To comprehend the true value of this Uncharted 3 review written by Eurogamer’s Simon Parkin, you must first do two things. First, you have to actually read the review. Yes, the entire thing, not just the few paragraphs that happen to catch your eye. Second, you must play Uncharted 3. It is a phenomenal, medium-progressing work, yet many industry consumers who have an evident superiority complex must learn that even the biggest AAA titles such as the Uncharted games have their flaws.
Parkin gave Uncharted 3 an 8/10, a great score that any developer should be proud to boast about, especially considering it is coming from a publication that is quite stingy when it comes to giving out high review scores. While Parkin praised the gameplay and the overall immersive experience that Uncharted 3 provides, he also laid-out a thorough and thought-provoking critique on how the game rarely lets you deviate from the scripted cinematic sequences – and he’s 100% right. Parkin writes:
“Mistimed leaps are given a gentle physics-defying boost to reduce the staccato rhythm of having to restart a section. It’s entirely understandable given what the developer is attempting to achieve – an unbroken flow of action that leads to climax – but, at the same time, beneath the spectacle there’s a nagging feeling that your presence in the scene is an irritation rather than a preference.”
‘Parkin laid out throught provoking critique on how the game plays out’
As soon as the review was published however, the user comments section unfortunately revealed the gaming community for what it has too often become. “Trolls”, “fanboys”, etc. The medium, perhaps more than any other, is now littered with consumers who feel as if they need substantiation on their $60 purchases, and it is that hefty price tag which may explain why gamers in particular simply cannot resist the urge to bash opinions that conflict with their own. Players often come to gaming websites and publications specifically looking for a review that will affirm their decision to throw down that $60, and when they don’t find it, the trolls emerge from the woodwork.
Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek articulates this idea further as it manifests itself in other forms of media as well:
“The technical term for the phenomenon is confirmation bias, where individuals seek out information favoring their already established opinion. Confirmation bias is a massive problem in today’s politics, as evidenced by the existence of deliberately liberal and conservative leaning networks like Fox News and MSNBC, and there’s reason to believe today’s highly personalized marketing by the video game industry has trained an audience to seek intense validation for their expensive purchases.”
Similarly, Twisted Metal designer David Jaffe offered his take on the current state of gaming fanboyism:
“Eurogamer’s conclusion/criticism about games that are super heavy on the ‘experience’ at the expense of the ‘play’ (like they claim Uncharted 3 is and like- by my own admission- GOD OF WAR 1 is***) is wonderfully thought out and presented and the only reason it’s been labeled ‘controversial’ has nothing to do with the review itself and everything to do with the sad state of game consumers who have been so effectively conditioned by a number of the gaming press/gaming PR machines that these gamers leap to a title’s defense-not that this gem of a game needs defending- without even being open to the reviewer’s criticism (be it valid or not). That’s tragic. What’s even more tragic is I would argue the games medium itself has been damaged by this practice. Irrevocably? No. But it has taken its toll for sure.”
Kirk Hamilton from Kotaku illustrated the importance of reviews like Parkin’s, reviews that challenge the pre-conceived notions of a game and highlight previously unnoticed aspects:
“Personally, I think that we need more reviews like Simon’s—well-written, well-argued opinions that I might not agree with, but which take the time to articulate something about I may not have noticed. I haven’t played Uncharted 3 yet, but many times, I’ve read criticism of games that I love, criticisms that have led me to acknowledge flaws that I hadn’t previously noticed. Awareness of those flaws doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game; if anything, it enhances my understanding of it. In fact, that very thing happened to me with Uncharted 2, based on a similar criticism to the one that Simon made today about Uncharted 3″ … “It’s one thing to needlessly troll readers with deliberately contrarian arguments and criticism. But it’s another thing entirely to cleanly articulate and support an honest opinion, whether or not people find it agreeable. That’s the sort of work that critics should strive to do.”
I think it goes without saying that at least 1/3 of those seeking out gaming reviews never even intend to read the actual article. Instead, they go straight for the numerical or letter-based score hoping it will give them the justification to go to the store and pick up the game. This methodology undoubtedly explains the increasing popularity and exposure of weighted average sites like Metacritic, for example. Consumers too often consider game reviews to be straightforward buying guides, and this simply shouldn’t be the case. A game with a disappointing score should not necessarily discourage gamers from opting to add that particular game to their library. In turn, a game with a great review score should not automatically warrant a purchase.
‘A game with a disappointing score should not necessarily discourage gamers from opting to add that particular game to their library’
Video games, like most other mediums, are wholly subjective experiences that are either enjoyed or hated based on the personal preferences of the individual gamer and there are a number of factors that play into a reviewer’s time with a particular game. A successful game review gives the reader more than just the dry facts of what the game offers. Rather, it provides them with a thorough and colorful description of the personal experience that the reviewer endured during his or her encounter with the game, and certain in-game moments can lead them to formulate an opinion that is in opposition to that of the general public which typically has had much more time with said game.
Here’s the bottom line. When you come across a review that conflicts with your own personal opinion of the product and you suddenly find the urge to leave a satirical comment about the publication’s preferences or a biting remark about the reviewer’s mother, think: “Can I pose a more thoughtful and profound rebuttal rather than just toss useless and idiotic insults?” The answer is almost always a resounding “yes.”