Game Reviews – The Day That Fun Died

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As videogamers, we all know the joys that can be had from a great session with our favorite console, PC or handheld system. In a nutshell, we love it because it’s fun and challenging.

The issue that we all face is that with game prices being what they are, not everyone can afford to splash out on every game that interests them and in many cases, gamers and consumers in general are left to the opinions and impressions of a game reviewer to let them know whether or not a title will be worth their hard earned money.

I have an issue with game reviews of late and it was interesting to discover that I’m not the only one. On more than one occasion in the past months I have been apart of discussions on whether or not gamers can trust game reviews anymore. For this article I am calling out and specifically picking on most of the larger gaming websites as they seem to be the ones bringing down average scores the most.

Are we still able to trust reviewers and can we be sure that they have not forgotten what gaming is all about? More after the jump.

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As a game reviewer, albeit one that is fairly new to the game, I understand that I have a responsibility to our readers to give them a fair and truthful impression of my experience with a game. Even though experiences will change from person to person, we still have the ability to explain the games’ positive and negative sides and give the reader a good idea of what he will be getting himself into if he decides to purchase that game.

While all the above is required for a game reviewer to do a decent job, there is one thing that reviewers seemed to have forgotten, an important element that makes up the very reason that we play games in the first place:

Fun.

When was it that game reviewers forgot about fun? Is it because the gaming industry has grown so much, adding more pressure to reviewers as they realise that their words are being read by more and more people everyday? Is it maybe because of the onslaught of 10’s that were dished out a year ago during what was arguably the most impressive season of game releases ever? It’s not something that can be pinpointed to an exact time, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

The conclusion of any review should basically come down to whether or not the game is worth it. Lately, I find that reviewers are forgetting that the world is full of different people that don’t fall into the same category as they do. Not all gamers get to play every game that hits the shelves. More importantly, most gamers actually get the time to fully experience the games that they play as opposed to being hammered with a ridiculous deadline that destroys any chance of allowing the reviewer to actually enjoy it to it’s fullest.

We also need to ask how important any technical aspects of a game are and whether or not they give us sufficient reason to recommend or condemn a game. Now we all know about the age old debate of how important graphics are to a game but I am speaking about something completely different.

I am talking about bugs, controls, graphic issues etc. While most of us would prefer that every game that we buy is of the highest quality, bugs happen. While I would never defend a company that has not done a great job of ensuring a flawless experience, one must wonder whether or not a few minor issues are enough to completely shoot down a game, especially if the game is still a whole lot of fun.

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One has to wonder if some of the seasoned reviewers out there have actually fallen so deep down into the business side of the gaming industry that their views have become jaded. If you take the new Lucasarts effort, The Force Unleashed, you will see that many reviewers have claimed that the gameplay is no fun and that the force powers don’t feel as fun as they should.

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Back in the real world, I have now had the chance to speak to a couple of everyday gamers who have been playing through the game and to tell you the truth, I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t told me that they are having a nothing but a great heap of fun with the game and the force powers. So why is it that reviewers find the gameplay boring when so many gamers are finding it fun?

Reading through many of the review summaries on Metacritic, I have to wonder what reviewers are so scared of lately. I’m not saying that reviewers should dish out high scores just for the fun of it, that would be silly. What I am seeing lately is that I will read through two dozen review summaries that all leave me with a positive outlook on the game. The scores however, leave me wondering what on earth is going on. Positive words, terrible scores.

Maybe it is just down to a broken scoring system. More importantly, it may be because there is no unsiversal scoring system. Some sites regard a 7/10 as a decent score, others would consider a 7 a near failure. EGM and 1UP have now switched to a letter grading system (A+, C- etc.) because they feel it gives a better indication of the games’ worth and also puts it into a grading system that many of us can relate to. While I commend them for a great idea, it isn’t really translating well into systems like Metacritic. When 1UP dishes out a “C” for a game, which they refer to as “average” I think that the game probably has decent potential. When Metacritic converts the grading into the numerical system, the score comes out as a 50/100. I’m not sure about you, but a game that racks up a 50% score won’t really have me rushing out to buy it as soon as possible.

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With what could be a broken scoring system aside, I would like to just finish this up with my main point one more time.

I feel that too many reviewers have lost their childlike excitement for gaming, which is a feeling that many of us have managed to keep to this day. With the game industry booming, we need to understand that there are many fresh faces out there now. Many of them haven’t played every genre of game, or owned every single console and we need to remember that they are seeing videogames in the same way that we did when we were just little kids, with fresh eyes.

If you ride a rollercoaster everyday the novelty will soon wear off and the ride will no longer thrill you. Put someone on that rollercoaster for the first time and his eyes will light up and his heart will race. We need to realise that we have to do all that we can to keep that light in our eyes burning brightly, or the entire concept of gaming will soon disappear to us.

If reviewers no longer feel the excitement of gaming the same way that they used to when they were young, then we can only assume that hardcore gamers are no longer the right people for the job.

Last Updated: October 3, 2008

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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