#1 Posted by Coolarman (732 posts) -

Since when did people get in their head that video games reviews are supposed to be "objective"? It truly baffles me the number of comments i see on game sites saying that "this review is not objective" or "i don't want an opinion I just want games journalism". The way I have always thought about it was that a review was supposed to be a paid opinion. When Jeff, Brad, or Alex write a review aren't they giving their opinion on the game that they are reviewing?

So i ask am i the only one who feels this way?

p.s. For the people who want an objective review here is how you get one. You watch footage of the game on youtube without anyone talking over it. There is you're objective review

#2 Edited by afabs515 (1067 posts) -

I feel like when people say they want a review to be objective, they can be talking about a few things. The first is what you said, which is that they just want a list of features in the game and how well-put-together those are. And you're right: if you want that, just watch some gameplay videos.

However, whenever I see someone asking for an "objective review", i feel like they mean that they want a review which isn't influenced by a reviewer's presuppositions about a game (i.e. hype). For example, GTA IV is very infamously overrated. The reviews written back in the day were coming out after tons of anticipation for a current-gen GTA, and thus, those scores came out higher than they should have been. I'm sure that if those same people were to go back and review that game 6 months after release (like the recent highly controversial bioshock review on GameSpot), you would get a much more "objective" review that isn't tainted by hype. This can also happen in reverse, and games can receive higher scores over time (like Deadly Premonition, which seems to gain more positive attention as time goes on). That's what "objective" means to me at least.

#3 Posted by ll_Exile_ll (1701 posts) -

I think there are a lot of factors. For one, many sites use a very granular scoring system. When you are giving scores to the tenth, that doesn't come across as "I do or don't like this game", but appears to be something closer to a precise evaluation of quality. With the five star system it's easy to see opinion (love it, like it, ambivalent toward it, don't like it, hate it). But when you look at two games that got a 9.5 and a 9.4, you don't see two differing opinions, but rather different mathematical calculations (something that is entirely objective).

There's also the fact that video games have more aspects to them that can be objectively judged than most mediums. Obviously there are plenty of subjective elements as well, but pretty much all the technical aspects of games can be judged objectively.

Also, don't forget that the majority of review still purport to be purchasing advice. If you're attempting to present potential consumers with the necessary information to make a decision, there is some expectation that the review not rely too heavily on the personal preference of the reviewer. Now, the debate about whether or not game reviews should be purchasing advice or more in depth criticism and analysis of a personal level is a interesting debate, but the fact is most reviews still bill themselves as purchasing advice and with that comes the expectation of some objectivity.

Whatever you think about the current state of game reviews, the fact of the matter is that as long as things like metacritic and 100 point scales continue to make reviews look more like math than opinion, there is the expectation that reviews are as objective as possible.

#4 Edited by jayjonesjunior (1090 posts) -

I like the objective portion of a review(when there is any) because i can use the information contained within to form my opinion even if i don't agree with/don't trust the subjective portion of the review.

#5 Edited by CornBREDX (5276 posts) -

Well, Giantbomb doesn't write normal reviews- they have (from the beginning) been clear that their reviews on this site are opinion based. They're more catering towards "if you like them and know how they think, you'll understand what kind of games they like, don't like, and why." Giantbomb does things differently.

Seems like you've been reading comments on Gamespot, though. There was somewhere there that said something about journalism. It's strange, this seems to have come up mainly recently. There's been a lot of questioning around what reviews actually are. Ultimately, I feel, they are guides to help you decide whether something is for you. They are an attempt to help you know if this product (video games in this case) is worth the price you'll pay for it. I don't feel reviews themselves are in anyway journalistic in nature. While coverage of video games can, in a way, be journalism, the act of reviewing a product is, in itself, not journalism. It's critically looking over something.

So, I feel it's more taste as to which and what reviews are more helpful to you. Some may prefer their reviews to be more clinical (looking at all the little things, like tessellation, and AA), and others may just want to know if the game was fun to play and what hindered your enjoyment if anything.

