Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
2. Post-release support and frequent patches make video game reviews quickly outdated
I’m all about fixing problems as they arise. The process of troubleshooting and figuring out a sound solution to something that needs doing is fun and exciting to me (if don’t believe me, let me remind you of something called a quest). With how technology has advanced over the years, video game development has only become more complex. On top of millions of gamers with varying hardware, shipping a stable game across such a huge market can be a bit of a challenge.
Some problems such as operating system compatibility and the wide selection of computer hardware are simply inevitable, even with some quality assurance testing thrown in for good measure. But I’m beginning to wonder if a lot of the larger companies have QA teams at all or just work on their projects up to the night of release, throw it out into the digital ocean, and hope for the best. Nowadays, Day 1 patches aren’t uncommon and games are often buggy at launch, sometimes to the point of being unplayable. In my humble opinion, I find the use of having paying customers act as your quality assurance team post-release is a rather cheap tactic; that’s what Early Access is for. But that’s a rant for another day.
Coupled with DLC and an increasing counter-trend of free content added in large post-release patches (screwing up the whole DLC season pass system… because why pay for what you can be given for free?), there’s no telling how a game can change after its official 1.0 debut — for better or worse. Some games have even been rereleased (such as Total War: Rome II‘s Imperial Edition) or rebranded completely (The War Z changed to Infestation: Survival Stories) because they were so bad or developers blatantly lied about the game’s features.
With how frequent games update and their multiple gigabytes worth of post-release shit added to them — whether that’s extra content or patching out (or accidentally adding) bugs and glitches — reviews now have even less shelf-life. As an example, I can tell you that if Fallout 4 was released with this new Survival Mode rather than it being added in later, my initial reviews would’ve read a bit differently.
A good counter to this phenomenon I’ve noticed has been Steam’s user review system. Provided a game’s audience remains active in keeping their own reviews and reactions updated, they’ve been known to switch their support of a game according to the state of its current version. I use this same litmus test for Early Access games I haven’t played in a while, especially if a game ups its score from “Mixed” to “Positive.”
In fact, it might serve Steam and its customers better to have a separate “opinion” system that just separates the thumbs up/down buttons from the review feature, allowing gamers to give quick response snapshots to each game. To have some sort of sidebar on my library where I can give a thumbs up rather than having to write out a review in order to cast votes might prove to be an interesting metric in gathering… well… consumer interest and historic reactions to different patches. Naturally, the written review system can be kept for those who want to express their opinions with the other nine fingers. Still, if everything else has sped up and changed in the industry, how we react and talk about games needs to change as well. How, exactly, is the very question — but it needs to be discussed rather than ignored like it has been.