Once upon a time in a land far far away…or pretty close, there was a “thing” that was invented for the enjoyment and entertainment of humans called a video game. Video games were invented by extremely bored and talented geniuses and computer nerds that sought out to create a form of entertainment – not just for themselves, but for the world! Very intriguing stuff, these video games were. It took over the world as a digital forest fire, with people from all over trying their hands at creating video games. Fast forward a few years with these computer consoles now being bought and hooked up to TVs all around the world…the birth of the home console. Consoles enabled these “gamers” to play various video games that small companies (now huge money-hungry corporations) sold to the public.
These newly released video games also gave birth to an entirely new sector of an archaic industry called journalism. This new sub-genre is called video game journalism – an ancient form of Reddit, if you will. Video game “journalists” took to their notepads and primal PCs (maybe even the first generation of Apple computers) and journaled their little nerdy hearts out. They told the masses of nerds all about the different games they’ve played, how it played, how fun it was, and all the marvels this new technology blessed us with. Video game journalism took off just as quickly as video games themselves – they even became respected industry professionals. Imagine that – nerds that were smart enough to band together to form companies JUST TO TALK ABOUT VIDEO GAMES!! Smart is what they were.
The real scoop…
Fast forward several more years into the internet age. We’re talking about the prime years of Facebook, Twitter, and any other form of social media you can think of. Video games have now transcended their cartridge forms into CDs and digital code forms. Think of it like Dragon Ball Z and video games are like Saiyans – they just keep transforming. In this era, video game journalism has faced many challenges, with “editors” from well-known companies stealing content to others not doing their due diligence. It’s ugly out there. No holds barred. These once titular giants of video game journalism are now getting roasted by a new breed of gamer – the Content Creator. Sometimes it’s well deserved and other times its buffoonery – plain and simple. Now that you’ve gotten a brief history lesson, let me present to you the problem. “Reviewers” are putting out gaming reviews without really playing the games they’re reviewing. The cherry on top is they’re being exposed for not putting in the work. *A well-known writer at IGN that was fired over this in 2018*
Some of these reviewers are only putting in a quarter of the time. How Sway?! That’s not nearly enough time to make an informed opinion. People usually know in the very beginning if they’re going to like a game or not, let alone finish a game – granted. None of those people are reviewing a video game for a living! We’ve also seen these same reviewers complaining about the difficulty of a game and actually counting that against the game, which has been leading the average gamer to not even try the game for themselves. I see it as a kick in the nuts to the developers and to their vision for the artwork they put out (video games are works of art – more on that later).
On one side of the coin, these media outlets are putting an enormous amount of pressure on their employees to get these reviews out on time and they’re not being given the review codes early enough to really do what’s needed. I can understand that fact and often I’m sympathetic to their struggles because I am a part-time content creator who only has but so much time to make content outside of my full-time job and other obligations. The well-known problem is that some of these gaming media outlets put pressure on their employees to finish it either before the game launches or the day of while not being given adequate time to do so.
This issue has been made public several times over the years. This is usually due to NDA’s (non-disclosure agreement) the publishers make these outlets sign – which is an issue itself. Some media outlets have given some insight into their review process – check out Kotaku’s post about it here. In the controversy particularly surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 the developer CD Projekt Red went out of their way to control the narrative and curtail reviews of their game at launch. Read about it in this article from Forbes. The other side of this coin is for independent content creators. And by independent, I mean those individuals that make content on YouTube, blogs, podcasts, etc. that aren’t affiliated or work for a major media outlet. If you have a huge following and are making a good income from this, you’re most likely doing it full-time.
Working full-time allows you to dive deeper into the games you play and make content around it – this goes for reviews as well. It’s expected that you (said content creator) fully finish a game to be completely knowledgeable on it and put out your review as soon as possible, especially since you want to drive traffic to your website or channel. If you’re a part-time creator then things can be vastly different for you. Speaking as a part-time content creator, it’s especially hard to juggle a full-time job and create different kinds of content. I try to make sure to put in at least 50% or more of the overall time it takes to complete a game. For example: if a game generally takes 40hrs to finish from the beginning to end, I make sure I put in at least a little more than half that time if possible.
However, there are individuals cut from a corner-cutting cloth that would do a review and not put in the necessary work. We’ve seen content creators and “gaming journalists” alike both put out reviews that sparked some controversy and some much-needed conversation. A particular…and a peculiar case is with an individual named Dia Lacina who reviewed a remake of a game in the Nier franchise titled Nier: Replicant ver.1.22474487139…(that’s literally the title of the game, no joke) and get this – DIDN’T PLAY IT!
We Need A Change…
If video game companies want to properly market their product and instill confidence in their product via reviews, then we need to get the review codes at least 1 month prior to the release date. I believe 1-2 months is more than sufficient for a reviewer to take their time with a game in order to do their due diligence and put out a competent review. Some major points need to be covered in said review and it has to be informative enough for the consumer to determine if that particular game is something they’ll invest in. After all, we are the ones spending our hard-earned money and it would suck to invest in a game that was absolutely horrible. This would actually benefit all sides – the journalist, the content creator, and finally the consumer. If a particular company were to do what CDPR did and it came to light, later on, that’ll hurt their credibility and cost the company money. It is up to the said company to put out a complete product and not give the consumer something half-baked.
Another change that’s needed is on the side of the journalists to be more bold and take a stance with their reviews. It’s absurd to review a game with all of its faults and still give it a high score, i.e. cyberpunk. A high score should only be allowed if the positives far outweigh the negatives, and that should’ve been an unspoken rule but given the amount of incompetence surrounding games journalism – it’s time to say it outright. However, for those journalists that have solid points and have given a game a fair review – they should not change their stance based on “gamer outrage”. This is something that has happened a lot in the last few months. Games on metacritic.com have gotten “review bombed” because the fans didn’t like the review. Not for any solid reason but only because they were being “fanboys”. It’s idiotic and these journalists do not deserve the hate and vitriol that has come their way when posting their reviews on social media as well.
For my fellow content creators, be better. At some point, we all want to work with these gaming companies to do reviews on their games and/or products and strengthen those bonds and connections. That doesn’t mean purposely misleading your fanbase because you want to be in good standing with said company. As your influence and fanbase grow, it’s especially important to keep your integrity and reputation intact and not sell out for a short-term payday. In the grand scheme of things, it’s never worth it. Your fans will see it and dislike you for it. Be truthful in what you do. Be objective with your work. Be firm in your stance. Be better.