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K8egreen
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How do game journalists feel about this? Utterly disgusted. Of course we do. This issue is very much the elephant in the living room of game journalism. Even more discussed than the issue of who PR will give review copies to is the issue of advertising dollars. Web sites that rely on video game advertisements face those ads being pulled if they review a game too low. While all journalists face the problem of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, game journalists have the problem that the only advertising dollars they can sell are from the very industry they review. My fiancé and I run a video game news and review site (http://www.pixelsocks.com), and I'm happy to say that we've never been given any restrictions on how high we have to score a game in order to get a review copy or to break embargo with a review. Now, we're a very small operation: we generally purchase our AAA titles and tend to get review copies from indie developers. We post this on the site, and if anyone wants to know which is which, we're happy to tell. We also don't make a living off of our site: no ad dollars, no nothing. If someone told us we couldn't break embargo unless we gave it a certain score, we can easily either not review the game at all (even if it's a big title) or simply wait until the embargo is over. I'd also be tempted to post what the PR department told us, because game consumers deserve to know that. A major site like 1up faces economic consequences if they do any of those. One of the things I think this issue highlights is how we give too much weight to the game's score and not enough to the review itself. Sure, it's convenient to say a game is 8/10, but that doesn't tell the reader if he'll actually LIKE the game. What we focus on at Pixelsocks is giving the reader a description that gives the reader enough information to judge if he'll like the game. We have a different way of scoring games (explained here: http://www.pixelsocks.com/portfolio/) that focuses on whether it's worth your time and money to play a game. But wherever you you get your game reviews, it should be from somewhere that lets you know how well a game matches your own tastes, not just how technically good it is. FFX is a masterpiece of a game, but if you want your gaming in thirty minute chunks, you're going to hate it. The only way to be a consumer of video games, and video game reviews, is to know thyself. Figure out what it is about games that you like, what you hate, and to learn to actually read the reviews so they have a chance to tell you the information you actually need to know before buying a game. It certainly helps if you can find a reviewer with similar tastes to your own: my fiancé loves the same things that Jeremy Parish does, so his reviews carry a lot of weight in our household. Briefly touching on what Mahhkk said about limited review copies: One of the great things about digital distribution is that it generally eliminates the scarcity issue for PR people(iOS being the exception, as Apple grants very few review copy codes). If a game is released on, say, Steam, there is next to no reason for a company NOT to give out a review copy to a legitimate journalist. We have yet to ask for a digital copy of a game and not receive it. And I assure you, we're not a high-impact publication.
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Apr 20, 2011