Reviewers these days aren’t always people that work for game magazines. Some people write reviews and send them to all these magazines hoping they’ll get a spot, trying to be different from the main stream folk that are hired. It’s not always the case that they’re different but maybe have a more detailed look and enthusiastic review on the game that grabs people attention. I think a big part of writing a review is to show how much you care about the game you’re reviewing and to stand out from all the other reviewers who are pretty much saying the same thing you are. If everyone is going to quote the same person it’s going to be a boring read and no one will feel interested in playing that game they just read about. Being engaging in a way that the consumer feels they can connect to which is harder than it seems sometimes. Reviewers sometimes rely on the connection too much and change the way they feel about reviewing the game to be more accommodating for the readers. One thing that can crush a successful review is whether or not they receive a copy of the game to be released early enough to produce a well written review. Trailers and sneak peak demos only go so far when you want to tell your audience what you think of this game.
Most reviewers are hired by magazine companies, websites or they’re freelance writers. These people get paid by the companies they work for and those companies get money from the very people the review. They usually end up advertising for them which of course they get money for. I don’t think this is something that’s hidden but I think a lot of people don’t realise it when they read reviews.
When it comes to a ranking system on reviewing games I think most writers use a certain layout but tweak it with other things they find to be of importance. You have the basic score for the game over all and you divide that between story, gameplay, graphics, sound etc. and then you have extra scoring for a certain easter egg in a game or maybe the DLC that came with the game. Sometimes they’ll mark the game down as well for not having extra features that they wished was in the game. I think consumers would find it dull and boring if reviewers didn’t add these extra criteria in but I think it damages the image of the game by imposing a thought that they game is less or better off because of these features. It would seem that you need these opinionated extras to help a game sell or to make it crash. I don’t think you can take that away without damaging sales.
My thoughts on New Game Journalism. I don’t really read reviews all that much because I try not to rely on other people’s opinions on games as I find them destructive in some cases and biased. Very biased in some cases. Since I started playing video games I had my own little guidelines on which game to buy or which game I thought might be interesting. When I did start to read reviews, mostly people linking me them, I found that they always either loved most of it but had one small niggle that they would mark the game down harshly for or they would out-right hate it. It annoyed me that I didn’t find any that was objective in describing why it was bad or what was good about it. Maybe that’s what people go for these days in reviewers. Someone who is cutting on a popular game, someone who has a different and out-spoken view on this particular game but I always felt that it was forced and in some cases paid to say these things by the very company that made these games. I don’t trust reviewers much and I don’t at all like the style that they all lean on these days to get their ‘opinion’ across.
I like to listen to podcasts or watch video reviews of games. When you listen to the people that are playing the game while speaking to you you get a sense of the involvement and engagement it has. You also see for yourself what you agree and disagree with the reviewer and also whether you like the look of the game. I think it’s more attractive as well because you’re listening to the emotion of the reviewer and when there is a group discussing a particular game you get a more rounded look because they discuss so many aspects.
I try not to think what I’d be like reviewing something. I’m completely biased and pessimistic when it comes to games I don’t like the look of or don’t want to play because that genre doesn’t appeal to me. If I ever do right about something it would not be me speaking freely about how I like or dislike the game. I’d be too worried I was closed minded, which I probably am, and that although I would go through the standard review topics like graphics and story I wouldn’t feel confident that the way I reviewed it was static and boring or original and thoughtful for other people. I think if I tried to make an objective review it would feel very wooden and un-human because I just wouldn’t know what else to say.