Like with everything, everyone's taste is different. There is no wrong or right way to review something, as an actual act. There are only ways to damage your credibility while doing so (such as being found to be paid for your reviews).

#6 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

Well a review shouldn't be entirely subjective. It should have some level of objectivity to them. The best kind of review is looking at your personal opinions about the game, and the comparing it to a view of the game without any real feelings attached to them.

Plus reviews exist to tell people if something is "good or not". So people can make an informed choice if they would like to purchase it or not. If reviews are all completely subjective and based purely off the opinions of the reviewer then its kinda pointless. An opinion is not a review.

For a review to matter its gotta mix that subjective opinion with objective judgement of mechanics. For example, I really enjoy the combat in GTA5, its alot of fun for me, i've even been doing a bunch of deathmatches in the online. But well, the gunplay isn't that great. It's decent, its serviceable but its really nothing that impressive.

Subjective stuff could be... "The characters are really well written" "The story falls flat near the end" "the pacing is too slow" ect.

Objective stuff could be .... "Bad pop-in issues". "Poor framerate". "wide range of graphics options". "unresponsive controls".

#7 Posted by Milkman (16786 posts) -

Anyone who wants an objective review shouldn't be reading reviews.

#8 Edited by believer258 (11903 posts) -

You can't have a completely objective review. If you're referring to the recent McShea review of Bioshock Infinite, though, the issue isn't his opinion. It's that he doesn't defend his opinion very well. He makes arguments that are easily dismissed by simple observation.

A review is supposed to bring up reasons why the game or book or movie in question is good or bad, and then give examples and ideas on why that position has been taken. It's essentially taking a position and defending it. More like a criticism than a review, I suppose. Why is this good? Why is this bad? A bad review isn't one that delivers a dissenting opinion. It's one that doesn't deliver that opinion well.

Also, while there is no real objectivity in reviewing things, you might find that the people who are critically thinking about what makes a thing good or bad can often pick out a few things that are almost universally agreed upon as good. You'd be hard-pressed to find a game reviewer who thinks that Super Metroid is bad, for instance, or a movie critic who thinks that Citizen Kane is bad.

#9 Posted by Coolarman (732 posts) -

You can't have a completely objective review. If you're referring to the recent McShea review of Bioshock Infinite, though, the issue isn't his opinion. It's that he doesn't defend his opinion very well. He makes arguments that are easily dismissed by simple observation.

A review is supposed to bring up reasons why the game or book or movie in question is good or bad, and then give examples and ideas on why that position has been taken. It's essentially taking a position and defending it. More like a criticism than a review, I suppose. Why is this good? Why is this bad? A bad review isn't one that delivers a dissenting opinion. It's one that doesn't deliver that opinion well.

Also, while there is no real objectivity in reviewing things, you might find that the people who are critically thinking about what makes a thing good or bad can often pick out a few things that are almost universally agreed upon as good. You'd be hard-pressed to find a game reviewer who thinks that Super Metroid is bad, for instance, or a movie critic who thinks that Citizen Kane is bad.

I only heard about the McShea thing after i made this thread actually. What actually set me off asking this question was me thinking about a comment i saw on Carolyn Petitt's review of GTA V. The commenter said that another female reviewer gave this game high score because she didn't bring her personal politics as a woman into it and was writing objectively. FORGET THE FACT PETITT GAVE THE GAME A 9 OUT OF 10. It was that one thing that Pettit mentioned that set this guy off which i found hilarious. I realize the whole thing with that particular review of GTA V is old news. But i found that particular comment so funny I remember it to this day.

#10 Posted by stubbleman (306 posts) -

Most people probably don't want to go to the trouble of learning the tastes and interests of every game reviewer in order to figure out which ones' tastes gel with their own and which ones' don't, just so they can get some advice on where to throw their sixty dollars. I am most certainly among those people. I am extra disinclined to waste my time trying when most game reviewers seem to be incredibly incompetent at that job.

