I recently got into an interesting discussion with friends of mine regarding the purpose of game reviews and how they come into play both before and after the purchase of an actual game. Sites like TouchArcade serve an important role in the whole economy of video games, allowing readers to both potentially discover games they’ve never heard of, as well as helping people make informed purchases for games that they do know about. What was interesting to discover is that almost none of my friends use reviews the same way.
Some friends specifically follow certain critics, religiously purchasing the things they recommend while similarly avoiding the games that they don’t. Others were far more concerned with the aggregate score of games, with a mental metacritic score threshold that they won’t often dip below. Most read as many reviews as they can, even for games they’re not interested in, just to be aware of what’s going on in the general gaming world. In fact, the answers that came out when asked what purpose reviews serve for the people I know were as varied as everyone’s idea of the proper way to eat Oreos.
Personally, reviews are all about discovery. iOS stuff is obviously an exception for me, as it’s kind of my job to know everything that’s happening and what every game is about, but in the console world I approach things totally differently. I’ll only read things that pertain to gaming to reach whatever tipping point finally makes me think, “Alright, I need to try this game!" as anything more than that can tarnish my experience.
Not that I’m particularly sensitive to spoilers or anything, but there’s something that makes games so much better for me when I’m experiencing them totally fresh, without having that lingering thought in the back of my head that a game might “drag in the second half" or any other potential complaint that the gamut of journalists might’ve had with their pre-release copy.
Sure, I’ve been burnt badly by this methodology in the past, as my library of Xbox 360 and PS3 games is practically a monument to games I’ve bought and ended up not digging. But, if I buy ten games and only one of them ends up blowing me away, and I was able to get the purest experience of not knowing any of the twists or events that transpire in the game… I’ll gladly accept the cost of the nine other games I don’t really enjoy.
This thought process can make the way I handle reviews of some games on TouchArcade really tricky. Recently, Simogo’s Device 6 ($3.99) was released, and I wholly believe that’s a game that you should buy totally blind. Much like Sword & Sworcery ($2.99), so much of the experience of Device 6 comes down to simple things like how the game is even played. But, just throwing up a five star review with the review text being, “It’s the new Simogo game, trust me, download it" would be the worst review ever in the eyes of many.
So, throwing it back to you guys, what’s your main motivation behind reading game reviews? Will you only buy games that receive certain scores? Are you not as concerned with scores, or even what someone thinks of it, as much as you are just the discovery of a game? Do you just like consuming every review you can find to just be aware of games you’d never have the time (or potentially desire) to play? Does what someone says in a review impact how you feel about a game? Have you ever wished you didn’t read a review?