"No Name" Reviewers: More Credible than "Big Name" Sites
There, I said it. The no-name little reviewers that people only hear about when they give big games bad scores are much more credible than the big review sites out there. I'm sure many of you are reading that title and that first sentence and you must be thinking I am insane, or a crazy fan boy that has an agenda against so called "Triple A Exclusives". But in light of the recent Halo 4 review "fiasco", I'm starting to get annoyed by the idiotic things I've seen being said (or written in this case) on various sites, including N4g, in defense of everyone's favorite exclusive titles. I myself am a reviewer. Not of video games but of music. I listen to an album several times and then attempt to review it in the most unbiased way I can. Integrity is something that to me is of the utmost importance, and if my views are biased, I make sure to express this very clearly and concisely. But many video game reviewers have lost that integrity. This has been an issue that has plagued the video game industry and "video game journalism" (let's be honest here, video game journalism is laughable at best) since the very introduction of the modern generation.
Concerning the big name reviewers such as IGN, Destructoid, Gametrailers, Game Informer and the rest of the cast, I believe their opinions and reviews towards the titles that have been released lately are less valid than the no-name sites. Of these most recently include Quarter To Three and Tom Chick's infamous Halo 4 review and BigPond's review.
Why would I think that reviewers like IGN, handing out 8's, 9's, and 10's like candy; aren't a trust-worthy review source? Well let's start at that point. Reviews have lost a lot of credibility in my eyes. Review scores especially, have become a joke. From both the fan's views of games to the actual reviewer's views, that little 9 out of 10 given to the most recent release means nothing to me anymore. It shouldn't mean anything to you either. The problem is that high scores are given out for everything and anything. This, in my eyes has greatly damaged if not completely destroyed the integrity of any of these reviews. Many times scores don't match up with their actual review content. With the review being harsh and full of critique (Something I don't see often) and the score given being an 8 or 9 out of 10.
But not only does it affect the credibility of the review, it messes with the mentality of those people who read the reviews (or just glance at the score, which is done by the majority of you). The Review System normally works on a certain set of numbers. 1 through 10, or 1 through 5. Obviously the latter translating directly to the previous one. Also there are occasionally given letter grades similar to how high school grading works. In this case I am focusing on the first number system used. The problem that review scores have caused in the minds of the reader is that no one understands how they work anymore. Everyone believes that there are only five numbers, 5 through 10, and nothing else exists. I've read comments describing a 5 out of 10 as a bug filled, borderline unplayable game. I can tell you for certain that that's not the case at all. A 5/10 is supposed to directly translate to 'average'. In my view, an average title is something that can be played, can be enjoyed, but doesn't excel or do anything well enough to warrant a higher score. It's not a bad game per se, and it certainly isn't unplayable. It seems to me that people and reviewers especially are forgetting the other numbers 1 - 4 on the scale. Thus creating an expectation of games to never reach below that threshold of 7 through 10, or else they are terrible.
But the inane reviews and review scores that don't match up are only a part of the reasons why the big name reviewers have less credibility. Take this into consideration: Sites like IGN, Gametrailers, etc have a staff. That staff is employed, so that means they're paid just like anyone else's job does. Ask yourself, who pays their salaries? Well depending on the specific site, some of them are paid by the publishers of the video game industry themselves. So they have an incentive to give out good review scores, their job might rely on them avoiding flaws and giving good scores.
There is one major reason as to why reviewers would be more inclined to give out primarily good review scores to major titles. The fanbases. Advertisements are another way these websites make their money. Whether it be the amount of hits, or the ads clicked on, their revenue is generated this way. What happens when an amazing review score is given to a game? It generates hits and people visit the site. Since they agree with the amazing score, they will visit site more often. What happens with a negative primarily bad score though? While the initial backlash will generate them more hits, people will most likely boycott that website since they do not agree with that single review. Ultimately costing the website hits and advertising money.
All this criticism towards the 'big players' in the media however doesn't mean that the smaller ones don't have their own share of faults. It's true that because many of them aren't on the payroll of many industry giants they don't have an agenda to meet, but they still may use underhanded tactics to gain attention. Sites such as Quarter To Three with Tom Chick's review will write a harsh critique of the game, but then score it too low. In this case a 1 star out of 5 review. This tactic obviously used to generate hits on the site from the fan boys and girls who cannot handle any form of negative critique. This also damages the integrity of their reviews, in the same way that countless high scores do.
Ultimately, what I hope people will understand after reading this blog post is that there should be a demand for change on this side of the industry. Games shouldn't be given 9's and 10's due to having that Halo name, or that Call of Duty, God of War, Gran Turismo name. Reviews shouldn't be a summary of the game with a high score slapped on. But at the same time, they shouldn't be underhanded tactics meant to garner a sudden surge of hits to make money or to get their website's name out. So please look at all the points I've given, realize that there is a full range of numbers towards the grading system of games and other media too. And then use that knowledge to understand if a review has been written to actually review a title or to just please a group of people.