In the last year, a lot has been said about videogame journalism and the problems of the field. There is a belief that gaming reviewers play into the hands of the marketing machine instead of being actual critics who can help to improve the quality of the content such as is the case with the film and music industry. One fundamental problem is that reviewers never get the chance to experience the game the same way you do. In order to do this article, I needed evidence for my criticism. Since it wouldn’t be polite to point the finger at other reviewers, I decided to write two videogame reviews myself. Using my own work, with a combination of real writing and intentional “errors,” I’ve produced the evidence I need to show you the problems that videogame journalists face.
Videogame reviewers don't play games the same way you do
Of the more than 3000 of you who participated in our survey, 76% of you reported buying fewer than 6 games in all of 2005. Compare that to the typical reviewer at a "mainstream videogame website" who will review over 100 games a year; in the 7 years I've been at FiringSquad I've only written 86 articles! I know it's appealing to think that the more games a reviewer plays, the better information he'll have to determine what's good and what's not. After all, a phrase like "The best game I've played all the year" doesn't matter if you've just played one game that year. The problem is that playing too many games a year causes several problems:
- It's easier to get jaded.
- Pressure to rush through the game
- Less time to reflect before you write
- Selection bias
- Distorted sense of value
Let's take a look at why these are the major challenges that videogame reviewers face.
Before you begin though, please read through Xbox 360 Racing Shootout
and the Dead or Alive 4 Review
. Both of those articles were written as "real reviews." I really do believe that DOA4 is an 82% game, and that NFS:MW offers the best single player racing experience on the Xbox 360. Those two articles will seem like any typical reviews on the ‘net. The first is a “feature story” that puts several games head to head, and the second is a traditional review of a single game. However, when I wrote those articles, I wrote them with this third article in mind. Let’s get started.