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Top 5 Ways To Improve Game Reviews

As I grow older (mid-20’s), I look back on life and begin to wonder just what the hell I was thinking back when certain things mattered to me. I was perusing a few sites this morning, and one of the things I used to care about so much that mean little to me now popped up; game reviews.

Don’t misunderstand me, game reviews are an important piece of the gaming industry. They’re a check against developers, so crappy games aren’t released as frequently. They can be informative to the public, and so on. However, there was a time when game reviews would send me through the roof. Sometimes for good reasons, others not so good. Looking back, it all just seems so silly.

All these different thoughts lead to the Top 5 list. What are some things that can be improved upon with game reviews? How can they be made more relevant?

Let’s get to it.

Top 5 Things To Improve With Game Reviews

5. Engage More With The Gamers

Sometimes consumers forget, but they’re the cog that keeps our entire way of life turning. Without consumers, or a user base there’d be no video games, or reviews for that matter. This simple idea translates to our current economic status, but that’s a topic for another time, and another blog.

The gamer crowd is the lifeblood of the game review. If no one is there to hear you speak, or read your words then what’s the point. Which is why it irks me to see so many reviewers not engage with their user base. I’m not sure if it’s in the interests of professionalism, or if game reviewers are just busy. If you look around some review sites, you’ll rarely find reviewers follow up their writings or respond to comments left by readers.

To be fair, not all comments are worth addressing, but there is worth while dialogue to respond to. Yet, you’ll find reviewers not answering questions, or backing up the claims they make in their review summaries. With Facebook, Twitter, and all different kinds of social networking the idea of user engagement is just reaching its peak. It’s not enough to just leave empty words in an article on your site anymore. It’s all about your communication as well.

4. Neutral Genre/Title Fanboyism

If you look around mainstream news, the idea of ‘objective’ journalism is fading faster than hard line telephones. Everyone has a bias, and it seems that we care less and less if that bias gets in the way of reporting facts or figures. This idea translates to the video game world as well. Though, I will say it’s not as prevalent as it once was.

I think that #4 on today’s list is one of the hardest changes to implement for game reviews. Mainly, because reviews are in, and of themselves bias. They’re opinions, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear that opinion from someone who had a jaded view going into playing the game. If I’m wanting to check out thoughts on the newest Madden game, I don’t want to hear about what the reviewer thought of previous Maddens. Specifically if they hated it, or were absolutely in love with it.

Hearing how great Madden is, from someone who has always been a huge Madden fan kind makes their thoughts moot. Unless you’re a Madden fan that is. But why restrict your viewing audience to only those who love Madden? Or hate it.

Now, I’m not saying that someone shouldn’t review a game because of any prior qualms/preferences towards certain titles or genres. I’m just saying that it needs to be kept to a minimum when it comes out in their writing.

I’ll probably need to come back to this whenever Punch Out! releases this year.

3. Include, Don’t Exclude

My biggest pet peeve when reading through a review, is finding large sections of a game are missing from the write-up. Whenever I read a review, and I know something has blatantly been omitted the review is instantly void in my eyes.

Reviews should always follow the motto ‘more is better’. Even if the review is an essay, atleast the reader has a choice to either skim through, or read the entire entry. Whenever a review is cut short, or information is left out, there’s really only one option for the reader. Which is to read it, but be denied things they should probably know about the game they’re reading about.

What’s really frustrating is that on certain sites, you can tell some games get better treatment than others. I’m not talking about positive/negative reactions but that certain games get talked about more than others. This, sometimes is due to the fact that certain games have more content than others, but that isn’t always the case.

2. Add Second Opinions

In every publication that I’ve ever read, my favorites tend to be ones that present the greatest number of ideas about games. EGM generally always added second opinons. IGN includes them sometimes, but not nearly enough. I’m not quite sure why all of the major gaming publications don’t post more than one review.

On WiiBlog, you’ll generally just see one review, but that’s because it’s a smaller publication. Believe me, I’d allow as many differing opinions as I could if the resources were there. Yet, I visit these large sites, with bountiful resources and I’m left flummoxed by the inclusion of only one review.

What, that one person is the ‘end all, be all’ in terms of reviewing a particular game? What exactly, makes one person so special that they get one exclusive review per site? The answer, is quite simply that they aren’t special. It’s merely one opinion, which is a microcosm of a larger whole. And really isn’t, nor should be representative of the overall feeling towards a game.