I'll give an example. I rented Killer is Dead and played through it. My takeaway after beating it was that this was the best gameplay a Grasshopper game has ever had, and that they had made a really really really competent character action game that did a great job of not just slavishly aping devil may cry or god of war, but actually bringing in its own flavor, if you will. When I checked the reviews for the game, most of them devoted maybe two paragraphs to the combat tops, and most of those just reiterated that it was just 'mindless button mashing,' probably because most reviewers can't be bothered to apply any meaningful amount of interest or creative thought to the combat.

So you have a game with some pretty awesome combat, and the reviews completely gloss over it and don't seem to even realize that it's any good. They instead choose to spend most their word counts trying to make heads or tails of the story, which was garbage anyway, and bitching about how sexist the gigolo minigame is.

So let's say, hypothetically, that I'm looking for a good character action game, and I hear this Killer is Dead might be a character action game. No more than two, maybe three of the reviews I'm going to see out there even appear to be cognizant of the fact.

If they would cover their bases, and explain the greatest aspect of the game playing experience in slightly more detail than none at all, then I might be able to make a purchasing decision based on the details they gave me. Even if they're horribly inept at playing the game, maybe I can piece together that the game is worth checking out if they can just tell me simple things like 'this game has parries,' or 'this game has darkstep/witch time,' or 'you can bank points to use on instant kill attacks which can then be chained for crazy combos.' Those are objective observations that would go a long way toward my being able to make a reasoned purchasing decision.

But the reviews were all too busy beard stroking over the barely-there plot and feigning indignance over the gigolo minigame to just tell me what you do in the game. Obviously most of the reviewers couldn't even remember what the gameplay felt like. So let's imagine for a second that the reviewer didn't like the story, because why would you. They're going to tell you to pass on this fairly cool action game because of their awesome subjective opinions.

#11 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (3728 posts) -

@coolarman said:

Since when did people get in their head that video games reviews are supposed to be "objective"? It truly baffles me the number of comments i see on game sites saying that "this review is not objective" or "i don't want an opinion I just want games journalism". The way I have always thought about it was that a review was supposed to be a paid opinion. When Jeff, Brad, or Alex write a review aren't they giving their opinion on the game that they are reviewing?

So i ask am i the only one who feels this way?

p.s. For the people who want an objective review here is how you get one. You watch footage of the game on youtube without anyone talking over it. There is you're objective review

I think the real question that people should be asking is should a game be SCORED based on objective or subjective aspects. Journalists can be rubbed the wrong way about certain things in a game, and still be professional enough to at least somewhat ignore them for their review score. For example, as much as I loathed the ending to Mass Effect 3, I would never have given the game a really low score because of it.

#12 Posted by seveword (154 posts) -

An easy way to get on the path to objectivity is to remove number based scores. It forces people to read the review and judge the piece of text on its own merits, not whether it is judged to be appropriately positive or negative depending on a single numerical digit and what people associate with that. I've read 5/10 reviews that were well written and made me want to play a game, and I've read 9/10 reviews that were jumbled nonsense that gave me no information whatsoever. The number (or whatever scoring system is used) is far and away the most subjective and most superfluous part of every game review.

#13 Posted by egg (1467 posts) -

Can someone find the article by a gaming site that stated that reviews are supposed to be objective? I always felt that article was like a milestone, like it officially marked when gaming reviews went full retard.

The author basically suggested that reviews are meant for a specific audience, and the job of the reviewer is to set aside his opinion and give the game what it deserves in the context of that audience. (the mainstream gamer) Not to mention technical issues, etc.

But maybe he had a point?

The article is from this gen, btw. although it must be a few years old by now. I don't remember what site it was from.

#14 Posted by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

Who reads reviews? I honestly have not read a review in several years. I'll look at the score, but they are meaningless to me because they are just an opinion and the only opinion that matters is my own. I really feel like the best way to get a feel for the game is just watching someone play the game. Quick Looks and other random videos of the team playing games is what has gotten me to buy half my video games the last few years.

