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Reviews Are The Gospel
"I'm in the midst of tearing through GoldenEye 007 so that we can get a review up for you and you can finally know exactly what to think about the game (please, please pick up on the sarcasm there)..."
For whatever reason, gamers tend to, on the whole, place more stock in professional reviews of works than fans of any other medium. Only arguably second to news, reviews of the newest games are the main attraction of most gaming sites and magazines. In fact, review scores are just as likely to be used as personal opinions in Console Wars debates or to argue which of the newest killer apps is the best.
This is why 8.8 situations occur with such startling regularity. Of course, while there's nothing wrong in placing some stock in the opinions of others, review scores shouldn't be regarded as authoritative, simply because reviewers are, like everyone else, human beings with their own personal tastes and preferences. Not to mention that reviewers are not exactly always trustworthy. Worse still, professional reviewers are often just people with a job, and usually view gaming as a burden in order to complete their jobs, instead of a genuine hobby. Naturally, this causes them to often have different tastes than ordinary gamers, and enjoying the product is at best only a small part of their rating and at worst isn't even considered.
On the surface, one could say there's some logic behind all this — after all, purchasing a $60 game is a much riskier endeavor than buying a $15-20 book or a $10 movie ticket, so it makes sense that many people might look to something, even if it's a bad source. However, over-reliance on reviews is just as common in areas where software piracy is ubiquitous. Another reason perhaps is that video games as a medium demand more time and attention from us than most other entertainment forms, so most of us need to be discriminatory in the games we play. It's worth mentioning that reviews aren't without biases. What the critic finds to be So Okay, It's Average, you might find So Cool It's Awesome because it's practically tailored to your tastes and desires in a game; and the vice versa happens, too, often leading to Hype Backlash, Critical Dissonance and It's Popular, Now It Sucks situations.
Culturally speaking, this deference has existed for awhile, as aftershocks from The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. One of the big problems of first and second generation video games was the general absence of any detailed information about games. This leads to many, many upset consumers who had to guess whether a game was any good and quickly became frustrated to discover they just put a lot of cash down for a Porting Disaster or imitation of an arcade game they thought they liked. This is the reason for the "Nintendo Seal of Quality" — which wasn't supposed to mean "awesome game" so much as "playable game" as well as "Nintendo has licensed this game to be sold" (the 1st and 2nd generations also had games that were not licensed by Atari, which was part of the problem as they never had to go through quality control — quality here meaning "playable"). Unfortunately, many seem to see reviews as the only means to get their information from, even though much more objective outlets exist, many of which can not be bought like professional reviewers can.
This mentality often hurts some works when people believe a reviewer's word to be law. Several times, reviewers become rather jaded and tend to be a bit mean to works they don't really really like years down the road. Not to mention, some reviewers often have a Bias Steamroller, which can also cause them to take points off of a work merely because they have certain pet peeves, or add points because they like the franchise. In some of the worst cases, this leads to people Praising Shows They Don't Watch or Complaining About Shows They Don't Watch. An even lower case is when somebody starts an argument with another because the latter likes or dislikes something that a reviewer has spoken a contrary opinion of, and the former doesn't have an opinion of their own but is making judgments based on what the reviewer said.
The overall effect: games sometimes cater to what developers believe will get them a good review score instead of what fans will like. After all, what's the point in making games people will enjoy if the reviewers hate them and no one buys games the reviewers hate regardless?
This mentality has started to decline in recent years, at least with the video games, after companies like Ubisoft have been found to be attempting to fix reviews by threatening to withhold games or money in advertisement. Because this is a business, reviewers are often very wary about angering the people paying a large portion of their salaries (advertisements). There are hints that this has started awhile ago with magazines and sites saying stuff around the lines of, "7 is the lowest we can give this without Sony pulling advertisements" and how in general, a lot of very hyped games received a much more detailed review than games without that much advertisement. The advertisement as well as copies of games being withheld has been mentioned before, especially after the Kane and Lynch and Assassin's Creed fiascoes, in which the developers complained to GameSpot and EGM about wasted advertisement money. Nintendo Power was also known for refusing to criticize any game developed or published by Nintendo for this very reason.
