Wild days here at the GameSpots of late! First Tom Mc Shea gave Uncharted 3 the low, low score of 9.0, and then Chris Watters' Battlefield 3 review followed, with that game netting the low, low, LOW score of 8.5!
Of course, these scores aren't low at all. Both represent very strong recommendations on our review scale. But if you look at the comments on either of those video reviews, you might think that the reviews slam the games they actually highly praise.
The issue of positive reviews that generate controversy by, apparently, not being quite positive enough has been getting some attention lately, following Eurogamer's review of Uncharted 3. Patrick Klepek has already written an entire piece about this over at Giant Bomb, but I just want to say that I think Simon Parkin's review for Eurogamer is a lovely and thought-provoking piece of work. Do I agree with it or not? Well, I don't know, because I haven't had a chance to play the game yet, but even if I don't agree with it, just having been exposed to his viewpoint will benefit and enrich my experience of the game on some level.
Sure, reviews are buyer's guides. They are intended to help the reader make a decision about whether to spend his or her time and money with a particular game. But reading thoughtful reviews, at least for me personally, also helps me get more out of an experience. I was an avid reader of GameSpot for many years before I joined the staff here, and some of the reviews I got the most out of were those I disagreed with the most, because they challenged my own opinions or helped me to see something in a different light. It's the same with films. If I love a movie, I'm often fascinated by smart critiques from writers who didn't, and vice-versa. This exposure to different viewpoints gives me more to bring to that particular movie on subsequent viewings, and to my viewings of other films.
So it saddens me to read comments that make me think that, for quite a few people, reviews only exist to reinforce their already made up minds, or to be dismissed as useless, unprofessional, bought off, or whatever else. Here are just a few comments from the Uncharted 3 review:
"Gamespot's gatta re-review this game,seriously"
"Don't agree with the review, the reviewer didn't do his job"
"dissapointed..i mean a freakin 9 out of 10..no way"
If you're disappointed that a game you haven't even played yet "only" got a 9/10 from a certain website, you're using reviews wrong. Reviews don't exist just to tell you what you want to hear. What would be the value in reviews that only ever confirm your own assumptions? Zero. And isn't the landscape of game criticism vast enough that there's room for different perspectives and different scores? These kinds of responses to reviews are utterly mind-boggling to me.
My favorite comment on the Battlefield 3 video review is one that tallies up all the Metacritic scores and averages them out, as if it is a matter of scientific fact that the game deserved a certain score and we are clearly factually incorrect. That's not how it works.
Being passionate about games is great. But if you come to reviews not with an open mind, but with a score already in your head, and feel anger if the review doesn't reinforce your idea of what the score should be, please, try to look past the score, take a few deep breaths, and read the review. There's so much more to any good game review than just that inescapable number at the top. And if you read the review and find that you don't agree with all the arguments that are laid out, that's fine. In fact, you may find that process of having your perspective challenged winds up benefitting you, as you learn to appreciate aspects of games you didn't before or to think more closely about why you do or don't like something a game does. And with this broadened and deepened perspective, you may find your enjoyment of games in general getting deeper. I know that's what happened for me.