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Video Game» Forums » Video Game Related » General Video Gaming

Subject: VGG QOTD 2019 April 4 - Do you find video game reviews helpful? rss

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Gabe Hawkins
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Do you find video game reviews helpful? Do you read/watch reviews before buying games? What do you look for in a video game review?
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Gabe Hawkins
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I was thinking about this question yesterday. I realized that I tend to read/watch reviews after I've played a game. At this point in my life, I've enjoyed enough games that reviewed poorly and disliked enough games that scored highly to know that, based on my (odd) tastes, they're typically not very useful. To me, without knowing the reviewer's personal tastes, I can't really calibrate what they say in the review with my own tastes. That said, I find reviews posted by VGGers whose tastes I'm familiar with to be far more helpful. Even if we want entirely different experiences in our games, I can at least go into the review with that in mind. So I find those to be much more useful as opposed to something from IGN, for instance.

That said, I do really enjoy hearing people's thoughts on a game, especially when they're examining it critically. It's nice to see if someone liked/disliked the same things about a game that I did, or perhaps they notice something that I didn't. I guess I don't read reviews for video games like I would for other things, but I enjoy them for different reasons. I've come to realize that just because a game is "bad" based on reviews doesn't mean I won't have a ton of fun with it, and the opposite is true as well. It happens quite often. I just find that interesting.

I guess I feel like it's hard to capture an objective take on a medium that offers so many different experiences (though I suppose you could say the same about film reviews), but I think certain reviewers do a great job of getting something close to that.
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Somewhat helpful, sure.

But, I feel that one of the main problems afflicting videogame culture at the moment is a kind of overzealous anticipation of review scores for unreleased games, compounded by a total inability to read reviews with a critical lens, further compounded by a total ignorance of why media reviewing ever came to exist.

So I feel compelled to say that videogame reviews, in a broader sense, are a swirling vortex of shit.

As for myself, I glance at metacritic every so often to see what's out and how it's being received overall. But many grains of salt are applied. I understand that there is no meaningful difference between a metascore of, say, 92 or 90. I understand that a score above 94 is actually a bad sign, as historically it has indicated that reviewers are in thrall to a developer (not actually paid off, just having a kind of mass religious experience that isn't helpful to consumers - e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4). I understand that reviewers turn into devotees for some franchises, almost in spite of themselves (looking at you, Final Fantasy XV).

The good news is, if a reviewer says something stupid yet concrete about a game, that still gives me information. If a reviewer emphasizes something that I find to be utterly inane, that still tells me something. If a reviewer uses hackneyed industry buzzwords like "gameplay loop" or "pillars," I know that they haven't learned to separate networking and self-promotion from reviewing, and even then I still learn something.

I often end up watching the IGN video review, not because IGN tends to have great reviews (pffft), but because they are short and sweet and I see the game.

In any case, reviews are only there to put something on my radar for later. There are a few people on this website who could like a game, and that would carry as much or more weight than an individual professional review.
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JohnRayJr wrote:
There are a few people on this website who could like a game, and that would carry as much or more weight than an individual professional review.


Well said.
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Since I increasingly don't play modern games, I'm not at all familiar with game reviewers today. Back in the day I used to read gaming magazines, so I played many games based on glowing reviews from EGM (though I've since become aware that I shouldn't have been so trustful), but these days I'm not aware of any reviewer that reflects my tastes.

I've used Metacritic from time to time, but that has led me to have some suspicions about game reviews... I've used Metacritic for movies as a time saver to find good movies to see, as more or less anything above a score of 80 tends to be exceptional, and those movies are far and few between. Getting above a 90 is exceedingly rare. Video games? AAA video games regularly get scores in the 80's and 90's, as if to say either video games are constantly evolving, or critics are never evolving. I've also seen too many times great games get mediocre scores because they're off the beaten path.

As a consequence, I don't much trust video game reviewers and tend to have to rely on word of mouth and game footage to gauge my interest. That said, I tend to play classic games, so I just stick with lists of the best games and pick among them.
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John Middleton
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JohnRayJr wrote:

In any case, reviews are only there to put something on my radar for later. There are a few people on this website who could like a game, and that would carry as much or more weight than an individual professional review.


This is where I am in regards to new releases. However, more often than not if I go to a review it is because I am trying to see if something that has been sitting in my backlog for a while is worth the play or else can I feel confident it's time to move on. For example, right now I am looking at letting some old consoles go (I just had the mental image of tears streaming down my face while throwing a Wii out the window and yelling "GO, be free!!!"), so I've been looking into old reviews to see if there is something I regret not playing before I give up the chance to.
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p55carroll
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Yes--helpful and sometimes harmful.

