6 Reasons Why I Hate Video Game Reviews

6 Reasons Why I Hate Video Game Reviews

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4. There’s no strong ethics for objective video game reviews

Without getting into the finer details of GamerGate, video game journalism’s absence of a unified code of ethics is one of the reasons why I hate video game reviews. For instance, the fact that GameStop, a video game retailer who also owns video game magazine Game Informer, now wants to enter the publishing side of the industry with GameTrust — which, I don’t know about you, but the name almost feels like an insult to consumer intelligence.

On the topic of trust, allow me to posit this query henceforth: if one owns a company that publishes games and has stores to sell them with a magazine that writes about and reviews these games, is there not obvious bias at play? Wouldn’t Game Informer be incentivized to talk up the games of its sister company? How can they write objectively when issues with those games arise? With affiliate marketing already a method employed by other media outlets, wouldn’t a relationship as direct as this threaten content quality, turning articles into subtle advertisement and elaborate pitches disguised as clickbait? I can’t help but feel it puts the customers — the gamers — at a disadvantage, any way you cut it. If authority and faith in game journalists is at a low, how does a move like this help rebuild that lost trust? Ditto, developers and publishers.

I’ll concede that affiliate marketing isn’t inherently bad, but like many things, it’s how it’s used that makes a difference when it comes to ethics.  Even websites like us rely on advertisement revenue to keep afloat and setting aside some ad space isn’t wrong by default. At the very least, I can honestly tell you our main goal isn’t to milk our viewers for every ad cent. It’s when I see things like this at the top of the page that I begin to ask what a website’s goals are:

6 Reasons Why I Hate Video Game Reviews

Not to throw Polygon under the bus; they’re not the only ones to do this and their writing is still pretty good. But even while I was researching for information to write this very article and to see an advertisement that takes up two thirds of the page above the fold (that is, the first impressions a viewer gets), it was perfect to paint my point.

But web economics aside, video games are subjective things. What even makes a “good” one nowadays?

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Anthony Magestro

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.

  • Dec

    The bit that really stuck out to me from this was your desire to focus on experience a game rather than viewing it as a product. This strikes a chord because when I browse game forums or listen to podcasts etc I see this massive focus on the games industry rather than the games itself. I love reading about games,but I am totally uninterested in how many units have been shipped, or which studio has bought who.

    I get this with movies as well actually, there is a whole ecosystem of mutually reliant “content-producers” of all kinds who need to have a constant supply of things to discuss, share, blog about in order to network/ promote/ maintain a public profile. This leads them to the easiest source of content which is reporting or sharing press releases. This feeds into “hype culture” which in turn makes studios more complacent about quality because if they can build enough hype people will buy the game / go see the movie on release anyway. This also means I have to sift through a ton of boring crap to find something actually interesting that relates in anyway to the fun experience that this media is supposed to be all about.

    • I think a lot of this comes from social media and the need to follow the hype train in exchange for ad revenue (i.e. YouTube and Twitch reviews, websites making ad deals with developers, etc.). At this point, it’s a lot less about analyzing the game on why it’s good (or not), but just trying to push products or — if there aren’t any economic reasons — bashing them. Albeit, a gross simplification, but still, at least from a writing perspective, writing about games as experiences rather than just products to be sold is much more fun and fulfilling to me. With so many aggregates available like Metacritic and Steam that let people know whether or not a game’s worth buying, it doesn’t make sense for me to write a long review that’ll just become obsolete in five days because fifty hotfixes were released in that time, making most of my technical points moot.

      So with that, I try to then write more about the specific parts of games: a quest that stuck out or a mechanic that I liked or ways to tie a lesson learned in game to real-life problems. Shit you’re not gonna find in a review written by a fanboy on Steam or a video from a paid reviewer who’s obligated to provide lip service.