The Soapbox: Advertising, blacklisting, and critique – The broken incentives of gaming media

This guest Soapbox was commissioned through Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign and is authored by D. Emery Bunn. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

Gaming media is broken. “Honest reviews” can come off like a sarcastic jab, especially with massive site-spanning advertisements mere pixels from the reviews themselves. Add in the lure of exclusives, and “fair and unbiased” sounds like a joke to many.

But gaming media and the industry it covers aren’t broken from some form of malevolent hatred and a greedy desire to part gamers from their money. Regrettably, three things combine to create an environment where criticism can destroy a media outlet entirely, even when criticism is a vital part of journalism itself.

Overt advertising

Take a look at your average gaming website these days without AdBlock on, and it’s clear that displaying advertisements is what’s paying a good portion of the bills. Some sites even ask you to turn AdBlock off. Small, wonder, with marketing budgets covering everything from banner ads to TV ads to publicity stunts.

And that’s not a problem, really. Ads are a business reality, and they do help pay the bills. Plastering banner ads of the latest blockbuster to ship is par for the course.
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Covert advertising

The best place to put game ads is on game websites: the very same place those games are reviewed. From a publisher perspective, having spent a bunch of money advertising a game only to have the review be anything less than glowing feels like a bad return on investment.

Many gamers know this, and it can be easy to assume that reviews are carefully veiled advertorial pieces themselves. Ads have to be bought, so angering the buyers by panning their games is a bad idea. Gaming websites have to toe a line between being honest and proper journalists and not alienating their chief revenue source.

Blacklisting the ‘bad apples’

Gaming websites are also, unsurprisingly, the best place for exclusive content related to upcoming games. Previews, interviews, early review copies for day-one reviews — the list goes on. Gamers go to gaming websites to find out the latest, hype themselves up on their favorites, and potentially read reviews to decide what they’ll buy. Publishers know this; marketers know this.

But all these things are given because the publisher chose to give them. Chaining back to that return on investment perspective, if gaming websites don’t use all of these exclusives “properly,” marketing departments can decide to pull the plug. Or to be more direct, blacklist.

This happened to Kotaku recently. Though the precise causes are unknown, two publishers decided to blacklist the site (in fact, reading that story is what got me to thinking in depth about this topic). Kotaku didn’t “properly” toe the line and was punished by being denied the same sorts of exclusives that other, competing sites got.

Breaking the backbone

Journalism, and the media it creates, is all about producing something that people haven’t seen before. While this can mean unique opinions or deep-digging analysis, far more often it’s “the exclusive,” or “the latest.”

This is definitely true in gaming media, where new games, and the resulting reviews, happen all the time. A media outlet without a day-one review is behind everyone else, especially if the game is a blockbuster millions are looking forward to. Why go to a site that is five days behind the curve when you want to know now, on release day, whether it’s worth getting?

Without the allure of the latest news, a site has to have other draws to have people show up, view the ads, and pay the bills. For massive, well-known sites this can work, but for smaller outlets the inability to be on top of the news curve is a death sentence.

Crowding-out dissent

Gaming media know this. If you’re a small outlet, or even a big one in tight competition with others, losing exclusives is a really bad idea. It’s better to nitpick some parts of a blockbuster game and rate it high than to bomb it for not being as good as others of its genre.

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Metacritic is littered with extremely high critic review scores for nearly all of the “must buy” games this year. While some have truly been very good, it beggars the imagination that all but a few are near-perfect.

Criticism, of which reviews are a part, is difficult to do when it’s the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Disagreeing with game industry practices, or denouncing extremely bad games, gets pushed off of the biggest outlets, and onto places where keeping the lights on via game ad revenue isn’t a concern, if at all.

Critique and the common man

Avoiding the blacklist creates soft opinions and unmentionable topics. Criticism, a vital function of journalism, can’t flourish in the face of the current environment. The economic incentive isn’t there. You can’t fault gaming media for wanting to stay in business.

But critique improves games. Even the most wildly inaccurate criticism can reveal the perception of a particular gamer and illuminate ways to address that perception in the future. It isn’t easy to hear, especially with how much time and energy is spent on a game by developers, but the alternative of no criticism doesn’t make good future games. An industry without criticism is one that stagnates and eventually collapses.

