This rant(ish) probably couldn't come at any worse timing, but at the same time it's something that's been nagging me for a bit and I think now is the time to consider it.
Does anybody remember back in the day when people bought a game just because it had cool box art? Maybe I'm just nostalgic or something, but I remember that being the case back when I was younger. I bought games like Chameleon Twist 2 and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and played to my heart's content with Yoshi's Story not because they had great fantastic reviews that everybody was lauding, but because they were based on cool concepts, cool directions, and just looked like cool games. So what really happened in between then and now?
It's something that's been making me ask what's going on in the internet community for a while, it seems to me like the movie community, the music community, and the literature community don't have a problem with other people or with reviews affecting their likes and dislikes. Whenever a new game comes out, most especially within a franchise with a long legacy of bringing out great games or one that just has more hype behind it than it can deliver, if the game gets less than an 8 out of 10 then it sends people off into a frenzy about how the reviewer was wrong and should have done something to make his or review better. On the flip side, if a game that used to be known for bringing out good games and went into a rut for a while, then people expect the worst possible reviews.
Is there really something I'm missing as far as reviews go when it comes to video games? When Transformers: Dark of the Moon got a 35% on Rottentomatoes, the movie community pretty much just shrugged it off, supported the people who made it and went to see it. People on IMDB might cry about how this movie got to make more than a billion dollars and Black Swan didn't, but few people are treated as idiots if they like the movie. Whenever a lead pop idol puts out a new song and it somehow manages to get as maligned as much as Rebecca Black's Friday song or Ke$sha's Tik Tok, nobody starts doing essays about how people are mentally challenged for liking the song. Whenever a new Star Wars book comes out, the most people do is just wish for the old days when the Extended Universe was supposedly a better franchise, but they don't treat the average reader like they don't know what a good book is.
I might be out of touch with these communities for making these assumptions, I just see people in these communities acting on at least some level of maturity whenever reviewers give something the community likes a sub-par review. This is something that has me put off by a portion of the gaming community which was something that started back in 2007 as being the earliest instance of this as far as I can remember. When Metroid Prime 3: Corruption got an 8.5 from gamespot, there were those displeased with the score but even then people at least bought the game and recognized there was quality behind it. When Killzone 2 came out in 2009 though, whenever a website gave the game less than IGN's score of 9.4 out of 10, the review would receive bashings and death threats for not giving it a higher score, or even G4's review which gave it a 5 out of 5 and people still complained just because the reviewer didn't say it was a perfect game.
Are gamers just too self-conscious or something? Me personally when I started to pick up a source of income and game at a more in depth level back in 2007, I've played whatever interested me and I even found some games to be better than more highly rated games that are out there. I found games like The Darkness to have a more intriguing and entertaining game than other FPS games like Call of Duty 2&3 or Halo 3. I found NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams to be a fantastic game that I don't regret purchasing, along with the Legend of Spyro trilogy, The Last Remnant, the short lived Spectrobes franchise, several others I'm probably forgetting.
I've also played highly rated games from this gen and the gen before I didn't like such as Dragon Age: Origins because it was too calculated and slow-paced for me to get into and the final boss was next to impossible for me to finish. A more recent example is Dark Souls, I knew going in this game was going to be hard, but I didn't think it was going to be as tedious and frustrating as it ended up being and I can't find myself progressing at a decent pace of any kind. Even with these in mind, both are at least highly rated AA games and I was able to find some fun at some points, but these were games I just didn't enjoy.
I really don't know if there is any definitive answer as to why reviews are so important for gamers nowadays, but I really do miss the days when people just played the games they wanted to enjoy. People didn't write articles about how a game was forsaking its old fan base just to become a generic action franchise, how a game was supposedly dumbed down to appeal to western frag heads, how a game somehow killed off what was supposed to be gamings last great heroine just because she was given emotions, people just bought what looked entertaining. Even if they didn't like it they didn't have to go on the internet and complain about how certain people didn't see it in the right way or how the masses are wrong for liking whatever it was.
I think I rambled on long enough, that's just the problem I have with the gaming community as it is. Just because a game gets a 7.5, and from one website at that so far as I write this, people feel the need to tell Tom McShea that he's wrong for doing so. My reaction to this is just the following: I'll buy the game. Legend of Zelda has yet to disappoint me as far as still providing great games even if there was one or two I didn't like, and if the franchise does go downhill somehow in my eyes then I just won't buy the games anymore even if the gaming media still likes it. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the last game in the Metal Gear series I'll probably ever buy, but I don't care if everybody around me praises it like it's the greatest franchise ever and Hideo Kojima is somehow the second coming of Stanley Kubrick.
That's really all I can think of to ramble on. If anybody is curious about a solution to all this, I don't really think there is because it only allows for two possible scenarios. The first one is that gamers come together and agree there are differing tastes and understand that some people might not like what a huge chunk of the community does like and vice versa. I don't see this happening because gaming is currently more profitable than movies as it is and this whole reviewing thing is still an issue for many, that and I personally doubt the gaming community's ability to come together and agree on anything without only internet drama following.
The only other solution is for gaming to get even more mainstream and more economical for the average consumer. With gaming on the same level as movies, music, and books as far as accessibility, even if the latest game in a long running franchise was to get a 20% approval from critics, people would still flood to it and support the people who made it for their hard work. Would developers still put in the same amount of effort into a game like they do now? Maybe some but I don't think all of them would.
It might serve as a bit of a wakeup call for the gaming community as well and essentially be the boot that kicks them out of the closet and into the main light where everyone can observe them. If this ends up being the case, will anybody still take the gaming community seriously and see gaming as a legitimate source of entertainment or as anything other than just a lineup of toys to keep older children in adults bodies entertained? It might be a bit melodramatic to question this, but somewhat legitimate because of how television personalities and news reporters like to portray gamers as essentially short tempered, antisocial individuals. It doesn't sound all that appealing to many people to be cast in the same category as these people and yet they seem to be the ones that stand out as the rational and thoughtful ones.
Okay for real this time, this whole rant(ish) thing that I've written up is just a 1.5k word way of saying this to people who don't like seeing a supposedly "bad score" attached to a game they are exicted for whether it be Skyward Sword here today or any game in the future: Just buy the game.
That's the news from Myviewing as of November 16, 2011.