Growing up I accumulated a rather extensive collection of games magazines. Whether it was Games Master, Official PlayStation Magazine or some other interchangeable periodical whose name I’ve totally forgotten, I got them. This was the only way to keep appraised of all the latest gaming news and reviews at the time, imparting invaluable knowledge that I could dispense amongst my school peers like some self proclaimed guru of gaming. I’d notify classmates about release dates, latest gaming rumours and they’d say “Who are you? And what are you doing here!”. Fun times. But my favourite part about gaming magazines was the inclusion of demo discs. This was the best way of ascertaining if a game was worth buying for a relatively modest price. Playing these perfunctory promotions often yielded great insight into the quality of a game you were perhaps curious about, as well as introducing you to games you may not necessarily have heard of. Alas the emergence of Web sites, blogs and social media, as well as their universal accessibility has necessitated the decline of the game magazine’s as a physical format, and by extention demo discs. As a result consumers are now reliant on fallible whims of our own instincts and the arbitrary scrutiny of game reviews that seem to bring out the worst in people.
A review is, well you know what a review is: a critical assertion, derived from an individuals extended participation with a product, formally presented with embellished personal analysis. Structurally intended to scrutinise every element that is deemed pertinent to the individual evaluating it. The inherent problem with reviews though is that they are measured by an individuals opinion that may not accurately represent your own. Sure they can summarise factually accurate information about story, characters, graphics, general functionality or even glitches, but a games enjoyment is totally subservient to the reviewers discretion. The trouble is that people don’t like opinions. I think it’s fair to say that some are borderline afraid of them, particularly when it conflicts with their own.
The amount of vitriol directed at sites simply because a game they love unconditionally, despite not having played it yet, received a grading that doesn’t meet a players low expectations for unanimous perfection is staggering. Even putting aside the statutory, yet arcane numerical system that sites insist determines and encapsulates a games quality, the level of anger reserved for reviews is disconcerting. The same people that lament the inaccuracies of an opinion, dismissing them firsthand and claiming “I never trust what they say” are usually the ones that use reviews as a defence against criticism. The purpose of a review should be to give consumers an indication, from the perspective of an “individual” of whether or not a game can be considered objectively bad or subjectively good. Not a contrivance to fuel some kind of popularity contest.
Enabled by the advent of social media, people feel liberated. Free to share any intimate detail of their life so that perhaps others may see and approve. Now I don’t necessarily mean that as a detraction, it’s certainly feels good to express a desire or opinion and be validated by others similarly encouraged. But it also creates this rather antagonistic environment whereby opinions become fact simply because its backed by certain amount of likes and retweets. People see a review of a game they’ve been eagerly anticipating and feel personally victimised that it didn’t receive perfect scores. They then feel that they have the perogative to impugn something they disagree with, calling into question the validity of the opinion.
Reviews are not the zenith of truth. They certainly not beyond reproach or above criticism either. They’re opinions, expressive ones. Full of individual insights and subjective censure. Widely propagated surmises that accurately reflects their own opinion, that may in fact conflict with your own. Ask yourself does it really matter if a game you are enjoying only received a “meager” 8/10 score? I mean your not toxic, are you? Probably not. Take them for what they are, even the misguided ones. They really are the only real means of gauging whether a game will suite your needs without having to buy it first. And that can be an expensive commitment.