on video game reviews and the power and influence of marketing

I came across this post at No High Scores yesterday. It's about how mega publishers are starting to limit access to the media in terms of review copies, overall access, as well as in potential ad money.

There are a lot of great things about working in the games industry.

You know what the best thing is?

I work in the games industry.

Every day I get to play, talk, and write about games. I get to talk to people who make games. I get to share my opinions with other people who play games and they get to tell me how brilliant or how stupid I am when it comes to games. When people in the sleepy Ohio town in which I live ask me what I do and I tell them they stare at me with both amazement and sometimes derision.

“Yes, Marge, I’m a 39 year old child. Just give me my mail already.”

You know what I don’t like? The other stuff.

Fighting with PR over review copies. Being told that we can’t post a review of game X before the embargo “unless the grade is at least an 85 on Metacritic.” The sites to DO score that high get all the pre-release traffic so we’re forced to ether inflate a grade or lose the hits.

Being told that sites which use letter grades do not get advanced copies. (Because of the way those scores are translated on Metacritic.) Knowing this is untrue because 1Up sure does. Then realizing we aren’t 1Up.

Defending my writers’ competence when they “score” a game lower than the average for a game.

It's a super-interesting post that’s worth reading in its entirety. I don’t even pay attention to game reviews or critic scores any more, because the whole thing just seems like a corrupted process intended to generate positive PR, rather than give actual useful information to gamers.

I’ve pretty much stopped pre-ordering games because of this, which I know the games industry doesn’t like (pre-orders are super important to publishers, because of the GameStop effect), but what choice do I have? When I can’t trust sites like 1Up or Metacritic, I have to wait until people I do trust have actually played a game to tell me about it. And how do game journalists feel about this? If I were a game jouranlist, I would feel pretty gross being part of a system that's similar to the relationship between the right wing and FOX "news."

Gamers: how much influence to game reviews have on your buying choices? Is there a site that you know you can depend upon to give you a completely honest assessment of a game, like Penny Arcade does?

(No High Scores is a fantastic gaming site, by the way. I read it every day.)

94 thoughts on “on video game reviews and the power and influence of marketing”

  1. Thinking about whether game reviews influence my purchases, I realised a sad trend: I almost-exclusively buy new editions of established franchises. You know, the sure things. The only stand-alone games I bought last year were the superb Alan Wake—thanks to a podcast’s recommendation—and Vanquish, because, y’know, it’s a smoker in a robo-suit killing Commie Robots.

  2. Although I consider myself a gamer, I don’t game ‘a lot’ – not like I used to – so I almost exclusively rely on word of mouth from actual real people who have played the actual real game. Except for Portal 2. ‘Nuff said. I generally disagree with reviewers/critics in every walk of life so their opinions are unimportant to me.

  3. I rarely check game reviews from the review sites or magazines, unless I specifically want to see how a game rated. Mostly I rely on word of mouth from people who have played it. I’m primarily a PC gamer so I also use sites like Raptr, GOG, and GamersGate because I can check user reviews.

  4. Great read! I’ve always rolled my eyes at scores be they for games, movies or /facedesk books. And frankly I’ve started to avoid some sites on the basis of their use of a score in the first place. Sometimes dumb is just feels contagious.
    Personally I put my faith in people, bloggers, like me, for instance are an awesome type of word-of-mouth hype for games. And then there are certain companies I just flat out trust and support. Not unlike how many soccer fans feel about their club. < - That's me and certain game companies.
    - Wee Mad Aggie ( http://weemadaggie.wordpress.com/ )

  5. Very interesting read – thank you so much sharing. I’ve never paid much attention to game reviews – even way back in ye olden days of Nintendo Power (and before that, Fun Club News). I used to hate it when Nintendu always scored their own games higher than others – it always seemed unfairly biased. Since I’m a supreme luddite when it comes to modern gaming I really avoid any types of reviews today. Especially after a friend of mine who used to work for a very large gaming company let me meet some of his co-workers. Some were very cool and worthy of the cause of good gaming – while others I wanted to bionic punch into dimension X. I guess what I’m trying to say is when I saw a little of what went on behind the scenes, I wasn’t all that impressed.
    I’ve always preferred to just talk to other gamers. Even today, the internet is full of people who can’t give an honest game review (even for a game from the 80s) when they have a huge boner for the game that distorts their honest appraisal of its merits and/or shortcomings.
    I think I better shut up now…I could go on for days about this. 😉

  6. I trust Angry Joe of angryjoeshow.com and blisteredthumbs.net He wants our money to go toward games that deserve it and he won’t gripe about small graphic issues all the time like other sites who seem obsessed with graphics. He was absolutely disgusted by some sites giving Sonic Free Riders a 7.5 after his horrific experience with the game.

