered with massive elitist complexes" simply because most critics feel that their ability to write about games suggests they have a deeper knowledge of them and a greater ability to think critically about them. Not true, I say. The knowledge of games and critical analysis skills are completely unrelated to writing skill.

If writing skill was the most important factor in being a competent game critic then Roger Ebert would be one of the most sought after game reviewers. He's not. Why? Because he doesn't know anything about video games. Like you said, you're not a food critic because you lack the same level of experience as the professionals even though your writing skills are just as good as theirs.

Therefore, all the importance falls on the subject matter and your ability to analyze it. Call me crazy but I know a lot of lifelong gamers who have great analytical skills, myself included. In fact, many of the regulars on this site fit into that category. So, the only real difference I see between myself and a critic is writing skill. How then can a critic claim to "know more" than I do about games?

If you've played more games than I have and have better analytical skills, then I yield to you as a more knowledgeable gamer. If however, the only thing you have on me is your ability to write up an article? Well, I find it hard to value any review written by such a person and that's when I look elsewhere for my reviews. Honestly, I think that a lot of critics need to get over themselves and accept that fact that they are nothing more than gamers with writing skills.

With that said, the gaming community is unfortunately full of many people who utterly lack any of these skills but, because of the annonymity of the internet, feel comfortable belittling hard working critics who do have these skills. So I can certainly understand how critics would get fed up with such treatment and take an elitist tone. I just don't like how it is then cast upon gamers who don't deserve it.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:29:04 AM

I think you're correct in the fact that many avid gamers have much of the same analytical ability as many reviewers. But I never once implied that writing ability should separate the critics from the gamers; that doesn't make any sense. It's true that if you were applying for a review position with a major source somewhere, you would have to exhibit the appropriate writing skills, but that's a distant second to analytical skill in my mind.

Furthermore, you're talking about a very TINY minority. Gamers often forget that the casual, everyday gamer outnumbers the hardcore by about a 10:1 ratio. It would be the same in other entertainment venues, too. I'm certain there are movie buffs out there who have great analytical skills like Ebert, but they're in the vast minority in the movie-going public. Also, I'd like to add that I SERIOUSLY doubt many people are finding nuances and other little things in films that Ebert often talks about. He's the only Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic out there, and you DON'T win a Pulitzer just for your ability to write.

Agree with this comment 5 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

darxed
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 11:26:53 AM

Yeah the problem is that the majority of gamers on this site is still the minority of gamers out there. And more often than not, a gamer may have huge experience and knowledge on a genre (mine is RPGs) but little to none on others, so maybe we could review a game of our favorite genre as well as a critic, but we could not do their full jobs considering our personal preferences about games. About the complete the game to review, I think it would be great if it were possible (I think critics themselves would be thrilled to have all the time in the world to review games, at least the good ones) but it's just not possible to do, not with so much realeases every month.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

tlpn99
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 7:25:08 AM
Reply

@World, there is a cure for becoming a Vampire in Oblivion. My mate became one and had to seek out the cure for it as no one would serve him in any shop he went in and some of his powers were weakened etc. He did tell me that there is a cure for it on the game unles it is as you say a glitch and you cannot fix it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lotusflow3r
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 9:16:13 AM
Reply

Yes i agree, "gamers" who act like that need to get over themselves, "critics" who write things like this out of insecurity do too.

"Critics" can be majorly wrong and misunderstand things too or vice versa...just like "gamers".

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:20:21 AM

Keep thinking that, chief.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

maxpontiac
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 12:16:19 PM
Reply

Ben -

The one thing you failed to cover in this editorial is that all game reviews are just an opinion by the author, and that all the readers should take it as such. What you, or any game critic states about the game is NOT the definitive concrete score. It's one of many, all in which may differ from the individual.

I honestly believe that these very differences are the main contributor to the rift between gamers and critics. Once folks realize that all a reviewer is doing is offering his opinion on a certain title, you will look at every review as just what one person percieved.

With PSXE, I come here for the news, the editorials, and of course, the reviews. Do I agree with everything I read? No sir. But regardless, I respect the author's professional opinion, and if I do not have an opinion, I then formulate my very own based on my knowledge and/or experiences. If I don't have any history on the subject matter, I do the research, or avoid the discussion in most cases.

As far offering reviews on a title that the reviewer failed to complete, it's just another reason gamers and critics don't get along sometimes. This is the reason why I take every review with a grain of salt. I refuse to acknowledge a review of a potential 100 hr RPG such as Sacred 2, when it's obvious the critic spent an inadequate amount of time on the title.

