Are game reviews valid?

Are game reviews valid? by Honorabili

You might read a game review and be enticed to go buy or play a game but is a review really valid? How long did the reviewer play the game? Does it take into account replayability and updates over the life of the game?

The Quality Triangle
The Quality Triangle

I’ve written a bunch of game reviews but I often find myself with the dilemma of when I sit down and think about how effective the review really is. One of the reasons I created Obsolete Gamer is so that I can honestly review games in a reasonable and realistic manner. It’s really really hard to play a game that hasn’t come out yet or has just come out and play it like a crackhead non-stop to try to simulate having played it over a series of days and weeks. The problem with even doing that is that the game will still be new to me within a week timeframe as opposed to the game having been around in my collection for months. One would be more excited about a new game rather than an old one, unless it’s a really old game that was your favorite and you haven’t played in a while and you just found it because you lost it for some reason.

Planet Side cover
Planet Side cover

This question might not just apply to games but to maybe some movies or things like electronics and cars as well. Most reviews that just get mass produced will say this thing is “the next best thing since sliced bread and you must have it!” but they don’t take into account that for instance a car might have a defect that you will only see after owning it for a year or a game will get ruined by the 5th patch because they changed something that fucked up game balance and it will make people flee playing a game like a sinking ship. This especially happens for MMOs which are changing all the time. PlanetSide comes to mind, which a ton of my friends used to play when it was really, really popular. Your best bet it to read a game review by somebody that has the same tastes as you or to read a review written recently about an old game (like what we write here often, ahem).

A problem I have sometimes running Obsolete Gamer is that some reviews I’ve written, in order to keep them valid, I have to go back and play a game and update the review. One game that does this a lot to me is Nation Red, which updates like at least once a month, with new content added ALL THE TIME! I keep track of this for Obsolete Gamer but many sites will just pump out an article and just file it forever in its archives, never ever updating it again. In my book that makes those reviews useless. If you haven’t already checked out our game reviews do so in this section of the website.

Civilization 5 Crash
Civilization 5 Crash

So what’s the point of reviews? I see many as pieces of writing intended to get the reader to buy or play a game. Many get used to hype up the expectations of the potential and existing fanbase to a game or product. Some are genuinely written to try to warn people to stay away from a particularly poorly made game that would just be a waste of time and money for the player. Sure, I’ve played some games that have gotten bad reviews and found them somewhat more pleasant than this horrible picture the media painted for me. For example, I gave Elemental War of Magic a fair chance and actually it was sad that I enjoyed it more than Civilization 5, a game I had pre-ordered for $50 and now hate with a passion. The media crucified Elemental War of Magic because of its many bugs and shortcomings and yes even Stardock admits screwing up and it resulting as a flop but the difference here is that Elemental War of Magic got patched to the point where it’s very much enjoyable now but it still has a bad reputation as opposed to Civilization 5, which is PRAISED to be the strategy game of the year, although in my and in the eyes of every true Civilization game fan, it’s the biggest pile of shit ever made with the Civilization name. The game is months old and still has most of the bugs and missing features I mentioned in my early review of the game. It’s disappointing especially when they are still selling this turd for so much money. If you want to see this rage, visit the Facebook Civilization Page to join in on the fight!

Psychonauts Box, groovy huh?
Psychonauts Box, groovy huh?

This kind of hypocrisy has been around for many years, and not just in the gaming industry. Whatever has the biggest budget will get hyped up and up and some stuff that does deserve attention will sink into obscurity. Let’s look at small games though because it’s easy for people to say that Call of Duty or Halo or World of Warcraft are the best games EVER but let’s look at small games to see where the industry nailed it and where it dropped the ball. The industry rightly praised Plants vs Zombies and Trine and rightly so but it dropped the ball when it came to a classic gem like Psychonauts. You might say “Yeah, Psychonauts got famous later as a cult classic” but seriously, the people who made it needed the money from the game when it came out, not 4-6 years later! Most people pirated Psychonauts or bought it on Steam for $2 when they had its sale or even from Good Old Games. Think about how many people might have been laid off because the game didn’t do well when it was fresh.

Games are sort of like cars in the economic sense: they degrade in value over time. The money they make for the developer the most is earned when they are new and fresh. When they are on sale because they flopped or they’re old is marginal. The money the developer gets from ebgames or some other place selling you a used copy is NOTHING. I’m not saying go out there and buy every game because I do believe some stuff should have never come out and is not even worth downloading a pirated copy (a topic for another article), but if you do LOVE a game, whether you played it a friends house, got a demo, or are playing a warez copy, do try to buy it to pay back the creators and people whose life was spent writing that game. The economy is a democracy in the sense that you vote with your wallet. If you like the games made by certain authors and programmers and studios, keep them in business. Don’t you want your friends to do well?

Odium, a game few have played with like no reviews
Odium, a game few have played with like no reviews

I’m getting sidetracked, so going back to reviews, if you can’t find a good review for a game or a review at all, do a little research instead. See if there are people who posted information on forums regarding the quality of a game. Some stuff might be too new and small for people to review or it might be just really really BAD. Sometimes that’s a way to tell but sometimes the game might just be a lost gem that you have found. Give games a chance and don’t always go with what the mass media wants you to play. I don’t know how busy your life is, but try to not let people make a decision for you. This also doesn’t apply to just games as well but life as a whole. Discover something you will like. Try out a new genre if you’re bored of gaming in general or go out and do something else to get a new perspective. This might keep you from burning out on something.

Who knows what may happen? You might just find a game that becomes a new favorite of yours and you might end up like us writing reviews on them yourselves and websites like this one or maybe this one as well. ;] Just make sure that you honestly share your opinion on a game… To yourself be true and to others as well, if you can. Save people the aggravation of buying a lemon!

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Honorabili

I've been gaming since the introduction of the Commodore 64. After that computer I moved onto Amiga and finally onto PC. As far as consoles go I mainly enjoy the old systems.