Niche games and useless reviews

Sir TapTap

I encountered the following statement regarding Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture:

“Totally see myself rating this a 6 out of 10 for the site. I’m just completely bored with the mechanics in this game.”

If you’re unfamiliar, Rapture is a “walking simulator”, the only “mechanics” are move, look, a very slow run button and an “interact” button (actually, every button interacts). It’s not my intent to explain the appeal of walking sim games here, but suffice it to say if you were looking into this game hoping for Deep Mechanics you have absolutely no idea what this type of game is.

And in a way, that’s fine. You don’t have to like walking sim games, many don’t. But why, why why why would you be reviewing a game you know you won’t appreciate? By reviewing a walking sim when you don’t like the style of game, you become the button masher reviewing a fighting game. Your review is worthless to the outsider, because while they agree with your review they weren’t going to buy the game anyway. Your review is worthless to the insider, because your opinion is uninformed and irrelevant. Your review is worthless, full stop. A waste of ink and paper, of pixels and electrons.

I’ve seen these “useless” reviews far too many times, and it’s an extremely concerning trend in the industry. Sites have people who don’t like SRPGs review the latest Disgaea and they crap out reviews that fail to understand what the mechanical changes bring. Sites have people review a new niche fighting game and comment on graphics and how the controls are too complicated instead of how interesting the game is to a learned fighting game player. All too often the score is a 6 or a 7 out of ten with a “fans of the genre will appreciate it”. Well no shit, why didn’t you get a fan of the genre to review it?

Part of the problem seems to be this mistaken idea that a site needs to review everything. So once a walking sim becomes popular a bunch of sites that utterly despise them have to do it. Once Street Fighter comes out you must review it. I strongly disagree with that notion, but there’s such thing as freelancers–if you’re going to review a game, hire someone who actually understands what they’re playing with.

Now, I’m not saying reviewers need to like the specific game they reviewed. I like walking sims, I did not like Dear Esther, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say that in a review. But a fan of the genre telling you why they didn’t like Dear Esther is going to be a thousand times more useful than someone who hates the genre telling you why they didn’t like it–extremely often the “review” reads more like a review of the genre in these cases and the text could simply be replaced with “it’s a fighting game 7/10” and the quality of the review would remain intact. This is why I’ll never review FIFA. No, I don’t like FIFA, but no one considering buying FIFA would ever be helped by my complaints.

If you are pumping out uninformed reviews that just amount to “game is of a genre I don’t like”, please stop. You are feeding fans garbage and greatly harming the signal to noise ratio and finding a good review is already so, so hard. If a site is guilty of this, let them know you expect an informed opinion when reviewing your favored genres.

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Author: Sir TapTap

Opinionated gaming spikeball dedicated to showing cool games and making games more enjoyable for everyone.

  • On some occasions, “game is of a genre I don’t like” reviews are actually warranted and useful. When games are marketed poorly, people don’t get the information they need to know whether they’ll actually like it, and editors may choose the wrong reviewer to assign the game to.

    A good example is Republique Remastered, which I ended up getting a refund for on Steam. The “screenshots” depict it as an over-the-shoulder third-person action game, but actually it has fixed camera angles and was closer to an adventure game full of action sequences with clunky controls. In fact, currently none of the images on the Steam store page are actually in-game screenshots – it actually has misleading advertising. There are a lot of “gameplay is bad” reviews because people are basically being tricked into buying a game they won’t like.

    If you see a lot of “Genre I don’t like” reviews, it’s a good indicator that the official marketing is not enough to make a good decision whether to purchase the game. You should either check out some playthroughs, or just move on to another game that isn’t trying to trick you into making a bad purchase.

    • You seem to be talking about user reviews, not professional reviews. When a professional reviewer reviews Disgaea, a very well known mainstay of the SRPG genre, and spends the entire review complaining about SRPG mechanics, that is a problem full stop. Marketing has almost no relevance (and shouldn’t have ANY relevance) to professional reviews.

      Besides, we’re still talking about different things. I’m talking about reviews that just complain about the genre when the reviewer knew full well what they were playing, you’re talking about reviews that complain a game isn’t as advertised. Not at all the same.