R.I.P. Modern Game Review
by Dillan-James Carter
Collage by Parel Wilmering
Nietzsche was to God what IGN is to the video game review – and I do not say that lightly. We have come to accept reviews which solely scratch the surface of a game. Reviewers with no backbone just give us the graphics, the gameplay and a meaningless 7 out of 10 and we’re supposed to be contented.
It is reported that the video game market will be a $300 billion industry by 2025 and though we see growth in that sector, reviews have remained entirely stagnant since the arcade game boom of the 1970s. It is frustrating that videogames are not given the same regard as films and literature. They are the most engrossing and intimate medium accessible in the 21st century, yet we write them off as fruitless wastes of time and only influential when we look for a scapegoat for societal harm. I think a large part of why they are an underrated art form is the way the review culture currently is.
Let us look at IGN’s review for Firewatch and Call of Duty: WWII – two games which are extreme polar opposites of the spectrum. In the former, we play a man seeking refuge in the woods with just a walkie-talkie for company, while in the latter we are in a Nazi free-for-all glorified D-day bonanza. The first striking thing between them is the scoring (a 9.3 for Firewatch and 8.0 for CoD). Both scored really well, but what does that even mean? Does this imply that the same people who enjoy Nazi-zombie slaughtering as much as a story-based traipse in the forest? Do they both have the same merits and shortfalls? Numbers are so arbitrary and tell the player nothing about the game other than ‘All in all the game was a game-changer yet had some shortfalls. All talk and no trousers’ (the rhetoric of the Pro-Life comes to mind).
Another major issue with review companies like IGN and Gamespot is that the reader/reviewer repertoire is completely lost to the overgrown cultural bureaucracy. In traditional mediums, connections are built between the two. Mark Kermode, the Observer film critic, has had a vastly influential career and, as such, when he says the Exorcist II is the worst film ever made, you know it is better to leave Reagan tied to the bed where you left her. The hegemonic mass of the video game reviewers heralds no individuality, and you do not know whether the opinions of the writer are noteworthy or scraping the bottom of a Donkey Kong barrel. The only equivalent we have are the YouTube reviewers, people like AngryJoeShow, Gameranx and occasionally Dunkey. Although they may not have a string of qualifications to back their videogame claims, they’ve played enough of them to know what they like and what they do not. The intimacy they build with their audience is refreshing after the anonymous McDonald’s reviews that plague the industry.
As technology advances and the proliferation of video games soars, the next step for any real recognition as an art form must come from the way in which we seek to understand them. To go further than graphics and sounds, and have a verstehen like understanding of the worlds splayed out for us in the virtual world.