The state of games journalism at the moment-Reviews

5 min read

Yesterday I had a mini rant about the complaints we sometimes receive around advertising and even the competitions we run and today it’s the turn of the reviews.

Reviews are the bane of my life, they are vitally important for the readers who are thinking about getting the game and the publishers/developers to help gauge a reaction and see how their product is doing in the market.

The problem is that reviews take an extraordinarily long time to produce due to us having to first play the game (5-20 hours), then write the review (1-4 hours) and then go through the grind of finding a score that not only validates how you feel and the words you put down but is also fair.

There are some of us in Lazygamer who would like to get rid of the scoring system altogether and it’s something we have heard very often from the community, however I just don’t see that as a valid option. The score is what 80% of the readers of reviews instantly scroll to, taking it away won’t force these people to read the review it will just force them to go somewhere else and if you don’t like the reviews you can just ignore it.

I also feel the score is important as it puts the reviewer in a spot and truly makes them think about the game and it’s merits compared to it’s failures. We really don’t just pick the score from a hat and slap it on, it’s one of the hardest and most challenging parts of writing a review. It’s the point from where the reviewer will defend or fight his point from and that’s crucial in my opinion.

But that’s not really my complaint about reviews, the real problem is the amount of time we are given down here in deepest darkest Africa to write reviews. While the EU and American sites were at a Killzone event a few weeks back and had weeks to prepare their review we literally received ours a few days ago and had to scramble to get it out.

And that’s probably the earliest we have ever received a review copy, (props to SK on that one). Generally we only get our review copy on the day of release or even a week or two later. Yeah seriously we received LBP around a week and a half after release and then a game like that take a monumental amount of time to really gauge.

But you want to know about how often we get pressured to give good reviews or receive a phone call after the review goes live?

It happens more than it should and very few publishers are innocent in this one, generally the phone call goes something like

“Hi Gavin we saw that review of [blah]  and it’s great… But I just wanted to talk about the part where you said [blah]


Hi Gavin we that review and we are just wondering if the score fits the tone of the review, it’s not like we want you to change it but it just didn’t seem to match up properly.

Without exception this has happened with 1 unnamed publisher and a few times when new PR people enter the industry. The new people I understand as they are simply trying to ensure their product gets the best coverage and haven’t yet realised where the line is.

The 1 publisher on the other hand was just plain annoying, until I realised it happens every single time, now it’s funny.

On the other hand, we have never once had any advertising revenue threatened directly or indirectly over a review and have never once been propositioned to give a game a higher review. Hopefully it never happens either but I think once we get a bit bigger then the propositions will sneakily appear.

There is massive money in gaming and bad reviews can kill a games chances and cause the publisher/developer to lose millions. Which leads to my constant amazement that we are sent bad titles to review. The one that I found the funniest was a title that was given to me and the PR person then explained how awesome the game was and how it just couldn’t be put down. I then sent it off to someone to review, keeping that awesome information to myself, and the review returned with a terrible score since the game sucked, naturally the PR person was amazed that the game they loved so much was so badly abused but a little bit of reality is a good thing for the gaming industry.

You see in general none of the reviewers are ever subjected to the pressure or hear what is said about a game until after the review is in. So it really is pointless and yet it continues, less now than before as I think they have realised they are wasting their time.

Nick and Geoff were chomping at the bit to add their 2 cents to this post since they do virtually all the reviews on the site so keep an eye on the comments section for their pains, which are most probably around me hassling them all day every day to get the damn review out before the next Ice Age arrives.

Last Updated: February 17, 2011

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