The credibility of games journalism
Ok. So you are thinking you want buy Game X, but you are not sure if it's going to be a game you'll like, how do you get a decent overview of whether or not its going to be the game for you?
Do you go to Gamespot, IGN, Metacritic? Do you wait for your EDGE subscription? Do you wait for the Demo? Or do you take a chance, because the name is cool and the box art is pretty? I doubt many folks do the latter, either due to common sense or due to a previous fit of ill-advised spontinaity. I think at this point there are few people who will trust the "journalism" sites. After the great Gamespot walkout, I'm surprised it has any followers. And the same goes for most of the other sites, I find it hard to have faith in a site which has a full screen/page Ad of the latest flavour-of-the-week 3rd person romp. Understandably publishers are going to want advertise on games related sites; anyone who's on a "games" site is going to be interested in some form about their product. But you know that site has taken money from them, and does it just stop at advertising space? Well, past experience shows us it does not. Yet still these sites remain getting hits. Getting hits for scripted "Please give my game a good score, we'll give you money" reviews, granted you have to be creative in delivering a plausible reason as to why below average mechanics, graphics etc. are a good thing. But you didn't go on the site to critique the stylings of the resident literary whore, you wanted information...
As its stands so much of games news is not about games, it's just games related; an endless muddle of knitted master chiefs, interviews with insignificant members of the industry, creepy cosplayers, pantsu collectors editions, or ignored bloggers ranting about the credibility of games journalism. Couple that with the reviews getting hidden amongst ads poping up, previews, cheats, spoilers, pics etc. Finding and actual bit of information pertaining to the game you wish to get a review of can be an unholy arduous quest.
Games reviews have always been a difficult one to judge there are so many ways of "scoring" a game the most popular one is of course is percentage based, but even that gets abused. Halo 3 for instance, 100% game, however personally I would give it 65% as, I believe that the narrative was bland, the enemies cliched, and the combat uninvolving, however I did enjoy the ambiance of the game, and despite completing the main story in one night (even though chapter V bugged out, not giving me the achievement), I did have fun, but ultimately it did not justify the price I paid on release. My point is that, even if we were not to consider that "review sites" had been paid off, the scoring mechanic itself is too subjective. When you see a game reviewed at 80% it is simply a rating that review site X has given this game within the 2-3 days that they have had to play it (amongst the other titles they are reviewing) and essentially publishing a generic number of the gut feeling they got from this game. And unless you trust a site's opinion, ha, that score is less than meaningless
Frequently on review sites you will see "our Score" and "Your Score" where users are able to vote on the score they would give it. Now lets debate the demographic of people who are going to click that button and create a vote? Would you personally log into Gamespot or whatever and give your score for an Average game? Probably not, given the state of the community you know any scores you see are going to be 90% submitted by Trolls or Fanboys.
So what do we do? The way I see it there are 3 choices.
1. Give into the pre-launch hype.
A huge game is looming on the horizon, every gaming site out there is running features and articles on it, however their Preview and Review section remains blank. All you have to go on is snippets of the cuscenes and the strength of previous titles from the developer.
2. Wait for the demo.
Not always a viable option as some games/consoles don't get demos and they are not always reflective of the game. For games with a huge scope, such as RPG's, how do you capture the mechanics and the intrensicities that keep you going for the full 100+ hours of the actual game.
3. Ignore it, buy it pre-owned 3 months later, and for half the price.
But you run the risk of spoilers, and also the camaraderie of you and all your mates (online or offline) playing the game at the same time.
In conclusion, I think we need less review sites, nobody cares.
Love and irreverent old arguments,