Gaming media should be the best place to field critique. Thousands of people go to these sites on a daily basis, creating a fertile area for discussion and ultimately better critique for developers to use. But with the current state of affairs, gaming media isn’t in a position to do that. Exceptions exist, but those prove the rule.

Critique needs a place to live, unaffected by what publishers do. Right now, that’s in isolated, easily-forgotten places like social media and blogs. I believe we can do better. Here’s some possible solutions for each part of the game industry:

  • Publishers: Reviews should not be seen by publishers as a more detailed advertisement for the game. Every game has flaws, and acting as if they’re unimportant does nobody any favors.
  • Gaming media: Be journalists. If a publisher blacklists because of editorial honesty, or “improper” actions, say so. Gamers are ultimately more satisfied by honesty than by a whitewashed view of the industry.
  • Players: Critique and discuss in any place you can find. While gaming media might be the obvious choice, it’s not there at present. Seek out outlets that do let you have a voice and hopefully themselves insist on better than the status quo. Over time, we can change the perception of criticism being bad.

What do you think? Is there another way out of this mess?

Author D. Emery Bunn is the proprietor of new gaming website Tough Love Critic. We’d like to thank him for supporting Massively Overpowered!
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59 Comments on "The Soapbox: Advertising, blacklisting, and critique – The broken incentives of gaming media"

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Alphasevx
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Alphasevx

Gaming journalism has really changed over the years.  So has all journalism to be honest.  What I think writers at sites like Kotaku and Polygon don’t realize is that they are not respected, at least not anymore.  They are diminishing every year – dying a long and ugly self-inflicted death as they sink further into clickbait, deceptive advertising, cronyism, and identity politics.  

Kotaku thinks its some kind of important site full of real journalists.  They’re not – they’re the National Enquirer.  They are paparazzi, and devs and publishers don’t want to pose for them anymore.  It just shows how delusional Stephen Totilo is that he thought he had a serious point about  “blacklisting”.  No, you work for Gawker, and no one owes you exclusive information.

Appreciate how Massively and now MassivelyOP has stayed (mostly) out of the outside drama and focused on the games.

Dope_Danny
Guest
Dope_Danny

Honestly i have not trusted mainstream gaming sites for a very long time. I mean shit when the whole Gamegate situation began last year my initial response was “and did people not notice this when Jeff Gerstman was fired for giving a middle of the road review to a game currently paying for gamespot banner ad space like 7 years ago?”

Setting aside that can of worms about all those “what do we signal boost this week?” mailling list cabals from the “gamers are dead… wait our numbers are down, our person of the year is the gamer and we are your trusted ally! pls come back!” crowd like gawker media who are objective scumbags for A: seeing the reader as idiots they can easily manipulate and B: not really giving a shit about a games as anything but a subversive vector for their own political agenda pushing which is greasy at beast it all comes down to one thing –

They are the industries bitch.

They want their review out early so people come to their site and generate ad revenue? then they must stay on the companies good side. Its why you get completely untrustworthy sites like IGN going “MASS EFFECT 3 10/10 – THIS IS THE GAME CHANGER” and not 30 days later after its come out and everybody bought it is going “uhhh, what is this poorly written, heavily bug ridden, page 1 of google image search asset laden garbage?” they release a “MASS EFFECT 3: WHAT WENT WRONG” article.

They are crooked. They are liars, they are shills, they are not trust worthy and simply put are not worth your time because you are not getting anything but a lengthy advertisement from them and thats not a review exists to do. Therefore their own lust for revenue has created a prison of their own design that renders their own product redundant to us.

Demos or maybe a lets play/stream of a game is the best way to know if it suits your unique tastes. Any videogame critic calling themselves a games journalist at this point on a site like IGN, Kotaku, Polygon and so on is at best going to be some “BLANK studies” college drop out millenial using it as some way to be a sponsored marketing vector because being another “8/10 my paycheck came through” company parrot is the best thing they can do without actually trying. Thats modern mainstream videogames journalism.

So i dont visit those sites.

and more to the point wonder whys its taken so goddamn long for most people to begin to notice its been like this way for over a decade now.

SallyBowls1
Guest
SallyBowls1

I  agree with a lot of the sentiment. 

