Are Game Critics Too Hard On Games?

Aside from Sony trying to intimidate the critic over The Last of Us 2 coverage, there is also the recent spat on social media between press and developers.

By Daavpuke, Posted 01 Jul 2020

It's been a week and we're only Tuesday. Polygon published an article about Vice game critics receiving pushback from the publishing arm over their opinions. While this piece highlights a growing sentiment that game criticism is becoming harder, elbowing into consumerism, it's also an image of a larger divide. Aside from Sony trying to intimidate the critic over The Last of Us 2 coverage, there is also the recent spat on social media between press and developers. Voice actor Troy Baker even threw in a bizarre quote, implying that critics are irrelevant. It's a lot to take in.


The Last of Us 2, Game Critics, Hard On Games, Bad Critics, Angry Press
 

For a while now, the relations between critics and creators has been destabilized. Gaming is growing into an act of blind consumerism, which leads to critical thinking to be seen as an attack, rather than a reflection. Anything that comments on a product makes that product potentially worse and no one wants to admit to buying a worse product. This notion is a weird spot to be in and it's amplified a lot more by the advent of streaming and content creation, where games are mostly just devoured, rather than analyzed. Moreover, content creators are far less obliged to be critical to the product that directly feeds their coffers. If anything, the opposite stands, where someone will eat their words in order to receive a sponsored deal. To the audience, the voices are all the same, so naturally the one who is more critical is going to seem harsher or more negative.

Pressure from game publishers around scores and critique is not new, however. Around the release of Battlefield 3, publisher Electronic Arts was caught sending out emails that attempted to manipulate people for coverage. That's just one example that comes to mind, but there have been dozens of instances. As the resident clickbait artist, yours truly also periodically receives some stern words from public relations (PR) representatives. I can recall a recent exchange from an unnamed company that hammered home how our tone could cost us "opportunities." We have never heard from them since, but that does not stop our coverage. Outlets like Kotaku publicly getting blacklisted from Bethesda games does not stop them talking extensively about Bethesda games. The only losing party in this constant pushback on criticism is the consumer. With no immediate voice to help you see through the forest of games, your decisions are just a blind plunge and that doesn't always work out.


The Last of Us 2, Game Critics, Hard On Games, Bad Critics, Angry Press, Ellie Crying
 

Without a voice of clarity, in whatever tone, games are a product and nothing more. This blank slate gives game companies free rein to be more insidious in what they offer. For instance, EA, again, released Star Wars Battlefront to middling reception. The reboot isn't a terrible game, but there wasn't just much there that was worthwhile. Despite the critique, the game sold well over ten million copies, which gave EA the opportunity to reach even deeper into consumers' pockets. The result, Star Wars Battlefront II, may have been a better game on the surface, but the microtransactions within were so nefarious that it led to laws being changed. EA saw blind consumerism as a finger and went for the whole arm.

The voice of games press is not meant to tear down games or to really amplify them. We're merely here to show and discuss games and hopefully have that voice be heard. Most games press wants all games to be good, because no one likes spending time on a dud. Hell, almost anyone still active in writing is enthusiast press and comes at this from a gaming passion, just like anyone else. Conversations and critique serve to advance a medium that would otherwise stagnate or sink. There is little ulterior motive to that.

 

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): Sony
Developer(s): Naughty Dog
Genres: Action-Adventure
Themes: Horror, Violence
Release Date: 2020-06-19

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