Who Do You Trust?

Sean Sands | 27 Jun 2008 21:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

While the news from Europe at least gave license to North American reviewers to be brutal to the point that even IGN issued forth a 3.5/10, what was of note is that reviews only started trickling in after the game's release on Tuesday. Though it's purely circumstantial evidence that suggests that these sites sat on their reviews until Atari said they were allowed to have an opinion, I would be somewhat shocked to discover otherwise. It begs the question, one to which I suspect I already know the answer, do high profile review sites only run exclusive early reviews that are positive?

Think about it for a moment. Have you ever read a review of a game before its launch that wasn't glowing?

That publishers of reviews develop symbiotic relationships with publishers of games isn't anything new. We've all lived through Gamespot's embarrassing antics, so lovingly referred to as Gerstmanngate. I think the cat is out of the bag on the fact that game companies exert certain influences. And frankly, I'm not even really that worked up about it, as long as we can all be honest about what reviews really are.

They are entertainment. As an aggregate they are a finger stuck in the wind, a decent way to know when a game is really terrible, or at least when the publisher wasn't willing to pressure the scores, but almost never a good way of being certain that a game will be great. Reviews make for great gaming cheerleading, and when they are cheering for my side, I'm both entertained and satisfied, though I submit a formal request that reviewers not start wearing actual cheerleader outfits. But no one looks to the cheerleading squad for an accurate portrayal of real world events. Like reviews, when the cheerleaders all sit down we know things are in the toilet, but conversely the fact that they've just done the pyramid doesn't necessarily mean all is well in Mudville.

We all need to stop being surprised that reviews themselves have become products. They are negotiable in many different ways by many different parties, and while the best publications make some effort to preserve the editorial process, where and when those editorially sound reviews appear may be up for vigorous debate. Occasionally, you may find a certain reviewer who matches your feelings on games over time. These people are treasures to which you should hold dear, but in the end, only one person's opinion should really matter to you: your own.

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