Contrasting Review Philosophies

Gamespot 2007: fire reviewer for trashing a game that was advertising heavily on the site. (Side note: 6/10 theoretically looks like “somewhat above average,” but that is really a 6 on a scale from 7 to 9. To get a 2, the game would need to physically damage your console with harmonic resonance, and even then a small ad buy could get you at least a 5.)

The Onion 2011: Dylan Dog gets a D+ rating while basically paying for the site for the month. As I type this, the main Onion AV Club page is running 4 ads for Dylan Dog at once. I don’t know what that does for their advertising revenue, but that sounds like buying a chunk of credibility. (Sadly, I rarely find the AV Club reviews helpful. A post on using reviews productively is coming up.)

: Zubon

4 thoughts on “Contrasting Review Philosophies”

  1. I find out about new games from amateur bloggers. It’s been at least 10 years since a site like Gamespot influenced my purchasing decisions.

  2. I grew up in the 1970s reading the NME, Sounds, Zigzag, Creem, Let it Rock and the like. Reviews came via the experience of streetwise exemplars of the 60s counterculture like Mick Farren and Lester Bangs, got filtered through cool rock journos such as Charles Shaar Murray or Nick Kent, were set on fire by teenage iconoclasts like Jane Suck and Julie Burchill.

    These were all people who could really write. Thirty years later there are collections of their reviews and features on the shelves of the Music section in the bookshop where I work. In the Film and T.V. section there are collections of reviews by James Agee, Pauline Kael, Graham Greene, Clive James.

    We don’t have a section for books on video games. Yet. It will happen, in the same way every previous subculture became the mainstream. When it does, though, what great, revelatory, incendiary, visonary writing will there be to put between the pages? Where is videogaming’s Cahiers du Cinema or Sight and Sound?

    This doesn’t only matter if, like me, you believe that reviewing is an art form in itself, worthy of your time and atention for its intrisic merits, not just for the light it sheds on its focus. Even if you see reviews as nothing more than some sort of consumer guide as to whether or not you should spend your money, it’s in your direct interest that the reviewers should *not* see it this way.

    A reviewer who believes in the integrity of his or her work, who believes that his reviews have worth as writing, who wants to be taken seriously as a writer, that kind of reviewer is far less likely to write what the advertisers want. Self-important, narcissistic, pretentious they may be, but they care more about their opinions and the image they create than they do about keeping the accountants happy, and once you learn their foibles you can trust them to give you information you can both enjoy and use.

  3. While I agree completely that bloggers are a more objective review source on average than gamespot and the like, there are quality reviewers on those sites (like the one fired perhaps), and there are bloggers whoa re paid off. Moreover, most people don’t read blogs, they read more “official” sites and stop at that. Blog reading hasn’t quite caught on yet with the general majority public though it is probably going to get there eventually.

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