Steve Peterson’s recent piece in [a]listdaily on “The Death of Reviews” started us thinking about how video game reviews have changed over the past several years. While the original point spoke to their declining relevance in the industry, we say what’s really happened is that journalists and readers have evolved in the ways they approach the review process.
Formal reviews may be less important now, but the core questions that drive them – “Should I spend time and money on this thing? What is its value as a piece of entertainment and culture?” – have manifested in the new media landscape. And what’s great about these new avenues for critical discussion is that they can keep up with the various ways in which games are delivered. They can accommodate DLC, episodic releases, major content patches, bug fixes, emergent events, the state of multiplayer, and more.
Developers and publishers now have the power to show their games’ value directly to their audiences through Twitch and YouTube. Media outlets, unable to devote full reviews to every single major title coming out, seem increasingly comfortable letting ‘day one impressions’ videos and editorials stand in the place of a full critique when necessary. Steam has given the reins to its own users, who can and do engage critically with the products on that platform through user reviews and the new curation program. As communities play a bigger role in shaping the longevity and value of the games they play, Kotaku is moving away from preview coverage to focus more on post-launch stories. Podcasts, opinion pieces, and social media play hugely important roles as we collectively play, dissect, and analyze the gaming experiences we share after release.
These tools for communication will never deliver what traditional reviews once provided – and in that sense, perhaps the age of the review has passed. But they’re born from the same spirit: a common need to find value in things. And that’s very much alive and well.