It is why I believe that if a game is going to require more time than budgeted, it should not be reviewed for reviewing sake. Not only can an experienced/knowledged player pick up the low amount of reviewer experience with the game, it comes off as more of a extended hands on impression in my book. Any amateur can write a review of game after 4 hours. If this is all a professional is going to do, what's the difference? The fact the professional has a degree? A title? A website? Things to think about. For all of us.

Regardless of the difference in opinions, I enjoy this site very much, and it's articles like this that have made this website my PS3 home.

Last edited by maxpontiac on 9/9/2009 12:20:09 PM

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 2:10:43 PM

I appreciate that, but I must again maintain that while there are always subjective parts to any review, it is NOT 100% opinion.

It is not my "opinion" that GT5 has better graphics than Midnight Club.

It is not my "opinion" that the sound in Demon's Souls is of a higher quality than the sound in Evergrace.

It is not my "opinion" that there is more depth in Fight Night Round 4 than there is in Punch-Out!

Those are all indisputable facts. Yes, there is a sliding scale; we will argue about Forza vs. GT5, for example. But there comes a point where things really ARE black and white, which is why I very much dislike the popular idea that every review is "just opinion," because - as everyone is entitled to their opinion - this implies that anyone can be an expert or a critic.

Know what I mean? That aside, I really do appreciate your support (and the support of all our valued readers); we really do try to make this a place worth coming to. ;)

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

maxpontiac
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 4:40:35 PM

Ben -

You make some excellent points on all ends, but when it comes to black and white issues, you know what is often found in the middle?

Shades of grey.

I wasn't implying that anyone can be an expert at all, and if it came out as such, my apologies. I was simply stating that you and your readers might not see eye to eye on several reviews due to each of our own point of views. Who is right? Who is wrong? No one, and that's the beauty of it.

Anyways. Thanks for the response, and as usual, an article that made me think.

Last edited by maxpontiac on 9/9/2009 4:42:01 PM

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lairfan
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 3:32:35 PM
Reply

This site certainly has the best game reviews I've ever read (even if I don't agree with them all).

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 4:45:19 PM
Reply

I don't know what is the matter with the comments section, but I posted the following comment after clicking on news and the comments there are completely different than the ones when you click on this article from the first page. I'm re-posting my comment here with some revisions since it was lost in limbo.

I was an agreement with this whole article until the last paragraph titled: No...you DON'T always know "just as much" as the reviewer.

So, being that you brought it up. What makes a review of a video game or any other entertainment industry genre not subjective? If reviews were based on facts, we wouldn't need them. Just list out the details and we'd have everything we need to know.

The score is mainly subjective and the difference in scores for each source bears that out. Just because most people agree on something doesn't make it a fact.

I get the point you make about sound quality in Demon's Souls compared to Evergrace. However, the numerical score you give it is completely arbitrary and therefore subjective.

I understand you report and give opinions on everything involved in the gaming industry that makes you a valued opinion leader in the field and I take your reviews seriously. I'd much rather read a review from you than someone with out that knowledge. But, to me, a review is just an opinion. I also value a lot of my friends opinions on games and will listen to what they have to say on a particular game too. On the other hand, I don't always see eye to eye with Arnold's tastes and sometimes pass on his reviews. I'm not trying to rip Arnold here, I'm just giving my humble opinion.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 6:18:58 PM

Nope. Not everything is opinion.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 3:31:11 PM

Yeah, great comment. Thanks for blessing me with your inifinite wisdom. Of course, not everything is opinion. However, the basis of a score is based only on opinion. That is why a game has a metascore. The difference in reviews is opinion. Or, I guess your score of 8.8 for Demon's Souls is a fact. That is what that score deserves. There is no logic in your argument.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LyleCapua
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 5:15:51 PM
Reply

*cough* Eurogamer *cough*

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 5:37:23 PM

No kidding.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

MadPowerBomber
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 9:34:51 PM
Reply

What a messy argument.

Personally I don't read reviews. I haven't read a review of anything - games or otherwise - in at least two and a half years. I read a review of Predator: Concrete Jungle and wasn't happy with the review. The critic obviously didn't play the game all the way through, which is misleading to me regardless of how many people claim it's impossible. To me, personally, playing a game for an hour and two and reviewing it is like watching movie trailers or reading a lone chapter of a book and walking away like an authority on the subject matter. Some games don't need it, sure. Sports games, racing games, mmorpgs, things of that nature; but a lot of games now are very much intwined with their narratives and one wrong turn in that narrative can ruin the entire experience for me (re: Halo 2's undisguised "influences" and cliffhanger ending) just as positive aspects of the narrative can highten one's experience, despite the game's potential flaws. The critic also went off on Predator's narrative, plot and execution; and as a writer myself, it irritated me to no end that he A) didn't finish the game and B) presumed himself more intelligent than the authors of that plot. Sorry, but a critic por reviewer pretending to be smarter than Grant Morrison is a huge mistake in my eyes.