  7. Reviews have meant next to nothing to me for the last decade or so. The only time I’ll bother looking at a review is if I’m totally on the fence with a game I’ve not heard much about. A quick glance at some gameplay vids on youtube and a skim through the text of a couple of reviews will generally make my mind up. I couldn’t care less about the actual review score.
    TBH though, 90% of my game purchases are either “I ABSOLUTELY KNOW I MUST HAVE THAT” or impulse bought deals either on Steam or when prices get slashed a month or two after release.

  8. I completely agree with not liking “Defending my writers’ competence when they “score” a game lower than the average for a game.”. If a game is lacking, its lacking and that should be conveyed honestly to the game buying public. No one, especially in this economy, wants to blow 50-60$ on a game that is highly publicized and promoted only to find out that its bad.
    I like to read GamingShogun.com for game reviews because (and yes, I’m completely biased) I personally know several of the guys that write the reviews and they’re not industry puppets, they just people like me who love to play video games.

  9. You’d actually be surprised how often even people writing for big sites don’t succumb to these pressures. I listen to a lot of game podcasts for sites like IGN and Giantbomb and they routinely talk about how they’re not going to be able to post a review early because the score isn’t high enough.
    Don’t get me wrong, video game journalism is a complicated thing–but most of the people writing for these sites are just good people who want to give us their honest opinions on games.
    I tend to read everything out there, from the major sites all the way to smaller stuff.

  10. You know, I’d been thinking about this recently, as my little brother is just at the age where he’s starting to try and actively be intelligent about the things he buys (he’s eleven). He still goes on ratings sites, something which…honestly hasn’t been a part of my quest to purchase games in the last two or three years, and so I try to lead him to ask his friends, go and do his own research on the publishers, etc. I think, aside from my friends, the only people I really listen to are the guys over at Penny Arcade and Yahtzee, and it’s really with the same understanding I have with my friends-I generally have a handle on the things they like that I also like, and I trust their opinion on the things I’m unsure about (certain elements in games I haven’t dealt with before, but they approve of).

  11. If I went back through my decade of console ownership I think I could find a game that I bought on the recommendation of every site or magazine under that sun that I ended up hating. The most reliable barometer for a game that I’ve seen is actually a sub-forum of a message board I frequent for the San Antonio Spurs. There’s enough hardcore gamers out there that run out and grab the latest stuff and I know there personalities well enough to see where their love or hate of a game may be overboard.
    That’s a big part of why I game like a cheap bastard and stick to older stuff. It’s so much easier to shrug off spending $20 bucks on an older blockbuster that disapoints (I’m looking at YOU, GTA IV.) And with enough time there are enough reviews to be found by actual gamers who don’t have any financial stake riding on their opinions out there that I’m much less likely to pick up a stinker off a shelf. Sometiems it sucks living a year behind the curve, but it’s the best system I’ve found.

  12. I can review games man. Here, try this one on for size.
    Have you heard of Angry Birds? Am I saying that right? I’ve played it, it’s fun. You should play it.

  13. “Defending my writers’ competence when they “score” a game lower than the average for a game.”
    This line makes me believe the marketing people don’t actually know how averages work.

