Last week we published our Sonic Mania Plus review. In this piece, our reviewer gave it a 3.5 out of 5 (a good score!), criticizing it for its “Punishing checkpoints and lives system [that] halt progress and thwart pacing.” Last year, a different GameRevolution reviewer gave it a 4 out of 5, calling it “a game made by fans for fans.” Hosting these two different opinions on GR has now led to us being referred to as “hypocrites” by Sonic fans, because somehow people still don’t understand how the process of reviewing games works in the year of the Lord, 2018.
Publishing a contrarian opinion as a game reviewer is like walking into a virtual lion’s den, only with lions who don’t do much hunting and instead roar loudly in YouTube comments sections. There’s a lot of bleating about “ethics” in game journalism, but the fact remains that if you have an opinion that goes against the grain of popular belief, some people will get exponentially angry about it. When it comes to game reviews, if you dislike a game that other people love, your credibility as a reviewer will be thrown into question. “Why couldn’t you just lie and pretend you liked this game more than you did?” they’ll say before directing you to your review’s impact on the game’s Metascore, criticizing your professionalism without a hint of irony.
Which brings us to the uproar surrounding our review of Sonic Mania Plus. After it went live some folks began popping up on Twitter to express their displeasure at our two different scores. Apparently, reviewer B should have mimicked the thoughts of reviewer A, as we needed to maintain “consistency.” The below tweet was passed around Twitter a few thousand times, and Sonic fans were in agreement: our Sonic Mania Plus reviewer should have plucked his opinion from the hivemind, rather than forming his own thoughts based on his own personal playtime.
Everyone is talking about IGN’s review of Sonic Mania Plus, meanwhile Game Revolution’s review is worse pic.twitter.com/UZbgX1gNXR
— PREM. (@premydaremy) July 11, 2018
That’s Not How Any of This Works
Reviews are naturally subjective. It’s someone’s opinion. If there are two people looking at the same piece of work, then they are going to have different thoughts about it. How would an outlet maintain “consistency” between two separate reviewers? What if reviewer A can’t take on the assignment or no longer works for the site reviewing the game? To keep that “consistency,” should reviewer B put on a disguise and pretend to be reviewer A for the purpose of the review? Should they call them up and say “Hey, reviewer B, I didn’t like this game as much as you did, but I need to pretend that I do so that the Sonic fans don’t call me a hypocrite — can you please fax me through your opinions so I can tell people that they’re mine?”
This lack of knowledge regarding game reviews is best exemplified in a video from YouTuber ‘GamerGuyd7Aces,’ who inadvertently explains why it’s impossible for “consistency” between two reviewers with two different opinions. “[Game critics have] never deferred or deterred me from buying a game, at all,” he said in a video titled ‘The HYPOCRISY of Game Revolution Sonic Mania Plus REVIEWS.’ “I just like to see what other people think, but I still play a game because it’s my experience that matters. When I’m watching a movie, we’re all mostly sharing experiences because we’re watching something, but playing a game you’re experiencing it yourself, so that’s why everyone is gonna have a different experience.”
Perhaps realizing that he’s effectively pointed out why no two reviews can be the same, masterfully deconstructing his own argument in the process, he then hurriedly concludes: “It’s not only that, gaming journalism is just bad.”
Reviews do represent a website or publication, but only in the capacity that a writer has been entrusted by an outlet to critique a particular video game. When you give a reviewer an assignment as an editor, you don’t expect them to immediately fall in line with the opinions held by your site’s other reviewers. Reviews outline the personal thoughts of one critic, with readers then able to decide whether or not that critic’s tastes align with their own. If they do, great! If not, then I guess you just have to carry on with your life, quietly clenching your fist at the thought of someone not enjoying a game as much as you did.