For whatever reason, gamers tend to, on the whole, place more stock in professional reviews of works than fans of any other medium. Only 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 far 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 is 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 are not without biases. What the critic finds to be So Okay, It's Average, you might find awesome because it is practically tailored to your tastes and desires in a game; and the polar opposite happens as well, 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 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" and "Nintendo has licensed this game to be sold" (the first and second 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 obtain their information, even though far 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. Oftentimes, reviewers will become rather jaded and tend to be a tad cold towards works that they don't particularly love 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 more worse cases, this leads to people Praising Shows They Don't Watch or Complaining About Shows They Don't Watch. An even worse case than that is when someone starts an argument with another because the latter likes or dislikes something that a reviewer has given a negative judgment to, and the former does not have an opinion of their own but is making judgments based on what the reviewer said.
The outcome overall is that games will sometimes cater to what developers believe will get them a good review score instead of what fans will like. After all, what is the point in making games people will enjoy if the reviewers will hate them and no one will buy games that the reviewers hate irrespective of their actual worth or potential?
This mentality began to decline, at least in regards to video games, after companies like Ubisoft were found to be attempting to fix reviews through threats of the withholding games or money in advertisement. Because it is a business, reviewers are often very wary about angering the people who are paying a large portion of their salaries (ex. through advertisements). Hints of a shift began with websites and magazines saying things similar to, for instance, "7 is the lowest we can give this without Sony pulling advertisements". The withholding of advertisements and review copies of games has been mentioned before. For instance, after the Kane and Lynch and Assassin's Creed fiascoes, the developers felt that the reviews were not fair considering the advertisement money that they had contributed. Nintendo Power was also known when it was around for its refusal to criticize any game that was developed or published by Nintendo.
Of course, the reason that publishers want good reviews in the first place 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 risk losing their jobs if their game flops too hard.
Also said to be a phenomenon among fans of live theatre. 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; the key word, of course, being "part of".
Lastly, one particular trend found within the sphere of general media review sites is the Top Ten List. The Top Ten List is a listing of such things as 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 every now and then in influencing the commercial decisions (as in "decisions relating to commerce") of potential customers, they too need to be taken with a grain of salt. First and foremost, such lists have generally been known to be put together by a thick "pack" of authors ranging from anywhere between four to one hundred different authors. Therefore, there is a tendency for there to be a good bit of disagreement between the writers regarding what does and what does not belong on the lists. Second off, authors of such lists are often worried about possible fan backlash. As such, they often choose to play it safe by avoiding the inclusion of entries that have a high likelihood of getting them loads of hate mail and angry forum comments. Music-based lists are particularly 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. It should also be noted that 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 sports game being ranked just above a role-playing game. So, just like the lack of an appearance on a "top ten" list had ought to not make a certain video game unworthy of your time, being on such a list had ought not to automatically make it worthy of your time either.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that, whilst a review could give good insights into a game's technical competence, it can't answer the crucial question of whether said game is right for you personally. Tempting though it might be to snag the latest AAA game getting 9's and 10's across the board, there are also many important personal considerations to take into account. Would the game's 60+ hour length eventually turn you off to it (i.e. cut into other commitments - including other games that you might be playing or want to play)? Does the game sound like it would offer little that other games in your collection don't already offer? Do you personally dislike the genre/franchise or just feel burned out by it? All are important questions that cannot be answered by somebody else's review for a game.
- Paula Poundstone once talked about forming opinions based on reviews in a special of hers, averting this:
Poundstone: 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."
- 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.
- In-movie example: In Spider-Man 3, Mary Jane is removed from the lead of a play after reviews panned her.
- In-Universe example in Rehearsal for Murder. At the after party for the premiere of Chamber Music, the producer Walter and the director Lloyd are seen fretting as they await the arrival of the early editions of the papers. When the reviews are lukewarm at best, they philosophically accept that the fact that the play is probably going to fold. However, the police are later willing to accept that the bad reviews (and assumed failure of the play) is the reason why Monica commits suicide.
