Video game reviews are the lifeblood of the video game industry. They decide which video game stands on top and which video game falls down into the dust. The industry uses them to pepper the covers of their games and we even use them as reasons for friends (or strangers) to purchase the video games. A golden review can mean everything. But, I'd like to raise the question, can video games legitimately earn a perfect review score? I don't think they can.
I had a moment of realization a few years ago when I was debating whether or not to buy a particular video game. I decided that, because IGN had given it a perfect score and GameInformer gave it a near perfect score, I should buy it. Well, when I went back to my apartment, and eagerly threw the game into my console of choice and pressed the start button. It only took about two hours before I decided to take the game back to Gamestop and trade it for credit.
I felt unsettled that I played a particular video game because it received such high scores, and not because it interested me on any level. Was it a lack of willpower on my part? Did I foolishly give into a well-laid trap set by the video game industry? Had I blindly buy their products because of all of the accolades it had won?
This thought process began to spiral more and more towards a place of distrust towards reviews. I began to grow frustrated and a little bitter. Maybe even spiteful; not enjoying a video game because it received a near-perfect review score on IGN or GameInformer. And then, I had a moment. An epiphany while I was walking to work: reviews began to unsettle me because I felt that it was not possible to properly assess the gaming experience. It will effect a person individually. Even though I didn't enjoy the video game that I bought at Gamespot, doesn't mean that the person who bought it after me won't enjoy it. I may have given the video game a lower review score, while he may have given it a higher review score. I began to slowly reach the conclusion that a video game cannot legitimately earn a perfect review score. The review will always be flawed due to the inability to properly gauge an individuals gaming experience.
I'm fully prepared to admit that I'm late to the party. But what can be done about it? On the one hand, reviews for video games are wonderful. They lead the blind through the desert, to that one game they seek. But, on the other, they can lead a person away from a game, and could be missing out on a memorable experience. I don't think the answer lies within the reviews themselves, I think it lies within us. The gamers who play these games.
To my knowledge, there is no central "hub" in the age of social networking to air our opinions on a particular video game without it turning into a petty flame war or a he-said-she-said argument. And, up until now, there are many a forum dedicated to video games and our opinions. Even YouTube hosts a great deal of video game reviewers who are simply expressing their opinion. And I think it's fantastic, but I wonder if something more can be done?
But, by the same token, does anything need to be done about it? Are we just content to stay within our chosen cells and post in anonymity on message boards? That's a perfectly fine, viable solution. I'm simply raising the question of, do we place too much emphasis on reviews, and if so, can anything be done to weaken their power?
That's why, after this post goes live, I'm turning this into an all out discussion which will, hopefully, lead us to some viable solutions or alternatives. My goal is to hopefully make our voice louder, or on the same level as, "official" reviewers.
So now, I hand it over to you.