Of course, the reason that publishers want good reviews is not out of any sense of pride but due to some correlation between good reviews and good sales. Quick! How many people among you, your friends, and your family would be willing to buy a game that rates 3 out of 10 with the reviewer panning the gameplay? How many would at least be willing to look at and consider a game that got 9 out of 10 with the reviewer praising the gameplay? For developers, reviews may be much more a point of pride but even then, developers will worry about the monetary aspect if only because they're under the thumb of publishers who may not give developers contracts if they don't make money (no matter how good the game may or may not be).
Also said to be a phenomenon among fans of live theater. Indeed, reviews can influence the act itself over time, replacing actors or modifying scenes slightly.
The exploit of this mentality is also a common marketing practice. Books often make a big point of showing that they are a bestseller or are written by the author of a bestseller or quote positive reviews on the back, movies run trailers after release that say something along the lines of, "Critics agree — this movie rocks", and video game advertisements often show scores from sites like IGN and, like books, quote the reviews. This is also part of why there exist "Game of the Year" releases, key word being "part of".
A recent trend in general media review sites has been Top Ten Lists. These are usually listings of the "Best Games of this Generation", "Best Albums of the Last Ten Years", "Best Television Shows of the Last Ten Years", etc. While such lists can be helpful in influencing purchasing decisions and even discovering some obscure gems, they too need to be taken with a grain of salt. First of all, such lists are generally compiled by anywhere from four to one hundred different authors. Thus, there tends to be a lot of disagreement among the writers over what does and does not belong on such lists. Second, authors of these lists are often worried about possible fan backlash. Thus, they often like to play it safe and avoid including entries that are likely to fuel tons of hate mail and scathing message forum comments. Music-based lists are especially prone to such backlash, which is part of the reason why they tend to heavily favor "fan approved" genres like indie/experimental rock and rap/hip-hop over more polarizing genres like pop and country. Perhaps most importantly, top ten lists are forced to encompass a wide range of genres, resulting in a lot of "apples to oranges" comparisons, such as (in the case of a video game list) a football game being ranked just above an RPG. What's more, some of these genres you may not particularly care for or have any interest in. So, just as not appearing on a top ten list doesn't automatically make a certain video game unworthy of your time, being on such a list doesn't automatically make it worthy of your time.
A Subtrope of Misaimed Fandom. Over-adherence to the word of a critic can lead to He Panned It, Now He Sucks if the critic ends up giving an unfavorable review to something the fan loves.
In the IGN.com comments (and probably every other gaming website) on reviews of games that have either not been publicly released yet or have just been released on that very day, you'll often see about a hundred comments' worth of arguments between people who "know" the game deserves more than the review score and people who "know" the game deserves either the score it got or lower. All this bickering from people who haven't even played (or come close to finishing) the game yet is an example of 8.8 and Praising Shows You Don't Watch, but it seems to be rooted in a near-religious belief in this trope. People try to refute or defend the review as if it's a scientific experiment. One that they haven't done yet, to boot.
IGN's annual "Top 25 [Insert Console Here] Games" lists also tend to garner a lot of debate from fans. For example, their recent "Top 25 Nintendo DS Games of All Time" list was heavily criticized for replacing Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story with Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (a game that, until then, had never even charted on a Top 25 list).
GameSpot, while not reviewing Backyard Baseball 2009, mentioned it in an article where they criticized the child announcing. The article has been defended by many people, mostly after seeing just the article and not playing the game. But child announcing has been in the Backyard Sports series since the beginning, and the first game came out one year after GameSpot started. So have the writers of GameSpot been hiding under a rock for 12 years, and are the people defending them complete idiots?
Many people take Yahtzee's reviews seriously, despite his known aversion to praising any game, including good ones; while there are a relatively large number of games that he likes, Portal is the only game he has been unable to find a single fault in. Not to mention, the enormousBias Steamroller that he often drives, trashing a game based upon its genre or fanbase. It was displayed by the backlash to his Psychonauts review, and in his review of BioShock he said, "Nobody likes it when I'm being nice to a game" at the very opening despite briefly asserting that BioShock was perhaps worthy of the "game of the year" title despite the criticisms that composed the rest of the review (though this was due to Early-Installment Weirdness; later episodes have given mixed and even outright glowing reviews to games without the comedy lessening significantly).
On the flip-side, an absolutely incredible amount of people will take huge levels of offense over his reviews, and dismiss them entirely, simply because he writes them with a humorous streak. Plus, he has, on more than one occasion, pointed out he's a critic rather than a "straight" reviewer: discussing the flaws and weaker sides of a game.
