Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Reviews' Dilemma

With the launch of Mass Effect 3, reviews have taken the light spot once again. This time, the avalanche of bad user's reviews at the Metacritic score aggregator. Those negative reviews are fueled specially by business decisions made for the EA publisher and for long time Bioware fans feeling 'betrayed' because the game was not tailor suited for them.

One of the problems is that considering the games only launched today, is that those people hardly had time to play the whole game to give an honest opinion about it. It is all about them using those reviews as a form of protest for business and artistic decisions that they not agree on. Therefore, making the user's aggregated score useless. 

You dared to anger me? My vengeance will be terrible!
I, as many gamers, prefer to see the user's reviews than professional reviews. Since those reviews have no strings attached, they tend to be way more honest. See, for more 'professional' that the 'professional' reviewers claims to be, they have strings. They need to keep a constant flux of visitors to their sites to attract advertisers and keep the site they work for up and paying the bills. many created a 'persona' for the internet, and therefore they all have to do an 'act' to keep with the image they want to show.

The users don't. They will not gain or lose anything if nobody care about the reviews. So, usually if they say the game is bad, it is bad, and if they like it, it is good. But this system shows their problems too often. Many gamers will give very low scores not because they disliked (or even played) certain games, but just because they hate the company or the fans behind those games. And this happened with ME3 and various other games.

I will give it a 0! That will show them about making a game I don't want to play!
This, on other hand, usually only happen to really famous games. Nobody will trash talk a game that is unknown, so user's reviews is the best way to find if that more obscure title is good or at least worth giving a chance. I played several hidden gems of gaming doing this. But that makes a question, why people care about user's reviews?

Easy, because as I told before, they don't have the attached strings the traditional reviewers have. Not only that, the reputation of many reviewers are far from good. Many are viewed as biased, others that they are paid to give certain scores. And more importantly, they are not very helpful in helping consumers on deciding how to spend their money.

Look, I hate puzzles, so I don't care if you love them, I will never give it a high score.
When a gamer seeks for a review, he don't want to know the very personal opinion of the reviewer about the game they played. They want the reviewer to tell them if they will like the game. It is like going to a clothes store asking to buy a t-shirt and the attendant refusing to show you t-shirts because he hates them.

Therefore, a good reviewer will keep in mind not what he wants from a game, but what the readers want from a game. Yes, he have the right to hate some games and love another ones. But a reviewer make a disservice to the readers when he, instead of reviewing a game, he is giving his opinion of such game.

I do understand that games are hard to be objectively review it. Like movies and books, it may not 'click' with certain people. It does not mean that the reviewer are allowed to just ignore the people searching for its help the right to have an objective help. If you are reviewing a FPS, even if you hate it, it is not what YOU want, it is about what the audience wants. So, you hate slow pace gameplay? Sure, you can hate it. But if the gamers are wanting slower gameplay, than that is a plus to them.

'Well, I don't like sweet wines, but if you want a good sweet wine, take this one.'
It is OK to say 'this game uses this particular mechanic that I am not found of, but most gamers will love it' while it is not OK to say 'it uses this damned mechanic that mus be abolished from all games'. And that is why many, many gamers are so critic of how reviews are done today.

If people don't have trust in the reviewer, they will stop reading the reviews he/she make. They will try to find any kind of more reliable source to help them to make a more conscious decision. You can say they just want people who agree with them, but that is not always the case. Sometimes they really just want someone to help them so they don't expend money and regret later.

And in my eyes, videogame reviewers are letting their readers down a lot, not only the 'professional' ones, but the user's reviews too. And what is the point of reviews when people will simple ignore them?

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