Opinions about video games are only rivalled by the opinions we have about the players (HAX! HAX! You know who are). Critics in particular can impact a game’s hype, increasing or decreasing it. Some admit they prefer Metacritic’s reviews over their players. But do critics really represent the audience reaction to a game?
Well that’s the big question, Metacritic themselves actually posted an article called “Let’s agree to disagree” regarding the subject, which pretty much is them admitting that their reviews don’t line up with players. So if even the critics themselves know it’s happening, just how big is this divide and just who’s reviews should we care about?
If we think about it, users can be pretty unreliable. Mixed in with regular users there are fanboys who have a polarised and narrow views of the world, a world where Michael Bay beats Shakespeare and Arnie impressions run rampant over headsets. These users are often vocal and make up a majority of the ‘9/10 positives’ and ‘0/5 negatives’ we see, so it makes sense that the consumer opinions aren’t always clear.
A lot of filtering is required to bring out unbiased reviews, a thankless task if ever there was one, and it seems that trusting a more focused and purposeful opinion would be more reliable, say that of a games Journalist. However, that would be presumptuous, several users suspect (rarely, but sometimes correctly) that some gaming PRs pay off a few journos for more favourable reviews, which as general suspicion takes over, sees larger mainstream reviewers catch some flak.
It becomes more about who to trust, limiting the sources we go to for opinions. But that’s taking away the voice of the casual gamers and relying on certain opinions that might exist solely for mass exposure and sweet YouTube hits. To get a real understanding of a game it might take some cross referencing between user and critic reviews.
However, reading a large amount of user reviews doesn’t instantly translate to people power, especially when they can have no reasoning and are limited to just ‘0.5 /10– suxx’.
Perhaps some numbers might help resolve this consensus conundrum, luckily a few bright sparks noticed this trend in scores and were able to put a number on just how many times users and critics don’t line up (17% apparently). So if 83% of reviews are actually in-sync with the audience, why has this minor 17% gotten more attention and set off our scrutiny towards the critics? Maybe it’s because of our cynical nature mixed with the fact that some gaming sites do use dubious clickbait tactics.
It is alleged that some reviewers are encouraged to give popular and hyped up games a less favourable review for more controversy views, meaning more money from their local ad-men. The gamers then defend their favourite games and fall right into the the click traps.
The moral: take your game reviews with a grain of salt. Of course try to find one that isn’t overtly biased and look around and do some math to find an average score, or if you’re lucky find someone with the same/similar tastes to yours. If not, you can use my system of finding the score directly in between the two… I never said it was perfect.