  14. I find this debate really interesting, as I’m sort of on both sides of the issue. I work in PR with some gaming clients, and I’ve also run my own gaming site for the past 10 years ( http://gamekiq.com ). I think if I was actively involved in any of the craziness surrounding review scores, I’d be horrified. I can’t believe some publishers base their embargo on the current Metacritic score. It’s really disgusting how that site has slowely poisoned the industry.
    Years ago, when there weren’t hundreds of gaming blogs all over the web, some publishers only sent me review copies if my site was above a certain Alexa ranking score. Today, that might be a certain # of UVMs on Compete or Quantcast. That makes sense to me, because the limited number of review copies should be reserved for larger sites. But restricting review copies based on score is totally twisted.
    I reviewed a game last year (Disciples 3), and I thought it was atrocious. I rated it a 3/10. When I delicately sent the link along to the PR rep for the publisher, he was totally understanding. He said, “you win some, you lose some,” or something along those lines. That was awesome, and I wish that kind of thing happened more often in this industry.

  15. My main go-to gaming site nowadays is Giant Bomb. I trust the guys there implicitly, in part because I feel the circumstance that lead to the creation of Giant Bomb in the first place (Jeff Gerstmann being fired from major review site Gamespot allegedly due to pressure from Eidos over a game of theirs he gave an unfavorable score to) immunizes them from the kind of BS talked about in that No High Scores post, that is, I don’t think anyone at Giant Bomb would give a good score to a game that didn’t deserve it just to get ahead in the world of gaming press. Also, they seem to have a ton of fun covering games and don’t take themselves too seriously. (Watch some of their videos or listen to their podcast sometime; you can really tell the guys love doing what they’re doing.)

  16. It’s sad to see that some sites are forced to give decent scores so they can compete. At least there are a few people out there still standing up and giving games the score they deserve not the score that will get there site more hits.

  17. “And how do game journalists feel about this? If I were a game jouranlist, I would feel pretty gross being part of a system that’s similar to the relationship between the right wing and FOX “news.””
    I just wanted to make a quick comment on this, as an editor at a gaming website. Only a handful of times I heard of this happening, so while it’s rare, it’s not unheard of. To sum it up, a PR person will tell me, “The embargo for this game is X, but if the score is 8 or higher you can post X days earlier.” Again, it’s rare – this “offer” has been extended to me exactly one time in the five years I’ve been a full-time editor (of course, I declined).
    The site I work for has a *very* strict policy of not divulging the review score before the article posts, to anyone, period. It’s that simple. While we would love to post the review early, we simply can’t agree to that deal because it would mean divulging the score early.
    I have to believe that most other major gaming editorial outlets have a similar policy. Sacrificing our integrity is not worth any amount of extra clicks, and in the long run it will only hurt your publication anyway. Trust is difficult to build but easy to lose, and we’re not willing to risk that.
    Furthermore, saying the gaming press has a similar relationship to game publishers/PR as Fox News has to the right wing isn’t entirely fair IMHO. We’re an enthusiast press, so of course we’re going to have positive opinions about the games we like. All we can do is endeavor to be honest to ourselves and our readers to the best of our abilities and constantly be on guard against seeing games through the lens of the PR company, getting sucked into PR hype, etc.
    Ack, I was going to make this short, sorry. Constantly seeing stories about my livelihood being a sham is getting me down lately. =/ I know in my heart that I and my co-workers hold our work to a high standard, and I guess I have to be happy with that.

  18. Thanks for commenting! It's interesting to me to get your perspective. I've worked jobs in the past where we were forced to take unpopular stands with our marketing department because we felt our integrity was more important than ad sales.
    And after reading your thoughts, I guess I should edit "And how do game journalists feel about this? If I were a game jouranlist, I would feel pretty gross being part of a system that's similar to the relationship between the right wing and FOX "news."" to read ""And how do game journalists feel about this? If I were a game jouranlist, I would feel pretty gross being part of a system that *can be* similar to the relationship between the right wing and FOX "news.""

  19. I personally don’t trust the PA guys’ opinion on games at all, much as I love their comic.
    Gabe has absolutely horrendous taste in games and Tycho likes everything.
    I go to gamespot to get the CNN version of a review, as they will at least sometimes post bad reviews of Triple-A games, then I’ll go to Joystiq or Rock Paper Shotgun for a more real review.
    In the end you really have to just read a number of reviews and pay attention when they point out game features. Often times the reviewer will say “feature $x was awesome” and I’ll immediately know not to get the game because it includes feature $x at all, and I hate feature $x.