Looking at game reviews, I can understand why the ‘one and only’ format was chosen. Mostly, because traditional media has always been reviewed that way. Just look at entertainment publications, where you’ll see movie reviews conducted by one person. TV, books, are also forms of media that have been traditionally reviewed by one person, per publication.

I can tell you that with games, my opinion is generally formed by discussing with others. Why can’t discussions be used as reviews? Why not setup a round table for a certain game, and have opinions bounce off one another? I think that offering second opinions is a good start to revitalize, and revamp the way we review our games.

Just because media has been reviewed a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean that’s what needs to keep continuing. As the wonders of the internet grow, so should the ways we relay information about a game to the consumers.

1. Numerical Scores

For me, one of the funniest moments in gaming was when Gamespot (Jeff Gerstmann) dropped his review of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess onto viewers. You’d have thought Gerstmann sparked World War III from all the backlash he received from Zelda, and Nintendo fanboys. All because he thought LoZ: TP deserved a 8.8.

I didn’t agree with some of the negatives that Jeff mentioned in his review. I loved the wii remote controls, and thought it was great to see an Ocarina styled Link on the Wii. Two things he mentions as negatives. There-in lies my point. People weren’t upset with Jeff’s write-up of the game, but the arbitrary number he assigned to it.

Something about that little 8.8, drove people into a hysteria. If you don’t believe me, look at player reviews on that site. People gave the game a 10, for nothing more than to try and prove a point to Jeff. That his numerical score was somehow ‘wrong’.

I’m not going to act high and mighty, because I myself have used a numerical score for reviews on this site. But I leave it at the end, as a footnote to what should really be important, the content. I know people that live, and die by the number though. You’ll see forum topics created solely based on a review ‘score’. They generally turn into flame wars.

Why? Is what I want to ask. Why, do we care so much about those little digits? Is there a chemical imbalance in our heads, that sees an arbitrary score that sends us into a frenzy?

“Oh no, Halo 3 only received a 4.5 stars out of 5, I can no longer show my face around here again”

That’s a literal quote from a review I’ve seen before.

For me, numerical scores are the bane of the game review world. I wish I had a time machine and could go back and find out who devised the first review system for anything. Tell him how it was hurting valid content, and to just write out your views instead.

What’s sad is that review scores aren’t going anywhere. Publishers plaster results all over their boxes. ‘ This game receives 5/5 from Gamepro’. All I ask is that we take a step back, and try to find out why is matters so much. Then hopefully we can devise a better solution.

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So, after discussing today’s topic, how important are game reviews to you? If you do put stock into reviews, how do you read them? Do you really care so much about a numerical result, and if so how do you read into review systems?

High Voltage Hot Rod Show Review

High Voltage Hot Rod Review

ProsA kinetic, and intense arcade driving game. The stunt/boost system provides a unique gameplay experience. A fun multiplayer experience.

ConsControls could have been made a bit tighter. Bland visuals. Online multiplayer could have really added to the experience. Spotty driver AI. Championship mode could have been put together better.
read more »

World of Goo Review (Guest Writer)

Many owners of the Wii game console have come to enjoy the ability to download titles made specifically for the system with a few clicks of the Wii Remote. Within moments, you are able to download a new game directly to your console and begin playing.

The folks at Nintendo have been uploading new titles to their online offerings from a variety of systems for months and the amount of Wii Ware titles continues to grow as well. For somewhere between five and ten dollars, gamers can add a new title to their game library that is both fun and affordable.

World of Goo is an excellent title developed for the Wii that requires planning, problem solving and manual dexterity to complete the challenges proposed to the player. Within the goo are little particles and microorganisms that are strung together to create structures and vessels to get objects from one place to another.

Many of the levels are extremely difficult and require players to think outside the box in order to complete them. For example, structures and goo are used together along with balloons to create vessels for microorganisms to make it to the next level. Sound difficult? For a relatively simple game, World of Goo is complex indeed.

Some levels are easier than others, and hints are left for players on notes left by “The Sign Painter.” As ambiguous as these notes are, some levels are easily completed after a few tries, while others take many more. Players must take a closer look at what this individual has to say if they want to be successful at the game.

In all, World of Goo is fun, challenging, and frustrating at times. The end result, however, is a game that requires snap thinking and decision making to continue moving forward. For less than ten dollars, the game is well worth the cost.

