Today’s reader is an odd one to us reviewers – it seems that rather than taking an informed and well-explained reasoned article, most readers now expect a review to be a simple marketing piece. Take scoring – any game that gets less than a 9 tends to get horribly derided, and often if a loved franchise releases a poor episode, a reviewer is often expected to mark it up for the name alone (Modern Warfare, I’m looking at you – and Mass Effect…)
It’s a strange thing, as from the reviewers perspective we are rarely praised and regularly harangued – despite our best efforts to explain why we have scored a game accordingly, too many people skip straight to the numbers to decide whether it’s even worth reading the words. And in a world where a scale of 10 is weighted (seriously, when did 8 out of 10 become the new “Average” score?), reviewers feel less compelled to score at all – I know that personally I’d always rather write an overview piece to explain a game than post a score, as the idea of ranking titles, in my eyes at least, sucks.
Now, calling out someone on terrible or contradictory journalism is a fair point – the web is awash with poorly written articles that reek of a mix of fanboyism and poor editing, my own work sometimes included – but the new world of the web has turned things nasty. I once wrote a piece reviewing a singer where I mispelled the name when I posted it up. Admittedly, a childish mistake which is somewhat unforgivable, but it gave rise to a host of people calling me every name under the sun and completely discounting every other word I had written (out of interest, the review was for a mediocre song with inflammatory subject matter, and my point was that when you got down to it, subject matter aside it wasn’t a particularly good song). I apologised on the comments, and pointed out I had been working for many hours straight as a part time hobby. Many commenters continued to post abuse – for the record, I didn’t take it to heart (this is a thick-skinned job, after all), but I know in my early days this would have put me off ever reviewing again.
Did I cock up? Sure, but I don’t feel my work should have been discounted because of one mistake. And game journalism is the same – we are fans, we have our own likes and dislikes, and I can’t help but feel we have a responsibility to report what we see, as opposed to what is expected by rabid fans, developers and general readers alike.
I recently scored Mass Effect 3 with a seven, which was described by one friend as “controversial” – I replied, “but you haven’t actually played it yet”. The response was “Yeah, but it’s Mass Effect so its already got a 9 in my eyes”. I pointed out that if I took that tack when it came to reviewing a game, I’d be doing a disservice to anyone who read my review – how can I be taken seriously if I can’t review every game on it’s own merit?
Certainly here at YARS, we are gamers first and foremost. We all have our loves and hates, but we stick to a simple, unspoken code – write a review critically, don’t make a statement without explaining your reasoning, and if you are going to be a fanboy, admit to it (see my Assassins Creed Revelations review for an exaple of that!). But also, as a place where we encourage new writers and take pride in a certain level of intelligent thought, expecting our pieces to make allowances for those with less experience. I’d certainly be the first to defend someones right to an opinion, even if I didn’t agree with it – I may still quesiton it, however.
So, I’d love some feedback on this if possible – are we journalists misinterpreting our role nowadays, and instead we are supposed to appease the masses? In a similar vein, should we follow the “Metacritic” thinking, and start scoring games with polar scores simply to affect a larger overview? Or is there a place for reviews which don’t rank a game against it’s peers? The floor is yours…