Certain stereotypes exist about people who identify themselves as “gamers.” If they’re all to be believed, we’re all fat, socially-inept man-children who live in our parents’ basements while we waste our days away playing murder simulators and escapist power fantasies. Now, obviously, that’s not entirely true (well, for most of us anyway,) but, as always, stereotypes aren’t necessarily ground in reality. Another stereotype that’s commonly applied to anyone with a nerdy hobby is that they’re smart… But as with all the negative assumptions people make about “gamers,” this stereotype proves to be a little spurious as well. Just read the comments section on any major, mainstream gaming site or any popular gaming message board, and you’ll come to learn that nerds are just as illogical, overly emotional, and well, stupid as any other sub-culture.
The recent backlash over Eurogamer’s Uncharted 3 review is the perfect example of this. The review was eloquent, detailed, and overall very positive about the game, and while the reviewer had some issues with the game (which he backed up with solid points,) he still awarded it a healthy 8 out 10 score. A normal, intelligent person would have read the review, taken the reviewer’s opinion into account, and then would’ve quietly moved on with their life.
But this is the internet, and as we all know, the internet is not known for being a place where normal, intelligent people make rational, level headed responses to things they disagree with. Sony fanboys immediately descended on Eurogamer, flooding the comments with (often poorly worded) claims that their review was biased, or that the writer had been paid off by Microsoft or Nintendo (with no evidence to support such a outlandish, obviously made-up claim,) or that the site had simply posted given a “low” 8 out of 10 score in order to stir up the internet and get page hits. Anyone who actually read the review instead of launching into a fit of man-PMS would’ve known that the reviewer, Simon Perkins, liked the game and made valid, reasonable points. God of War creator and frequent Sony collaborator David Jaffe even made a blog post defending Perkins’s review. But the people complaining about the review obviously weren’t the most literate individuals, and even if they were, their ability to reason and accept others’ viewpoints were long ago discarded in favor of the illogical fanboyism that pervades gaming culture today.
Now, I don’t mean to single out the Sony fanboys in particular, it’s just that the most recent example of this brand of stupidity happens to originate from their camp. Microsoft fanboys reacted the same way last year when Games Radar gave Halo Reach an 8 out of 1o (I gave the game a perfect score on this site myself, but I can totally see where the reviewer from Games Radar was coming from,) and they again reminded the rest of the world of their lack of intelligence this year when Gears of War 3 likewise got a few scores that were less than the 91% Metacritic average. Nintendo fanboys turned into a frothing, stupidity-motivated lynch mob when Gamespot gave The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess an 8.8, which again, was still a very impressive score, and they’ll probably take up the banner of Asperger’s once again when the upcoming Skyward Sword gets its inevitable outlier review.
This sort of thing isn’t new to the games industry or press: just pick up any old gaming magazine from the early 90’s and you’ll see that even back then, the gaming press was being bombarded with letters sent from angry fanboys accusing them of bias. The most hilarious and maddening fanboy rant is also the most common: that a review is simply wrong.
Now, nerds aren’t well known for handling differing opinions well. The *ahem* “rivalries” between fanboys of opposing franchises, like Star Trek vs. Star Wars, or DC vs. Marvel, are well documented and are often (rightfully) the topic of mockery in pop-culture depictions of geeks, and that same close-minded fanboyism obviously applies to gamers as well, with modern gamers still feeling the need to pick sides in an imaginary, ridiculous “console war.” The vitriolic nature of the internet has only made things worse, with most gamers instantly labeling any review that disagrees with their opinions and skewed views of the industry as the product of bias, trolling, or simply being “wrong.”
But as anyone who has stopped to think about it for more than 10 seconds can tell you, a review can’t be wrong. Here’s why:
Reviews are opinions, and therefore, can’t be wrong.
I can’t believe I have to explain a concept that’s as simple as this to people, but judging by the NeoGAF thread regarding Uncharted 3 reviews, a lot of people seem to think that reviews are somehow supposed to be factual, scientific analyses that objectively determine a game’s worth. They aren’t, because obviously such a determination is impossible and can’t exist.
What I think are good graphics might look hideous to you. What I think are tight, accurate controls might feel too loose to another player, or too stiff and clunky for somebody else. I may think Halo Reach has the best competitive multiplayer, while you might think that title belongs to Call of Duty or Battlefield or Uncharted. These are simple concepts that you’d think everybody would understand, but again, looking through your average message board proves that there’s obviously a lot of people that don’t.
