A Criticism of the Critics: Part 1
I’ve been reading some game reviews and other commentary over the last few months and I’ve been noticing a couple of pitfalls into which some critics seem to be falling. This isn’t to say that all game reviewers are doing these things, but as a reader, gamer or critic, you may want to watch out for these. I should clarify that I don’t mean to stir up conflict or insult critics. Rather, I mean this to be constructive criticism and meaningful food for thought.
I’m approaching the review issue with the main job of the reviewer in mind: to inform gamers on the quality of the game in question. This is a good and right goal for a reviewer to reach. Unfortunately, critics can take it too far and make a critical (ha!) error: playing as a critic and not as a gamer. Critics can get so overwhelmingly hung up on the technical details of game design or graphics or sounds that they often fail to benefit from what makes the game fun in the first place, not to mention losing immersion. Analyzing the design and quality details as you play is not the same as playing the game for fun’s sake, and thus does not provide an accurate picture for the audience of your review.
What is the solution? You might not like this answer, but it depends on the critic. Each one needs to find a method that works best and yields the correct results. This could mean playing the game through as a gamer without paying any attention to quality or details, and then reviewing the experience in retrospect. Or, it could mean playing as one normally plays, but stopping to take notes along the way. Just don’t forget to play like the average player would play instead of dissecting the game down to the roughest details.
Have you read or written reviews that suffer from this issue? Do you have a different take on game review technique? Let us know in the comments!