After 20 Years of Being a Critic, I’m Starting to Hate Games

There was a time when I loved to play games of all kinds. Now, I'm starting not to care.

There was a time when I loved to play games of all kinds. Now, I’m starting not to care.

Hello. I’d introduce myself but as we’ve all taken the anonymity vow at VGRHQ, I’ll pass on that. Let’s just say that I’ve been reviewing video games since 1994, when my parents thought critique of games was akin to the critique of Barbie dolls.

Despite the fervent protestations of my parents, I embarked on a journalism career that would ultimately lead me to my goal: I’d get to write about games on a daily basis, and get paid for it.

As a kid, the idea actually kept me up nights. I dreamed of the day I’d go into work and play the latest and greatest, get paid well for my thoughts on my favorite hobby, and even become a superstar journalist. Of course, I never expected the industry to become as big as it is today, and it’s a little disappointing to see that we still don’t really have a “superstar journalist.” I definitely don’t qualify.

Why do so many games bore me now? Is it because of my chosen career?

Why do so many games bore me now? Is it because of my chosen career?

However, I’d be fine with that. I’d even be fine with earning crap money for doing something I used to love. My biggest issue stems from that last bit: “Something I used to love.” Sadly, as the years have passed, I’ve realized that I simply don’t care about games very much. Some of my more cynical friends say I finally “grew up” while others shrug and say, “hey, it just got burned out of ya.”

I’m not unfamiliar with the concept. I enjoyed playing the trumpet at one time, too. But after four years of what amounted to a boot camp in high school (marching band would require up to 30 hours/week in the fall and spring), I never had any desire to play again. I still don’t. I’m worried this is happening with games and as a direct result, I’m trying to change my career in mid-stream.

What happened? Well, maybe it’s because being a game journalist involves a lot more drudgery than anyone thinks. Or, maybe it’s because I spend the majority of my time reviewing games that aren’t even remotely special. What most people don’t realize is that a lot of games come out each and every month, but most gamers only pay attention to a few. Critics aren’t allowed to do that; we have to review every piece of junk that comes our way.

And even if they’re not junk, they’re still little better than average. There’s only so much of that you can take, you know? On top of which, it could be the most thankless job in the world, and that’s hardly an exaggeration. Developers everywhere can earn millions more or suffer huge layoffs based on the decisions of critics. Our impact on the industry has been well-documented by every analyst out there. And yet, we get paid little and worse, few gamers even care what we do.

I used to think this would be my dream job. ...didn't turn out that way.

I used to think this would be my dream job. …didn’t turn out that way.

In fact, most just hate on us 99% of the time. The immaturity of the core gaming group has started to get to me, so maybe this is the true culprit. Nobody knows the name of a critic unless he or she lambasted a game everyone else loved. Everyone thinks we’re paid off, bribed, or “in bed” with such-and-such publisher. Is it any real surprise that I was never exactly fulfilled in my position as a game critic?

Hey, I don’t need accolades. But a little “thanks for the review” goes a long way, and I rarely saw that. All I saw was complaints, massive egos, hissy fits, and general hostility. Couple that with the aforementioned drudgery, and I’m afraid I’ve become sick of the whole industry. I’m even starting to ignore some of my backlog, which I’ve never done before.

Anyway, that’s my story. For the record, we started VGRHQ with the express intent of “giving the critics their just due,” and that’s because all of us feel – or have felt – like this at one time or another. I feel it more keenly than others, though, which is why I was commissioned to write this. It did feel good to write, that’s for sure.

As for the next step, who knows?

6 thoughts on “After 20 Years of Being a Critic, I’m Starting to Hate Games”

This problem is not exclusive to a games reviewer. I mean, I’m not in the game business at all and even I have this issue now and then. I’ve had times that I thought I’d never play a game again. Times that I thought I’d better sell my consoles. And then it came back. The problem for you is that because of your job you can’t just quit playing games for a few months. I can, and I have e few times already.
Maybe it’s just time to take a long vacation?

I’m sure it’s not exclusive to critics, but most gamers don’t play a fraction of the crap critics do. It makes it that much worse.

I’m not even sure taking a vacation would work after all that…

I’d like to think that the love of anything can be cyclical. In other words, even if you’ve had your fill, you can step away for a while and the passion will always return…

But the way this article is written, I’m not so sure the passion is still there.

Exactly why I never wanted to be a critic. I actually foresaw this happening to me a long time ago, and I decided to pass. 🙂

LOL Me too!

I think everyone can become disillusioned with their job if they do it long enough. I can imagine how frustrating that disillusionment would be if it was once something I loved.

As born_naughty says above, maybe a long vacation would help. I hear game journalists don’t get such things very often though…

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