Maybe I’m just new here, but what’s the deal with “in-progress” game reviews?
And why did I bold reviews?
Over the past few years, partial and “in-progress” reviews have become quite commonplace on gaming sites, mostly large, but some small. And it’s becoming more and more routine to see these pop up within hours after a game is released. Understanding that views are king in this online world, it seems perfectly reasonable for folks to want to get their opinions out in the open as soon as possible. And the honest truth is that with many games these days is that it’s fairly easy to formulate an informed opinion of a game after only a few hours of play.
But can these initial opinions honestly be called reviews?
“Initial” or “first impressions” posts are common online. In them a writer offers an in-the-moment rundown of sentiments, pros/cons, likes/dislikes concerning a particular thing, be it a video game or a coffee maker. It’s inherently understood that these impressions should be taken as in-the-moment, quick, and mostly importantly, fluid feelings. As important as first impressions can be, they are also changeable. Very often, writers follow “first impressions” articles with more substantial reviews that, while certainly not set in stone for the ages, represent their truest and most cultivated thoughts on that video game or that coffee maker.
Unfortunately, it seems that the word “review” has become quite abused in the online world, especially when it comes to games. When I seek out game reviews, I expect that the writer (1) has at least completed the bulk of a game if not finished it, and (2) the writer has also ventured at least a few hours into a game’s underbelly through side quests and such. I’m more than happy to read someone’s “I’ve played for an hour and here’s what I think” post, so long as it’s not titled a review. Because it’s not. It’s can’t be. (Well…unless the game is only an hour long. Then there, you got me.) A review should be something that helps enlighten the judgement of the unfamiliar reader; a helpful tool for someone who simply wants to understand whether or not something is worth investing in. A review may be opinionated, but it shouldn’t be only a list of (hasty) opinions.
More unfortunately, this leads into a larger discussion about the current and somewhat questionable state of gaming journalism. No doubt that it’s a tough world in which to pursue this noble venture. Where once people had to set pen to paper into order to complain to their favorite author about their review of this or that game, now e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e has the ability to make their unhappiness known e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e else with just a few keystrokes. But, bad comments or no, when the point of a gaming site is to host game-related articles, it’s no wonder that that semantics are thrown aside in favor of PUBLISH NOW! I can’t say that I necessarily miss the days when game reviews didn’t come out in print a month or two after the game’s release, but [old person alert] at least those articles felt more substantial and more meaningful in the end.
I enjoy reading what people think about and do in games, and I’m more than fine with wading in the shallow end with folks and their first impressions of games. As it’s often during a game’s first impressions phase that one’s strongest and most lasting views are formed. Realizing that my case here is merely a seed in the breeze, I’m only searching for a little more transparency. First impressions of a game are just that – one’s first-time gut reaction to the beginning elements of a game. Call them “initial impressions,” “first thoughts,” “opening views,” or whatever suits a particular fancy. But please, don’t call them reviews.
What do you think? My expressed opinions are my own, so am I just being too much of a fuddy duddy? (After all, game reviews aren’t going to solve world peace or save the whales.) What are your thoughts on game reviews in the Internet age?