This question was one I wanted to explore in more depth after a previous article I had written, and also to the constant accusations hurled forth by angry readers, (i.e., readers who are determined that the game review on a site should follow their personal opinion and no one else’s,) that typically insist the company is being bribed or brainwashed. Sometimes both.
So, the obvious inquiry that should be made is, which is most trustworthy? Should you turn to the reviews written by your fellow man, the average gaming schmo who doesn’t do this for a paycheck? Or, should you instead place your trust in the ‘Professionals?’
This is a bit of a double-edged sword, so let’s look at both sides of the matter.
The writers who create the articles for your perusal are pretty much in this to make a living as well as play video games, since getting paid for something you love to do can be pretty fun. Now, this might be considered support for the ‘they’re getting bribed to give this thing good reviews’ argument, but we also have to look at the flip side; a lot of the income for such companies come from the ads and subscriptions, revenue provided by the faithful, occasionally crotchety, reader. If word of scandal leaks out, and it likely would, the resulting revenue would all but plummet; nowadays, Hell hath no fury like a gamer scorned.
On the other hand, there is always the risk of personal bribes, one could suppose; an employee might be easier to tempt with a cash settlement than the company itself. At the same time, though, the taint of a game reviewer who has sold out could make keeping his job, or finding any subsequent ones, next to impossible.
Then, of course, there’s the problem of over-hyping; a game reviewer is as fallible as the rest of us, and he might come to expect so much from a game because of its previews and demos, the resulting review could be downright scathing, more so than the game itself deserves.
But, now, let’s look at the reader.
Anyone who’s been in a chat room for thirty seconds know that, on the Internet, people exhibit behavior that they wouldn’t even think of trying in public. As a result if, say, their favorite Metroid game gets a lousy reader review that was undeserved, they may feel inclined to go to another game, even a game they enjoyed, and give it a horrid review just to ‘balance things out.’ A few people would even state as much out loud, but you know that for every person that confesses their motives, there are at least five who aren’t.
Now, if we’re talking about corruptability, why is it the reader reviews are considered untainted? If I were an Evil Game CEO, and I went to all the trouble of forking over cash to a large game review site, I’d also take ten minutes out of my day to bribe a few readers into also leaving positive reviews, if not outright hire people to do leave nasty reviews on the games of my competitors. The only real difference between bribing the Professional Reviewers and bribing the Reader Reviewers is that bribing the latter would probably be a great deal cheaper, since the readers would have nothing to lose by accepting such a payoff.
Finally, the reader is also biased; if they don’t like, say a linear game, they will give the game itself a bad review. If you like linear games, then such a review would by extension be completely useless to you.
So, which do you trust more? My answer is; ‘Can’t you make up your own damned mind?’
Follow the rule of thumb; if a majority of Reader Reviews are positive or negative, it might give you some idea of how good the game is, but don’t disregard the gaming site’s official review either. Unlike readers, they can’t quite get away with telling blatant falsehoods, at least not if they want to keep their jobs, and often they can add a level of detail to the review that can be helpful.
But, no, game sites are probably not being bribed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a large bag of cash waiting for me just outside my door…