Anytime I'm looking into a game I haven't seen or played, I'm wondering if it's a game I might be hooked on for life, the way I am with Master of Orion and a handful of other games. Already the new game looks good to me on the surface, so I want the review to tell me more--not so much about the nuts and bolts of the game, but about what it feels like to play it.

If the reviewer sounds like somebody I can relate to and is enthusiastic about the game, I'm all ears. Part of me wants to be inspired to buy and try the game. And about all it takes when I'm at that point is for the reviewer to say something like, "This is one of the best games I've ever played." But it doesn't have to be a reviewer with massive cred; it could be a VGG user or anybody.

The key for me is enthusiasm. A totally matter-of-fact review will just go in one ear and out the other. All that communicates to me is, "Here's yet another video game; it runs, and you might like it or might not." I almost never care about any specific details about the game; I can tell from the genre alone whether it's a game I'll play. Of course, crash bugs and such are deal-breakers.

Because I'm looking for inspiration, reviews do sometimes end up being harmful. The user reviews at GOG, for example, are often nostalgia trips. "One of the best games I've ever played" can mean "a game I was captivated with when I was nine years old and can never forget." I can easily understand that sentiment, but I wasn't playing any video games when I was nine (there were none around), so I only have such nostalgic feelings about old songs and TV shows and board games and other things.

So, I've bought games that bring back fond memories for many gamers but are practically worthless to me. I haven't spent much money or time on them, though, so it's no great loss.

Riskier for me is reading (or watching) an enthusiastic review of a game outside my usual genre (TBS). If it's a glowing review, I sometimes think, Hmm, maybe I can learn to like this kind of game. In some cases, that has led me to try new things and enjoy them--for a while. But new genres never completely "take" with me. So it ends up being a time-consuming diversion, and sometimes I regret it.

What I really want from a review is an answer to the question Will this game wow me and keep me enthralled forever, like MoO?

Or if it's a review of a game I already own and play, I'm thinking, Here's somebody else who loves the game and may be able to articulate what's so great about it. Then I'm curious about features I might have overlooked myself, or about how another person's experiences with the game are similar to mine or different. Either way, I get something good out of it.

But if the reviewer throws cold water on my favorite game, I'm disappointed. Sometimes that makes me wonder if I've settled for something mediocre and ought to be searching for a better game.


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Sudo Dudaković
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Yes they are helpful and good information even if not purchasing.

Purchases are often being made based of information from friends.
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I sometimes read/watch reviews as a contrarian. If a game sounds interesting, I look for the big negatives about a game, and then try to find a game where said negatives don't bother me. If a review is all glowing positive, I keep that in mind but keep looking for reviews that have negatives. No game is perfect, so it's a question of finding great games whose imperfections won't bother me.
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p55carroll
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Osirus wrote:
I sometimes read/watch reviews as a contrarian. If a game sounds interesting, I look for the big negatives about a game, and then try to find a game where said negatives don't bother me. If a review is all glowing positive, I keep that in mind but keep looking for reviews that have negatives. No game is perfect, so it's a question of finding great games whose imperfections won't bother me.

If I did that, my gaming hobby would be just reading disappointing reviews. Imperfections always bother me. I'm starry-eyed that way.

But I can also turn a blind eye to the flaws when I have to. I remember playing Master of Orion when it was brand-new and thinking, This looks and sounds primitive and kinda juvenile, but it shows promise. I'll bet within ten years or so they'll turn it into an amazing game. A quarter of a century later, a number of pretty-good-but-imperfect games have spun off from MoO, but I'm still playing the original.

And still pretending it's perfect.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:
The key for me is enthusiasm.

great point.

I tend to read reviews to look at what key positives or negatives come up and to make sure I have a good idea of how the game will play out for me. The weight I give whatever rating or conclusion they give is next to nothing. I think the youtube reviewer angry joe has made the most impact as he goes on about what excites him and angers him rather than trying to break down a game to give it a score. I think I can thank him for me buying shadow of mordor and tomb raider, two big winners for me and I'm sure there have been more.
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Immensely. Most of them have lists of pros and cons and that gives me a great starting point as to weather I'm interested in a game, especially if it's from a series I've never played or a new IP that caught my eye.
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I barely read or watch professional reviews nowadays. I used to be a big fan of Angry Joe's output, but I've grown tired of his persona, and it doesn't help that he makes 40 minute videos with maybe 15 minutes of actual talking points and A LOT of repetition.

I learned to ignore big review outlets like IGN or Gamespot years ago, because they tended to be positive about any big AAA release on launch, and a) I find 90% of the modern AAA market output to be boring, and b) I don't buy games on launch anyway, so I tend to look for user reviews down the line.