There’s no objective, definitive way to say if a game is good or bad or not. The reviewer’s job is to give his honest opinion about the game he/she just played, and then offer anecdotes and examples from his time with the game to illustrate why they felt that way about that game. Sure, the review may be poorly written, or the reviewer may have had issues with the game that you may not have noticed or cared about, but just because they arrived at a different conclusion than you did does not make you right or them wrong, or the other way around. The reviewer’s job is not to agree with you, not to maintain the game’s Metacritic average, and it’s certainly not to give you and your fanboy friends more ammo to feed into your pointless console war message board threads. As long as review states the writer’s honest opinion and is backed-up with examples from their experience within the game, they’re free to say what they want, positive or negative, about a game. If you have such a hard time dealing with opposing opinions that you feel no choice but to write a long complaints about how the writer was “wrong” or “biased” or accuse them of being bad journalists or (again, most illogically of all) accuse them of accepting bribes from game companies, perhaps you shouldn’t be reading reviews in the first place.
Scores are also assigned based on opinions, and also can’t be wrong.
Fanboys also apparently have nothing better to do than to look up reviews for their favorite games and claim that the scores are “too low.” Again, this is a logical fallacy, as the score is simply an arbitrary number or grade assigned by the reviewer based on their opinion, which again is a subjective measurement. I think an 8 out of 10 is a fairly high score, while others (apparently a lot of you,) think an 8 out of 10 is somehow very low.
Now, personally, I’m not a big fan of assigning games a numerical score. All too often, fanboys simply see the score or the Metacritic average, think it’s too high or too low, and immediately launch a nerd rage fueled rant about how the reviewer is, again, “wrong.” But they’re an established element of games coverage, and like it or not, they’re here to stay. Still, as pointless as I feel they are, I still defend the reviewers’ right to use them, and to assign games whatever score they personally feel is appropriate. Just as with the contents of the review itself, if you disagree with the score, that’s your problem, and not because of any failing on the part of the reviewer.
Why do you even care?
But I suppose the big question that I’d like to pose to the fanboys who feel the need to nerd rage about reviews and make all of gaming culture look bad by association is this: Why do you care what the reviews say?
If you think the review is “wrong,” then you’ve obviously already made your mind up about whether the game is good or not. You’ve probably already purchased (or at least, pre-ordered) it. So why are you reading the review? Do you read reviews for the specific purpose of trying to find points to argue about? Do you honestly think that your rant in the comments section will somehow force to the reviewer to see things your way and bow to your opinion? Is your enjoyment of the game somehow tied to it’s Metacritic score or sales performance? Does the existence of a good or negative review somehow hinder your ability to play the game?
Again, the sole purpose of a review is for the reviewer to state his or her opinion. They may hate your favorite game. They may love something you despise. He or she may even *gasp* hate a game that’s an exclusive to your preferred system or that was developed by your favorite company. But just because you disagree with them doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Guess what? Not everybody likes the same things as you. You may consider yourself a connoisseur of fine games, an expert on the media, but when it comes down to it, you’re just a guy with an opinion that is likely no more or less informed than the the professional writers and reviewers in the mainstream gaming press you like to complain about. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to disagree with reviews, on the contrary: disagree all you want, but understand there’s no such thing as a “wrong” review. There are badly written ones, sure, that don’t properly illustrate their points or back up their opinions with examples, but to say that a review is wrong or to claim that site is no longer worth reading or “biased” because they disagreed with you is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Writing a rage filled email or a comment because you didn’t want to hear what the reviewer was saying only ends up making you look like an idiot. It reflects poorly on the entire gaming community and industry when the type of fanboy-ism and vitriol that Eurogamer’s Uncharted 3 review was greeted with becomes acceptable behavior. So before you pop that Midol and write some long screed about how that review you just read was completely and totally dumb and the writer should be fired or how you’ll never read s0-and-so’s site again, please, do the rest of us gamers are favor and pull your head out of your ass (or out of the ass of the game company whom you’ve decided to deify,) take a deep breath, and think about whether you’re behaving like a rational adult or if you’re simply proving the stereotype that says all gamers are socially-inept man-children correct.