It's also a case of not understanding the way Yahtzee presents his viewpoint. He exaggerates and focuses on the bad parts, is sparing with his praise, and if he doesn't mention something, it was at the least average, if not good. He'll sometimes sing praises for a game based on an innovative concept or the attempt to be different even if he thinks the game is subpar, and lambast an otherwise-good game for being too generic. He'll also be harsh on a game he likes because it's good but could be so much better, barring a few mistakes or examples of laziness or lack of ambition (see his review of Dark Void, which he deemed the most disappointing game he's ever played for this reason).
Yahtzee even outright stated once, "Reviews are mostly formed by opinions, and if you really love something, then another person's opinion shouldn't matter."
Yahtzee invokes this during his Gears of War 3 review. He warns fanboys not to go in the comments section and complain about the story not mattering because if he had praised the story, that same complaint wouldn't be made.
Possibly due to their media coverage and approval from celebrities such as Simon Pegg and Damon Lindelof, the Red Letter Media reviews, particularly the Star Wars prequel reviews have been taken seriously by fans to the point of attacking people that don't agree with them.
This has actually happened a little bit with The Angry Video Game Nerd averting some of the well placed nostalgia. Before he reviewed Castlevania II, some user reviews varied from "awesome", to So Okay, It's Average, mostly saying Castlevanias 1 and 3 were better. Then when he reviewed it, it seems a lot of people actually hated the game a lot more than they originally did. And even if that was his first game he reviewed (it shows if you see the video), his most recent review had him say that despite his criticisms and complaints, the game was still an okay game.
However, not everyone takes The Angry Video Game Nerd's reviews seriously, since he's obviously trying a little more to be funny, on top of averting the omnipresent Nostalgia Filter.
An article in Kotaku claimed that Japanese gamers were dissatisfied with Dragon Quest IX entirely because the Amazon Japan review scores were extremely low. In addition to the strange idea of gauging game quality via Amazon scores, the article became something of a laughingstock when it got out that the scores were the result of a spam attack by disgruntled users of 2chan in the first place.
The last part of Atop the Fourth Wall's Ultimates 3 review has Linkara berate the fans for buying into this, going so far as ridiculing them for accepting his reviews as the gospel, to explain why he thinks crap stuff like what he reviews continues to get published. Turns out, it's his Evil Knockoff Mechakara doing the review, while Linkara was on vacation...
He also (satirically and in an over the top manner) complains about this mindset in his Shopping Guide episode.
Linkara's words in the Ultimates review do still apply, despite being a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. This trope has been instrumental in some fairly obscure comics, such as JLA: Act of God, getting pages on this site so that tropers can parrot Linkara's opinions without actually having read the comics in question.
Pitchfork lacks an editorial policy, and has been known to take part in some very unethical practices. It does not state for the record how its ratings systems work, though the best guess of many is that 7.0 is the de facto standard of what is considering a "good" record or album, let alone one that qualifies for the prestigious "Best New Music" badge. Further, many of their reviews are questionably written. Any hipster will use their logic to deny reading it, let alone influence their record-buying/pirating decisions, especially after it began its partnership with ABC. But ever since the Arcade Fire's Funeral LP, any time Pitchfork gives a "Best New Music" badge to an album from a new and upcoming band, that album's sales/downloads will significantly increase, and the band's rep will increase exponentially. It's very difficult to deny that their reviews are considered influential over the hipsters to some degree.
Keep in mind that Pitchfork reviews mostly obscure bands, though; sure, The Very Best may have gotten a boost from the positive review, but that's just because few people had heard of the album and decided not to buy it beforehand. Now, if they review the new Alice in Chains album positively and that gets a large boost, that's a different issue.
While indeed it does review more obscure bands, it still takes the time to review pop artists and such, possibly as a means to maintain credibility to the rest of the world (ABC feeds them money, apparently).
The sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, due to their system of deriving an overall score for a film out of all the available reviews, are often regarded as providing a definitive stamp of quality (or lack thereof). While this is more understandable than most examples, the fact remains that some people take it too far, and act as though liking a film scoring 33% on Rotten Tomatoes is empirically indefensible, despite the obvious logic that one third of professional film critics liked it.
This has become particularly horrifying since actual video game companies are now incorporating metascores into their business practices; this includes awarding development teams bonuses based on metascores, and deciding on a target metascore before a game has started development, and perpetrators include publishers as major as Electronic Arts and Square Enix. It is no longer possible to pretend that Metacritic is harmless.
