How to Read and Interpret ‘Professional’ Video Game Reviews

Warning: These scales may tip differently in other hands.

Warning: These scales may tip differently in other hands.

How many times in the last year, or even few months, have you read a “professional” video game review that led you to question the writer’s basis for analysis? Probably at least once, I would imagine, and the fact is this sort of thing happens way too often these days.

Now before anyone goes off in one way or another, let’s examine what a game review is, then maybe we should take a shot at what it could be.

“Professional” game reviews come in all shapes and colors, but one thing should always be the basis for the review — does the game perform as promised by the developer and publisher? After all, no two games are exactly the same, nor do they all represent the same game experience. In the end, games are a product like anything else bought or sold and should be judged on the same basis.

Modern game reviews have descended into an Internet-based scrum, teeming with personal worldviews, politics, and individual belief systems. Basically, most of the time, not all mind you, the reviewer’s objectivity gives way to personal preference, and I’m just as guilty of this as the next writer.

So how should you as a reader and, more importantly, a consumer with your own unique tastes take these reviews? Should you ignore them? Should you take to the comments and Twitter, bearing fangs, foaming at the mouth, ready to spew vitriol all over the text? No, of course not. It’s important to take in other consumers’ opinions, just as much it is to express our own. We are social animals after all, with a need for community dictated by our very nature. In the end, if you dissect the review in a rational and investigatory manner, you can see through the tangled web of jargon and find what really matters. Does the game function properly? Is the gameplay fun?

One of the major issues I have with the video game industry is advertising (I know, bare with me, this will wrap around) — more specifically, the way games are perceived by consumers. Publishers make all sorts of promises about games, be it on the back of the box or through trailers or game previews, but what is the one true measurement gamers have always been able to rely on as a metric in addition to performance? FUN. Great game experiences have and always will be able to be summed up with that one powerful, albeit often overlooked, word. FUN

As the gaming industry grows and becomes a larger mainstream form of entertainment, more and more people from all races and backgrounds will take part in it, and obviously, they won’t all agree on everything. Just remember, cut through the personal baggage of “professional” game reviewers by using your own keen perception and experience. Not everyone will agree whether an art style is sexist or whether a character is a one-dimensional racial stereotype. Make your own choices, take the fun factor and technical info to heart and leave the rest in favor of your own judgement. Only you know what you like, so don’t take anyone’s word for it — even “professional” game reviewers.

Dalton Miller
Dalton Miller

@TalesofDalton Analyst, Writer, Technologist, Futurist, e-cigarette aficionado, drinker of TAB cola, I'm ready for the dystopia, are you?

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