  20. I don’t go to the big game sites anymore and their opinion of the games doesn’t sway my choice in buying a game or not. The sites I usually use are Penny Arcade or Giant Bomb. Disposable income is few and far between nowadays and I can’t give any old game a chance. So I go to sites like Giant Bomb, that has videos like Quick Looks to see how the game plays before I make a purchase.

  21. I’ve been around the block enough to know which publishers/developers I am comfortable pre-ordering from or purchasing on launch day.
    For the rest, I wait until GameTrailers.com posts their review because I enjoy seeing bits of the game in action while listening to a review. I don’t care much about the final score, but they typically bring up valid points about the pros and cons that give me enough to consider.
    Destructoid is another site with decent reviews. Not because of some similarity between their scores and my own preferences, but they do a great job of praising well done decisions and red-flagging concerns.

  22. I like blisteredthumbs and as mentioned above, specifically Angry Joe. He will not pull punches and even if you might disagree with an assessment here and there, you can always be assured that he is being straightforward and honest. Blisteredthumbs is a young upstart in association with tgwtg.com and I highly recommend both for honest reviews of current fair and comedic reviews of bad movies/games.

  23. My gaming news used to come from EGM and 1up (back before the 1Upacalpyse and Ziff-Davis sold’em off to UGO). Now many of the people I used to follow on the site and listen to through their podcasts have moved on to other sites. I just follow’em all on Twitter.
    And to be honest, most of my gaming purchases are decided without the need for PR and reviews. The only exception recently has been Enslaved. I would have never played Enslaved had it not been for all I heard about it on Twitter through the games press guys I follow. I’m glad I did play it too, because it has to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.

  24. I used to review games, and got seriously sour grapes when I disliked a game but my editor raised my star rating. I don’t know why he did it- I think it was because of advertising, but I felt my integrity was damaged. Yeah, it’s “just computer games” but if someone spends $60 cause they read a good star rating that I wasn’t behind, then that’s not cool. (and for the record, the job of reviewing computer games is not fun when you get shitty games to cover.)
    These days my purchases are mostly through word of mouth (word of Twitter, honestly).

  25. Wil, I definitely go by word of mouth. I am a slow gamer so I really have no need to buy things when they first come out. I usually just watch friends play new games first and decide what I think from their experience. I love my friends but sometimes even that backfires and I end up playing/owning/buying something I don’t care for in the least.
    I haven’t ever tried checking out public message boards to start up a conversation with actual gamers. I should try that sometime! Never even crossed my mind scarily. I have some old systems I would like to build libraries for and that sounds like an excellent way to get in touch with some fans of the system.
    I think review sites/mags are a good tool if you like to play anything and everything because they are better suited to a well-rounded audience that is willing to try a lot of different styles of games.
    I think for people that are more interested in certain genres they just fail miserably. I don’t think that’s their fault though. They have to keep the largest possible audience interested in their reviews (aka short and sweet to go with our short attention spans :P). They also can’t go off on how it’s similar to game X and Y but better at A, B, C which tends to be how me and my friends compare games. They don’t have the opportunity to delve into all the subtleties of why they like it, otherwise they’d be writing novels that no one would read. *shrugs*
    I will admit there’s nothing like reading honest reviews of terrible games and watching people struggle to write something remotely kind about the game in question! I came across a couple old issues of PSM I had laying around. I just died laughing at the horrible reviews of all the trash that came out on the PS1.

  26. Two thoughts, from someone who runs a website primarily dedicated to video game reviews:
    1) It’s stuff like this that, in part, forms the reason why I stick to retro games.
    2) For new games, I use reviews to reveal to me what the game is like. The actual opinion/score/grade of the reviewer means much less to me than the information provided. I know my tastes better than any gaming company or reviewer; thusly, from information given, I can typically gain a solid sense of my potential enjoyment. Sure, a grade/score/opinion can influence my thinking if especially provocative, but I have been gaming long enough to know that sometimes you just love what other people consider garbage and consider garbage what other people love.
    — NintendoLegend.com

