When not to read videogame reviews

tl;dr – Despite how videogame reviews help consumers decide which game to buy, sometimes they tell you too much and will end up ruining your appetite.

I was originally going to title this post, My Love/Hate Relationship with Videogame Reviews. But as I’m writing this I realize that’s not really the message I’m trying to get across.

To say I grew up reading videogame reviews would be an understatement. From GamePro to EGM, from readers’ artworks to the game genie codes at the back, I was always that kid in the magazine section of Safeway for hours on end.

And when I was a kid, armed only with the original Game Boy when many of my friends had already moved up to the Super Nintendo, I relied on videogame reviews to know which game to get next while calculating how many more weeks of chores I’d have to put up with until I could afford Metroid II. While my rich friends were playing and boasting Super Metroid in full 16-bit SNES glory, I confided in the reviews to take me to the promise land: “Four more weeks of limescale scrubbing and I’ll be able to reunite with Samus Aran and her four shades of gray.”

I mean, just look at that space suit…
Image from Wikipedia.

At the end of the day, the single most important purpose of videogame reviews is to single out great games from mediocre ones while preventing consumers from spending their hard-earned money on games they won’t enjoy.

The reason why I love videogame reviews is that professional reviewers are able to catch something a layman like me just wouldn’t be able to. No matter how long I stare at the game, I cannot for the life of me tell if you if it’s running at 60 fps or if it’s running at true 1080p. I also can’t tell you if the battle system in this particular JRPG is comparable to any of the Breath of Fire/Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy/Tales of Symphonia/Ys in the past twenty years. I simply haven’t played that much videogames to reference anything. That’s what reviewers get paid for, and for these things I sincerely say “Thank You”.

The only thing I can tell you over any other reviewer is how I personally feel about a game. Fallout 3 was a critically acclaimed “Game of the Year” when it was released in 2008, but the only thing I could tell you that nobody else could’ve was that I truly hated the user interface for the Pip-Boy 3000. I know, I’m one in a million, but the user interface was driving me insane enough to quit the game for the sake of my mental health.

Pip-Boy 3000, the bain of my existence
Pip-Boy 3000, the bain of my existence!
Image from Wikipedia

And that’s exactly why I shouldn’t read videogame reviews sometimes! Reviewers are paid to know what they’re talking about, and a “good” review has to be specific on the game’s strengths and shortfalls. But because of that, sometimes reviews can kill all the fun out of finding things out for yourself, and that’s exactly what happened to me with Metroid: Other M.

From the moment Nintendo surprised us with the first trailer at E3 last year, I was fascinated by the game and the release date seemed lightyears away. With every new trailer and first-look impressions I was more excited than ever to get my grubby hands on the game and I’m not even kidding you — I had a timer counting down to the release date.

Metroid: Other M
Turned out I can wait, afterall…
Image from Wikipedia

The ironic anti-climatic thing was, I was actually out of town when the game finally hit the shelves so in lieu of buying the game, I decided to check out the early reviews and boy did my heart sink like the Titanic. Not only did the review nitpick on technicality (something I don’t particularly mind in reviews), but it also went into details on how this game singlehandedly killed off one of the most beloved franchise of all time.

It’s one thing for reviews to point out the bugs in a game or that it has something trivial where the player can choose to ignore, but it’s another to list out valid reasons on why this game will absolutely break your heart. It’s not so much as a spoiler alert as it’s more like a magic eye puzzle where once I know what’s beneath the pattern, it can no longer be unseen.

Reading that review sucked all the fun out of the game and any interests I previously had in the game. It’s not that I want reviewers to not go into details. Reviewers have a job to do and they certainly do it well. But in this case, it would’ve been better had I just not read any of the reviews so I can find out by myself.

In a way, this is the classic “Ignorance is bliss.” It’s not the reviewer’s fault for writing full reviews and it’s not my fault for not wanting to buy this game anymore because of it. But when I have my hopes up for the next game, I will learn to take a risk and follow my instinct. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a secret Energy Tank because of it.

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