OTOH, I find a lot of the ideas unrealistically naive. I think I could make the same criticisms about cars or tech.  Does anyone think Samsung/Apple sites are unbiased arbiters of the products or don’t have these forces pushing them? People are very reticent to pay upfront for games any more and newspapers and magazine are in steep decline.  IMO, it strikes me as unrealistic to expect 1950s New York Times level of reporting and advertising/reporting separation in general and especially in gaming where it is mostly “free” to play.

Cleveisback
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Cleveisback

Reading this post made me sign up to comment!  Agree with everything mentioned and really must commend D. Emery Bunn for such an insightful and informative piece.

Godson691
Guest
Godson691

I agree with almost everything that is said in this article, but it forgets one important feature that a good site will have and that is a comment section. 
I feel that a “well moderated” comment section can balance against favoritism in a game article or gaming site.  It’s the comments of multiple readers that gives me a more balanced perception on what the article discusses.  Also over time you learn to trust various authors and commenters, by comparing their experiences with your own.
“well moderated” means not blocking people’s opinions but cutting out the trash that has nothing to do with the topic or meant to derail the topic.

Ripsnorta
Guest
Ripsnorta

Peregrine_Falcon If all Gamergate was about was the link between advertising and gaming sites causing biases, it wouldn’t have been a problem. It was the attacks on female developers and commentators (and those who stood up for them) by doxing and death and rape threats that brought Gamergaters into disrepute.

Gamergate might have started about honest reviews, but it quickly became an excuse for the disgruntled to attack people they didn’t like.

carson63000
Guest
carson63000

Peregrine_Falcon Even if you leave the misogynists, racists and homophobes out of Gamergate, 90% of what’s left was “they gave a good review to a game I don’t like, MUST BE CORRUPTION!”

Cambruin
Guest
Cambruin

Serrenity Gamers… mature… same sentence? Isn’t the lack of maturity that which defines us as gamers? Had I been mature, would I not be mowing the lawn instead? Would I not be running of to the florist to score +rep with the wife? Would I not empty the dishwasher instead? Would I not sit next to my daughter as she comes home from school to ask her about her day?

Immature is what we are and that’s ok. It’s that which binds us, which connects us to one another. Where else could you find a 14year old leading a group of others, some of them into their 30s and up? We all just have to learn to be responsible and we’re failing pretty bad at it. You, me, all of us. Look at the temper tantrums we throw. Look at the example we’re setting.

The industry simply picks up on it.

I’m not sure why I’m saying this as I too have no idea how to reverse it. I’m not even sure who’s to blame. Me? You? The parents? The industry? I have 2 beautiful children and honest to God, I hope I do a better job than my parents and yet I so often on the way to work think “shit, I could have handled that differently”. Ugh, lost my train of thought. Oh well. best log in to LotRO no?

Bereman99
Guest
Bereman99

Samizdat Bereman99 Yes, they are free to do that.
That’s my point and my issue – the current status quo is one where the game companies feel like they have the right/privilege of using journalism about the industry as an advertising platform and punish those who don’t go along with that…
Someone within their own company leaks some major and likely negative information to the press. Who should be punished? The person who did the leaking. Who gets punished? The press. It’s an attempt to silence bad press in the same way some game companies have abused the DMCA of YouTube to bring down videos that talk poorly about their game. It’s simply not pro-consumer behavior.

And then they get applauded for doing that just because it was against a site people tend not to like.
I guarantee the comments would be one of outrage aimed at the game company if the blacklisted website was this one.

Ernost
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Ernost

Peregrine_Falcon
Guest
Peregrine_Falcon

This is EXACTLY what the Gamergate folks were trying to point out, before the trolls and feminazis got involved.
Oh, I guess I’m now a misogynist, racist, homophobe for having spoken the truth about Gamergate.

Samizdat
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Samizdat

Bereman99 Samizdat Nothing says that game companies have to give interviews or answer questions to any particular website. They’re perfectly free to play favorites or just stay silent entirely (like Valve) if they want.

SoMuchMass
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SoMuchMass

Most of the negative scores were 0s, even if you think it’s bad it is not that bad. Metacritic user scores are usually a joke, because of idiotic review bombs. DA:I is one of my favorite RPGs.

