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View Full Version : Are games being reviewed in the wrong way?



Electric Blue
07-12-2008, 10:30 AM
Chris over at Chris's Survival Horror has some very interesting ideas about video game reviews.

http://www.dreamdawn.com/sh/key_view.php?key=Rants

Perhaps "video game journalists" are using an antiquated method of review. Should games be reviewed like books and movies are? I tend to think so.

TheDomesticInstitution
07-12-2008, 11:15 AM
So I read both of the articles... and while I agree that there are differences in the way games are reviewed vs. other media... I don't see a huge problem with the current way games are reviewed. The author does make some some good observations, but in the end what's his point? Does he really offer any solutions?
Does he want game ratings to be overhauled? Is he pissed because he often gets duped by good reviews of bad games?

I feel when I read most game reviews, that the author goes well beyond how good the graphics, sound, etc. are and gets to why a game is good or bad. Usually after I read multiple reviews of a game, and finally decide or not to buy the thing- I don't feel surprised or pissed off when I finally play it. The things I care about when playing a vidja game, are sufficiently covered in most reviews (in my opinion anyway).

I also don't agree with his point that reviewing visuals in a game is comparable to commenting how great text looks in a book (this is from the 1st article- not linked here). That's dumb comparison, plain and simple.

Video games are different from other types of consumable media... I don't think a game should be reviewed like a book... or a book reviewed like a movie... It's comparing apples or oranges. And what about DVD's? Reviews of DVD's and games are somewhat similar in the way they review technical merits along with content.

YoshiM
07-12-2008, 11:37 AM
Okay, how aren't video games being reviewed like movies or books? Take away the individual scoring of the game's "parts" (which out of the major sites that I checked using Metacritic IGN is the one of the only ones that break down a game and rate the graphics, sound, etc. individually) the reviews are really no different than that of a book or movie. I've read movie reviews of action flicks where the reviewer would trash the special effects. How is that any different than a game review bashing similar effects in a game or perhaps the graphics themselves? Or if an actor in a movie isn't that great (*cough* Hayden Christensen*cough*) how is that not different than a voice actor not giving their all for a gaming character?

j_factor
07-12-2008, 01:37 PM
Okay, how aren't video games being reviewed like movies or books? Take away the individual scoring of the game's "parts" (which out of the major sites that I checked using Metacritic IGN is the one of the only ones that break down a game and rate the graphics, sound, etc. individually) the reviews are really no different than that of a book or movie. I've read movie reviews of action flicks where the reviewer would trash the special effects. How is that any different than a game review bashing similar effects in a game or perhaps the graphics themselves? Or if an actor in a movie isn't that great (*cough* Hayden Christensen*cough*) how is that not different than a voice actor not giving their all for a gaming character?

I didn't even read the article, but... Generally, movies and books are not assessed on "replay value", even though it kind of does vary (some movies I can watch over and over, others I enjoyed the first time but don't care to re-watch). Additionally, only games ever seem to be marked down for being "too short" -- when a movie is called "too short" the reviewer is saying that the plot and/or characters needed further development, not that 87 minutes is too short for a film.

I don't really think that games should be reviewed the same way as movies and books, though (besides, movies and books are reviewed differently from each other too). While we may have some games that feel like a novel or epic film trilogy, at its core, the experience of gameplay is fundamentally different from watching a film or reading a book.

I do agree, however, that game reviews should be done differently from how they tend to be done now. Although I can usually get a good understanding of a game from reading multiple reviews, many are annoying to read, and they usually go into too much detail about factors that don't really matter, and/or don't talk enough about important aspects of the gameplay. Too many game reviews read like lists. Graphics, sound, gameplay, replay value, conclusion. Having gameplay relegated to a section of the review is just wrong IMO. Gameplay should be the central concern of the review, discussed in every paragraph. Graphics and sound should be talked about as they relate to the gameplay, not in terms of how much they make you geek out. And I'm really tired of reading "the graphics are nothing to write home about, but they get the job done" in a review of a puzzle game.