So, I don't read them. Even here.

But, I do have to say that there's a level of snobbery amongst most critics where they take a stance of superiority over others that's ripe and sickening. Not saying you do it, sir, as I've never read any of your reviews, but even the Pulitzer Prize winning Roger Ebert is guilty of this. Educated or not, most every critic I've read or seen a review by let's their personal preference slip into their thoughts on the subject up for review. Ebert himself is guilty of this and doesn't hide it, especially in regards to the horror "genre," which he absolutely does not understand.

Critics do, however, change their views and opinions on things over time. A lot of these games haven't been around long enough for a critic to alter his review, and the sheer nature of video game generations make it difficult, but to say it doesn't happen is a bit awkward. It hasn't happened in print, sure, but everything isn't printed. Case in point as far as films go would be John Carpenter's The Thing, which was blasted by critics and failed in the box office for reasons that honestly had little to do with the film itself, and more to do with the socio-political climate at the time. Now, however, time has treated the film remarkably well and it's lasting quality is relatively unmatched by genre pictures from the same time period. I think it's inevitable for this sort of thing to happen in video games as well, especially as more collections and legacy assortments are made available.

As for not knowing as much as the reviewers, I can only speak for myself and say yeah, I do, and in the time I did read reviews I found more often than not I knew more. I've yet to read a review by a gamer, critic, or reviewer that had such a profound insight of the inner dynamics of any game that either hightened or lowered my experience of any game.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 09, 2009 @ 10:11:34 PM

...I really hate to tell you this, but refusing to read any reviews and then adopting a lecturing tone on the subject is the very epitome of "snobbery."

It's an individual elitism level that I can spot about a mile away these days. The last paragraph alone is enough to attest to the ego, so I'm sorry, but I'll be passing on your commentary.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 3:33:04 PM

Fight fire with fire? You won't read his comment because it's snobbery, but answered his with even more. He made very valid points and I agree with him.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

br0d1n
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 11:24:28 AM
Reply

Hm, wow. I only skimmed the article, but the comments are out of control.

I don't pretend to know everything about the game industry or the effects reviewers have as a group. But when I read game reviews, I'm not looking for somebody to tell me exactly how I should feel about a game I've never played. I'm simply looking for a taste, a hint as to whether or not it's something I should really spend my money on.

It sounds like a lot of readers are taking Ben's article as an attack on their ability to judge games. It's not, you know; he's simply defending himself and his profession from some of the anonymous accusations of the masses that reviewers are just paid-off patsies.

Reviews are a nice mix of facts and opinions, hopefully written by somebody with a lot of experience in their field. However, there are plenty of "critically acclaimed" books, movies, games, you name it, that some people dislike. Enjoyment boils down to taste, but actual content (found in a good review) is reported as facts.

Anybody who cannot read a couple reviews and distill their own opinions from it obviously has nothing worthwhile to contribute to this discussion, or to society for that matter.

On that note, Ben, please keep writing balanced reviews with a dose of an experienced gamer's opinion, there ARE those of us who appreciate the work.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 3:38:57 PM

The article creates this response because it's bullshit. You are trying to simplify it and make it all nice and rosey. Reviews always have the writers opinion mixed in it. And it always drives sales of the games. Check for yourself. Take the top rated metascores and the top selling games. They are one and the same.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Thursday, September 10, 2009 @ 4:09:37 PM

@JP
Is it possible that it's not the reviews driving the sales, but the quality of the games, and that on average the reviews aggregated by Metacritic do over-all get it right about a game? So the quality of the game is reflected both in the review scores as well as the sales. It seems like you're only linking the metascore with sales.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 11:35:22 AM

Sure, obviously if a game is good it will inherently get good scores. It doesn't take a genius to write a review for it and score it, either. However, the pinnacle for a game is to receive a score of 9.0 (90). The difference between an 8.5 and a 9.0 is huge for a developer. HUGE.

Game review sites and writers all have there own little agendas and preferences. I've seen Ben bi*** out other magazines for crap reviews of highly touted games and I've seen this site give a crap review to a game with piss poor research.

