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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Think For Yourself, Play It Yourself

Opinions. Everybody has one. Reviews and critics are all over the place to tell you what they think about a game. In this day and age, everyone has a voice and can be heard. And those voices WILL be heard, because thanks to the almighty powers of the echo and ripple effect, you're going to be informed of those opinions whether you want to hear them or not.

When you get down to it, a review is nothing more than a detailed opinion. And an opinion is what someone personally thinks. It is in no way shape or form fact. Yes, reviews can contain facts about the game in question, but an overall review is not fact. But somewhere down the line, reviews came to be treated as the gospel, the ultimate source, the fountain of knowledge to inform you if a game is worth your time or should be ignored completely. This has resulted in gamers having less of their own opinion and taking the opinion of a professional reviewer or critic, meaning the opinion they carry isn't truly their own. There's great power in popularity and no matter what you may personally think about sites like IGN, plenty of gamers still trust that site to tell them what to play.

This game was awarded a great score
and gamers still aren't satisfied with the rating.

The reviews from professional reviewers and critics from the viewpoint of most gamers tends to carry a lot of weight behind them because of the reviewer's status. They are a paid video game journalist a popular critic or have a sizable amount of followers on Twitter. If the person is that popular their opinion must be valued above Johnny Regular, right? Of course not! Writers for GameSpot, Game Informer and IGN may be paid to write what they write but at the end of the day, they are gamers just like you and me. They play a game and tell you what they think. Just because they get paid for it doesn't make their opinion anymore valid than yours. "But these guys are professionals!" So? I actually don't like putting that label on them because it elevates them above other gamers when in reality, these guys and gals were fortunate enough to get paid to play video games.

Don't wanna blow $50 or $60 on a game? No problem. You can still rent the game if you're interested in it. Don't be discouraged from trying out a game just because Game Informer gave it a score you weren't expecting. Not every game lives up to the hype that surrounds it. Doesn't mean you still won't get any enjoyment out of it.

Kirby Air Ride scored mixed reviews for it's
simplicity. It's one of my favorite GCN games
in spite of that.

I used to be a slave to reviews myself. Slave may sound like a harsh word, but I think it best describes the point I'm trying to get across. Any game that was given glowing reviews got my money. The 6.0ish club? Didn't touch those games. But as time when on and I regularly read Game Informer and Electronic Gaming Monthly, I found my opinions clashing with theirs. Something incredible had happened. I gained the ability to think for myself, thus forming my own opinions. I don't even look to reviews for game purchases anymore because I have a pretty good idea of what I like and what I don't like. I liken it to a robot gaining self awareness, because when you start thinking for yourself, you become so much more than a machine. Thinking on your own is a very wonderful thing. I've experienced so many more games as a result. Not every game I own is some triple A blockbuster and not every game needs to be.

There was a time when listening to the critics came back to bite me. Everyone and their mother slobbered all over Chrono Cross, the sequel to Chrono Trigger, one of my all-time favorite games. There are critics that site Chrono Cross as one of the greatest games ever made. While I think Chrono Trigger is very much deserving of being called such a game, I firmly believe that Chrono Cross is a steaming pile of feces. In spite of the many characters the game had, so many of them were devoid of any personality, making them bland, soulless characters. The story was a convoluted mess. I'm sorry, but when I'm 20 hours into the game and I don't have a clue what's going on, there's a problem. There was only two worlds to travel to, making time travel nonexistent. The tech attacks were also nerfed significantly. I don't mind when a sequel tries something different because the industry does need innovation, but in the case of Chrono Cross, I don't think trying something new really worked. I'm aware that I'm in the minority with my opinion and if you like the game, I'm totally fine with that. Personally, I don't see what the fuss is about.

Then you've got gamers that overreact when a game gets a score that they feel should be much higher. GameSpot has a history of this with the Legend of Zelda series. Back in 2006, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was given an 8.8, a very good score and the fan base lost it. I guess there's some rule that all Zelda games must be given scores of 9s and 10s because they are the pinnacle of gaming. Ocarina of Time 3D was scored an 8.5. Again, a very good score but Zelda fans wanted something higher. And after that, Skyward Sword score a 7.5, causing a huge uproar among fans. I guess since every other game reviewer went nuts over the game, GameSpot had to do the same thing. Even if you don't agree with Tom Mc Shea's opinion, you can still respect it. Heh, try telling that to the rabid Zelda fans.

A lot of gamers take the number more seriously than the words associated with it. 7.5 isn't a bad score at all and neither is an 8.0 or a 8.5. Games that score in the area of 7 and 7.5 are considered good games while games that get 8.0 are seen as being great. I can't see why anyone would throw a fit over that. I guess games that get 9s and 10s are the only ones that matter. Does a game have to score in that range in order for a gamer to feel justified in playing it or buying it? Is that really what this industry has come to?

It may seem a bit hypocritical to write this since I post reviews on this very blog myself. Am I saying gamers should stop reading reviews? Of course not. Being a regular reader of Retro Gamer, the review section is one I always look forward to, even if my opinion may differ with the reviewer on certain games. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't be afraid to think for yourself and try a game out on your own. Will you always find winner? No, because no matter what, there's always gonna be games that you just don't mesh well with. I thought I was going to love Chrono Cross but I couldn't have been anymore wrong. On the other hand, I was afraid I wouldn't dig Kirby's Air Ride because it was overly simple but I ended up loving it. The mixed reviews and my overall dependence on them was the reason I didn't play the game for nine years.

I know money is very tight for a lot of gamers. $50-$60 is a lot of money to invest in a game and you want it to be a worthy pay off. If you aren't sure about a game, give it a rent. Who knows, you may end up liking the game more than what the critics did but you won't know unless you take a risk. There's always the chance that you may be disappointed with the game. Not every game I've played was one I've liked but at least I formed my own opinions and didn't just side with that a reviewer said.

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