SmugglerinaYT
Guest
SmugglerinaYT

breetoplay Damonvile This is particularly fascinating because I was reading a recent article somewhere (lemme see if I can find it…this is paywalled, maybe I saw it in FT or WSJ – http://www.naa.org/) that newspaper actually did really well last year, but in a local distribution role.  They cited magazines as taking the biggest hit in 2015.  

Out of curiosity, has anyone asked a couple of questions: 1) is there any site which runs in the black purely from Patreon funds, and if so what are the characteristics of that site?  and 2) has anyone spoken to Jimmy Wales over at Wikimedia and figured out how it is that they seem to always come up with enough cash to keep wikipedia running?  Is the the NPR-style solicitations?  Is it corporate funding?  Would gaming websites simply be better off to offer investment packages to the big studios?

Given the relevance and importance of gaming today, has anyone had serious discussions with the foundations (Ford, Gates, etc.) about what it means to create alternative revenue streams and encourage more open communication to tackle tough cultural issues?

Bereman99
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Bereman99

Samizdat I don’t agree that it’s unreasonable for the cold shoulder…that gaming companies in general feel like gaming sites are advertising platforms and treat them as such doesn’t really sit well with me, and them giving a cold shoulder is a direct result of that attitude. Entirely expected at this point, though.

That said, what concerns me more is that people are applauding them for doing that not because they actually like them doing it, but because they don’t like who it’s being done to (the hate for Kotaku on the internet borders on obsession it seems).

Bereman99
Guest
Bereman99

theblackmage75 Transparent and often critical, but like everyone else reviewing things he’s not unbiased.
Which is actually a good thing – he speaks his mind on the things he reviews, and you know that his opinion of the product is based on his bias and his perception of the issues.
When it comes to reviewers, you need transparency and them being critical, but you also (as the reader) need to know why they hold those opinions. That in turn allows you to look to and trust reviewers who you either find have similar views to your own, or even differing views (considering those can help you strengthen or refine your own opinion).
Unbiased is sterile and objective…things like “The game can experiences this fps range on this system” and other such facts. If you’re looking for a good reviewer, you don’t want unbiased, you want them to be clear on what their biases actually are.

wjowski
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wjowski

The only thing that’ll ever ‘save’ gaming journalism being completely decoupled from the industry.  That means they pay for their games, go to cons and such the old-fashioned way, and generally go about not taking money or favors from game publishers and developers as well as not giving them ad space.

And as long as bandwidth costs money, that’s not going to happen.

Ceder
Guest
Ceder

Engagets coverage of the event they’re at at the moment reads like a constant spam of shilling for the company’s the “articles” represent.  In just 12 hours they had on their facebook feed close to 100 “articles” posted.  CNN doesn’t even spam that much. To me it was just blatantly obvious they’re being paid to shill.

Basically, outside of the court of public opinion, there isn’t (yet) any accountability for the lack of lines between “news” and shilling adverts.

ThreeSpeed
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ThreeSpeed

SoMuchMass ThreeSpeed A Metactitic user score of 5.8

MikedotFoster
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MikedotFoster

Armsbend  This is actually nothing new for journalism in general. Movie critics need screening passes. Political correspondents need access to the White House. On and on and on.

MikedotFoster
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MikedotFoster

Lights_andMusic Greaterdivinity  Also, users are MUCH more likely to rate something either a 1 or 10, which skews results.

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

The fact that gaming news websites often depend heavily on being on the good graces of developers is what bothers me most.  Especially when it’s pretty clear that there are connections between people in that company and the journalists for those sites.  Bigger name developers can easily throw around their weight and silence any dissent or negative press by playing the “blacklist” card, so suddenly everything is happy and perfect with that game company and news of the bad stuff is only found out via specific news sites that aren’t as loud or notable as the bigger names.
But I guess that’s the world we live in right now, and that’s what happens when you run a news site that depends heavily on ad revenue with exclusives and interviews and so on being the big methods of getting people in to check out the site.

ausj3w3l
Guest
ausj3w3l

I think a large part of the issue with reviews and and the issues with advertising is that, a gaming companies reputation is often far more important than say movies. We hold ubisoft responsible for one crap game, and that follows to the next but you wouldn’t completely right off say, universal studios for one really bad film.