There are a few YouTube personalities left who technically don't do reviews, but do editorials or more analytic videos on video games - SuperBunnyHop and Errant Signal among them - and they sometimes recommend weird stuff that's often not even technically "good" by any common measurement, but interesting.

With a review, I look for negatives. The positives of any given game are easily found in its entry on a store, or in the trailer. If something interests me, I tend to fish for red flags instead of looking for praise. I'm long past the point when I look at random reviews to find something good to play.

As a side point, I'm pretty sure that's how most people who consider themselves game enthusiasts operate. There's so many games to choose from over so many genres and themes, that it just doesn't make sense to browse for something to play - chances are your backlogs are ridiculous already.

Unless you're a mainstream console gamer bro, in which case my current uneducated opinion is that you'll buy any major release (likely preorder it) no matter what the reviews say. Or if you have to choose, informed opinions of reviewers won't really be much of an influence - you'll just go with whatever looks the coolest.

Video game review culture is dead, man.
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
There's so many games to choose from over so many genres and themes, that it just doesn't make sense to browse for something to play - chances are your backlogs are ridiculous already.

True. But I, for one, am still always on the lookout for something better to play.

I'm not a fan of any series, so I won't care if another Fallout game comes along; I don't need a whole collection of those. But if I were a fan, I'd care. Since I own Geneforge 1 - 5, I'd likely buy a Gf6.

If a review just tells me a certain new game is as good as any ever made, that's not enough; I already play some of the best games ever made, and I don't have time for another one. But if the review convinces me that a certain new game is better than the games I'm playing, that gets my attention.

Other than that, I like to read or watch reviews of the games I am playing, just to get another person's take on them.
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Osirus wrote:
I sometimes read/watch reviews as a contrarian. If a game sounds interesting, I look for the big negatives about a game, and then try to find a game where said negatives don't bother me. If a review is all glowing positive, I keep that in mind but keep looking for reviews that have negatives. No game is perfect, so it's a question of finding great games whose imperfections won't bother me.

I like this approach.

I myself don't care much about the reviews in general. I mostly watch youtube reviews for example, just to get a glimpse of how the game plays rather than caring what the reviewer is talking about. Cruel as it may be... However, what would be useful is finding that one reviewer with the exact same taste as you. Then I could definitely see the point in following reviews.
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ooozan wrote:
What would be useful is finding that one reviewer with the exact same taste as you. Then I could definitely see the point in following reviews.

I guess I'm not that fussy. Anytime I read or watch a review, I get the impression the reviewer is a kindred spirit--someone who plays games about the same way I do and tends to like and dislike the same things.

Apparently I have bigger differences with people who don't review games. Sometimes I'll read a thread in VGG that leaves me shaking my head and thinking, Wow--some people play games like that and enjoy it? But I can't remember ever reading (or watching) a review that made me feel like that.

The only "review" that I'm put off by is the pseudo-review rant. I roll my eyes when someone says, "This game is a total piece of crap because I couldn't get it to run on my system and I don't like the company's business practices and I spent too much time and money on the game, and now I can't believe they're trying to get me to buy DLC that should obviously have been part of the original game. And besides, multiplayer is too hard to set up, and who but a loser would ever settle for single-player? Plus the tutorial is totally lame and insults my intelligence."
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I always check the score on Metacritic when I am considering buying a game. I will almost always skip a game unless there is a general consensus among "professional" reviewers that a game is worth playing. If a game interests me, I will often check out a review from a bigger website like IGN or Gamespot. Before the internet, I used to read almost all the reviews in PC Gamer magazine every month. (On a side note, I think it was more exciting having to wait a month to read about the newest games. I think it made the reviews seem more special. Maybe that accounts for my fondness for reviews.)

What I don't really care about are Steam reviews.
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As a good part of the fun of videogaming is reading about games and browsing around, reviews are an essential thing for me. I combine different sources to get to a conclusion.

VGG is the first albeit often not very helpful source as I mostly play indie games and the games I play tend to have less than a handful of ratings and at best one or two comments. Then I look at Steam for any peculiarities. I google for reviews to see whether any of the sites I frequent has written about them. These are mostly German sites with a history as print magazines and sites also looking into indie games like Rock Paper Shotgun or Eurogamer.

What I don't do is YouTube. Those kids nowadays...
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ooozan wrote:
However, what would be useful is finding that one reviewer with the exact same taste as you. Then I could definitely see the point in following reviews.


Yeah, that echoes what I used to think about reviews, namely that people had no clue how to make use of them.