  27. Thanks for hearing me out! The relationship between editorial and PR in the games industry is definitely a topic worthy of scrutiny, but it bums me out when I see readers (not you!!) making wild accusations of corruption that I know to be way off base, so I’ve been kind of touchy about it lately.
    Your article brings up a legitimate issue though, and it’s really not fair for PR to try to pit outlets against each other for exclusive coverage (again, I stress that in my experience this example is rare). I think the best way to combat this is for editorial to band together and agree to a common code of editorial integrity. Knowing my friends across various outlets though, I don’t know of any other outlet that would be desperate enough to sacrifice integrity so blatantly.
    It’s tough sometimes though, especially when we’re trying to cover a game before release, because in some respect we really are at the mercy of the game publisher/PR. It’s their game, so they have control over what they show to who and when they show it. It’s just an unavoidable fact that before a game comes out, our access is limited to what the publisher is willing to grant. Because of this, I can see how readers can and should be skeptical of editorial coverage sometimes, since to some degree it is governed by PR.
    They can’t control the coverage itself, but if all they want to show the press is chapter five of a particular game, every outlet’s preview is going to be about chapter five. We can’t write about how crappy chapter four is, because we can’t write about something we haven’t seen. I think sometimes this control over access is mistaken for control over content though – they can control what we see sometimes (again, this only applies to pre-release), but they never actually control what we write about what we saw/played or the tone of the writing.
    I’m veering off topic here (apologies again), but this is one of the reasons why I hesitate to call gaming editorial “journalism.” We rarely go after scoops, since the subject that we cover is almost always simply provided to us in some capacity. Going to GameStop and buying some old games for a story on the history of glitches and bugs isn’t the same thing as real investigative journalism where the journalist really has to dig and do serious legwork to get the story.
    So yeah, I can see why there should be skepticism when it’s our job to cover a commercial product, and I think the same is true of any editorial coverage of commercial products, whether it be music or books or whatever.
    Maybe the mistrust is an indication that there should be more transparency in the system. I’m merely a lowly editor, so I don’t speak officially for my site, but I would love to do a series that really exposes the inner workings of games editorial, so that readers and editors can all be on the same page. It’s difficult to trust your source when you’re not sure about how the editorial process works for that source.

  28. "Not because of some similarity between their scores and my own preferences, but they do a great job of praising well done decisions and red-flagging concerns."
    I think that's a perfectly valid reason to give one place more weight than another. Back in the old days, I knew there were certain film critics who had similar tastes to mine, so I listened to them and ignored certain others, because anyone who was over the moon about Last Action Hero clearly didn't live in the same universe as me.

  29. How do game journalists feel about this? Utterly disgusted. Of course we do.
    This issue is very much the elephant in the living room of game journalism. Even more discussed than the issue of who PR will give review copies to is the issue of advertising dollars. Web sites that rely on video game advertisements face those ads being pulled if they review a game too low. While all journalists face the problem of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, game journalists have the problem that the only advertising dollars they can sell are from the very industry they review.
    My fiancé and I run a video game news and review site (http://www.pixelsocks.com), and I’m happy to say that we’ve never been given any restrictions on how high we have to score a game in order to get a review copy or to break embargo with a review. Now, we’re a very small operation: we generally purchase our AAA titles and tend to get review copies from indie developers. We post this on the site, and if anyone wants to know which is which, we’re happy to tell.
    We also don’t make a living off of our site: no ad dollars, no nothing. If someone told us we couldn’t break embargo unless we gave it a certain score, we can easily either not review the game at all (even if it’s a big title) or simply wait until the embargo is over. I’d also be tempted to post what the PR department told us, because game consumers deserve to know that. A major site like 1up faces economic consequences if they do any of those.
    One of the things I think this issue highlights is how we give too much weight to the game’s score and not enough to the review itself. Sure, it’s convenient to say a game is 8/10, but that doesn’t tell the reader if he’ll actually LIKE the game. What we focus on at Pixelsocks is giving the reader a description that gives the reader enough information to judge if he’ll like the game. We have a different way of scoring games (explained here: http://www.pixelsocks.com/portfolio/) that focuses on whether it’s worth your time and money to play a game. But wherever you you get your game reviews, it should be from somewhere that lets you know how well a game matches your own tastes, not just how technically good it is. FFX is a masterpiece of a game, but if you want your gaming in thirty minute chunks, you’re going to hate it.
    The only way to be a consumer of video games, and video game reviews, is to know thyself. Figure out what it is about games that you like, what you hate, and to learn to actually read the reviews so they have a chance to tell you the information you actually need to know before buying a game. It certainly helps if you can find a reviewer with similar tastes to your own: my fiancé loves the same things that Jeremy Parish does, so his reviews carry a lot of weight in our household.
    Briefly touching on what Mahhkk said about limited review copies:
    One of the great things about digital distribution is that it generally eliminates the scarcity issue for PR people(iOS being the exception, as Apple grants very few review copy codes). If a game is released on, say, Steam, there is next to no reason for a company NOT to give out a review copy to a legitimate journalist. We have yet to ask for a digital copy of a game and not receive it. And I assure you, we’re not a high-impact publication.