McGuffn
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McGuffn

Lights_andMusic There is the issue of people tanking a game’s rating over completely petty concerns, like a cash shop item people don’t like.

On the other side of the coin however, are franchises that get great day one reviews seemingly because they are storied franchises, when the individual game is a catastrophe. And as always, the more complex the game, the more off base the review.

agemyth
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agemyth

Lights_andMusic Greaterdivinity Aggregated user reviews on a site like metacritic are completely meaningless because there is no way to know if a user owns or has played a game and there is nothing stopping one angry user from making multiple accounts to review bomb something.
It is laughable that they even pretend to give user reviews credibility along side professional reviews, but user reviews and comments exist because it helps bring repeat visits by users for their site. Also, users who dislike something or feel they wasted their time/money on a product are always far more likely to voice their opinion online.

Lights_andMusic
Guest
Lights_andMusic

Greaterdivinity Lights_andMusic “You’ll see user review bombs of games which are quite good simply because a large number of people dislike the franchise, the game, or something one of the devs said.”
Yes but the opposite is also true, which is why an aggregated user review over a large sample size is somewhat accurate.  You cant only mention the outliers on the negative side, there’s also plenty of outliers on the positive side (White-Knights are everrrrrrrywhere, just like doomsayers)

agemyth
Guest
agemyth

Armsbend Games have always been art. A lot of it is commercial art intended to be consumed by millions, but that is the nature of all forms of art that people are trying to make a living off of.

Lights_andMusic
Guest
Lights_andMusic

Greaterdivinity Lights_andMusic “Same reason that film, art, music, etc.”
I would argue it’s not for the same reasons though.  Art and film critics frequently trumpet pieces which are unpopular with the public, but ARE popular within those sub-genres for various reasons – e.g. The Artist winning an oscar (2012) – maybe not the most well known or largely popular movie, but it has merits outside of traditional ‘Michael Bay-media’ which other films of the year did not.
Game critics, with the exception of a few “artsy” games like HerStory etc, aren’t picking out games which are generally unpopular, but have other redeeming qualities or are trying something new.  e.g. Fifa 16 has an 80+ Critic rating and a 4 User rating. I highly doubt that’s because the game critics saw some higher form of art in Fifa16 that everyone else just magically missed.

agemyth
Guest
agemyth

Lights_andMusic There are a number of complicated reasons why aggregated scores of websites is completely broken and harmful to the industry. For other equally complicated reasons, aggregated user reviews is its own kind of mess.
(My attention span just went kaput and Greaterdivinity pretty much picked up where I was going to go anyway.)

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

Lights_andMusic Same reason that film, art, music, etc. critics opinions don’t always match up with the opinions of the general consumer of aforementioned media. Critics and general consumers approach the media differently and usually are looking for different things in it.
Beyond that, user reviews are often times subject to the whims of what’s “popular” or not. You’ll see user review bombs of games which are quite good simply because a large number of people dislike the franchise, the game, or something one of the devs said. It’s not because of what the user actually thought of the game from their experience with it (they may not have even played it!), but it’s because something else gave them an axe to grind.

agemyth
Guest
agemyth

All the big sites with actual reviews/previews and writers have separate departments that handle ad related business. The writers/reviewers do not interact with the PR/marketing representatives when it comes to reviews. If such a site is the kind that leverages the power of “exlcusive reviews”, the person who organized that arrangement is not the person who reviewed the game or even the one who chose who reviewed the game. It is illegal to pay for reviews if it is not openly stated that said review was paid for or is an “advertorial” type piece. It is not worth it for big game sites to accept money for reviews.

Small and/or niche sites are less likely to have the ability to separate their writers as much from the business side and can fly under the radar easier, so those in particular are the ones I am wary of.

Lights_andMusic
Guest
Lights_andMusic

Regarding reviews – the biggest thing that gets me is the wide range in difference between how Critics view titles and how the Public views them.  
I completely understand that I’m not personally going to feel the same way as everyone else about a game, but I can’t really understand how an aggregation of Critic reviews (not just one guy/gal’s review, but a bunch of them averaged together!) can be pretty wildly different from the aggregation of public view – I mean, either “most” people think it’s good, or “most” people don’t, right?  
So why does Fallout 4 have a Critic rating of 80+ and a Public rating of 5-6?  
GTA 5, which I enjoyed personally, and most people seem to like, has a 7.8 User review, but the Critic review is a whopping 96 – even games which should be easy examples of “the general public likes this and so do critics” still have pretty big swings in ratings, which is crazy to me.

