It’s Time To Start Trusting Video Game Reviewers (2024)


  • Games journalists often beat difficult games, but face criticism and abuse for their reviews.
  • The myth that games journalists hate video games is false; they are passionate about the medium.
  • To find trustworthy game critics, look for those with similar tastes and opinions to yourself.

I get it, games journalists are terrible at video games. Remember that one guy playing Cuphead? Let’s ignore the fact that games journalists regularly beat entire games in a far shorter timespan than regular people who don’t have deadlines to meet. Turn a blind eye to the fact that they don’t have a single guide to help them beat a difficult boss or access an area with some abstruse entry method like drinking poison that kills you at any other time. Forget about the fact they beat them before the patches arrive to make the game easier.

They also hate video games, and chose to cover this beat because they want to destroy the entire industry. It doesn’t matter that wages are low across the sector and crunch is rife, especially when reviewing hundred-hour games with bafflingly tight turnarounds. We hate video games, and can’t wait to tear them down.

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The myth that games journalists not only suck at video games, but also actively hate the medium, is one that I’ve never understood. However, the issue with game reviews is much easier to parse.

Gaming in 2024 is team-based. You’re Team Xbox or Team PlayStation. Team Fortnite or Team CoD. Team Stellar Blade or Team Censorship. Team Developer or Team Journalist. That’s how many gamers see it, at least.

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There’s a major problem with games marketing that fuels this feudal misery. Hype trailers for games years away from release whip fans into a fervour, and the excitement heightens to a level where any criticism of the game is seen as a personal sleight. Calling Stellar Blade’s protagonist Eve boring meant that you’re a part of the pro-censorship wokerati who can’t stand a beautiful woman leading a game.

There’s another issue here, to do with reading comprehension and media literacy, but I won’t go into that today.

Team Elden Ring got mad last week, when a couple of reviews said that it was too difficult. Accusations flew across the Twittersphere, the critics behind said reviews were told in no uncertain terms to ‘git gud’, and suffered far worse abuse, as misogynistic as it was vitriolic. Cuphead has been brought up, again.

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Fast forward a week, and players are levelling the very same accusations at the FromSoftware DLC. Countless mods have added easy modes to the game – one called Journalist Mode, despite the fact journos beat the game without needing it. Players feel bosses are unfair, they believe the systems are too abstruse, and yet they refuse to engage with some of the game’s core mechanics due to believing they’re a cheat’s way out. I wonder if any of them have apologised to the reviewers who pointed out these very issues?

It’s not just an Elden Ring problem. When Kallie Plagge reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 for GameSpot, she was hounded by thousands of players for pointing out the game’s negatives. She didn’t like the edgy aesthetics that played no meaningful part in the gameplay, so she was labelled a prude. She pointed out offensive depictions of minorities, so she was called an SJW. She called out the technical issues obvious even on PC, so she suffered a barrage of hatred.

Plagge was at the receiving end of a whirlwind of abuse from gamers excited for CD Projekt Red’s new title, eight years in the making. Their excitement, as well as the marketing campaign, blinded them from seeing fair criticism as exactly that – fair. I don’t know her, but I imagine Plagge was excited to play the game, too. Games journalists and critics like games! And yet, her 7/10 review sparked days of collective outrage.

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However, when the game released, fans saw the truth for themselves. Just days after Plagge’s review was published, a post appeared on the Cyberpunk subreddit titled, “Everyone talked sh*t about her, but I’m starting to agree with Kelly Plagge [sic]”. On the whole, the review was more positive than the sentiment on the subreddit. The fan reaction was so intense that a new subreddit, r/LowSodiumCyberpunk, was set up by the minority of fans wanting to escape the swathes turning on the game for the exact reasons Plagge pointed out.

What gives? At what point do you start trusting game critics and those who review your games? As much as you think we’re different to you, that we have different agendas and want to tear down the things you love, we’re not. We love video games. We wouldn’t do this job otherwise. But we have to be honest about our opinions.

So find someone with similar opinions to you. While Eurogamer’s reviewer found the DLC so difficult it spoiled their experience, our reviewer relished FromSoftware’s seemingly insurmountable challenge. I myself play and review a lot of RPGs and text-heavy games because I’m a book nerd at heart. If you, too, like those sorts of games and welcome valid criticism of the genre, keep tabs on my OpenCritic page.

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This is how to navigate the media landscape. Find someone your tastes align with, or whose criticism you enjoy reading. Find your Roger Ebert. Don’t just look at the biggest reviews on the biggest sites, because you lack important context about the person behind the webpage. You can expect their review to be balanced and fair, but it will also be entirely subjective – reviews are opinions, after all – so you need to dig a little deeper to understand whether this is a perspective that is similar to yours. If your favourite reviewer writes for an independent zine, go for it, that might be more valuable to you than an IGN or TheGamer write-up.

But no games journalist is out to get you. The vast majority try to be fair in their criticism and unbiased when it comes to inconsequential arguments like console preferences. Nobody’s going to give Astro Bot a two because they love Xbox. Nobody is trying to destroy game developers’ lives. We’re honest, we’re opinionated, we’re human. Just like you.


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It’s Time To Start Trusting Video Game Reviewers (2024)
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