I guess I would read reviews if they were spoiler free and purely just talked about mechanics and if there were any crippling issues.

#15 Posted by Zekhariah (697 posts) -

@coolarman: I think it ends up being implied on the tradition 1-100 or A/B/C/D/F type grading scales. Reviews were traditionally scored on Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Replay-ability/Longevity, etc. That was then averaged to give an overall number. Which very much implies and objective and impartial rating of specific components. The association is there because games embraced that prospective for decades.

That is less of a thing now, but its kind of a recent phenomena to insist that reviews are opinion. With anything that is at least somewhat along the lines of art, having a completely "objective" position is kind of iffy though. But there are still some number of games that really do not make good on what the marketing suggests, so there usually is room for for pass/fail criteria that gets mixed in with criticism. Hence there is still some parts that are expected to have objective evaluation.

It probably does help that the audience for each game clusters around very specific demographics (or at least voice chat suggests that to me......). Which means you can kind of do a review that would seem kind of objective, because it is written from the same place the audience of the game will come from (e.g. criticizing Soccer Manager for being boring due to no on-field play like FIFA would be a beside the point non-objective eval).

#16 Edited by ZeForgotten (10397 posts) -

If that one review back in the day hadn't been an honest opinion and instead been "so here's what's in it"-review, we wouldn't have Giant Bomb is how I see it.

#17 Posted by JZ (2125 posts) -

@coolarman: hence why quicklooks are better than reviews.

#18 Edited by A_Talking_Donkey (262 posts) -

If reviews are meant to be strictly objective how would you rate games that are improved by bugs? For example: Most of what StarCraft: Brood War the balanced game it is is pathing issues. So would it get a high rating for being perfectly bugged or would it get a low rating for being technically flawed?

#19 Edited by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

If reviews are meant to be strictly objective how would you rate games that are improved by bugs? For example: Most of what StarCraft: Brood War the balanced game it is is pathing issues. So would it get a high rating for being perfectly bugged or would it get a low rating for being technically flawed?

Why does it even need a rating?

#20 Edited by Oldirtybearon (4798 posts) -

@zeforgotten said:

If that one review back in the day hadn't been an honest opinion and instead been "so here's what's in it"-review, we wouldn't have Giant Bomb is how I see it.

Ironically, that "one review" was actually what I'd call a bad review. At least, whenever it veered away from gameplay/mechanics and into narrative/character criticism.

#21 Edited by MattyFTM (14384 posts) -

The thing with reviews is - there is no wrong way to review a game. There are hundreds of outlets that review games, each with their own way of doing things. If you don't like a certain review style, go somewhere else. Find a reviewing style you do like.

Moderator
#22 Edited by ShockD (2401 posts) -

There's no such thing as an objective review. What I don't understand is why people get so worked up with review scores? Most scores nowadays are paid by the reviewed product's company anyway. And then people get angry because the reviewer has a different opinion that them. Why bother?

#23 Posted by PandaBear (1371 posts) -

Since when did people get in their head that video games reviews are supposed to be "objective"? It truly baffles me the number of comments i see on game sites saying that "this review is not objective" or "i don't want an opinion I just want games journalism". The way I have always thought about it was that a review was supposed to be a paid opinion. When Jeff, Brad, or Alex write a review aren't they giving their opinion on the game that they are reviewing?

So i ask am i the only one who feels this way?

p.s. For the people who want an objective review here is how you get one. You watch footage of the game on youtube without anyone talking over it. There is you're objective review

I don't think even you know what an objective review is based on that statement. And who said reviews are meant to be objective? Have you been on this website before (rhetorical question)? We come here because it's subjective...

#24 Edited by hermes (1480 posts) -

For lack of a better term.

When people talk about an "objective review", they expect something more professional than the opinion of a friend. More professional, in this case, refers to less biased, better explained and more informed.

#25 Posted by Veektarius (4825 posts) -

An objective reviewer should still say when he doesn't like a game, but he should also be able to tell when a lot of other people will.

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