Detton
Guest
Detton

Serrenity I would like to submit to you one “like”.

We’re (gamers) are just too territorial when it comes to someone DARING to dislike the thing we love / like the thing we hate.

Serrenity
Guest
Serrenity

I only have a minute here – but I want to point out that nothing you enumerated above is proof that any site has been compromised — only that the potential exists.  But potential does not equal reality.  Now I’m not saying that what you described above isn’t an issue or doesn’t happen, but that each site (and further more each piece) has to be judged independently because having the opportunity for the coverage to be compromised in this way does not mean that it is.  
Additionally, far far too many people conflate “I didn’t like a game” as having some extrinsic value beyond themselves, that means that anyone who disagrees with that statement has to be compromised (or as we like to say nowadays, a “Fanboi”.).  For many people, not liking a game is the same as saying “this game is bad” and when they see a site that has a different opinion, they assume the potential for compromised journalistic staff is the reality.  
Gamers as a culture need to mature in their own critiquing of games, so that the majority of us get to the point where “A game be good, and I can not like that game and that doesn’t destroy my world view.”  We aren’t there yet – as a fair number of comments even here, on the only site that I consume MMO news from anymore (I even pulled my RSS feed for MMORPG).

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

ThreeSpeed Oh, didn’t take it as argumentative (even though it would be fine if it was intended!). Just the first I’ve heard otherwise, which is again, mainly because I’ve not poked around to see what folks outside of my circle of internet friends think about it : )

SoMuchMass
Guest
SoMuchMass

ThreeSpeed Dragon Age Inquisition is an amazing game, the 85 to 89 Metacritic is has is totally deserved.

ThreeSpeed
Guest
ThreeSpeed

Greaterdivinity ThreeSpeed I’m sorry I didn’t mean to come across as argumentative.  I was relating my experience to the article.  I read these comments every day and have always enjoyed your perspective on different subjects.

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

ThreeSpeed Huh, most of the chatter I’ve seen is along those lines, but I fully admit to not digging too deep beyond my immediate circle of internet friends. Interesting to hear though.

ThreeSpeed
Guest
ThreeSpeed

Greaterdivinity ThreeSpeed As I said it’s hard to find very many people now who actually played the game through who thought it was a masterpiece.

Greaterdivinity
Guest
Greaterdivinity

ThreeSpeed Or. OR! You can have an opinion on a game contrary to the general consensus. It happens!
Since you bring up Dragon Age, I’ll use myself as an example. DA:O was widely praised by pretty much everyone everywhere I went, both critics and gamers. I finally caved and played it, loathed almost every single thing about it. Truly awful gameplay experience. Got DA2 in a bundle, which was heavily critiqued by most reviewers and not well loved by gamers from what I read over the years, and loved the shit out of it.
Does this mean that they’re all wrong and I’m right?! No, it means that sometimes we can have opinions that don’t jive with the general consensus. And that’s alright.

ThreeSpeed
Guest
ThreeSpeed

Great write up.

I saw this recently with DA:I.  Before it came out every reviewer I looked at called it a masterpiece.  I bought it and played it through and thought that it was really a bad game.  I looked up articles about the game and read the comments that were saying the same thing I was thinking.  I know reviews are opinions but I thought they couldn’t all be wrong, but yes they can.

Armsbend
Guest
Armsbend

The blurred relationship of publishers, websites and now youtubers/streamers are the main reason why games will never be considered an art form in any real capacity.  I doubt developers/publishers care, because of that very fact, but it still pains me whenever I read some desperate writer who wants himself to be taken seriously as a writer.

Not an observation of mop rather two decades of reading gaming media.

Samizdat
Guest
Samizdat

Damonvile This has been a complaint for decades. We were talking about this back when most of our news came from magazines (like “PC Lamer”) we paid for per-issue or subscribed to and had ads inside them nonetheless. These problems may be exacerbated by the rise of more “free” content, but they weren’t created by it.