Trebuken
07-12-2008, 03:09 PM
I find that GameRankings.com's scores generated from multiple reviews tend to be on the money, which suggest to me that the critics, while varied, are accurate to some degree...which suggest that perhaps reviews of games should not be conducted by an individual but perhaps by a panel. Some magazines offer second reviews or takes whcih can diverge some and I actually like that approach.

unwinddesign
07-12-2008, 03:10 PM
The general problem with game reviews is that the people reviewing them A) can't write their way out of a paper bag and B) rarely give a game scathing reviews. Most games deserve to hover in the 50 - 60% range, but, as can be seen on the graph in the link you provided, they are more towards the 70 - 80 % range (which the author incorrectly deems "mediocre" -- on most reviewers' scales, this is a good or very good game, not a convention C+/B- type of grade). Every time I read a preview, it makes me sick, because I know I'm being fed massive amounts of bullshit. And then the bullshit gets piled on in the review, unless it's by some small company that clearly gives the site $0 in ad revenue.

The GTA 4 reviews are a good example. A game with that many problems in no way deserves to be the number one ranked game of all time. I like the game; I think it's great. But there's some fishy shit going on when so many people ignore the game's problems and aren't bothered by the REDUCTION in features since GTA: San Andreas.

This applies to numerous other games as well, but the bottom line is that professional reviews are barely worth shit, and I think that they're guided by advertising dollars more than anything else. Most games are just not worth playing. With so many games being released, there are a ton of good ones out there (even though they're a small percentage). Why should I waste my time playing Two Worlds when I can play Oblivion? And why won't most reviewers tell me as such, straight up?

YoshiM
07-13-2008, 12:40 AM
I do agree, however, that game reviews should be done differently from how they tend to be done now. Although I can usually get a good understanding of a game from reading multiple reviews, many are annoying to read, and they usually go into too much detail about factors that don't really matter, and/or don't talk enough about important aspects of the gameplay. Too many game reviews read like lists. Graphics, sound, gameplay, replay value, conclusion. Having gameplay relegated to a section of the review is just wrong IMO. Gameplay should be the central concern of the review, discussed in every paragraph. Graphics and sound should be talked about as they relate to the gameplay, not in terms of how much they make you geek out. And I'm really tired of reading "the graphics are nothing to write home about, but they get the job done" in a review of a puzzle game.

Could you give an example of a review that resembles the scenario you describe? I checked a few online and they seem pretty reasonable with gameplay notes woven into most aspects of the overall review.

j_factor
07-13-2008, 02:57 PM
Could you give an example of a review that resembles the scenario you describe? I checked a few online and they seem pretty reasonable with gameplay notes woven into most aspects of the overall review.

I don't care to scour through a bunch of reviews to find the perfect scenario that exactly matches what I was talking about (which was a little bit of an exaggeration). However, here's the first review I opened, which happens to have some of the symptoms.

Tetris Blockout review at IGN (http://wireless.ign.com/articles/869/869997p1.html)

For starters, this review is just plain annoying to read. And saying "The graphics are simple as they should be. The grid itself actually looks pretty cool with the four lights on each side. Music is light and not distracting." is almost exactly what I was talking about. I could write a better review than that without even playing the game.

fishsandwich
07-13-2008, 03:53 PM
I like ratings. Maybe it comes from being scored myself (how many tests did you take in school? How many books reports? How many speechs?)

I don't like PLAY magazine's new no-grade format.

Emuaust
07-13-2008, 05:15 PM
Sony would say so regarding lair.

YoshiM
07-13-2008, 10:11 PM
I don't care to scour through a bunch of reviews to find the perfect scenario that exactly matches what I was talking about (which was a little bit of an exaggeration). However, here's the first review I opened, which happens to have some of the symptoms.

Tetris Blockout review at IGN (http://wireless.ign.com/articles/869/869997p1.html)

For starters, this review is just plain annoying to read. And saying "The graphics are simple as they should be. The grid itself actually looks pretty cool with the four lights on each side. Music is light and not distracting." is almost exactly what I was talking about. I could write a better review than that without even playing the game.

