AIAS President: 'Game Reviewers Are Lazy'

By Chris Faylor, Jul 30, 2008 2:58pm PDT Speaking on the current state of video game journalism and criticism, Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences president Joseph Olin has expressed his belief that "game reviewers are lazy" due to a reliance on scores and the desire to review a game quickly.

"When I just see a score, whether it's a Metacritic score or 5 stars or 4 thumbs, that doesn't tell me anything," Olin told Shacknews during an extensive interview, to be published in full at a later date. "I am never surprised when there's as much as a 40% or 50% variance between Metacritic numbers and user numbers."

"My pet peeve is that game reviewers are lazy," he said. "Not all, but in terms of the reviews [something like] 'This game isn't as good because let's compare it to that game over there and that game was great.' Who gives a, you know, bleep?"

"How can you review a game, how can you give a comment about a game like Grand Theft Auto IV, that has 40-plus hours or more of gameplay, if you've only spent 2 1/2 to 3 hours playing it," Olin asked, describing his query as a "challenge" to the industry.

"It would be like reviewing a movie but only seeing the opening, first reel. I don't think that's fair, or is it accurate," he explained.

Prior to his appointment as AIAS president in 2004, Olin served as the vice president of marketing for publisher Eidos and in a position at Microprose. His official biography claims he was "instrumental in raising consumer awareness of well-known videogame publishers and properties from Nintendo to Sega Genesis."

Olin stressed his view that there are "a lot of game critics, but very little critical analysis," describing a "meaningful" review that one that gives "a point of view...good coverage as to what the game maker was trying to do, how they were trying to involve you."

In that instance, he explained, "it's only fair to also point out in the review that some things work better than others, there's some things that were disappointing or didn't live up to the premise or the promise."

However, Olin was clear that "some games obviously don't require [critics to complete the game]," listing Madden as one such example.

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  • What I generally dislike about sites like metacritic is that some opinions really are better than others. There are some reviewers that aren't any better than a message board malcontent looking to trash a game and the review tends to reflect how much they got worked up about one or more things rather than overall quality; or even worse, using it to go off on a genre the reviewer isn't even interested in.

    One would expect unbalanced views to be drowned out in the sea of the average, however the truth is that there are only a handful of people who tend to write good reviews. Many obviously read reviews and opinions of the same game before their own "independent" assessment, allowing some to poison the well early and frame the opinions of others before they play through a game. And social pressure from fans and anti-fans (often the most loud, not most numerous) leads to a biasing in the direction of reviews because of an unconscious desire to please those most interested and invested.

    Any game that requires a modicum of skill, half the reviews will be noobs complaining that they didn't master the game in a few hours, and depth will be savaged as too complicated or bad design because there's an expectation that games should require zero investment. It's very difficult to do anything new when there's a expectation that the game mechanics carry over from every other game in the same genre.



  • It's about advertising, why do all those games with giant full page background banners at gamespot get reviewed almost immediatley whereas games like Siren: Blood curse who seem to be getting lots of love from actual gamers has not yet been reviewed by .....any major gaming site?

    so as much as I don't trust the gamespot reviews i still do visit the site to go by user scores and average joes writeups of the games to gage wether i might rent/buy a game if no demo is available or if i'm undecided by a demo

    and please, some major gaming site review Siren: Blood curse