This non-debate comes back every couple of years, but there's this naive belief that reviews should strive to be objective, whereas objectivity in reviews is basically nigh-unachievable... and that's fine, actually. It's good to see people with different, subjective perspectives tackle the same thing, because then you can actually get some valuable information from it. Of course, that requires more work on part of the audience - it helps to know what that particular reviewer tends to like or dislike, so that when they say, for example "this game is too difficult" you know if it means "he usually plays ultra-difficult games, so that's saying something" or "yeah, he says that about anything that's mildly challenging".

Viewed this way, the best strategy would be to find somebody who likes the same stuff that you do (basically what tends to happen here on the Geek if you start paying attention to a particular user's impressions) and see what they think about new releases. Or at least be wary of that person's biases and measure those against your own.
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
Viewed this way, the best strategy would be to find somebody who likes the same stuff that you do (basically what tends to happen here on the Geek if you start paying attention to a particular user's impressions) and see what they think about new releases. Or at least be wary of that person's biases and measure those against your own.

Precisely. I very rarely venture outside of VGG for reviews and opinions because of this. Here, I get to know who's writing, so I can take their video game background into consideration. And, even the, you're bound to be surprised from time to time.
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I read a lot of reviews. I expect to have a pretty god idea what I'm buying, and the experience reports of people who have are pretty necessary for that.

In the aggregate sense I find reviews helpful. Individually on average, reviews are generally poor to useless. The point of a review is to allow me to make an estimate of my experience from someone else's. The point of a review is not to tell me what my experience will be. So it helps when there is enough in a review to infer more context and nuance. I honestly don't understand when people act like reviews are there to tell them whether to buy a game or to say whether a game is good or not in some abstract sense. It doesn't matter in the least whether an individual reviewer matches my preferences, which is unlikely anyway.

What I particularly look for in a review is details about flaws and issues, preferably coupled with time spent. Games are simply never issue free, never perfect designs, never without caveats. Effusive, glowing reviews are usually just a waste of space even if the game might deserve it. Professional reviews are generally low value since they tend to be more paid game movers filling column space, rather than actual players reporting personal experience with their own actual stake in their purchase/entertainment.

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I often find them entertaining, and they give me a sense of what the game is like. I basically never care about scores.
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In the olden days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World, it was fun to read reviews from a professional (aka someone who makes his living on it, with the journalistic integrity to go with it). I'd like reading the games pros and cons, as well as minimum and recommend PC specs for you to play the game. Some of these aren't that much different from the "ramblings" we read here on BGG and other sites this day in age.

Nintendo Power for games on their handhelds and consoles. They seemed to be objective enough when it came to their own games (not surprisingly Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past for SNES got the highest scores across the board cool)


These days, I read reviews especially for entertainment (since I'm less likely to play those games). However, I try to wait a month or 3 after the game gets released. Apparently, publishers "forcing" reviewers to "play nice", and forbidding them to say bad things about their games (even if those are true) means you'll never hear any negatives about games, and some of those are the most interesting parts of them.
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Osirus wrote:
I sometimes read/watch reviews as a contrarian. If a game sounds interesting, I look for the big negatives about a game, and then try to find a game where said negatives don't bother me. If a review is all glowing positive, I keep that in mind but keep looking for reviews that have negatives. No game is perfect, so it's a question of finding great games whose imperfections won't bother me.


I look for the worst reviews and the best reviews. One will only focus on what's wrong and one will only focus on what's right. In addition to reviews I watch gameplay video to see the game in action. Reviews are of specific and limited importance though.

If I'm interested in a game I'm interested in a game and I'm going to get it. Interested breaks down into two categories: get it at release or get it on sale.

Review accumulations break down into two categories: games I
haven't heard of and games I'm uncertain about. Reviews help me choose if one of these games gets bumped up to the interested in category or kicked to the no interest category.

Many highly reviewed games I have not liked at all, recently Doom, NieR, Fallout 4 which were all tepid at best. Many middling reviewed games I enjoyed highly, such as Vampyr and Far Cry anything (Primal, 5, New Dawn), Mass Effect Andromeda, which were quite entertaining to play.

Recent game that got kicked to the curb because of reviews and videos: RDR2. It looks painful to me.

Recent game should have gotten kicked to the curb inspite of reviews and videos: NieR. It looked painful but I gave it a chance on sale. Surprise! It was painful.
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Professional reviews ... not so much because it's too much of a racket to only give positive reviews in order to continue to receive reviewer copies. There's also the problem with pros that they will end up reviewing things that are simply not to their tastes but they'll try to hide it.

Player reviews and non-professionals (ie youtubers) I can find helpful depending on the quality of the review.
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