Is the Written Review Doomed?
It wasn’t long ago when people still read articles online. The technology wasn’t capable of bombarding the average user with endless reams of visual media. YouTube and BuzzFeed hadn’t yet become the colossal phenomena they are today, there was no such thing as ceaseless video ads on major internet pages, and text still held a prominent position in the online space. You could claim it was simply by default due to the aforementioned tech limits but frankly, I think the decreased attention span of the internet user these days simply can’t deal with lots of text.
Of course, this isn’t merely a shift that affects video game reviews; it impacts all forms of digital writing. Content managers and producers are encouraged to tell their team to create more “digestible” pieces for the web. As you may have noticed, simple lists and other media-heavy “articles” now hold sway, especially in the entertainment medium, and the trend is shorter and snappier as opposed to longer and deeper. The average amount of time a user spends actually reading online has fallen dramatically and one wonders what sort of impact this will have.
Bear in mind that ninety-nine percent of all video game reviews exist only in the online world. There are only a few print publications still in existence, so just about everyone gets their review fix from the internet. Furthermore, the demographic in question is, A. likely more technically inclined than most, and B. of an age that would tolerate and perhaps even embrace the death of text reviews in favor of video reviews. Given the current direction and pace of technology, it’s feasible that many new – and even existing – sources will simply switch to all video reviews. At some point, it might be the only way to guarantee traffic; the only way to guarantee people stay on your site.
It will become easier and easier to generate the necessary video content as well, and video content producers are a hot item in the internet world. More people are going to school for this specific skill and more websites will need such help in the coming years. And while a few of the hardcore fans will still want to read reviews, the new generation coming behind them probably won’t care in the slightest. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to assume that the video game text review will all but disappear at some point, and that point may be a lot closer than many believe. The industry is perfectly positioned to lead this so-called progressive charge. The subject matter alone can help drive it “forward.”
Text reviews for movies, music, books, etc can last a lot longer, simply because the age range is much larger for most of these forms of entertainment, and there are still a ton of print publications focusing on these industries. Written reviews should continue to be a staple for a while. But even they are not immune; ultimately, the writing skill, especially in regards to entertainment reviews, may die off. We at VGRHQ wonder how long we’ll be able to pat critics on the back for their ability to craft a great text review. We wonder if at some point, the entire process will have to shift, in that we’ll be forced to bestow our honors on the best video reviewers on YouTube.
It all seems inevitable. The big question is, how long? Many gamers admit to simply watching a bunch of trailers and gameplay footage before deciding to purchase a game, and they typically only read reviews if they “get around to it.” The scores still generate plenty of discussion and argument but let’s face it, most of this revolves around the numbers and not the actual review text. Hell, if some gamers are being honest, they will say they simply glance at the Metacritic average to assist their purchase decision. Actually reading the reviews associated with those numbers is something fewer and fewer people do, even dedicated gamers.
Hence, the problem. Of course, many don’t see it as a problem as the value of the written word has fallen so far in this “advanced” society that employers are quietly starting to wonder if schools are graduating illiterates. But if no one cares, there’s really nothing we can do to stop it, is there? Besides, video games never needed these long, thought-provoking, in-depth, well-researched pieces in the first place, right? They’re just silly toys.
…oh wait, we left that far behind and we’ve finally reached a point where games really do deserve such great text pieces and ironically, it has coincided with the apparent demise of the written review in the industry. Tragically ironic, isn’t it?