As the end of 2017 draws closer, a big topic in the industry is which of this year’s releases are the best, or as we like to call it: ‘Game of the Year’. Review scores naturally play a big factor in determining this. As a result, now seems like a good time to talk about how some people seem to misunderstand the purpose of game reviews.
The main basis of this argument comes from various comments I’ve seen over the past few weeks. For instance, you have some folks who think certain titles are overrated, which usually results in that person responding to a review of said game saying it’s a “bad review”. I want to expand on that topic: is there truly such a thing as a bad review? Technically speaking, not really. There’s a reason for that, and it’s pretty much the anchor of this entire article: reviews are opinions.
Some of you may think that there was no reason for me to say that since it should be obvious, but the way I’ve seen some folks respond to reviews makes it seem like they aren’t aware that reviews really are just glorified opinions. So, if you’re one of those folks who didn’t realize that, I hope that cleared things up a bit. But, let’s go a little deeper.
If reviews are opinions, what purpose do they serve? Well, mainly it’s to give creators critical feedback on their work so they can know if they truly did a good job or not. But, reviews serve another, arguably even bigger purpose: they’re pretty much guides for consumers who are deciding whether or not they want to invest in a product. In this case, the products are games. When someone reviews a game, all they’re doing is formulating their experience in a descriptive manner (this basically also applies to a review for anything else). For this reason, it’s technically incorrect to say that a review is ‘bad’. You can have a poor review, but not really a bad one.
A critic review is just a formal opinion. Keep that keyword in mind: ‘opinion’.
The difference between the two is that a poor review is basically one that’s very shallow; where it’s clear the reviewer didn’t really spend much time with the product (game) in question and more-or-less formulated their views from just a rushed experience. On top of that, a review could be poorly/lazily-constructed. So, what would make a review truly bad? Usually, I see someone use this line against a review that they disagree with; in most cases, it’s because the reviewer doesn’t share the same opinion as the reader/viewer. Well, that’s just the thing, everybody has a different opinion. This is something that’s very important to keep in mind whenever you look at the reviews for basically anything, games included.
Since all reviews do is relay the personal experiences of the reviewer, that automatically makes everything that they say subjective. You might agree or disagree with the majority of things, if not everything in a review, but regardless, that doesn’t make the review itself any better or worse. The only real point that needs to be taken into account is the whether or not the product in question is truly any good. Everyone has different tastes in games, so there will always be people who dislike even the most popular and highest-rated titles. Does that make those kinds of games ‘overrated’? Not necessarily; they’re usually genuinely good games, but some folks don’t just see the appeal. On the other hand, you have titles that get terrible reviews, yet in some cases, a fanbase still manages to form around them. Why? Again, because reviews are subjective.
With that being the case, reviews aren’t the truly the ‘be-all, end-all’ judge for whether or not something is good or bad. Even if something actually is truly amazing or terrible, there will always be discrepancies in personal experiences because we all think differently and thus have different opinions. Even so, whether we realize it or not, quite a number of us tend to make our decisions based on reviews. I’m not referring to just formal ones either. For instance, say you’re out with some friends and you guys are deciding where you want to eat and then come upon two restaurants that are side-by-side. There’s ‘Restaurant A’ that none of you have ever visited, and then there’s ‘Restaurant B’, to which one of your friends says: “Hey, I’ve been there before! Their food is awesome! We should all go there.” Now, be honest, which of the two restaurants do you think is the most likely to be chosen? I’m sure the majority of us would agree on Restaurant B. Why? Humans thrive on opinions. That’s why we have things such as surveys, and ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ options on so many websites
Think about it, how often do you check out a review of something before jumping in?
It’s for this reason why reviews, in general, tend to be so popular. All it takes is a quick YouTube search for reviews on just about any truly popular game, or even movie. In most cases, those videos tend to have hundreds of thousands of views at the least. It’s because people tend to put a lot of trust in reviews to guide their purchasing decisions. In fact, I’ve seen a number of people comment on some of my reviews saying how it influenced them to buy a game (or not). Frankly, I tend to do the same thing when looking for a new game to get (alongside every other product I buy).
There’s nothing wrong with this as products that are highly-rated tend to be truly worth it, while those that get trash scores tend to do so because they’re actually trash themselves. Yet, you should never get the impression that a review is ‘wrong’ because you don’t agree with it.
Ultimately, it doesn’t make sense to ever get upset because a reviewer doesn’t share the same views of you. A review you don’t agree with shouldn’t affect the enjoyment you get out of a game/product. Rather, we need to learn to accept that there are all sorts of different tastes out there, and it’s not just yours (and everyone who agrees with you) that’s the ‘right one’. If you aren’t fond of a game/product, so be it, but getting salty over a review calling it “Great!” isn’t going to actually make the game any worse. Same applies to a game that you think is being scored too positively. In either case, just go out and enjoy the games that you actually find fun. It’ll make everyone involved a lot happier.