I agree it's not well written (the paragraph starting with "You're looking at the grid from the top down..." made me twitch) but overall it hit all the major points one needs to know about the game. You've got the warm up (little history and an example on Tetris' addictiveness, though I'm surprised there was no mention of Well Tris, which this game essentially is), the generalization (Tetris with a twist due to the 3D environment), game play description (using Tetris as a base description then describing the different way to play), control description followed by the "flash"-visuals and audio.

Throughout the article there were constant references regarding "fun", in other words, game play. Tetris was recognized for its original greatness, observations of possible frustration were made (due to the 3D nature), actual play was discussed (bored at lower levels as it was easy but the higher levels and confusion over the layout caused the game to not be fun for the reviewer). Back in an old EGM, Tetris by Tengen was said to have "slick refined graphics" on the NES. Like the IGN review, one can wonder what the author meant until they shift their eyes to the included photos of the game. I will agree the music and sounds were really touched on, which is a shame.

Overall it nails about 75% of what criteria was laid down. Granted the writing wasn't great but at least you got an idea what the game was about and how it plays. I bopped about to places like Rolling Stone to check out reviews for different media. While the reviews are written better, they're still about as good as a game review from the "big" game news outlets.

I guess it just boils down to it all being subjective. You and others seem to have this higher expectation that probably won't ever be met. But that's cool, not everyone can be happy with what's available :D .

chrisbid
07-13-2008, 11:43 PM
I like ratings. Maybe it comes from being scored myself (how many tests did you take in school? How many books reports? How many speechs?)

I don't like PLAY magazine's new no-grade format.


the problem is, when you take a test, you know going in how the score is calculated. on reports and speeches, there is at least a semi-objective system to what grade you earn. in video game reviews, scoring systems are subjective and rarely well defined. in fact, they are pulled out of the ass of the reviewer. the only guide reviewer have are other game scores, and that leads to grade inflation.

a fair rating system would be minimalist... no more than a five point scale. and while there should be no quotas, a look at all of the scores would show most games in the average range and a handful of games at the top and at the bottom.

if reviewer are going to stick with 10 and 100 point scales, there needs to be a clear system in place that shows how a game earns a particular score.

Icarus Moonsight
07-14-2008, 12:28 AM
The recent scandals have made print and for-profit sites (ad revenues) reviews lose almost all credibility. The structure of reviews is alright. It's only when the reader starts thinking that certain games get a pass to keep the checks coming in is where the system starts breaking down. There is a problem but, these articles don't really address it and that renders them inert.

j_factor
07-14-2008, 02:14 AM
I agree it's not well written (the paragraph starting with "You're looking at the grid from the top down..." made me twitch) but overall it hit all the major points one needs to know about the game.

I disagree. I need to know whether the game is worth playing, and why. This review kind of mentioned it, but failed to adequately address it IMO. When I read, "If you're not used to playing Tetris in this type of 3-D environment, then you're either going to be patient with it and practice a lot, or find it a really frustrating exercise in gaming enjoyment." I wondered to myself, "what the hell does that mean?" He says he got bored in easy, but he doesn't say why. Was it simply too easy? Or did he get bored right off? How long did he play it? Then he says "I ramped up to medium and did ok, but I got too confused by the design of the game and would die quickly." What? How did he suddenly not understand the design of the game when he swiched the difficulty? And if he died quickly, he didn't realy "do ok", did he?

And then he says there are three modes of play, almost at the end of the review. That's the kind of stuff you need to mention earlier. And he just says what the names of the modes are without describing them. He had gone through a narrative describing playing the game, but didn't say anything about selecting a mode, giving us no clue what mode he played when he got bored and then confused. The controls are described in two separate paragraphs with unrelated information in between. And I don't know if the mentions of sitting on the toilet are supposed to be funny or what, but they're kind of distracting.


I guess it just boils down to it all being subjective. You and others seem to have this higher expectation that probably won't ever be met. But that's cool, not everyone can be happy with what's available :D .

I have read some very good reviews in the past. A few rare ones have really blown me away. I don't expect a review of a cell phone puzzle game to be extremely long and detailed, nor extremely witty/clever or anything, but I do expect it to be coherent and informative. And I expect "professional" review sites to have better reviews than GameFAQs. If that's an unrealistic expectation, so be it.