The Power of Video Game Reviews


As a frequent peruser of video game reviews, I often feel swayed by the opinions of reviewers. My perusals don’t vary in source a great deal. I mostly focus on the titan of game news sites: IGN, the mega giant of online video game news. By contrast, my secondary source of critique is a small independent reviewer known as Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw, who runs a little known (perhaps that’s underselling it) review/rant series known as “Zero Punctuation.”

These two sources represent vastly different perspectives on the industry. One holds with the popular opinion and has a tendency towards glorifying Sony first-party titles (a tendency I’m wholly on board with). The other despises modern shooters and most AAA franchises. Between reviews from these two sources and a smattering of other sites: Gamespot, Game Trailers, and the like, I’ve amassed many of my opinions and biases in the video game sphere.

I think back to before I frequently perused video game reviews, to a time when the potential of generic titles on the DS were exciting. This was a time where I indiscriminately bought movie-tie ins, aging GBA games, and Pokemon Diamond, viewing them all the same. With my modern perspective, I would buy few of the games I purchased when I was first getting into gaming. Today, I focus solely on first party, AAA, and the most esteemed indie games. I can’t help but blame reviewers for my narrowing of scope.

True, movie tie ins are generally bad, and there are plenty of mid-tier games that aren’t worth the consideration, but I feel as though I lack independence in my game selections. I have also been known to consume reviews retroactively (after playing the games), but many of my opinions on games have been shaped by reviews and hype. I was incredibly excited for Bioshock Infinite, entirely because of IGN’s pre-release coverage of the game; I’d never even played the original before I picked up Infinite (and tragically still haven’t to this day). Fortunately, I was not disappointed, but can’t help wondering whether my impressions were shaped by the hype and IGN’s impeccable score.

Overall, part of me desires a time when I wasn’t aware of the vast expanse of online video game sites. A time when I bought games freely, heedless of the constraints of value, features, or franchise. It was a simpler time, and one that far better captured the joy of discovery. However, nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the recent games I’ve purchased, even if I was motivated by the opinions of critics. How about you? When did you transition from freely buying games to checking the metacritic scores?

4 thoughts on “The Power of Video Game Reviews

    1. I like that. I much prefer seeing individual reviews versus looking at aggregate scores. I feel as though –especially with video reviews– you get a much better impression of the game. Plus, there’s a certain art to constructing an engaging video review of a game.

  1. I am glad that you mentioned “Zero Punctuation,” as it is one of my favorite shows on YouTube! Though, the problem with “Zero Punctuation” is that Ben “Yahtzee” Crowshaw almost never has anything positive to say about the majority of the games that he is reviewing; As stated above, he seems to hate most AAA titles, but the majority of his reviews are on those type of games, so I personally do not take his review into account when looking for the next game to purchase, as I view him as an entertainment source.
    Personally, I began looking up game reviews when I started buying games with my own money. As a kid, my parents would buy me games and I would not have to worry if the game was bad, partly because I did not spend the money on it (and partly because I was young and did not know the value of money / it seems like when I was younger no game was a bad game), but now that I am older I want to make sure that I do not waste my money on a bad game.

    1. I agree: I notice the difference in value between a high and low quality game more and more these days. This awareness rises with my perception of the requirements and rigor of the video game industry. As for Zero Punctuation, I entirely expect negativity from each and every review. But while I certainly don’t count a negative review on his part as reason to not buy a game, I value his opinion as one of the few highly critical ones I’ve encountered in game reviews.

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