In Brief: Reviewers And Me
I really don’t visit Big Name Gaming Websites on my own volition. I’ll usually only go to one if someone provides a link to something very specific, or if I need to find information on a product on my own. Yesterday, many people were all “OMG!” over the news that GiantBomb was handed over to CBS Interactive. I really don’t care. I really didn’t care about the original “Gertsmann-gate” thing went down, either. The idea that someone’s opinion is more valuable because they’re being paid to give it is dangerous to rely on because it implies that the difference between your opinion and their opinion is simply a matter of dollars.
But I thought about where I do get my valuable opinions from, and those come from people I have actually interacted with, and who I have had conversations with, through which I get at least some level of comfort in knowing “who these people are, and what they’re about”. I’m not going to know intimate details about people’s upbringing just by talking with them through social networks, but I will know who likes JRPGs, who plays a lot of FPS, and who can engage intelligently in a discussion about MMOs. Most importantly, I know that these people are expressing opinions based entirely on experiences that they undertook of their own free will. They weren’t paid to write about a game that was placed on their desks, which may very well be in a genre they never play and therefor know nothing about, or which they know a lot about – and which they despise. I personally feel that no matter how “honest” a paid reviewer claims to be, they still have to produce, they have to produce on a schedule, and as much as their “opinion” may be based on opinion, there’s just too many “business” factors that I feel influence their reviews.
I’m a web developer by trade, and I used to do a lot of development for personal projects. There’s a night and day difference between the work you do for a paycheck, when it’s handed to you and designed to meet the needs of others, and just free-forming the hell out of a project based entirely on whatever you want or need it to do, with no strings attached. That’s where I see the difference between Big Name Gaming Websites and the opinions of friends and colleagues. The former is being paid to have an opinion, while the later is giving an opinion free of any strings, caveats, or asterisks.