I generally like this site and check it a few times a week, but this article is just pure BS. Please, they are not critically reviewing a movie or restaurant. They own a web site, have a journalism back-ground, and more interest in writing a review of a game when I'm either playing or making a living. The true connoisseur's of games are the hard core people who play them and the people who play them want more information and read these sites. Casual gamers can give a rat's ass on 95% of the headlines that make this site. This holier than thou crap of knowing more than the hard core gamers is laughable.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 12:26:24 PM

JP: All sites and reviewers do NOT have "agendas." That's the entire reason I wrote this article; retarded claims like this. It's even more ridiculous to claim that critics aren't hardcore gamers themselves, and for the record, the ONLY time I ever called out another source for a bad review was Edge and Killzone 2, which got completely blown out of proportion. I believe in providing a service to gamers, which they never do with any reliability. I wanted to protect the consumer from that.

Then, you like to claim that reviewers are just toying around for fun while you're "making a living." Odd...we are, too. Coulda sworn that what I'm driving denotes a functional income. Lastly, if you don't choose to believe that the best critics for major sources know just as much if not more than any other hardcore gamer, it's YOU that needs to tone down the "holier than thou" nonsense.

If all of this is what you believe - that we're not "connoisseurs" and that only hardcore gamers who AREN'T involved in the industry are "truly hardcore" - maybe we don't need you around here.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 2:29:38 PM

Well, at least I generated a worthy rebuttle from you this time.

Your three main points are that you aren't paid off, it's impossible to play games to completion for review, and you know more than the reader. If that is not what you were trying to convey, that's what I understood.

I didn't say reviewers are paid off, I said reviewers have their own personal opinion. Agendas come into play when rival systems are involved. I have never seen that in this site, from you or from anyone who writes for it. But call a spade a spade. Edge had their own agenda. Opinions are why reviews exist.

I also didn't claim that you weren't a hardcore gamer nor did I try to insuate your job is lesser than mine. You job is exactly what every person on this planet wants, to do what they love. Then, it is not work. If I loved writing as much as you do and decided not to be what I am now, I'd write professionally. I just don't love it. It's just a career choice. I've read your editorials and I know some of things you have gone through from your peers, it's a tough profession. But, it's one I respect. I apologize if I came across as haughty, definetely not what I was trying to convey.

If you are going to write an editorial like this, you got to expect critisism. I'm sorry if you took it the wrong way, but I see some of the elitism in your writing in this topic that you claim to despise. As far as your last statement, you know that is not what I meant so I won't even address that. I still think you guys are one of the best. If you don't want me around here, you hold the keys.

The point I was making was that people who follow this site are hard core gamers, they know the deal, and they know a good game when they play one. That last point just rubbed me the wrong way is all.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 2:46:34 PM

I'm sorry if I misunderstood some of your comments and I appreciate your respect of what we do. But I have to maintain that my last point stands.

You have to realize that just about everywhere I go and every gamer I come into contact with, they're INTENT on proving they know more than I do. ALL the time. They want to prove that anyone can be a critic. They want to prove that I'm just "lucky" and that they could do my job without even blinking an eye. In fact, the implication usually is that reviewers don't know what they're talking about...ever. And the hardcore gamers who DON'T review games are the only ones they can trust (as if that makes any sense at all).

I suppose it's difficult to convey this to people who have never experienced it, and I apologize if I came across haughty. I don't mean to imply I or other reviews automatically "know more" than hardcore gamers, but from my own view, I'm just sick of the constant tide of gamers who mock us on a routine basis.

I should probably just attribute this to the sad fact that the vast majority of hardcore gamers seem to have massive superiority complexes. I know that stems from the sociology and psychology of outcasts from yesteryear, but even so...

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

JPBooch
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 3:39:56 PM

Thanks for the clarification on your last point. That would be quite annoying if I had to deal with it. I think every professional has their share of self prescribed "geniuses" that know more than you. It's like the patients that comes to my office demanding to be given treatment only their way and ordering tests for themselves. I know it all too well.

I'll consider myself placated on this subject, keep up the great work.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LyleCapua
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 @ 4:23:57 PM
Reply

You actually don't know any better than the average gamer, so I'm not sure where any of your superiority comes from.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Leave a Comment

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Our Poll

Will Advanced Warfare rejuvenate Call of Duty?
Yes, this is just want CoD needed.
I hope so; it looks promising.
I doubt it, but I'm not sure...
No chance; CoD is going down.

Previous Poll Results