If you had asked me at the age of 8 whose opinion I respected most in the world, "professional video game reviewer" would have been pretty near the top of the list, perhaps even as high as "Tony the Tiger." Yet certain events of the past few months have cast an unflattering light on the world of video game reviews. Were you to ask me today to rate "video game reviewer" on a spectrum of job respectability I'd probably place them a little bit below "Adult theater janitor."
Here's why: there's rumors that Konami has forbidden early reviewers from talking about certain aspects of the upcoming game Metal Gear Solid 4, notably the length of the cut scenes or the size of the install. Apparently these sorts of conditions are relatively common for early video game reviews, although they usually tend to be more mundane and spoiler-related, along the lines of, "Please refrain from discussing Luke Skywalker's parentage." But these kind of conditions are a little more unusual. We can't say for sure why Konami felt it necessary to restrict reviewers from discussing the length of the cutscenes in MGS4, although "because they're terrible and just keep going on" is a popular guess.
I'm not going to turn this into a rant about why I hate the Metal Gear games (short answer: because they're terrible and just keep going on) and instead use the shining beacon that is this blog to cast the harsh glare of journalistic integrity on the damp world of professional video game reviews.
Some more background: Last November, Gamespot editor Jeff Gerstmann posted a mediocre review for the mediocre game Kane & Lynch. The only problem with that was that the entire Gamespot website was swimming in ads for Kane & Lynch at the time, even to the extent that I believe they were using special promotional fonts. The story goes that the publisher of the game, Eidos, being somewhat displeased at spending several hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising for the game, and not getting a non-terrible review for their dollar, leaned on Gamespot's owners to fire Gerstmann, which in fact did happen a couple days later. Management denied any connection, although their denials were muffled somewhat by the huge Kane & Lynch promotional rubber mask they were wearing at the time, along with the Eidos promotional rubber penis lodged in their throats.
There's tons of these stories floating around the internet, of PR personal leaning on game reviewers for better reviews. Which raises an important question: Why isn't anyone trying to bribe us? Attention video game publishers: Cracked has zero integrity! Did you see our "12 favorite banner ads" article? If you need a good review for your game, then fire us an e-mail buddy! Check this shit out:
Another curiosity: The common acceptance of the 1-10 rating system, even though everyone out there only uses the scores 6-9. I remember a website called Daily Radar from back in the day, which actually only used 4 ratings, which were Excellent, Good, Fair and Turd as I recall. At the time they were mocked for their lo-res rating system with it's lack of decimal places, and sure enough the site eventually went out of business. (Although looking back on it now, just being on the web at all in the late 90's, is generally regarded as being a Bad Business Decision) But here we are nearly a decade later, and everyone's still dividing game's up into four bins, the great "9" games, the good "8" games, the bad "7" games and the turd "6" games. Seriously guys, there's a reason Siskel and Ebert were reviewing movies with thumbs up or thumbs down, and it's not just because Roger Ebert doesn't know how decimals work.