DualShockers Interview: A Critic’s Duty And Opinion vs. Objectivity
At VGRHQ, one of our goals is to bring you into the world of video game reviews. As such, we’re always looking to speak to veteran journalists of the “been there, done that” school, who often have great insight into the often misunderstood – and hardly glamorous – world of interactive entertainment critique.
Recently, we had the chance to chat with DualShockers News Editor and head of PR for Europe and Asia, Giuseppe Nelva. If you are unfamiliar, DualShockers is a site that has made a lot of waves recently, due to their tireless efforts. They bring you more than a few great scoops every day!
There’s no doubt that you’ll one day see one of their reviews on our site, because we have great respect for their critics. In the meantime, we spoke to Giuseppe about a number of hot topics. Here’s our interview:
VGRHQ: In general, do you believe most game critics do a good job? Where do you think they could improve?
Giuseppe: “Well, actually, I think critics are becoming less and less reviewers. I started reviewing games a long time ago, back on the first PlayStation. At that time, reviews were – at least in print – more like a guide; they weren’t all about personal opinion. And I think that’s the way reviews should be.
Now, though, there seems to be more opinion. One thing I’m not enthusiastic about is that a lot of critics are focusing less on the game’s quality and more on their personal point of view. If you look at many reviews, they’re very subjective. The reviewer doesn’t put a lot of effort into stepping outside his own point of view. He doesn’t consider what his readers might like.
For instance, I’ve never liked Mario. I just don’t like the way the games are designed. But I don’t let my personal opinion affect the score of the review (Side note- here, Giuseppe mentioned that he once gave a Mario game a 9). Even some of the big critics, they’re using the review more like a personal soapbox; they use it to tackle social issues or politics or something like that. Honestly, those things should be in separate editorials and they shouldn’t influence the score of the game.”
VGRHQ: Do you believe critics getting free copies of games and other promotional material can impact scores?
Giuseppe: “If the critic is a good one, I absolutely don’t think these things affect the score. If you’re working on a site and you were hired because you’re supposed to be good at your job, you’re supposed to have a sense of professionalism and a work ethic. No matter what the developer or publisher is offering you, that’s not going to influence your view of the game.
I know people say it’s impossible not to be influenced. I don’t agree with that. Lately, there’s been a lot of controversy about Ubisoft giving away tablets to the press [for a Watch Dogs event] and a lot of outlets say they wouldn’t have accepted that tablet. But it shouldn’t affect anything.
My personal rule is that I won’t accept anything that’s not directly related to the game or with high value. Like if it’s a t-shirt, that’s okay? But if I’m reviewing a driving simulator and they give me a steering wheel, I won’t take it. Of course, if I’m reviewing the steering wheel itself, then it’s fine.”
I think it’s important to remember that if you trust a critic, you trust that that critic has a work ethic. No matter how much he’s wined and dined by the publisher, it won’t influence the score.”
VGRHQ: Should we have a universal, standardized review scale?
Giuseppe: “Honestly, no. Every site has its own review policy and they normally publish those policies. It’s the responsibility of the reader to read those policies so they understand the scale. Each critic might have his or her own opinion of what a 5 or a 6 means, but they must follow the site’s policy.
I like the 10-point scale. It’s interesting because in the US, schools use scores of A through F but in Europe, kids in school get grades on a 1-10 scale, so it makes more sense to us. People will criticize critics, saying they’re too often using the upper half of the 10-point scale but in Europe, that’s kind of how it works [in school]. If you’re under 6, you’re not okay.
The problem with a standardized scale is the question- which would you use? The stars? I don’t think that’s a good idea; the more scoring possibilities you have, the more nuanced your score can be. A 1-10 scale, with half-points, gives you 20 possible scores, while even 5 stars (with half-stars) will only give you 10.”
VGRHQ: Do you believe a critic must finish a game in order to write a proper review?
Giuseppe: “I think it depends on the game. There are games that tens of hours. But the shorter games like Assassin’s Creed, if you can’t put ten hours into it to finish the story, you shouldn’t be doing the job. You don’t need to find all the collectibles, but at least you should get to the end of the main campaign and do a sizable amount of the side quests. If you’re overloaded, you have to get someone else to do it.
Longer games are harder. I reviewed Xenoblade Chronicles and that’s a really long game, but I still played 2/3 of the game before I reviewed it. If it’s extremely long like that, it’s acceptable to get deep enough and then judge the game. I also don’t think the game should be judged by the ending because that’s an artistic choice.
If it’s a short-to-average length game, you should finish it. If you don’t have the time, tough luck. Don’t do it. If you don’t have enough reviewers, hire more; if you can’t do that, just skip it. It’s better to skip a review rather than write an inaccurate review.”
We’d like to thank Mr. Nelva for taking the time to speak to us, and we appreciate his candor.
We’ll also mention that we spoke a lot about how reviews are not all opinion. It’s a pet peeve of ours at VGRHQ and Giuseppe agrees:
No, a game review is not all opinion. This implies that anyone can write a review and that isn’t true. Everyone is entitled to an opinion of anything; it doesn’t make them an expert on the subject at hand. Game critics have a responsibility to the consuming public and if they don’t have the requisite expertise, they’re doing a disservice to the readers.
We always use the following example: We’ve got critics who can write a review about anything; a restaurant, for example. That doesn’t mean we can write an analysis that’s as accurate, insightful, or informed as a professional food critic, who knows food.
Anyway, we’ll end on that. Thanks again to DualShockers and Giuseppe and you can count on VGRHQ to bring you much more in the near future.