The following is a companion piece to my recent article on Jeff Gerstmann being fired. As I mentioned, there’s a wide variety of interesting points to look at regarding Jeff’s firing – at least if you believe the (arguably now defunct) conspiracy theory angle.
Let’s just suppose though, that it were true that there are times when money can buy an opinion in the game world – or indeed anywhere else. You’d have a huge problem right? How could you trust what you read, see or hear? Well, I’ve got a big issue with this. Over in the UK, we’ve got a show called Film 2007 with Jonathan Ross. He’s an arguably funny-man who is paid huge amounts of money by the BBC.
Anyway, his show often features a format of news, interviews, box office lowdowns and reviews. The problem with the show stems really from the interviews. Frequently you’ll have the host gushing madly about the latest film to the actor/actress he’ll be talking to, only to savage the film later in the reviews section. This really, really annoys me and undermines the show.
Now I understand why it happens, but why not just interview the actor or actress whose film you genuinely liked, rather than effectively stabbing them in the back later? Pride before a fall, money before integrity (and viewers) or so it would seem.
I believe though that the really interesting thing is how quickly this rumour got picked up, and the (quite incredible amount) criticism that the story received. Hey, we’re just talking about games here right, so who cares if the figures are fluffed and plumped a little right? Well, the first issue is that no one really wants to waste money now do they. So if I say something is good on my site, then you’re hoping I’m telling the truth.
Second, and perhaps a wider issue, is that maybe games are finally pushing closer toward art. Okay so the figure at the end is important, but maybe there’s a reason why you’ll buy a 7/10 game – does it have an element you particularly like? Is there something about it that appeals to you? I used to be a gaming ‘snob’ but found some games that were below hallowed 9/10 grade, yet I thoroughly enjoyed them. What does that say? That you should always go beyond the bottom line x.x/10.
I don’t really run sponsored ads on my pages (Google Adsense is there though) – the links on there are genuinely things that I like – things that I think you might like, or indeed find some use of. Should you not, then rest assured that’s fine too, but no-one paid me money to try and force-feed you information that is either incorrect or just lies.
I guess that’s really what it comes down to, we don’t want to be lied to or mislead, especially coming from one of the biggest (and arguably historically accurate in terms of reviews) sites on the Internet. I value the opinion of those on gamespot.com and I can honestly say that I still turn to them to read reviews.
This whole fiasco however has made me wonder exactly what we’re trying to quantify when we give a variable over to one man to assign to a game. This has led to me formulating a few different approaches to reviews that could be tried, in the hope that we don’t see a repeat of the whole issue. Here they are:
· Don’t give a score to a review – just write text. People will have a good idea by reading it whether it’s really their sort of game or not.
· Have a review by two different people – generally speaking if you have two reviewers who’ve played a lot of games then they shouldn’t differ too much (unless one of them hates FPS games for instance). You could then use an aggregate score.
· Offer a system to show what the game is similar to – and why.
So there you have it. Some ways I think reviews could be fair. One thing I’d like to mention though is that a review should NEVER, EVER be without emotion. At best, it just comes across as dull. The Kane & Lynch: Dead Men review comes across just as that. It looks to all intents and purposes as though an automaton has written it. Gamespot reviews are accurate but they also have a touch of personal flair. There is nothing worse than reading something devoid of a human touch.
Overall, I really feel that issues like this are going to come about more as gaming and our communications networks come closer together. Of course it’s not the first time that this sort of accusation has been levelled toward an entertainment medium and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My personal advice on the issue is this – if you can’t play it beforehand then read several reviews. Go rent it if you can. Just look out for sites that possible censor their writers…