Don’t Rely On Overworked Critics This Holiday Season

Game critics have a ridiculous schedule during the holiday season, and that can be problematic.

Game critics have a ridiculous schedule during the holiday season, and that can be problematic.

The holiday season is just about upon us. It’s a time when tons of games hit the market all at once and while it’s great for the consumer, it’s a colossal strain for most game critics.

To clarify, the majority of reviews found online come from part-time, freelance, or even volunteer critics. The overwhelming majority of those who lend their time to covering this industry are not full-time employees, a fact much of the gaming world doesn’t understand. Only those who write for the absolute biggest sources claim a regular salary and even then, it’s probably much lower than most gamers think.

So, what do you get during the busiest time of year when most of the reviewing world is overworked and underpaid? The result should be obvious: As publishers – and the gaming public – demand that reviews go up ASAP, and literally hundreds of titles hit the shelves between October and December, something has to give. Most sources don’t have the manpower or resources to handle the deluge and as such, they have to prioritize.

Reviewers will be writing a LOT of reviews this holiday season, and that's worth noting.

Reviewers will be writing a LOT of reviews this holiday season, and that’s worth noting.

Even prioritizing doesn’t cover all your bases, however. The bottom line is that critics can spend an absurd amount of time reviewing games during the fourth quarter of the year, and most of them get very little out of it. Therefore, as much as they try, it’s more than feasible, perhaps even probable, that their reviews could suffer. They might not play a game as long as they usually do, for instance, or they might miss a few obvious positives and negatives. Now, we’re not saying the review scores will be completely untrustworthy, but this is the time of year to consider extenuating circumstances.

And by the way, don’t resort to the self-righteous “if they can’t do it then they shouldn’t do it” argument. Many reviewers are on exceedingly tight deadlines and some are on a pay-by-piece basis. If they don’t produce, they get nothing. Furthermore, as they’re usually not full employees, it’s easy for any publication or source to simply dismiss them at a moment’s notice, as they don’t have to worry about paying unemployment, benefits, etc. Critics do everything they can to keep up but mostly, they’re overworked, plain and simple.

Of course, if you just stick to the big boys, you should be fine. Places like GameSpot, IGN, Polygon, etc. have large staffs with full-time employees, so they can appropriately handle the workload. We’re just saying that most other sources really can’t deal with such a load, and that’s occasionally evident in the reviews you read during the holiday season. That’s all we’re trying to say.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Rely On Overworked Critics This Holiday Season”

The problem is that most sources have so few people on staff, and the people they DO have on staff are volunteers or freelancers. That doesn’t always give you the best results, I’m sorry to say.

Exactly right. A lot needs to change in the gaming journalism industry.

I understand that critics are definitely overworked and underpaid but if you agreed to do the job, you should do it to the best of your ability. Pay and time should be meaningless (even though we know in reality, they aren’t).

You sort of contradicted yourself in that last sentence…

In reality, pay and time AREN’T meaningless. And because they aren’t, this article rings true. Right?

Yeah, I think you need to restate your comment, Top. 😉

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