PlayStation Universe's Reviews Editor, Dane Smith, recently sat down with the people at Video Game Reviews HQ. They are a brand new site whose mission is to put the spotlight on those in the video game review sector, and help get the thanks they deserve for a job well done. You can check out their site here.
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PSU: How did you get the idea for the website? What was that spark, that moment where you decided, “Hey, we should put the spotlight on reviewers in the gaming industry”?
VGRHQ: As several of us have experience covering other entertainment venues, we had both the insider and outsider perspective. We wanted to make a game site but we knew it had to stand out, and in our travels, we had learned two things:
Firstly, for the most part, video game journalists are at the bottom of the totem pole in the world of journalism. Most professionals (many with whom we've worked in the past) see game reporters as little more than teens or young adults 'playing' at journalism. After all, it's true that you don't need any experience or a Journalism degree to start a website or blog and talk about video games. In fact, most veteran game journalists began by writing about the industry without any credentials. At the same time, it's obvious that we've grown over time, and as critics are the most high-profile journalists in our industry today, we figured they should be honored as hard-working professionals.
Secondly, the majority of critics don't get paid well, if they get paid at all. It's a thankless job and we've all done it. We do it because we love the industry and we enjoy serving our fellow gamers. However, it just seemed unfair to us that while critics in other mediums get paid very well and even earn awards and accolades for their efforts - AND are seen as legitimate professionals - we game critics barely register in the eyes of the public.
And we say, considering how far the industry has come, that this needs to change.
PSU: Can you take us through the day-to-day operations of the site? How many people are in the offices reading through the thousands of reviews that come out weekly?
VGRHQ: You'd probably be surprised at how many of us there are. There aren't half as many as people think, which is why we're actively seeking contributing readers (yes, readers, not necessarily writers). The problem is that we really need people with a lot of experience under their belts, because it doesn't make sense for amateurs to be passing judgment on the critics in question. Therefore, one month into the launch, there are only a handful of us shouldering the review reading load.
It's fine for now, as we're entering the standard summer drought but come fall...well, let's just say we'll be reading a LOT of reviews. We love what we're doing, though, and we believe in it. Ultimately, we'd like our site to become sort of like the Academy for the Oscars. Our industry deserves such an organizing body, don't you think?
One day down the road, we'd also like to have guest critics who select their favorite reviews. We'll be inviting some of the industry's top critics to do this, if they're interested.
PSU: Why do you think reviewers get so much hate from people this generation? Is it because of a perceived drop in quality, or have things always been this way and the gamers of 1995 did not have social media to vent?
VGRHQ: We believe it's a combination of those factors.
It's absolutely true that back in the days of gaming magazines and before the Internet, we didn't have a bunch of people ranting and raving behind that veil of anonymity. It's easy to be all negative and hostile when the only repercussions are more words on a screen. That's part of it, definitely.
As for the fall in quality, there are two parts to that: On the one hand, we're finally starting to see seasoned, talented professionals at some of the larger sources. There are some really fantastic critics out there, and they're so very diverse; GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd is like the consummate pro with excellent insight, and The Escapist's Jim Sterling and Classic Game Room's Mark Bussler have their own singular style and charisma. On the other hand, as gaming has become more mainstream and more and more people are hitting the Internet to talk about the industry, we're seeing more amateurs delivering reviews. Anybody can toss up a review, but not everyone can write a quality review (a fact many gamers unfortunately miss). Hence, there's a VERY large gap in terms of quality out there.
The other problem is the perceived conspiracy theories, like critics being paid off by publishers and nonsense like that, which is great for forum activity, but doesn't really help the reputation of the industry.
PSU: What is your opinion of Metacritic, and how there is a trend of people basing their beliefs about a game based solely around that aggregate score?
VGRHQ: That's a very good question and one of the first we tackled at VGRHQ. We point you to the feature we produced.
Our co-founder spoke to Metacritic founder Marc Doyle right around the time VGRHQ launched, and they touched on the question of a game's perceived quality being based entirely on an aggregate score. A lot of what we believe is in the article linked above, but let us just add this: For a group of people who supposedly can't stand that a game's quality is dictated by an average number, the members of that group (gamers) sure spend a ton of time talking about it.
Also, while we agree with the concept that a game's score doesn't tell you everything, we think it's the consumer's responsibility to actually read those reviews. Seeing a bunch of scores makes for a speedy scan of the possible quality of the product but it doesn't give you all the details. That being said, if you do your research, you're bound to find out what you want to know.
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