The following opinion is solely of the writer’s and not of KeenGamer as a whole.
I’ve been writing for over four years now as a professional journalist and copy writer. While I still consider myself a novice in the craft, I’ve learned a lot of things about the video game development and media industries. This article will focus on writing reviews. Some publications will tell you outright not to write wholly negative reviews. An outbreak of negative reviews can strongly affect a video game’s sales and the developer’s livelihood. Overly negative reviews will cause uneasy relationships between the developer and the publication you write for, possibly severing it entirely. That sort of pressure to write positive reviews can be controversial. Writing for the purpose of boosting a company’s sales is no more than plain advertising, and if a review is sponsored, it should be clearly stated in the review.
With all that said, I never overtly bash a game no matter how bad it is. As well, I’d never write a review outwardly telling someone not to buy a game. However, this isn’t because I’m afraid of hurting a developer’s feelings and it’s not because I’m afraid of losing my job. The reason is simple; I don’t want someone to miss out on a game that could be great for them just because I didn’t like it. That is also the reason that I do not review games that are renowned for being bad or controversial and leave them up to my fellow colleagues. It doesn’t mean that I write biased reviews, not at all. I just do not choose to review such games.
Let’s take a look at a few of my own personal examples. WARNING: may contain spoilers.
BEYOND: TWO SOULS
Beyond: Two Souls PS4 Launch Trailer
Beyond: Two Souls from David Cage and the video game developing wizards at Quantic Dream was one of my top five video games on the PlayStation 3. The story of Jodie and her incorporeal brother Aiden struggling through life from childhood all the way to the game’s climactic ending was absolutely haunting. The game’s impact on me and the emotions it created within me stay with me even now, many years after I played it. I’ve never reviewed it, but if I had to give it an arbitrary number rating I’d give it somewhere between 8 to 9.5 out of 10.
PushSquare gave it a rating of “Not Bad” 6 out of 10.
Beyond: Two Souls is strange game that isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. There are moments where the title pushes boundaries and attempts things that most developers wouldn’t even think of, but the plotting is uneven and the more touching sequences are undone by prolonged periods of outright idiocy. – PushSquare
Next, let’s look at one of my favorite platform games from my childhood. Wild 9 was developed by Shiny Entertainment, the developer that brought us Earthworm Jim.
I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing this game on the PlayStation 1. Is there a deep story? Not one that I can remember. Amazing visuals? They’d be considered decent for the era. But where the game truly shined was in its gameplay. Obviously with modern enhancements in technology and game design, games these days are better by a long shot. However, for the time, Wild 9 was the most unique and smoothest gameplay experience I had on the PlayStation 1. As a child, it was the closest I’d ever felt to actually having telekinetic powers (technically electric powers).
screenshot via gbacklog.blogspot.com
Again, if an arbitrary score were required, I’d give it somewhere between 8 to 9 out of 10. Type “Wild 9 Review” into Google and as of the writing of this article, the top entry is by GameSpot. The score? 5.1 out of 10. Just to prove how subjective scoring can be, the third entry on Google is from IGN who gave it an 8.5 out of 10 rating.
The bosses and flying levels break up the basic gameplay nicely, but the parts that connect in between those are dull. Wild 9 is one of those games that purports to have a unique concept behind it, yet falls flat in its implementation. – GameSpot
Keep in mind, this review is from 1998. Regardless, it was the first entry on Google. It’s human nature to skip actually reading the review and scroll down to the score. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and we’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer who hasn’t. In both of the examples above, the score alone would be enough to make many people pass on the game. I’m so glad I didn’t read those reviews years ago. If I had, I may have missed out on some of the best gaming experiences of my life.
I don’t want someone to miss out on a game that could be great for them just because I didn’t like it.
My point is that the enjoyment of video games is subjective, so it’s hard to give a 100% objective review. This is the reason why video game scores or rankings can be all over the place.
Imagine all of the great video games you played in your childhood. Imagine all the joy, heartbreak, and endless hours of entertainment that those titles brought you then and still bring you today. Now, imagine all those memories are gone because the first article you saw on the internet gave the game a poor review. For this reason, I’ll happily give the pros and cons of a video game, the reasons to buy or not buy it (both in the same article), but I’ll never outwardly encourage people not to buy a game. In the case where I only have negative things to say about a video game, I would prefer not to review it rather than bash it. However, there are exceptions.
MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA
Sometimes games are broken, not simply bad, but broken and virtually unplayable. In those cases, that info should be reported. With games retailing for upwards of $80 new these days, people should be warned about what they’re buying. One recent controversial example of this would be Mass Effect: Andromeda.
As a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, this is a game I was planning on pre-ordering but never got around to it. Later, I purchased the game used for around $10 and I absolutely hated it. If I hated a game that I only purchased for $10, I can’t imagine how angry I’d be if I’d spent $80 on it. Even in this case, I wouldn’t outwardly tell people not to buy the game. However, I’d at least warn them of its fallacies and to be wary before purchasing.
Mass Effect: Andromeda Launch Trailer
After writing about video games across five different publications, I’ve come to the conclusion that some negative criticism of video games is necessary to help the industry grow. At the same time, overtly bashing a game and encouraging people not to play it with overly negative reviews is not needed. Sometimes all it takes are a few words for someone to miss out on a game they may have loved.
Some people may agree with me here and others will disagree and that’s fine. Whether you’re a gamer, fellow journalist, or someone in the video game industry, I want to know what you think. Let me know what you think about writing or not writing negative reviews in the comments below.