The question I’m asking today is: “Does the gaming style influences the reviews of the games a reviewer played?” and more importantly, should that influence the review? How subjective or objective do you have to be to write a good review? Let’s have a chat about this topic. While I won’t be able to cover everything, I invite you to a discussion down in the comment section and who knows, a part 2 of this article might be written. So, let’s try and answer these questions.
Gaming style & reviewing
I recently finished Super Mario Odyssey. While it’s on my “write about” list, I haven’t written a review about it yet. Because I do have a big problem with it and that is the jumping controls. Don’t get me wrong, they work amazingly, but I can’t for the life of me do those jumps using Cappy to go over further distances.
I have always been terrible at platforming. For my birthday, my best friend gifted me a copy of the game Celeste on Steam. A sort of Super Meat Boy inspired game where you climb a mountain while doing tricky jumping.
I didn’t get too far into the game before I got too frustrated with the game. I did enjoy myself and had a great time, but I haven’t played it too much since I closed it.
Now, how would I describe my gaming style? Well, I’m a jack of all trades. Since I’m a retro game collector, I play puzzle, racing, fighting, adventure, action, shooter… But, I don’t have a lot of genres I excel at. The genres I struggle the least with are puzzle & adventure games.
I also rarely to never play a game on hard mode. I can’t explain why, but I like to play games on normal mode and if I want more challenges, I play the game on hard mode. I think this is because I don’t want to get stuck in the game. I’m always afraid that when I play hard, I get stuck on a part that I have to do over and over again. I know that’s the point I’ll get frustrated and stop playing the game.
These are things that influence my review. Now, before we break open the whole Cuphead Demo thing again, where a reviewer was so bad at controlling the game; he was unable to get past the tutorial, I’ll always do research. For example, I wouldn’t criticize the Super Mario Odyssey controls too harshly because I wasn’t able to do the Cappy jump while almost every other reviewer was able to do it without an issue.
The gaming style influences the review for sure. That’s why I dislike reviewing games of the genres I rarely play. I only review games in genres I know I enjoy playing. Now, do I think that you need to be good at the game to review it? Well, that’s a tricky question. A very tricky question. More on that later in this article.
Objective vs subjective
Should you be objective or subjective in a game review? To be honest, I think you should be both. At least, that’s what I do in my reviews.
If I would be writing the Super Mario Odyssey review now, I would say something along the lines of: “While the jumping controls are excellent and work well, I wasn’t able to figure out how you do the dive and/or double jump with Cappy. Maybe I should look through the excellent list of tutorials again. Since I feel like I’m the only one who is unable to do that jump.”
If you stay 100% objective in a review, I dislike reading it. These reviews are playing it safe and don’t have any personality. I love reading and watching reviews because I want to know how somebody felt about a game.
Now, when does a review become a bad review? Well, I think I can explain my point with this example. What if I wrote this about the Cappy jump in Super Mario Odyssey: “The Cappy jump is too difficult to execute if you aren’t a master with the controls of the game. So, if you want to get these moons, you will have to make some frustrating jumps or grind for coins and buy them in the shops.” This is something nearing the edge of being a bad review.
I always recommend that you look up other reviews when you are creating your own. You can agree or disagree with what the masses are saying, but don’t assume things like: “you need to have mastered the controls of game X to execute Y.”
Now, does a reviewer need to be good at a game in order to be able to review it? Here are my two cents: sort of. I have seen various reviewers make the mistake of saying: “A game is easy or you can do X and Y to make things happen.” if they are very skilled with the game. This is a mistake because of one simple reason, not everyone has the same skill set as you.
Today I have been comforted by a perfect example. I showed my godchild how 3D adventure games work like Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. An amazing game that I know inside and out. A game I even dare speedrun here and there. Something that comes extremely naturally to me is running around in a 3D space and using Aa running start to jump over big pits. My godchild wasn’t able to make that jumps and had to try several times. Yet, she still enjoyed playing the game and wanted to see more of the adventure. And before you ask, I was 11 (or something like that) when I had beaten this game for the first time and my godchild is 15 at the moment of writing.
Now, would my godchild write a bad review of this game? Well, yes and no. She would complain about how strange the controls feel and how the enemies scare her in a 3D-space. I think those kinds of reviews aren’t bad reviews per se, to be honest. I don’t think that a reviewer needs to be able to be one of the best players to review the game but they shouldn’t be one of the worst players. I have actually declined a few review requests because I wasn’t able to even beat the first levels. I didn’t want to review those games since I felt I couldn’t do the game justice.
You should at least be able to perform all the basic mechanics of the game before you should review it. Otherwise, I think you shouldn’t review the game. Even when you write the review based on the input of other people who are good at the game or know more about the genre, you can have a malformed article, since the soul of the review isn’t there.
You can still enjoy a game even when you aren’t good at playing the game. Another perfect example is Pokémon. I just catch the Pokémon I like and use the same six throughout the whole adventure. I rarely swap my Pokémon for another one. When I have a water type in my party to beat the ground and fire, I’m happy. Even when it’s the weakest water type. This isn’t the best strategy and I always have a lot of trouble defeating the elite 4 or my friends in battle. Yet, I still enjoy Pokémon quite a lot. That much, that I still play it to this day. Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire and Gold & Silver are my favorite Pokémon games ever.
There is one huge thing that I haven’t mentioned throughout this whole thought exercise and that’s the goal of the review. In my opinion, you have two main types of reviews. One is the review to entertain and the other is the review to inform. Some people read reviews of games because they want to know if a game is good or not and/or if it’s something they want to play. Others read reviews because they enjoy reading them. I mostly fall in the latter category and I try to write for both categories.
Does the goal change the fact you need to be subjective and objective? No, not at all. The balance of the two changes. If you write a review to entertain, I feel like you can be more subjective. If you write a review to inform, you should be more objective.
Now, what’s a review to entertain and what’s a review to inform? That depends on the reader and which audience the writer is aiming at. I like people reading my content and coming back for other articles, so I try to make it as entertaining as possible. While I have seen reviews in the newspaper which are written to inform parents if the game is too violent or something of that nature. And the reader’s taste plays an important role here as well. I think that is self-explanatory.
Now, this was an interesting thought exercise. Should reviewers be good at a game? Well, the shouldn’t be the best player in the game but they shouldn’t be the worst. Should you stay 100% objective? No, some subjectivity in the article is good. So, what do you think? Let me know down in the comments. I’m rather curious about what you think and what you think about my opinion.
Thank you for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.