6 Reasons Why I Hate Video Game Reviews

6 Reasons Why I Hate Video Game Reviews


5. Scoring systems are virtually meaningless

I always thought numerical scores were funny. Even on tests in school, what exactly makes something a 7 over an 8, or an A- over a B+? And when one site’s 9 might be another’s 3, they all become sort of meaningless, lost in the sea of ambiguity and trying to remember each outlet’s reasoning gets muddled and cumbersome. Not to mention the numerous post-release updates that’ll have those grades changing a few times over the course of months. No, a single number is not enough to sum up a game accurately.

With video games protected under free speech, they’re now recognized as other forms of artistic media that convey ideas, such as film, television, or books. This snippet from the 2010-11 U.S. Supreme Court case’s official opinions drives that point home:

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

If video games are truly like other media, it’d make more sense to analyze them with the same respect, focusing on the message and the story they’re telling as well as remarking on the way it’s being told. For instance, graphic quality — a hot topic in most reviews — is too subjective to be a reliable criterion for discussions on game content. I’ve clocked a ton more hours in Mount & Blade: Warband than I have the entire Dragon Age series despite the latter being “shinier.” And if you were to ask me why that is, the response deserves more than a few numbers based on graphics, sound, gameplay, and multiplayer options that honestly just water down the discussion, being too lazy to actually develop an argument for or against.

When writing reviews, there should be more emphasis on the game as an experience to be had rather than a product to sell. This is a stance I’ve held officially since last year in response to GamerGate when I last had one of these epiphanies/emotional breakdowns on the future of my chosen career path. And it’s these continued issues that make me wonder if I can even stomach watching outlets and developers I used to love and admire growing up just sell out as they have. With the direction it’s heading in with some games now being broken up into episodes (but still being sold for full price), it’s enough to make one’s blood boil.

And thus we approach the final reason why I hate video game reviews…

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About author

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.