A good example is Obsidian Entertainment. They had a deal with Bethesda that the last portion of Bethesda's payment for Fallout: New Vegas was based on reaching a certain Metacritic score. They missed it by one point, didn't get the payment, and were forced to lay off massive amounts of staff. The score they needed to reach? 85. They got an 84. Keep in mind, that is still an extremely high score and the game also went on to sell over 5 million copies. In other words, a best-selling game with massive critical praise still cost the studio money because of a review aggregate score.
Metacritic also has its own problems since it attempts to take reviews from multiple competing sites with their own scoring systems and derive a numerical score out of their average. Some critics, such as Adam Sessler, have pointed out the problems with creating an average score out of a series of dissimilar scoring systems.
This is most obvious when they try to base their numerical score on sites that use letter grades. The site can extrapolate anything from 50-80 out of a C.
The opposite happens with movies that readers expect to be horrible. When the scores for Disaster Movie and Jack and Jill moved from a zero to a two because of one positive review (although the scores were only a C+ and a 3/5, respectively), members commented within seconds, saying that the critic is an idiot, ruined it for everyone, etc.
Metacritic has also shown bias and given strictly averaged tone review (5/10) a positive ranking (6/10) and the reverse. Making the site less honest.
This is despite the fact that Doug Walker has gone on record that most of the time he doesn't actually hate the movies but he does Accentuate the Negative for comedic effect. Most of the time they're just mediocre to decent movies, albeit with genuine flaws (although what movies doesn't have them?). A lot of the flaming comes from his fans Completely Missing the Point.
The melodramatically titled and huge IMDB list "Movies that are destroying the planet Earth" consists of nothing but films reviewed by either the Nostalgia Critic or associates.
The Critic has gone against this notion a few times, once out of character (by listing 10 popular movies he hates and 10 unpopular movies he likes), and once in-character (where he did a negative review of the James and the Giant Peach movie that was constantly interrupted by guntoting fans to make him give a glowing review). Doug never believes that he is the gospel and wants people to stop seeing him as such — a good way of seeing this is to watch both his and Spoony's "Best/Worst of the Decade" lists and noting the overlap — quite a few are Worst for one, Best for the other.
Of course, this trope resulted in a CMOF for Critic: After taking shots at Mara Wilson in a review, some overzealous viewers took it upon themselves to harass the actress online just because of this. Never mind that the movie he reviewed was hardly the most well-known of her films, and that the actress herself had a great sense of humor regarding her films. Never mind that at the time she was a freaking child who had little to no control over the quality of the films she was in. The Fan Dumb felt she had to be informed of what some (popular, yet the grand scheme of the internet) random guy said about her. She originally even mistook the Alter Ego Acting for Doug being an unpleasant guy himself. But this led to Doug and Mara proving they were better people, culminating in her cameo at the end of Critic's A Simple Wish review, as an Eldritch Abomination inflicting her vengeance on him in the form of Doug/Critic's shameful teen home movies.
Of all of the That Guy with the Glasses community, no one suffers most from this than The Cinema Snob. Yes, many movies he reviews really are bad. But keep in mind that he is also a parody of True Art critics. As such, he will pan the occasional average movie for the sake of comedy. People will take him seriously. While it is typically easy to tell when he actually does hate a movie and he isn't acting, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. For reference, he once praised the movie Salo. For the sake of decency, we will not summarize it further, but suffice to say that the movie was 50% artsy pretentiousness (something that True Art critics like) and 150% concentrated evil. People thought he actually liked it, even as his praises were interspersed between scenes of him either throwing up on camera, or trying desperately not to(and ultimately failing). Brad Jones even said he struggled to write positive things about the movie.
After all, Brad's real favorite movie is Caligula.
In 2012, Phelous' negative review of the 2009 TV movie Turtles Forever led to a lot of panning of said movie around the Internet, including a few negative edits on its TV Tropes pages. Up until that review hit the Internet, though, there were very few (if any) flat-out negative reviews of the movie.
...Which is weird because Doug Walker (as himself rather than the Critic) gave it a positive review earlier.
Reconstructed with Rayman Origins. While it was a bit of a flop in its first month of release, Ubisoft greenlit on a sequel on the basis that Origins averaged roughly an 89 on Metacritic across all consoles.
