Who Do You Trust?

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I've always found that you CANNOT trust the number score, ALWAYS read the review first. Though most of the games I rely on reviews for, obscure JRPG's, don't have the advertising budget to lean on reviewers so these reviews are usually honest.

I agree with most of what you say, Sean. In the end a review is just the reviewers opinion, but I sure would like some forewarning on games like Frontlines and Hellgate that were both released completely unfinished and therefore not worth the money we spend on them. This has become an unacceptable trend among publishers these days and I am absolutely sick of it. You here that publishers? Finish the damn game before you release it, I refuse to wait 6 months before you get your lazy arses around to adding joystick support!

I agree with the sentiments of this article. I've long since stopped caring what review sites say about games, but I don't understand, or maybe just disagree with the conclusion. Cheerleaders? Entertainments? I suppose the polite thing to say is "if you like that sort of thing" but really I think this is exactly the sort of thing lots of people hate about gamers. We get so into being on the side of "what's best" that we get a surge of self-satisfaction whenever someone agrees with us. Do I really to say that finding a review entertaining because it agrees with you is probably not healthy?

And trusting no one? The whole reason people read reviews is so that they have an idea of what is worth their time and money and what isn't. Thousands of games get released every year. Even if I avoid the totally worthless ones that actually manage to get a sub 70% score from reviewer X that's still too many. Surely there's some way to skim the cream without having to taste all the crap that swims beneath.

On the other hand affirmation of our opinions comes not only from yes-men but also from kindred spirits, and reviewers aren't the only people we hear from who have opinions. And I think that's really the answer. Gaming is social. If you really want to find games you enjoy, find people you enjoy who also enjoy gaming. Message boards, LAN parties and conventions like PAX are also a great way to hook up with people and find out about stuff you might be missing out on. Basically the time you spend reading five reviews of each 60 dollar game that crosses your radar could instead be spent talking to someone you know about what looks interesting and what they've heard from their friends. If one of the people in your circle buys it he can make a recommendation to everyone else and even answer specific questions you might have. If you're really crazy about saving money you could start circulating copies of single player games that are worth playing but don't take much time to beat like Shadow of The Colossus or Super Mario Galaxy.

The coolest part about all of this is that a company like Atari can't have enough money to pay off everyone in the world, so the opinions stay honest and everybody wins. Everybody who doesn't make terrible games for a living anyway.

The coolest part about all of this is that a company like Atari can't have enough money to pay off everyone in the world, so the opinions stay honest and everybody wins. Everybody who doesn't make terrible games for a living anyway.

They don't need to have enough money to bribe everybody. They have enough money for a few big lawsuits and a couple of "you will be next" events to intimidate the majority into silence.

You've totally misunderstood me. I'm talking about individuals. I'm talking about the guys you game with or the message board you hang out on. I'm saying that you know more about games than the people who gives scores to games for a living because you know what you like. Lawsuits won't affect them because it isn't their livelihood. Atari or Capcom or whoever isn't going to sue me for saying I don't like their game, I'm nobody.

Then again maybe this is just all too obvious. It seemed pretty obvious to me. I was only trying to offer a counterpoint to the "trust no one" statement that seemed to be presented in the original article. What I'm trying to say is that there are ways to target your game purchasing decisions to avoid over hyped crap and find the real gems that don't involve websites that give scores to games for the impression of objectivity and have more media devoted to ad space than actual content.

I think the issue coincides with the basics of game design. A lot of games currently seem to be designed to have big opening weekends, like blockbuster movies, and just like with blockbuster movies this means that consumers make the decision to buy or not based on very little information. If a game is meant to be longer, or have a more lasting multiplayer aspect, then the emphasis on a huge launch is lessened because people will still buy it months later.

Not being able to trust pre-launch reviews stops being a problem if you just buy games a month or two after they've launched, and indeed a more mature approach to buying and playing games generally lessens the chances that you'll burn out and get sick of games. In the long run this approach to consumers would help the industry immeasurably, but every game seems so make-or-break these days that companies are disincetivised to act responsibly.

Reminds me of a chart I saw of movies by ticket sales that showed that blockbusters like Transformers or Independence Day made most of their box office sales within the first weekend, whereas movies that won Academy Awards had modest opening weekends followed by several weeks or even months of sustained sales. I suspect that many "classic" games are the same way.

The problem is this: the product that the review is, is offered to the readers, not to the gaming company.

Fucking with your consumers is a bad practice, and if there isn't a way to put a check on that then there is a serious, serious goddamn problem, not to mention a breach of trust between the readership and whomever is doing the talking (which includes The Escapist). Penny-Arcade is a solid example of this; they tell you what they like, what they don't like and although I know they are not game critics per se, they have credibility, and that's worth a hell of a lot more than you might think.

Finally, to this throwaway final line:
"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."

I say: Fuck off, man. I am a busy person with a lot of things to do, and games take TIME and MONEY from me. I need to be able to trust the reviews I see, if for no other reason than if I pick out a 'substandard' game I know what I'm getting into. I don't expect reviewers to do anything more but tell me their point of view, but it needs to be a mostly honest one, or else I'm unable to make a choice I can be responsible for. If I'm being fed shitty information, and I buy a shitty game, then I'm not only angry at the company that produced it, but at the people who fed me shitty information to begin with.

Reviewers have a responsibility, like it or not and saying: Hey, you should only trust yourself, is a bullshit way of saying caveat emptor, bitches, and letting those reviewers off the hook for not doing their jobs.

I might disagree with your point of view, but if your job is to provide that point of view, I have a right to expect that you have done your job, or will soon be replaced with someone who will.

I thought this was a great article and exposes a real problem in the gaming media, that is not being able to freely express an opinion on a new release.

I understand why a game company, who have invested potentially millions of dollars in developing a game, may get annoyed at a poor review but for them to then threaten legal action or pull sponsorship etc from the media outlet that has given the subpar review is a disturbing sign of the times and in a way is undermining a basic freedom of western society. That freedom is to be able to express a viewpoint, as long as its not defamatory or false. The major media corporations and their journalists now self censor their content for fear of upseting their sponsors. This means the average person who may not have the time nor possibly the level of education has to rely on the integrity and honesty of the media to be reliably informed. Yet this is being compromised because of commercial interests. This then begs the question: which is more important - the commercial interests of the game company or the integrity of the media outlet or journalist/reviewer who is providing an opinion that should be free from influence?

I suspect that journalistic integrity and the freedom of the press will be steadily eroded by the commercial imperative thus we will see fewer honest and impartial reviews of games [and other things/new ietsm etc] which in turn invokes the spectre of Orwells nightmare world of 1984 where everything is santitised and controled and the truth is irrelevant.

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