- MST3K has spoofed this a few times:
- 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!
- 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.
- Seems to 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bohemian Rhapsody pokes fun at this: the movie shows Queen's first release of "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the air overlaid with pop-up quotes from reviewers as one might see in an ad, except the reviews are all horrible. Of course, the audience knows that the song went on to become a huge hit and one of the band's Signature Songs.
- At times, Benthelooney's fanbase have fallen under this (especially after his rant videos were Un-Cancelled). The most prominent example is Phineas and Ferb; while it was a reasonably popular show before, after Ben had critically praised Gravity Falls and made subtle hints that he no longer liked Phineas and Ferb due to its formula, bland atmosphere and characters, many other people had started to agree with him and some people who were once fans of the show had begun hating it for the same reasons. Similarly, Family Guy, which had a massive hate bandwagon before, worsened once Ben became popular.
- In the comments section 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. 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 tend to garner a lot of debate from fans. For example, their "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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, due to their system of deriving an overall score for 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. Compounding the matter is the fact that these faulty ratings are commonly cited as points of endorsement in movie commercials. Additionally, actual video game companies have incorporated 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Possibly due to their media coverage and approval from celebrities such as Simon Pegg and Damon Lindelof, the RedLetterMedia 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: Simon's Quest, some user reviews varied from "awesome", to So Okay, It's Average, mostly saying Castlevania and III 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), one review had him say that despite his criticisms and complaints, the game was still an okay game.
- While The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword attracted a Broken Base on release like nearly every game in the series, it was mostly well-regarded at the time. After Egoraptor trashed the game in one of his Sequelitis videos, backlash against the game skyrocketed, to the point where admitting you like it in some circles will get you attacked.
- 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 usually reviews continues to get published. Turns out, it's his Evil Knockoff Mechakara doing the review, while Linkara was on vacation...
- The Nostalgia Critic has experienced this from both angles. Different sections of Fan Dumb either trashes someone who disagrees with him, or trashes him for disagreeing with them:
- Just try saying that Rock-A-Doodle and Tom and Jerry: The Movie were alright movies anyplace on the Internet. You're sure to be flamed by legions of Nostalgia Critic fans. This is also because, before he reviewed them, the movies weren't very well-known, and now people only know about them because of the Nostalgia Critic reviews.
- This also applies to other movies he's reviewed. For example, in The Flintstones movie, he appears to trash it at first because "It's The Flintstones", and he didn't like the show. Immediately after; several people were blindly agreeing that The Flintstones sucked for the same reason. This also happened to Stephen King's IT and Stephen King as a whole, (even though the Critic has praised some of the movies based on his works before) when the response wasn't He Panned It, Now He Sucks!.
- 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 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. Also, for the As Himself review of It Follows, he apologized for not getting it, and actually asked people who would blindly agree with him not to comment.
- This resulted in a funny moment for the 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. Detractors 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.
- The 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).
- Do not disagree with Spoony from The Spoony Experiment on Final Fantasy VIII. You are obviously a blind fanboy if you do so (and you're gay or a yaoi fangirl). This is now starting to spread into Final Fantasy X as he has moved his targets there. The Spoony One is an exaggerated Internet persona though, so the real Noah Antwiler won't really berate you for it.
- The Nostalgia Chick has a lot of teenage male fans who enjoy trying to prove their masculinity. She tears apart girly movies for a living. You do the math.
- 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.
- The new cases of this stem from Brows Held High, which usually have commenting sections filled with complaining about the quality of the film, people stating that this is why they don't take whatever political thing it might be addressing seriously, and comments running from "this isn't art" to encouraging selective censorship of art. All for just some films that you often wouldn't see outside of film festivals and your DVD player.
- In 2012, Phelous's 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.