Styopa
Guest
Styopa

1) advertising doesn’t “help” pay the bills, in most cases it pays the bills, full stop.   People love the “free” media (ie they don’t have to buy a magazine), well TANSTAAFL, bitches.
2) ‘grassroots’ stuff like youtube is a good idea, but even that’s been co-opted by professional marketing machines.

I wrote print & online gaming reviews for 10 years.  Enjoyed it, but even then it was clear that there was a troubling connection between positive reviews and getting the products.  Bad review of an Ubisoft game (for example)?  Whups, you might not see those new Ubisoft titles show up ‘quite’ in time to get your review out with everyone else’s  Really bad review?  Your editor might get an angry call from the devs and you might not see titles from them ever again.
It’s all about firewalling content from advertising, and being very very clear to all and sundry that’s taking place and will NOT be amended; not by owners, not by editors, and certainly not by advertising customers.
The problem here (trust in the medium) is the obverse of what makes the internet so great.  The ephemerality of websites, and the low barrier to entry mean that the medium is more disposable than the product.  For the marketing budget of a Call of Duty-caliber game, hell, they could literally set up a hundred polished commercial-grade “game review sites” filled with sham reviews, forum content, and garbage.

My favorite quote (not mine) about gaming journalism from http://www.unwinnable.com/2015/05/11/actually-its-about-ethics-in-shilling-videogames/ : “…If I am again being honest, usually what I see online when people discuss “videogame journalism” is people self-consciously fancying themselves as philosophy majors or intellectuals out of some sort of desire to justify that their time spent playing and writing about games was not in vain. That it meant something. To anyone.”  Later in that piece, he quotes a respondent: “Slapping the ‘journalism’ label on everything a ‘games journalist’ produces also results in irrational expectations from readers: ‘aren’t these game reviews supposed to be objective, since you’re a journalist, and journalists are supposed to strive for objectivity?’ No, they’re not, because reviews aren’t journalism. There you go, all of #gamergate solved in one Q&A.”
You go David; that’s a great piece that deserves reading from anyone interested in the subject generally.

Note to all, it’s worth keeping an eye on http://www.deepfreeze.it/index.php – a site that’s dedicated to exposing the unacknowledged connections between “gaming journalists” and their subjects.  (No, no MOP’s ‘outed’ there)

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

Damonvile This is what it boils down to. Nothing is going to change until gamers decide to start putting their money where their mouths are and actually pay for website entertainment of quality, otherwise writers are left begging, dealing with advertising, or doing it for free, and the best won’t work free long – nor should they. This is one of the reason I love our backers like the author of this piece and our Patreon supporters. Does it work for every site? Probably not – we’re small. All the dead subscription websites, PA among them, say the industry’s not ready yet.

Risu
Guest
Risu

All reviews are just opinion anyway. Just because a majority of people say one game is amazing doesn’t mean everyone will like it.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

wolfyseyes I don’t know your situation, but I will say that it’s totally possible that the ads were just a limited run anyway and that you weren’t to “blame.” Not that you were anyway, just saying, don’t let it weigh you down. Most MMO studios will do specific, short runs and takeovers, planned pretty far in advance, and oftentimes through a third party placer, who will probably never know your article exists.
Now, the community team and whoever is watching Twitter? They know. And they now hate you. (I’m KIDDING. <3)

wjowski
Guest
wjowski

Never trust a game review from someone you don’t know.

theblackmage75
Guest
theblackmage75

There’s room for more folks like Angry Joe– love him or hate him– who has made a name for himself as a transparent, oftentimes quite critical reviewer.  I would much rather wait a few days after launch to get largely unbiased, reliable account of a game from a source I trusted than to follow the current trend of falling for hype stirred up by gaming sites whose bottom line depends on not veering afoul of devs and publishers.
As long as consumers continue to overvalue knowing everything there is to know about a game from the instant it comes out, the publishers will necessarily maintain undue control over the image of their products and how they are reviewed.

Midgetsnowman
Guest
Midgetsnowman

and this is why I like patreon a lot. Some of my fave game reviewers are places like MOP, or The Jimquisition, where their operating funds dont come entirely (or in Jims case, at all), from corporate media machines

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