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Video game reviews (mostly) suck! Here's why and how we can fix it

I wrote dialogue for this game 3 years ago...still not out yet
Let's face facts, most video game reviews fucking suck! Actually, yeah I'm going to be that guy, the vast majority of video game reviews suck. This might be kind of odd to hear from a website that reviews games but it's the truth and we both know it. I would love to offer a quick fix for the problem but the thing is video game reviews don't suck in a single easy to fix way. No, they suck in a complex array of shit. Rest assured I will offer a solution to the many, many problems with video games reviews but I would like to first take a look at the varied ways most reviews suck. Wow, I've said suck more in one paragraph than a Chinese businessman egging on the Blizzard higher ups.

The review score system is pure ass
Unlike film critics who generally agree to use a 5 star system, video game reviewers have yet to come to a general consensus as to what scale should be used. Some sites use a simple X/5, some go for X/10, others add in half points, some do tenths of a point, one site I used to work for used a system with 5 categories of X/5 for a total X/25 score. It is fucking ridiculous that we are over thirty years from the debut of the NES and we still haven't decided on a single unified review scale.

If not having a unified scale wasn't bad enough, reviewers can't even agree on what each point, 0 and 10 being the exceptions, on the scale represents. I've even seen sites publish a page stating what each point is suppose to represent, only for the reviewer to say "fuck it" and give the game whatever fucking score they feel like. This problem of arbitrary scores only expands as you start to read reviews from smaller sites that are filled with untrained writers. This is to make no mention of audience scores where 10's and 1's are handed out like candy on Halloween.

The final complaint I have against the review score system itself is it can not be applied fairly across genres. The best management simulator should be a 9 or a 10 in theory but could it really be rated higher than something with more appeal like Call of Duty? What about a really good fighting game, is it actually comparable to a really good JRPG? Games are so diverse that trying to rate them across genres on a single scale is a fool's errand. This is to say nothing of games that encompass more than one genre.
Say hi to Orion, I was paid to write her story for Victory Belles
Outlets have incentives to write good reviews
I have been involved, on and off, in games media for damn near twenty years now. In that time I have seen my fair share of "review boosting" from editors. I even had an editor try to boost one of my reviews from a 3 to a 6. The reason for this behavior is quite simple, websites want to remain in the good graces of the various PR people representing publishers, developers, and console manufacturers. The video game content creation market is so jam packed that missing out on a review copy or press release can send your site into a freefall. Now, unless you completely shit on a game, no PR person is going to tell you that a bad review is the reason why you were passed over but you and they both know this is the reason they suddenly came up one copy short when handing out review codes for the newest game.

If the subtle notion of not receiving review codes or press releases isn't enough motivation to write a good review, maybe cold hard cash will do the trick. This cash comes in two forms, advertisement dollars and/or affiliate links. You probably already suspected some kind of fuckery was going on when you visited a gaming website and saw several ads for the same game plastered all over your screen but you probably had no idea just how much fuckery was actually going on. The companies buying these ads can not legally trade ad purchases for a good review but they can "oversee" a review. Technically, this is done so a company can be sure the information in the review is accurate but you can already see how that could be a conflict of interest. Of course, no one is ever going to admit to this practice and iron clad NDAs prevent anyone who might have a reason to speak up from doing so.

Affiliate links are a much bigger problem in my opinion. We already assume that game companies are trying to screw us over and sell as many copies of a game as they can but when the media outlet itself is doing it...well, that's a whole new level of asshole behavior. The simple fact of the matter is no one is going to buy a game a website shit all over. If you don't want to buy the game then you won't use the affiliate link and the website won't get paid. On the other hand, if a website tells you how good a game is and omits its faults then you are more likely to want to buy the game. Not only that, you probably want to thank the website for telling you about it so you are more than happy to use the affiliate link and give them a little cash. Again, the ease at which this can be abused is astounding and you should avoid any site that uses affiliate links. The site may not be doing anything shady now but the temptation is there and you would never even know they bumped a score up a point or two in hopes that you click that link.
This is Dunkerque, I wrote her story too.
The people reviewing the games suck
I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating. The people who are reviewing game lack the skills and/or knowledge needed to properly review video games. Reviewing games isn't as simple as putting a game on, playing it, and writing about your experience. At least, it shouldn't be that simple. If all you are able to do is play the game from start to finish, or less depending on the game's length, then you have only done 1/2 of your job. Reviewing a game properly means you also have to push the game to its limits as if you were testing the game for bugs. Sometimes you have to do things that you know is wrong in order to see if the game is coded to handle it.