- Back when Top Ten writer "The Fiery Joker" Josh Scorcher made response videos towards MasterofFoxes, FlamesonFire1212 and Bhaalspawn (towards MasterofFoxes because she insulted him for hating Okami, the other two because they made a bad video), you could see this been played towards a severe extreme. MasterofFoxes's and Bhaalspawn's channels were even taken down by YouTube as a result of this, despite even Josh telling 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 Josh stopped making response videos.
- Video game web site GiantBomb.com actively works to avert this. They record their annual Game of the Year award deliberations and release them as a series of podcasts, letting the listener in on just exactly how much acrimony, politics, and backbiting goes into coming up with a simple top 10 list and serving as a yearly reminder that these things are ultimately arbitrary and not Serious Business. Not that it helps, but it's entertaining.
- Actively averted by SF Debris who always reminds people that his reviews are called "Opinionated Reviews" for a reason, they are just his opinion. For a while, his videos had the tagline of "just a viewer with an opinion".
- Something Awful gets this big time. Expect the opinions of the SA staff or the majority of its users to be upheld as the standard for educated and critically-founded opinions. Case in point: Cry of Fear was universally praised by Survival Horror fans until site creator Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka made a series of Let's Play videos on his YouTube channel brutally deconstructing and tearing into the game and exposing its should-have-been-glaring flaws. The response that SA-registered forum members and YouTube commenters witnessing the game was absolute, 100% negative, and the hundreds of thousands of people who praise the game are mercilessly criticized should one of said "goons" ever encounter them.
- Retsupurae tends to draw overzealous fans who take their criticisms of let's players and games too seriously, despite them mentioning several times that they only do their riffs for fun, and don't consider themselves to be serious critics. Expect to see many games that are otherwise considered classic or, at worst, average, get torn apart in the comments, and if you dare say something positive about something they riff on, be prepared to be called a fanboy or accused of wearing nostalgia goggles. You'll also notice that in cases where they riff on a game that one of them actually likes, people will be more positive towards it, even if it wasn't regarded very highly before.
- Angry Joe's reviews of the Risen games were controversial for some, with people complaining about the fact that he was too harsh on the games. Of course, many of Joe's fans just assumed that he was right without playing the games themselves, despite there being other, less negative, reviews (with the first game being generally well liked, and the second one receiving mixed reviews). Then Joe released a video where he played around with Risen 3, spending the entire video criticizing it, particularly the combat system. This again led to accusations that Joe wasn't really taking his time to actually familiarize himself with the game and made very little mention about anything else, and the video received backlash from fans of the series. Some of his fans still accepted his word, however, arguing with anyone who had anything positive to say about the game. That, by itself, is not particularly notable, but some of his fans even spread onto sites like Amazon.com leaving 1 star reviews of the game with one line reviews, mainly pointing out the same criticisms Joe made in his video (often ignoring the rest of the game, like exploration, quests, skills, etc.), with at least a couple of reviewers even mentioning Joe by name.
- Fans and critics of The Mysterious Mr. Enter tend to believe this, as anything he praises or criticizes will inevitably become praised / criticized for the same thing, just because Enter said so. Mr. Enter tries to invoke this in a more positive way in his Admirable Animation series. In that series, he points out exceptionally well-made pieces of animation and underrated gems, in an attempt to direct viewers into checking them out.
- An in-universe example occurs in the Arthur episode "On the Buster Scale". Buster, Brain, and several of their friends see Giant Exploding Robots 3D in theaters. All of them except Brain like it until Brain delivers a detailed criticism of the movie, which changes the minds of everyone except Buster. Buster begins to review movies in the newspaper that his mom works for, but he has nothing but praise for every movie (all of which involve robots, aliens, monsters, superheroes, and/or explosions). Brain decides to counter this by starting a movie blog, where he rates every movie unfavorably. Their friends keep flip-flopping on whose review to take - until Buster and Brain decide to review a movie together. This is ultimately averted at the end, when their friends call them out on this, with Muffy stating that they have their own opinions.
- 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. Furthermore, his disparaging comments about the seafood restaurant Frying Dutchman appear in its window pasted over a poor assessment by a health inspector.