Game reviews: Know the reviewer | teko92.dk

Game reviews: Know the reviewer

As discussed in the last blog, reviews are per definition subjective, and a reader should know enough about the reviewer that (s)he can relate to whether the review is trust-worthy or not. As we also discussed, readers seldom establish a long-term relationship with reviewers since there are so many gamer sites and reviewers out there. What are the key traits then to know whether a reviewers opinion is worth-while or not? Some elements discussed in the following, first focused on the readers perspective but then focused to discussing how a reviewer can provide sufficient background information for its readers. There is a lot of discussion on the Internet that rightfully asks the question of whether any online review can be trusted. What is the intent of the reviewer? Some studies have indicated consistent higher reviewer scores for block buster titles than the actual user scores which of course leads to lots of speculation which is not an area we are going to discuss further here. But what we should discuss is how to make a review credible.

The first question the reader should ask is “who is the reviewer”? Do I even relate to the person? What does the reviewer look for in a game? There are multiple elements that can help. The first obvious one is providing history. E.g. if the reviewer provided overall scores for past games, it would be useful to show those review scores in the current review page. If earlier assessments for games are highly correlated with my experience of the same games, that is strong indication that we like the same things. Given such history is not available, the reviewer can provide a listing of similar games in past that (s)he liked or disliked and for what reasons that was so.

Second question is what is the basis for the review. Understandably many reviewers are just going with the flow to be “early birds” to capture readers to their commercial sites. Some may not be even willing to write the truth that is “I received version of review yesterday”, “my review is based on 2 hours with the game”, and otherwise “I just state the same as other reviewers but with some personal touch in terms of formulations”. Any reviewer that I would trust guiding my purchasing decision, should be able to put forward this information. Which part of the games was tried out? What difficulty? Multiplayer (which is interesting given reviews created on the day of release, one can wonder how that took place)?

Finally, the review itself adds to the credibility of the reviewer. Are there too many personal aspects or is argumentation based on factual observations? Does the reviewer try to get into understanding the game as it “was meant to be played/understood” by the developer or is the game measured entirely against a personal preference? E.g. it would be a fair reviewer assessment that the yet unreleased Dead Space 3’s co-op mode would hypothetically take away the whole idea of the player being isolated, alone, and in panic. E.g. a core ingredient of the attraction of the first two games. But as the co-op mode is there it should be evaluated for what it is? Does it make the experience more manageable for players too scared to play DS on higher difficulties? Does the mode provide good fun when playing with a friend? Does the co-op elements work out? Looking at a game from multiple angles helps me as a reader to understand if my use-case for the game is nicely catered for or not. A game that received lots of mixed reviews was the recently published Resident Evil 6. But I found the co-op mechanic well implemented which was my primary use-case for purchasing the game.

As an element to the actual review, is of course the creative writing style. Some reviewers are very good at making pictures in your head that get’s you into the players feeling playing a section of the game without having the controller in your hand. While this is the artistic part, it is a way of connecting with the reader, reaching a person on a different level. E.g. “how do you want to feel playing a game, and how does this game makes you feel”.