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Editor's Corner: On Updating Video Game Reviews [Updated]

Posted on Thursday, December 18 @ 13:00:00 PST by

[Update] Earlier this year we tried something that didn't seem to work. GameRevolution has not typically updated reviews and that's for good reason. Regardless, we gave it a try with the free-to-play title Marvel Heroes. I still think Marvel Heroes is a fantastic gaming experience that costs little to jump into and has received frequent updates over the past year. Irregardless, there's a clear reason why we haven't gone back to update any of our other reviews.

In fact, it's become clear that reviews don't really lend themselves to the nature of an Internet constantly updating itself as is the case in news reporting, video content, and even base level code patching to the likes of mega-websites drawing millions of views at a time.

Unfortunately for GameRevolution, we just don't pull down that kind of business and so updating remained an experiment, rather than a motto or method. I would have liked to update more, but in the end I don't think a critic should update an opinion. Here's why:
  • Media of all types elicits guttural reactions from audiences.
  • Updating this reaction does not work the way you want it to.
  • Emotion and feeling often remain dependent on first impressions.
In fact, I think dampening this lessens the value inherent in video gaming. As is the case with a dramatic movie or a particularly moving piece of music, video games have more impact the first time you take them in. I would point to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as a good example of this with many counterpoints in Hollywood's progressive ability to set up action and drama.

As Nathan Drake subsequently destroys and then scales a train hanging off a cliff, the player is forced to think about rather simplistic gameplay mechanics in a totally new way. Obviously, the cinematic presentation goes a long way in making this part of the game really exciting, but I would also argue that repeated playthroughs actually weaken the experience.
  • The player cannot complete the action for the first time, twice.
  • The player cannot repeat the sequence without expecting where and when they'll need to jump or move.
  • The player does not have complete control over his or her character throughout the gameplay sequence.
These narrative conceits inevitably push the player towards the developer's ultimate goal (that he or she has an awesome time experiencing something they could never in real life), though many video game developers have made repeated play or engaging multiplayer the ultimate goal.

Those are the only types of products that really lend themselves to updating reviews. It's unfortunate that video gamers are so hungry for the latest and greatest (be it technology hardware or software) that they inevitably chase the future to the point that the past doesn't matter any more. That sentiment seems to suggest I would rather play old games over and over again, but what I really mean to suggest is that consuming so much video game content in such a short period of time doesn't help the medium.

Further, it doesn't help our progressive acceptance and adoption of new games and experiences. I haven't played The Fullbright Company's Gone Home, but it, like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, may not offer much beyond an immediately gratifying sense of unknown narratives, of the other, of the transporting feeling we all crave from video gaming.

It's to that end that I'm not at all disappointed we haven't updated more reviews in the past year. You could argue that our Destiny review should have been updated, that we should have updated our early impressions of Assassin's Creed Unity and Rogue once we knew more about how each game would be different, or you could request that GameRevolution do more to consistently update its articles, news, features, and other content.

You requests wouldn't go unheard, but it's grown more and more clear to me over the past year that media at large does little to reasonably draw an audience back in. How often do you see films in the theater twice before it lands in your home on disc or via cable television? How often do you follow a favorite band around on tour? How often do you really play a game twice?

I can only say that second-hand sales exist in video games because of this factor, not because of consumer behavior. It would be simple to hold on to every game you played, but it doesn't make sense to. I simply won't go back to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and in that I'm happy to move on to a new video game altogether. I'll describe my experience with video games in order to establish the progression I think most consumers actively engage in when it comes to this medium before wrapping up exactly why I think we'll continue without updating game reviews:
  1. You buy a game. In the past few weeks and months I've written about how consumers in video gaming tend to get themselves far more excited for a product than the likes of a moviegoer or a music fanatic, but ultimately we're talking about an individual buying a product.
  2. You take that game home and play it. Maybe you don't finish it. Maybe you do. Irregardless of finishing the game, you've experienced something you weren't going to otherwise and that includes whether or not you're playing something like Diner Dash. Yes, you could go work in a diner, but it won't be nearly as fun as Diner Dash.
  3. You have that experience. You can't have it the first time again.
Now that sentiment exists in many different aspects of life, but trying to recapture that first attempt at jumping over a bottomless pit in a Mario game will never happen, even if subsequent jumps get more fun or more challenging or more entertaining overall.

It's to that end that I won't say we'll never update another review, but I can say with confidence that it probably won't happen with any real frequency. Here's a few more reasons why if you really need them:
  • Reviews and the climate of review comments remain insufferable. I hate the Internet.
  • Trying to communicate an idea concisely only gets harder as you iterate on it.
  • Having a reaction to something should be organic and original, just like the creation of something.
  • Fighting a first impression is only worthwhile when the activity or ultimate goal rests in reality, as opposed to the end of another linear game.
  • Conflict, literally the struggle a player feels while actively engaged with a piece of difficult software, exists in emotion as much as it does the mechanical inputs necessary to navigate and conquer virtual spaces.
I have said repeatedly in the past that I am not a journalist. I identify myself as a critic and feel strongly that journalism itself should not be an endeavor meant for toys and games, but for real social change. Do video games lend themselves to that in some way? If they do, I couldn't possibly comprehend how and why but I'd love to find out.

[Original] Welcome to Editor's Corner. This is a semi-regular entry in our daily manifesto. It can be about anything going on in the world of video games, but that also means it's an open page in an open book for the editors here at GameRevolution.

Editor's Corner might not appear every week. One week it might be a rant, the next it might be about a big change in the industry or particular thoughts on the process that went into reviewing a game. I know we'd all like to get in the mind of Anthony Severino as he viciously tears Sonic the Hedgehog a new one.

This week, let's talk about our recent decision to start updating game reviews. I think this is a natural progression for our in-depth critiques on new video games, a welcome step up to the plate as games begin delivering ever-evolving experiences.

Years and years ago, early copies would go out to the press and they'd be just about set in stone. You couldn't update cartridges to fix bugs, but as the universes developers ship get more complicated, so do the hunts for glitches and the like. Now we have games launch under the banner of Early Access, games that aren't technically finished with production, but are at a playable and purchaseable state.

Should those games get reviews early and then updates up to and throughout launch? Maybe.

GameRevolution's review updates will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Take Marvel Heroes for example. We had updated reviews of several different games as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles launched last year, but Marvel Heroes is the first game to get a full-blown update and a brand new report card out of the deal too.

Marvel Heroes is representative of a lot of changes going on in video games. It launched as free-to-play and has since tweaked its model to include Eternity Splinters, an in-game currency that means you don't ever have to pay a cent for your favorite Marvel super hero.

Marvel Heroes also opened the flood gates in a beta and has since updated beyond 2.0 with tons of new content patches, bug fixes, and entirely new gameplay modes that extend the entertainment for both newcomers and max-level players.

We felt that Gazillion's work on the game was deserving of an improved score, and hopefully our update text justified that new, higher score in the report card. Still, review updates leave a lot of space for us to decide how and when to strike. Should old video games really get updated reviews from fresh eyes?

I don't think you could craft a better take down of the Survivor video game, for example. There's probably not much use in digging up an old Nintendo 64 cartridge just to let frustrated modern thumbs suffer for the pageviews.

Which games need updated reviews in your opinion? How early should we review games like those appearing on Steam via the Early Access program? Should beta periods like Titanfall's get a review, only to be updated at launch?
Related Games:   Marvel Heroes, Starbound, Titanfall

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