The Nostalgia Critic himself has tried to avoid this on several occasions, stating out-of-character that if someone likes a movie he doesn't, that doesn't make them wrong (and vice versa). YMMV on how much success he's had on this front; for instance, after his final Old Vesus New (Manhunter Versus Red Dragon), the characters page for The Silence of the Lambs began to parrot the observations he made on the two films (the most obvious being his comparison of William Petersen's version of Will Graham and Edward Norton's version).
Back when Top Ten writer "The Fiery Joker" joshscorcher made response videos towards Masterof Foxes, Flameson Fire 1212 and Bhaalspawn (towards Masterof Foxes because she insulted him for hating Okami, the other 2 because they made a bad video), you could see this trope been played towards a severe extreme. Masterof Foxes and Bhaalspawn channel were even because of this taken down by youtube, despite even joshscorcher telling towards fans of his videos that they shouldn't go and spam hatred on their youtube channels. Some of the hatred even went as far as personal death threats towards the people targeted by those response videos.
It's also the main reason why joshscorcher stopped making response videos.
In-movie example: In Spider-Man 3, Mary Jane is removed from the lead of a play after reviews panned her.
Similarly, in Ratatouille, a world famous chef's reputation and life were destroyed by a harsh critic who had a personal grudge stemming from a differing opinion.
In real life, the film Gigli opened to overwhelmingly negative reviews after weeks of bad press and negative hype. Critic Amy Dawes, writing for Variety, dared to express her opinion that she kind of liked it in spite of the stupid story. This got her fired from Variety.
Inverted by Metallica's St. Anger album, which got positive reviews and won multiple awards... despite being reviled by nearly every fan of the band (or even genre), and eventually even by the band itself.
Seems to also have happened with Iron Maiden's A Matter Of Life And Death, which got five star reviews much to the confusion of most fans. The reason fans found this confusing was that A Matter was praised for its long songs, repetition and bleak feel - the very criticisms given to the Blaze Bayley albums which people were encouraged by critics to avoid.
Also in some fandoms there are plenty of albums which get bad reviews but which fans will still talk about endlessly. Very commonly happens with one hit wonders, or at least bands who were only famous with one album.
Paula Poundstone once talked about forming opinions based on reviews in a special of hers, averting this trope.
Paula: Not that you can take another person's opinion for anything; not even a reviewer. Did you know that when The Wizard of Oz first came out it was badly reviewed? Yeah. They said it was "Stupid and unimaginative."
Some people took X-Play's reviews far too seriously, despite the fact that everyone knew their hatred of certain genres and even certain series of games, their tendency to give most games a 2/5, or on the flipside, their strange ability to read far too much into their scores, veering straight into 8.8 territory.
And several reviews actually weren't Adam and Morgan's own opinions and were someone else's, they're just reading from a script.
They also had to repeatedly point out that they're reviewing the game, not the license it's based on. This still didn't stem the letters of irate anime fans whenever they gave a low score to a bad licensed game.
After watching Laserblast, they note that Leonard Maltin gave the movie 2 1/2 stars. This prompts Mike to get a book of Maltin's collected reviews and read them over the credits, noting which films are "empirically" better or worse than Laserblast.
Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders features a local newspaper reviewer that's full of himself and tells Merlin to 'wow' him or be given a bad review. This is then mocked mercilessly and then given a skit where Tom Servo and Crow attempt to destroy each other through the power of negative reviews.
Tom Servo: "Look, my reviews have leveled whole cities!"
Drawn Together was given an "F" by Entertainment Weekly, so a show was made where the characters read the review. They didn't believe at first, but then build a small shrine to Entertainment Weekly and pray to it for a better score. Then they take matters into their own hands and storm the Entertainment Weekly offices, killing everyone inside. (Entertainment Weekly responded by reviewing that episode and giving it an "F" because they didn't want the first "F" to get lonely.)
In-universe example in The Simpsons: the episode "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner" has Homer become the Springfield daily newspaper's restaurant reviewer, and his general inability to discriminate against anything edible leads all the town's eateries to do a roaring trade. However, when this attitude incurs the ire of his fellow reviewers, Homer then takes the opposite tack and scorns every single restaurant. (Though his disparaging comments about the seafood restaurant Frying Dutchman appear in its window pasted over a poor assessment by a health inspector.)