In an ever-changing landscape of media content, it’s harder than ever to stay abreast of news and reviews. When a new movie comes out, do you read one review or multiple? Do you even read reviews or do you watch them? For some people, the overall impressions are all that matter. There are aggregate sites that pull reviews from major outlets and compile an average score, such as metacritic.com and rottentomatoes.com. To me, these aren’t end all be all scores for films or games, but rather how the general populace views them.
I know a majority of my friends gather information from social media, and I do as well. I have a Facebook, a Twitter (@marvelite616 shameless plug), and a Tumblr. Facebook is where I get a sense of what the overall reaction to something is, whether it’s the Facebook group I am a part of reacting strongly to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or my Twitter feed exploding with virtual reality talk. Do you take these impressions as seriously as professional reviews? I think everyone’s point of view is valid; I just like responses that take the subject seriously and look at it with depth.
Some websites are focused toward the type of criticism I find valuable. For me, these sites include GiantBomb.com, Gamespot.com, Polygon.com, and BirthMoviesDeath.com. These are websites that don’t always enjoy the new, popular thing, and almost always take a critical eye to everything. Sometimes a website has a particular person whose views fall in line with your own. One of my personal examples for this is Devin Faraci. He runs Birth.Movies.Death and his reviews are as insightful as they can be savage.
His Zootopia review is evidence of this. Whereas some people might have done a surface level response to a Disney animated film, Devin looks at what the film says about our society and what it’s overall message is. A critic that I feel falls in that line of thinking is Polygon’s Phil Kollar. Games criticism is enthusiast based, but Kollar, like myself, believes that games are capable of more, can aspire to more, and that we should expect more from them. Two of his reviews for widely loved games, The Last of Us and Dark Souls III, show this. Garnering a 7.5 and a 7 respectively, he is not saying they are bad games, rather that they have flaws and could have been more. In the games press; anything less than a 9 is blasphemy to fans, who believe that what they enjoy is flawless and other people’s opinions are simply incorrect.
Thanks to following critics like Kollar for years, I now don’t accept games or movies as they are, I can criticize what I enjoy. For instance, I love Marvel movies. But upon leaving Iron Man 2, I was able to reflect, realize I enjoyed parts but others were disjointed’ leaving the movie somewhat of a mess. In the past weeks, DC fans have claimed that bad reviews for Batman v Superman were a result of Marvel paying people off or reviewers having a biased viewpoint. People don’t understand that to make a living reviewing things, you have to have a deep love for them.
My personal favorite site for impressions is Giant Bomb. When I first visited the site, I thought that some of the staff, such as Brad Shoemaker or Jeff Gerstmann disliked video games. I now know that they aren’t overly critical, they just don’t enjoy run-of-the-mill experiences anymore. It needs to be something special to garner a glowing five star review. This isn’t limited to reviews however. News and opinion pieces are just as important. Patrick Klepek used to write for them, but he now works for Kotaku. He writes articles about topics that aren’t always fun, but are necessary. He recently came under fire for writing about a Nintendo employee who was the subject of a hate campaign and was subsequently fired over it. Covering topics like this that expose the disgusting side of the internet is important, even though it cannot be fun to research or write. He is doing work few others are, not ignoring the hateful side of our culture, instead trying to understand the motivations of people like those who pirate games.
The final critic I wanted to highlight is Giant Bomb’s Austin Walker. Walker is currently in graduate school, attaining a PhD. He doesn’t just review a game or criticize it, he, like Faraci, looks at what it says about us as a culture or what the game is doing specifically that is bringing enjoyment. My first exposure to his work was a blog post about growing up with Dragon Ball Z as an African-American. It is a powerful read that made me question my own views on race and culture. Another post on Grand Theft Auto made me do the same, and that series, to fans, is exempt from criticism or deeper thought. But the post that truly affected me, that made me want to write, was an early post for Giant Bomb. In an editorial titled Why We Write, he speaks about why writing on the internet is important. Your sphere of influence and what views you promote are important.
Reviewers and critics should look at things deeply. A great review is one that takes a concept you are familiar with and turns it on its ear. Certain articles made me look at things in an entirely new light, and that is the true value of internet writing. We have an unrestricted place to talk about the things that affect us, and we shouldn’t shy away from that, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it may be. Hopefully I can eventually write something that makes you re-evaluate a long held belief, than I can say I truly wrote something meaningful like the other writers I admire.