Does the Video Game Industry Have the Worst Critics?

Some don't even see video game critics as true journalism professionals.

Some don’t even see video game critics as true journalism professionals.

Firstly, let’s clarify one thing: The idea that there’s no such thing as a “good” or “bad” critic, that it’s all “just opinion” and anyone can do it, is an insult to the profession. Yes, it is indeed a profession, whether you like it or not. Most of the angst surrounding critics in all venues simply centers on jealousy, in that those claiming it’s meaningless or easy hate the fact that someone is “getting paid for their opinions.” We need to admit this truism before moving on.

Secondly, there’s a reason why Roger Ebert won a Pulitzer (and he won it for Criticism; bet you didn’t know there was a Pulitzer Prize for that). There’s a reason why Peter Travers is so widely respected. There’s a reason why certain restaurant critics have so much pull in the world of food. And then there’s books and various forms of art; it seems every major entertainment industry has its fair share of top critics. On top of which, enthusiasts can easily name those critics. Why does it seem like video games are so different?

Is it because we just have poor-quality critics? Is it because even our best are still neophytes in the field of criticism? Can you imagine a video game critic ever winning that Pulitzer for Criticism? Even hardcore gamers have difficulty naming a handful of top-tier critics, and those outside the industry can’t even name one. It doesn’t help that 99.9 percent of all game criticism operates exclusively online, which means amateur bloggers and even random teens in their parents’ basement can contribute reviews, and even be recognized for those reviews on major sites like Metacritic and GameRankings.

Maybe we don't have top-level critics because the industry still needs to grow up...

Maybe we don’t have top-level critics because the industry still needs to grow up…

Furthermore, because so much of game journalism is online, the money in poor. The overwhelming majority of game journalists still earn only part-time pay and many work on a voluntary basis. Even the full-timers at the big sources receive shockingly low salaries, especially when compared to the big sources in other venues. It’s difficult to land top talent when you can’t afford it. And we’re still trying to cast off the shackles of video games being nothing but a “kid’s hobby,” which it obviously was for quite some time.

Even so, there are glimmers of hope out there. We here at VGRHQ honored quite a few great critics in 2014, and we’re bound to find more in 2015. There are many critics we respect and many that gamers really appreciate. A lot of our reviewers work extremely hard (and again, for very little money), which is something many gamers don’t fully understand or refuse to grasp. Let’s also not forget that when nobody recognizes you for your work, when it feels like a thankless job, it becomes less and less interesting. Most of the time, gamers don’t congratulate a great review; they spend their time bashing reviews they dislike. It speaks to the general maturity of the gaming public, unfortunately.

And perhaps that’s the bottom line: Until we grow up, we won’t have critics that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the accomplished greats in other industries. If we continue on the current path, it won’t really matter. We won’t make the necessary strides and in the world of journalism, video game journalists will continue to reside on the absolute lowest rung of the ladder.

5 thoughts on “Does the Video Game Industry Have the Worst Critics?”

Everything written here needs to be reprinted in the damn Times. I’m 38 years old and I know that video games still have a terrible reputation, and our journalists and critics are still laughed at. It’s getting tiresome, it really is.

But yeah, we are partially to blame. Until we grow up, nothing will change.

There are a few critics I like but for the most part, non-gamers have no idea who they are. I guess that’s the point but maybe our critics don’t need recognition…maybe they do it just because they love it. 🙂

I think they do but they get treated like garbage at every turn. How long can you enjoy that?

Short answer: Yes.

Unfortunately, we only have a small handful of decent critics. This is one of the reasons why I’ve stopped reading a lot of them.

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