Now that I’ve covered the history of games, I want to look at the way in which games are perceived in more modern generations. Through this, I want to look at how games are publicised in more recent year. There’s always been debate over which are the hottest games of the year…every year, but does this come down to hype of fanboys, or simply clever advertisement and publicity? These days, many of the large AAA games are sequels and therefore are largely successful because of their predecessors having a decent following. Usually these developers are clever in the way they break down the main story element into a number of games, this way there’s heightened entertainment value for fans and more money in the dev’s pockets…it’s a win win, correct?
However, when it comes down to rating a game, many people are subjective in their approach and judge it to their personal, hopeful standard. It’s very easy to play a game and have your own personal opinion on the experience. Because of this, gamers tend to turn to “professional” gaming journalists in order to have an unbiased review of a game. This way gamers will know which game developers are honest or not, developers make more (or less) money and the journalists make a living. This reviewing format originated through writing, specifically in magazines. A magazine which focuses on the Play Station for example would write reviews for Play Station games. A gamer would buy a magazine in order to get information on specific games in a collective place.
This idea of Games Journalism has now moved on to other forms, such as online reviews. This ‘New Games Journalism’ obviously works in the same way as magazine reviews. The difference is that it is more accessible and usually free, with the ability for more and more people to write “user reviews”. This widely used web format however, has begun to make it harder for magazines to sell and therefore magazines are slowly becoming obsolete. One of the main reasons for this is that with less profit on mag sales comes budget and staff cuts. With an average UK magazine only having 19 days to write 60,000 words on almost 150 pages can mean that is becomes a very difficult task to fulfil.
You may be wondering though, how would an online reviewing site make money. Well ultimately they will use adverts and may also earn from some game developers for helping to promote their game or make it sound better than it really is. Kieron Gillen once quoted “The games press is often painted as corrupt, lazy and — as I mentioned — fundamentally stupid. This is because we tend to be corrupt, lazy and fundamentally stupid.” However, he later explained that the only reason game journalists are being portrayed as corrupt, especially more recently, is not because all reviews are bias or misleading, but that more people are writing bad reviews. Because they write too subjectively, they give more justifiable reviews a bad name.
I think that this is a very bad way to look at the game press. Just because one reviewer is bias, it does not mean that other reviewers are the same. A review in modern gaming can have a pivotal effect of sales of the game. The good thing about new games journalism is that it is more widely available… but this does not make it better. I tend to check multiple “trusted” sites for reviews to compare their views. Normally the opinions are largely different making you rate the game somewhere in between two people’s opinions. Very rarely nowadays do I trust the reviews I read. I find myself trusting magazines more in recent years, as the quality of writing highly exceeds that of online reviews. Usually I will use gut feeling or personal judgement on a game from screenshots or a demo I might play, but occasionally you may find me in the game mag section of WHSmiths reading the latest reviews. In my opinion they are much more objective in their written approach and allow you to judge the game from a more trusted source.
When it comes down to money however, why pay for something that is free? Or does it sound too good to be true…