Why You Shouldn't Trust All Reviews 2

(Guest column by Michael Siebenaler, who will hopefully be contributing more here in the near future.)

Game reviewing, and any type of media review, has to be fully experienced for accurate evaluation. Overall, reviewers make up bigger entities like the journalistic media which usually reflects society’s resulting reviews on media. Sales are also an obvious measurement as well, but don’t really touch the personal experience of the media. For now I’ll just stick with the personal journey of a media reviewer.

The reviewer/critic should really know what she/he is talking about, but does it mean a reviewer has to conquer every game before they review it? The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) often evaluates games by viewing BETA footage, not by viewing the actual game. Their reviews are far from complete, yet they assign ratings to virtually game made in the U.S.A.

It’s a greater advantage to have experience in that medium – for example, reviewing a film might be easier when you’ve actually made one yourself or written a screenplay. You understand the process more because you’ve been exposed to more elements of the process. Personally, I use a check sheet when I do my reviews because I don’t know cinematography first hand, but I can make my review more comprehensive if I don’t discount it.

Media reviewing is also very collaborative. I used to resent the fact that I was known to certain people as only “the movie guy” or “that video game reviewer”, but interacting with people and discussing media has become a very important part of my work/job. You get a lot of incite about why something did or didn’t work, plus you get to test your own beliefs/theories as well.

Media reviewers who appear on television should get a lot of credit. Ebert and Roeper do it every week and even have their reviews in print. Their reviews and TV comments show results from the film from their own individual perspective and in their debates with each other.

Is it ethical to investigate a video game more by using codes and special passwords to access higher levels? Besides, who has the time for all that anyway when you’ve got two dozen other games to review?

Word length might be the only measurement of worth in deciding if a reviewer has actually reviewed a game or not, but an audience doesn’t really know that until they’ve experienced the game too and can call out a publication’s (previously mentioned) reviewer who mentions elements of the game that aren’t entirely accurate.

It seems to be a common occurrence in media reviewing because the audience usually doesn’t respond (though new technology, such as blogs are making feedback more legitimate and giving users a more powerful voice).

Even the Toledo City Paper gives movies grades before they’re released and evaluates them by a star system even though no media reviewing has taken place – a “buzz” rating at the maximum.

An extra level of effort goes a long way in the reviewing process because you get to see the discourse and the experience behind the actual media and all the emotions, feelings and thoughts surrounding it.

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