"The 5 Problems with Videogame Journalism"

Firingsquad put up an interesting article yesterday (http://firingsquad.com/features/problems_with_video_game_journalism/) that fortunately doesn’t take the “lol videogame journalists are dumb and should just go away” approach, but instead explains the problems that one faces when writing.

I agree with most of the points, as I’ve written just as many reviews over the years as he has and feel right very much recognize the sometimes formulaic style of writing, after rushing through a game as fast as possible.

It’s obvious that things can, and should change for the better, but some of the problems mentioned are tough to do something about…

Any thoughts?

the typical reviewer at a “mainstream videogame website” who will review over 100 games a year

Who the hell is this? That’s two games a week.

This means that the average videogame reviewers is going to have “significantly above average” talent when it comes to games. They wouldn’t survive in the industry any other way.

Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.

Troy

I burned out in my video game review “career” in about 6 months…and I like to write.

I made another common error in videogame journalism two paragraphs ago. Did you notice it? It’s what probably would have been #6 on the list: writing about stuff I only know second hand. If I haven’t beaten Need for Speed: Most Wanted, why am I writing that the game gets too tough later in the game? I don’t know that to be true for a fact. I just read it on a message board (GAF)…

This is a fairly common phenomenon. Videogame reviewers have to enjoy what they do, and part of that is participating in the online community. Still, there are many times were videogame journalists will take ideas or strategies from message boards and not really give any credit to the original source.

Yes, because no two people ever have the same idea independently of each other.

I think Alan has good intentions, but this article, comments like Bruce Shelly’s, and the 7-9 threads all seem to come from the same place: the unspoken belief that reviews should be perfect and/or can be perfected. By jeezum crow, they’re subjective opinions, folks. Just because they’re written by people who ostensibly have more gaming experience/knowhow doesn’t make them any less subjective. That’s why debating the value of half a star and worrying about “innovation bias” is essentially pointless. Reviewing will never be an exact science.

This means that the average videogame reviewers is going to have “significantly above average” talent when it comes to games. They wouldn’t survive in the industry any other way.

Pffft. I fucking suck at games, it didn’t stop me from making a living at it for 15 years.

Pffft. I fucking suck at games, it didn’t stop me from making a living at it for 15 years.

Yeah, that’s like me & sex

uh, never mind

Being good at games and being able to write about games are two completely different things. The real problem is that many people think that they’re good at playing games, and therefore they must be inherently qualified to write about them. <insert roll-eyes smiley graphic here>

  • Alan

One of these articles again?

I thought it was a pretty good article. The innovation bias in particular was good.

Take a look at IGN. Or even GameSpot, multiple reviews in a week are pretty common I thought.

Gary, by your own admission, you used to be pretty good at games. ;)

Poor 1UP:

Still, there are many times were videogame journalists will take ideas or strategies from message boards and not really give any credit to the original source.

It’s been over two weeks, we’re due.

If at least two of the items aren’t “Tim Rogers,” clearly the list is inadequate.

Ditto. I’m bloody awful.

KG

  1. Innovation bias. I disagree with this being a problem. I just think reviewers tend to mention innovation more because it’s something to write about. I don’t see it skewing review scores inappropriately, though.

  2. Rushing through games. Yes, biggest problem in the entire process. Most reviewers don’t have enough time to adequately play the games. Of course the other side of this is that readers want timely information. The people who bother to read reviews can’t wait 30 days after a game’s release for reviews. That does them little good.

  3. Not enough time to reflect. A good reviewer shouldn’t need oodles of time, but sure, more time is always better. I don’t see this as a major problem though.

  4. Selection bias. I don’t think this is a problem. Good writers should be able to overcome this.

  5. Free games and ascertaining value. I don’t see this as a problem. We all know the value of $50 whether we get a free game or pay for it. A good writer shouldn’t have any difficulty factoring in value.

Are readers even interested in these issues? There seems to be so much navel-gazing among writers, but I wonder if readers even care?

Doom 3 … QED.

That is the double edged sword … and the need for these 4 page horrendous reviews only makes it worse - I’d rather see a 300 word ‘first impression’ for release followed up with more indepth reviews after a bit.

I see this only as a problem when tied to ‘innovation bias’ … decent games with no real innovation but solid gameplay will almost always get scored lower than ‘big shiny’ games with average gameplay. But then I see HL2 as great but over-scored, and any FPS released in the late 2003 to mid 2004 timeframe got knocked down because of ‘HL2 anticipation’.

I thought that this was going to be an interesting point in the article, but as written I agree with you. The issue I see is that with ‘non-AAA’ games, where the reviewer seems to spend the article lamenting the fact that they are reviewing ‘SpongeBob’ rather than ‘Half-Life 2’ … again a good reviewer should be able to get past this, but with kid and family games in particular I tend to see more crappy reviews than with anything else.

I’ve never seen this as a problem - shouldn’t the review text and score be enough? I see the occasional ‘at $20 this is worth it for fans’ comments, which is a good reflection - I generally see reviewers providing decent value judgements.

I think that depends on the gamer …

Mike

Having playing with Whitta over Xbox Live, I can attest to this fact. That said, most game reviewers are pretty good at games if only because they play a lot of them. They probably aren’t an expert on any one game – that’s reserved for the folks that have the time and patience to concentrate on one title – but they can probably beat their mom in Doom, Whitta excepted.