An open letter to the professional reviewing community.
For the longest time I have relied on your insightful reporting when it came to making my game buying decisions. After all, you guys sacrifice the best part of your waking hours playing all those games that assault store shelves in order to sift the gems from the dross.
My deepest gratitude goes out to you for those countless months you spent playing ET, Shaq Fu, Superman 64 and Rock University:The Naked Brothers Band to point out that I better get Uncharted instead.
Lately however, I noticed you and your other colleagues have been displaying some erratic behaviour when it comes to reviewing games for a fledgling system I hold rather dear; the Vita. Please allow me to share some observations.
The Vita is a handheld
I’m sure the luscious OLED colours and engrossing depth of games like Uncharted and Little Big Planet can sometimes make you forget you are not tethered to a TV and are actually holding the system in your hands. However, for some mysterious reason you keep comparing Vita games to their console brethren and lambast them when they don’t feature the same particle effects and draw depth.
When you were reviewing Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the Vita and decided to deduct points for not having puddles on the road and equal amounts of traffic in the streets as the PS3 version, did you even for one second remember playing Need for Speed The Run on the 3DS – that other current-gen handheld – and think to yourself: “Gee wiz… Most Wanted is a truly stunning leap forward for racing games on a handheld”?
Sony markets the Vita as a console experience in your hands. Some may interpret that as “VITA HAZ TEH PS3 GRAFIX0rZ!” but I assume that you, being professionals in this industry, understand that “experience” refers to many things, such as the dual stick controls, game depth, comprehensive online infrastructure, trophies and DLC/digital content distribution channels. You know, all those things that define console gaming and which are not found on any other handheld system with the same level of polish.
The myth of biased journalism
Throughout the ages professional reviewers have been accused of bias. Worse yet, often the conspiracy theorists claim you get paid by manufacturers and advertisers to write favourable reviews for their products. While I’m sure things like that have happened I have always defended your motives against the accusers. However, while we were all waiting for the Call of Duty:Declassified reviews something strange happened…
IGN tweeted: “For those interested: No sign of COD: Black Ops Declassified in the @IGN office. Review will be late; proceed with caution.”
Pocketgamer opened their review with “We didn’t get a review copy of the game in before launch, or even on launch day. We had to go out and buy our own copy”
Apparently Activision didn’t bother to send out review copies of the game to your popular media outlets. You retaliated by roasting the game, giving it one of the lowest Metacritic scores in the history of video gaming.
While CoD:BOD is by no means a stellar title and is in fact a rather mediocre game, it didn’t deserve the 20%-30% ratings that it received by the big review sites. Benchmarked against the scores of truly awful Vita games, Declassified should have easily made it into the 50%-60% range. This makes one wonder what else happened behind the scenes that we as readers did not get a glimpse of…
Anyway, can we now assume that when publishers don’t give you guys free perks you punish them? I was going to compare this to diva behaviour, but there’s an even better analogy: protection rackets; a tried and tested mafia tactic. Manufacturers and publishers have to ‘please you’ so nothing ‘bad’ will happen to them. Classy.
“with great power comes great responsibility”
As much as you’d love your readers to be intelligent enough to ingest the meat of your articles and make up their own minds, most will simply skip to the end and glance at the scores. In other words: your verdict matters more than it should do in an ideal world.
It would be great if you’d keep that in mind when handing out your rates and scores. For example, make sure the same criteria apply when reviewing 3DS games as when reviewing Vita games. Even if you excuse last-gen mediocrity and visual lacklustery for one system because you have such fond memories of playing virtually the same games a decade ago, surely you can still appreciate the advanced and forward looking approach in the other system?
Yes, you may think drama is fun. Back when the 3DS was hurting badly you had a field-day predicting its demise and anticipating Nintendo to finally go software only. Now that the 3DS is selling nicely it seems to have become the darling of your reviewing community. Instead the Vita now has the pleasure of incessantly being on the receiving end of your silly predictions and unfair treatment.
Advertisers are probably happy with the result: countless gloating fanboys from ‘the other camp’ flooding every Vita article; turning the comment sections into steaming piles of eyesore. However, please realise that your professional opinions do have an influence on the success of the system. I’m sure you know how it all works. Do you really want to live in a world where handheld gamers can only choose between rehashes of Mario games and Angry Birds? Be careful what you wish for, for we may all end up playing Cut the Rope while waiting for the bus.
It is for all the above reasons that these days I’d much rather visit blogs and sites run by passionate amateur gamers – such as the one you’re reading now – than your professional websites. I haven’t given up on you, though. I still remember the good times we had. Please make me feel at home in your corner of the internet again.