Holly McCarthy writes on the subject of a top rated distance learning courses. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com

Wii

Tenchu: Shadow Assassins Reviewed By Girls Gone Wild (NSFW)

Ok, I won’t try to summarize Joe Francis, CEO of Girls Gone Wild too much, but he thinks Tenchu: Shadow Assassins is, ‘totally hot’.

This video is pretty much a joke, but it’s a sexy joke. Expect to see plenty of breasts with Tenchu logos covering them up, and a random tiger thrown in for good measure. The voice acting from the in-game characters still disappoints, if you happen to be paying attention.

Mushroom Men Review Roundup

Mushroom Men Reviews

I’ve been scouring gaming sites all morning, checking up on thoughts about the Nintendo Wii’s latest release. The results are interesting to say the least.

The general consensus is that Mushroom Men is a beautifully stylized game, that could use a little more work in the gameplay department.

IGN – 7.9/10:
“Mushroom Men is notable for its presentation and art style alone. But while it is visually and aurally unique, the gameplay is pretty generic platforming. And this motion-controlled combat has to go. Still, you could do a lot worse than invest some time in a solid, if commonplace, adventure. If you’ve been jonesing to be immersed in a game world on the Wii, Mushroom Men just might do the trick.”

Game Informer – 5.75/10: “Mushroom Men has a few things going for it, like cool characters and clever sound design. Unfortunately, none of the good stuff has any bearing on the gameplay, which is a total mess. The camera is awful, the level designs are boring, and combat is comprised of whipping the remote around and hoping that you hit something. The addition of telekinesis might have been cool if it worked well, but it’s just frustrating. Throw in some rote collection goals and you’ll find yourself wondering why you’re subjecting yourself to this. Even in the realm of sub-average platformers, you have several better options than Mushroom Men.”

1UP – C: “If Mushroom Men did any sort of justice to its artistry and ambitions, we’d have something special to talk about. Instead, we’re left with a somewhat archaic, unpolished platformer belied by a novel premise and seemingly interesting world to explore. I enjoyed it enough as an introduction to a very cool, deliberate aesthetic, but it’s tough not to desire a Mushroom Men game that executes its ideas more skillfully — never mind one that takes more than five hours to finish.”

Wii

Tales Of Symphonia: DoTNW — Passable To IGN

Many Nintendo Wii owners, specifically those with more gaming experience have been crying for a RPG. I happen to be one of those people. I’ve never been a ‘huge’ Tales of Symphonia fan, but enjoyed the more cheeky, and funny JRPG oriented stories in the game. Apparently, Daemon Hatfield of IGN doesn’t feel that way as he has blasted the new Tales of Symphonia game in his review.

After reading his review, it seems like the same problem I see from most game reviewers. I can tell from the problems that Hatfield has with the game, that he probably isn’t as well versed with JRPGs as many of the genre’s dedicated followers. There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with that, just that it leaves a skewed view. If I happen to like some of the off-the-wall, zany fun that most JRPGs have, I’d like to hear that voice so I can respond accordingly.

Tales of Symphonia
Yes, The Hero Is Probably A Whiny Teenager. Just Like Every FPS Has A Standard Pistol For A Starting Weapon. But Review Scores Shouldn’t Be Based On Those Trends.

I could be totally wrong and Hatfield could be right about his points. I’ll have to wait to play the game to make that decision. The way he worded his article though, it seemed like more of a bash on the genre than just the particular game. JRPGs have always been linear, and their storylines tend to always be convoluted. Just like games of other genres all follow certain patterns.

I’ll safely admit that I’m not a huge fan of third-person shooters. I like my shooters in the first person variety. So, if I were to review a third-person game, I’d like to give my readers a review from someone that does appreciate the third-person aspect. That way there’s a balance for everyone involved.

I’m not going to lay into Daemon Hatfield for his review because everyone is entitled to their opinion. I just would rather see more variety from some of the larger review sites. I know they have the budget to do it, and I think their fans would appreciate that. You can already tell there’s going to be a huge backlash from Tales fans, because there’s already 86 reader ratings. The reader score is sitting at 9.6 after those ratings, and the game comes out today. Considering most game stores won’t have it until noon, I highly doubt that those readers have actually played any of it. Which leads me to suspect those reader ratings are from upset fans who actually haven’t bought the game yet.

If I was a JRPG fan, and was waiting for an opinion that reflected close to my feelings of the genre I’d probably be upset too.