  30. The only game in recent memory I bought purely because of marketing was Homefront, because I thought their viral marketing was clever and entertaining. I heard that the game is a shitheap, but I can't comment because I haven't actually played it, yet.

  31. I’ll throw in another vote for Rock Paper Shotgun. The guys there are generally pretty honest and can be awfully harsh, even on sacred cows. They’re also really great about reviewing lesser known stuff. They also do a nice “Wot I Think” review that’s just initial impressions, which is handy.
    I occasionally read http://www.co-optimus.com/ as well, for co-op stuff. They’re fairly small, so not shills. Maybe not the most professional, but they enjoy what they do!

  32. Adding No High Scores to my RSS feeds, thanks.
    I have always been frustrated about the general idiocy that surrounds game reviews. I don’t think there’s any other industry where products that are essentially broken on delivery still get 9/10’s. Every iteration of a AAA title (Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, etc) gets an automatic 10/10. I don’t pay any attention to the major gaming press and instead look to smaller sites like Destructoid, Rock Paper Shotgun, Giant Bomb, and occasionally Zero Punctuation.

  33. I read reviews because a lot of them will contain both good and bad info about a game, regardless of the score.
    But I get more relevant information from the Penny Arcade forum than anywhere else…so that’s my go-to.

  34. I guess I’m not up to date on this. I didn’t realize this was happening at all. I don’t trust myself to buy any game unless I look at reviews for it simply because there are so many bad games still floating around and so many games that look like they would be good and are complete misses. I always at least go to IGN, and also because I am a Nintendo girl I read my Nintendo Power. I also do look at the Metacritic and often times I will go read one of the bad scores to see what was considered ‘bad’. I definitely don’t have a community of friends online or otherwise that will tell me how good or bad a game is (I have few gaming friends) so I feel like this is my only way. Also, I always always read the reviews, watch the review videos, and form an opinion based on what I see and what I know I like. So bad reviews don’t necessarily mean I won’t get something, and good reviews don’t mean I will. It’s just that I need someone to tell me that “the camera controls are completely useless and frustrating” or “the Wii is too sensitive and you’ll spend an hour drawing not-perfect circles before you get it to accept them” (oh, Okami).

  35. I refuse to go to gamestop anymore. They used to be a good store back in the day, but now it is just rip off central. I try and trade in a game or ask one single question and I get bombarded with requests to pre-order the latest game to make sure I get that extra piece of armor in the game or something stupid. I get all my games from Amazon or my local independent game shop now. It is just better that way. Down with gamestop!

  36. Giantbomb.com is the site that I trust 100%. One of the guys that started it, Jeff Gerstmann, was actually fired from Gamespot (penny archade did a comic about it) because he wouldn’t inflate his scores the way their marketing team wanted him to. Giant Bomb is such an awesome group of dudes. Their site has this perfect blend of professionalism, quality content and good natured goofy fun that comes from a pure love of what they do. It is the BEST site. :)

  37. Do you trust reviews for books, or movies, from the professional critics? I know I don’t – haven’t for 25 years or more. Why would gaming be any different? I don’t have to have the latest & greatest – I’m still playing Heroes of M&M 3, Civ:CTP, and Alpha Centauri after all these years. Heck, the game I’ve played most lately is an emulated copy of the first Zelda game on the NES. What I’d really like to see is the same style of gameplay as that first Zelda, on a much larger world map, with tiles that use more colors, but without losing that tile-based feel – you know, where you count the trees to find the hidden cave, and stuff like that? Zelda I, the early Final Fantasy series, both NES/SNES, and the gameboy games, the early Dragon Warrior games… I don’t need huge towering towers hiding half of the landscape, or intricately painted backgrounds making 3D fields where my character can actually only move on the lower 1/3rd of the screen… Truthfully, except for Second Life, I could really do without the 3D engine in my graphics card.

