A revue of Reviews
Usually I like to stick to the topic of gaming experiences, and how they can be bettered. Although I could, I feel compelled to talk about reviewing in general, and how the process is done and how, in a perfect world, it should be done. It follows on from the news that Quintin Smith’s review of Age of Conan was withdrawn by Eurogamer, which I noted, but then also saw the comments on the review and the journalistic defences put forward by everyone but Smith.
You may remember that when I started this blog, I was deadset on not reviewing games. A discussion with Craig in the comments changed my views, in that if I ever mess up the programming side of my life and want to write for a gaming site/magazine/pet I’d need to be able to review well. It could be argued that reviewing a game and writing random articles invoke the same skill, but I can easily compare the first review I did and the articles I was writing: There’s no doubt the articles were better written.
So what makes them different? Ultimatly, it boils down to the fact you’re writing for a different purpose. If you’re writing an article, you’re writing to entertain someone and/or make them think about the subject you have in mind. A review however, is a piece of information. It takes this object that’s been created and plays with it, finding out how it works and tells you these things, allowing you to decide whether you spend money on it.
It’s a tricky process. Balancing the fact you need to be entertaining while being informative and respectful means that you can either go the wrong way of telling people endless amounts of petty detail and seems like a dull blockhead, or be overally entertaining while neglecting to mention that it doesn’t work.
What most people fail to take into account is that opinions are subjective. A glowing review of [insert game here] might lead you to believe that it’s a brilliant game that you’ll enjoy. But you might not. That gimmick that the reviewer loved might actually be an annoynace to you, hence my last line in reviews telling who will probably enjoy the game.
In a brilliant world, every game would be completed and thus a review would be perfect, which is the approach I take. If I finish the game then I feel I’m in a good position to tell you about it. The only exception has been Burnout, but that’s because there’s less of an endgame.
However, I’m doing this for free. I’m writing my own reviews for nothing and am not expecting free things (Though if anyone wants to pay me and give me free things, drop me a line. I won’t complain). I don’t have any deadlines to adhere to, though I always put up the posts at the time I alloted myself even though technically I don’t have to. I’m not in a position like Quintin’s, where the review is paid for by the word count.
These deadlines that I don’t have and the payment I’m not getting change things. Spending the time I do on a game to review it is unfeasible if you have 6 other games to review within the next 2 weeks. The payment on word count is also another issue. I could spend 20 hours on the game, and still get paid the same amount than if I played it for 4.
Should the review structure of paid journalism be changed? This person thinks so, but I disagree. In the end, the editors are right in paying by the review count. The problem is that MMOs (Which Quintin’s review was of) aren’t like normal games. They need updated reviews or features because of how they’re changing every 6 months. But that all costs money, and I doubt that would happen.