 An example of this would be the glitch I discovered in Sense - 不祥的预感 [A Cyberpunk Ghost Story]. In the game you start on a train after dropping your PDA during a cutscene. Normally you can not exit the train until you pick up the PDA however if you die then restart the game the train doors will be open on your second playthrough. The game tells you to pick up the PDA, you already know that is what you are suppose to do from the previous playthrough, but you can instead choose to go out the open train doors. The game will then continue as if you picked up the PDA despite it not being in your inventory. This renders the game unplayable. Someone who was unskilled in games or just trying to get from point A to Point B would never encounter this bug. A crucial piece of information would be left out of the review simply because the person doing the review isn't skilled enough to try to do something you are not prompted to do.

Lacking knowledge can lead to a review missing crucial information simply because the reviewer had no idea about a previous game or historical relevance to the game they are playing. An example of this is a review I saw of Ni No Kuni for the Nintendo Switch by Jake James Lugo. I did plug JJ on this site before as someone to check out but being plugged by this site doesn't keep me from pointing out when someone makes an error or two. JJ's first mistake is thinking the Switch version of Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch is a remaster. The remastered version was only available on PC and PS4, the Switch version is a port of the PS3 version. His second error is claiming that Ni No Kuni was first released on the PS3 when in fact the PS3 version is an enhanced version of the Nintendo DS Japan exclusive Ni No Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn. JJ wasn't trying to mislead or lie to his audience, he simply lacked the knowledge to properly comment on the game. 90% of the people reviewing games don't even realize they lack the proper knowledge to comment on a video game and those who do almost never do the required research to get up to speed on things. The people hired for this site are the obvious exceptions to this fact.
Is there any interest in hearing about this game?
How do we fix reviews?
That is quite the pile of crap we need to shovel in order to clean the entire reviewing games industry but I have faith we can do it. First and foremost we need to toss review score into the trash.They are useless and the only thing they are good for is lining the pockets of marketing execs getting bonuses based off of how well the game scores. Here at The Geek Getaway we have a simple system, we either recommend the game being reviewed or we don't. There will be times we add caveats to the "not recommended" label, such as wait for a sale or look for a patch to fix the bugs before buying. This simple system lets you know that we either enjoyed the game or we didn't but leaves it up to you if you think the game is worthy of a purchase.

Next, we as gamers need to demand that gaming websites abandon their affiliate links and targeted gaming ads. This would remove the ability of either game companies or websites to fudge the numbers on review scores in order to cash in. This will mean that gaming websites will have to work harder to stay profitable but as many are already failing with the current systems in place it might not be such a bad thing to trade crappy websites for the renewed trust of our audience.

The last and most important thing game reviews need is complete transparency. Disclosures of review copies, gifts, trips, private showing, and ect. should be front and center in the review. In fact, the first thing you should see after the article title is the disclosure. Additionally, you should disclose any lack of skill or knowledge on the game you are reviewing. Not everyone is going to be good or knowledgeable at all games but you should at least inform the audience of any blind spots. This has the effect of allowing the audience to get a better understanding of why you felt a certain way about a game and if they would have a different opinion on the game from their perspective. Being honest with your audience can also help you develop a friendly relationship with your readers as opposed to the typical antagonistic relationship gaming journalist and gamers currently have. That's my feelings on this situation, maybe you guys feel differently. Don't hesitate to comment if you agree or disagree with anything I said. Also, if you feel this is worthy of sharing then we would relly appreciate you guys doing so.

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