It’s no secret that reviews are plastered across the internet, whether they be videos, written columns, or even a series of GIF images that sums up the subject in question — odds are you’ve watched or read one about that new movie or video game, and probably didn’t agree with the reviewer for various reasons.
Reviews aren’t always right, they aren’t always objective, and they aren’t always helpful — sometimes, they are just downright entertaining (and that’s not a bad thing).
But the question that always kicks up while watching one of these reviews focused on entertaining the audience is pretty obvious: Am I receiving information that helps me understand if I should buy the product?
For the video game industry, reviews have always been a standard category on any website covering them. Sites such as Polgyon, IGN and Kotaku have always reviewed games, and so they’ve always been crucial to gamers’ decisions on whether or not to purchase a game. Typically, these reviews serve as a “buyer’s guide” for readers/viewers. But now? This “buyer’s guide” mentality is starting to change based on how reviewers cover video games.
Similar to movie reviews, most video game reviews originally provided a score based on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. This encompassed elements like gameplay, narrative, sound design, and graphics, which were points of analysis by which all could critique the video game in question. Sure, many disagreed with the scores on occasion, but at least there was a set of standard criteria which everyone could understand.
Over the last few years as more video game content has taken to the web, these specific criteria have started fade away in favor of a different, more entertaining approach — some of which don’t really serve as the traditional “buyer’s guide” consumers are looking for.
It’s interesting to watch online franchises like Hot Pepper Game Reviews next to movie reviews on YouTube though, who tend to stick to the same evaluative categories across the board regardless of the reviewer: characters, plot, script, theme, music, and special effects.
So why don’t video game reviewers follow a formula, too?
One of the key differences is audience — who are now guided more towards popular personalities within the gaming industry like Jim Sterling or Angry Joe — mainly due to the level of entertainment they place on top of their review. And while many of these personalities tend to dish out a final review score on the scale of 1-5 or 1-10, they follow different criteria based on their personal opinion of the game.
It’s also important to understand that video games, unlike movies, tend to have a wider variety of content within them. Every movie features a cast of characters, a plot, a script, a theme, a musical score, and special effects — while every video game has the potential to be entirely different by choosing to incorporate a variety standard concepts. Certainly movies have different genres, but the basic developmental process remains the same. With video games, this development process can vary depending on the studio involved and the game that they’re trying to create. Some games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt focus on a longer, more open world experience. Others, like Call of Duty, focus on a more contained, on-the-rails type experience — and while each can be evaluated according to the same criteria, they may yield different results to different players who enjoy different kinds of experiences.
And maybe this is why we’re seeing a wide variety of review styles across the video game industry. While every game could be judged by the same standards in broad categories, many prefer to have them formatted to their own standard — which is why it’s important for you to develop a group of reviewers who evaluate like you.
Video game reviews are certainly more useless than the structured movie reviews, but if you find a critic who shares a similar mindset when approaching reviews, you might just stumble across the most valuable “buyer’s guide” out there.