  38. As a parent who doesn’t do a lot of gaming, I don’t frequent gaming sites to look for reviews. It is hard to put your trust in someone when buying games that aren’t for yourself and need parental guidance. OK, I admit I like to play angry birds, SIMS, Star Wars Legos-fun-and other shallow games like that. But I am not much of a “first person shooter” type gamer. Much like many others here, I rely upon word of mouth.
    However, my H.S. sophomore son likes gaming, therefore I need to monitor the types of games he plays (don’t judge me, peeps) because I have a second grader who is very curious about wanting to learn how to play those games. He wanted Black Ops and I didn’t know if I was ready let him buy it. So, I let my fingers do the walking and gathered as much research as I could. It was difficult work because i did have to rely on unknown people who, may or may not, had a financial interest in a good review.
    Ultimately, it was up to me to piece all the info together and make an educated decision (he loved the game until thieves broke in and stole it and the console).
    I prefer the sites that are from “one parent to another” and who won’t use a lot of gaming terminology (much like many of you here- wink…)

  39. I don’t listen to reviews and rarely seek them out. Mostly I rely on word of mouth from friends who are bigger gamers than I am. Until recently I was about 2-3 years behind the curve on new video games. That said, i am extremely choosy when I pick out entertainment and make a select few purchases each year. This year I got Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and I’ll be picking up Mass Effect 3 when it comes out.

  40. You also have to remember, Wil, publishers also treat small press outlets like dirt, overall. Even if the site has a decent following, has a staff (paid or unpaid volunteer staff), has tax information, etc., many of the biggest publishers treat the smaller press sites as nothing more than blog sites.
    I worked for a small press outlet for about 10 years, unpaid, because I liked being able to get my reviews and editorials out there in a way that more people than those who already knew me could see them. I’ve reviewed great games, I’ve reviewed craptacular games. We had a decent PR relationship with some companies, even getting review copies a week or so before the official releases on some games. But most of them don’t care about a site unless it gets more than 1 million unique hits in a certain time frame (EA was bad at like 1 million a day, which pretty much only let the Big 3 get any PR consideration).
    I’ve since branched off into doing my own thing, going to a blog and YouTube to get my reviews out until I relaunch my own domain. But, I already know my reviews won’t be taken seriously for quite a while by the publishers, even though I have 10 years experience doing them. Why? Because I do not have a bigger site behind me.
    Also, since I am focusing on video reviews over just written reviews, the reviews may not always be super timely because of my paying job’s work schedule and the fact I have to buy all my recording equipment and games myself. Not exactly cheap, mind you. As a result, so far I have only 4 reviews up (two more being worked on) and one impressions video. Not exactly what most publishers want to see.
    The good thing about this, though? I can feel very free to criticize or praise what I want without fear of upsetting publishers or their PR companies. Not that the small press site I worked for before ever censored my thoughts (they let my review of the original Fable go up with a score of 4, without any editing to make it sound better than I thought it was, because I was assigned to write it). It also means that I basically review what I want, when I want. No deadlines beyond what I try to keep for myself, no worrying that I am going to be sent a copy of a game like Aquaman for the GameCube (yes, I did receive that to review years ago) that I will loathe playing.
    But, I also know I am still in the learning stages of editing and making it sound like I’m not reading from my review script (I still write out a review, I’m not a fan of winging it in my reviews). My first two reviews sounded very stiff, while my next two seemed to come out much more natural. I’ve also been testing new editing techniques with each review, as well. But, this lets me evolve.

  41. And consider that, however one feels about it, the buying and selling of used games hurts the industry's bottom line. I think that's one of the reasons publishers have to work so hard to keep this system in place where games are so hyped before release that they can be pre-ordered.

  42. "therefore I need to monitor the types of games he plays (don't judge me, peeps)"
    Anyone who would judge you for being a responsible parent who is involved in their child's life is a dick. I, for one, give you a high-five for being an involved parent.

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