Understanding reviewing (ARTICLES)

by March 24th, 2012

YARS

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…


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Dave Snell

Full time international consulting analyst, part time gamer, bit-time bass player, hardly-any-time journalist, I write for a few different publications and sites, but know my heart will always belong to YARS.

Latest posts by Dave Snell (see all)

About Dave Snell

Full time international consulting analyst, part time gamer, bit-time bass player, hardly-any-time journalist, I write for a few different publications and sites, but know my heart will always belong to YARS.

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