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Maybe tradition is the wrong word with a ~30 year old genre. But I didn't know a better word. I hope you get my meaning. What I meant is this: If you have professional book critics for novels, or movie reviewers or restaurant & cooking reviewers, they have a really serious, critical and demanding approach. If a new novel is bad, there sure are book critics who will shred the book to pieces. If a restaurant cooks mediocre meals, sure the gourmet testers will stomp it. If a new movie is really lame, movie critics will burn it. But if a game is mediocre, when it comes from a big and influental company, we have no reviewers anywhere who really dare to give it the bad vote.
Now let's be sure about one thing: every critical review is always subjective. If literature critic X tosses Novel Y into the flames in his review, there sure are others who still love Novel Y. But the critic dares to be critical. Really critical. He doesn't try to "be objective" or make a rating that speaks for everyone. He will make a *personal* impression, he will explain why Novel Y in his opinion is trash and give a clear verdict. Then, based on the tastes of the critic, you have an impression, even though you may disagree, because you know how to place that critic. You may seek critics which usually are along your lines of thinking. Or you may seek critics who always hate what you like, and then take his negatives as your positive. But it will be a statement, a clear opinion. And in the long term, we may hope at least a bit, harsh critique can help the customers. At least I feel that way about books, movies and other stuff which is *seriously* reviewed.
Now in terms of games, as I see it, we just have no reviewer culture, or tradition. Now ever so often, we read reviews full of critique and negatives from the reviewer, and then totally surprisingly the the rating is 8/10. How often did we not think this rating was sort of in contradiction with the entire text of the review?
But the most stunning thing is: I can't recall any expensive title of the big companies like EA which ever got anything but 8, 9 or 10 of 10. No matter what you take, games in which cases we really, really have reasons to be skeptical. Like Mass Effect 2+3, Like Dragon Age 2, like SWTOR, like DCU, like Sims 3. Anything. And if you go to Metacritic or Game Rankings, you see that all along these games get 8, 9 or 10 of 10 ratings. And every time I think WTF? I mean, sure I can understand SOME of these reviewers really like these games so much. But if we take MMOs like Age of Conan or Warhammer, or said DCU - they got SO MANY stellar, top reviews, and how the heck can that be? How is it possible games with such OBVIOUS flaws and so clearly lacking in many departments get ~9/10 in almost EVERY SINGLE MAG, both online mags and print mags?
And I tell you why. Now people in mags are not "paid" for these ratings. But there are mechanics in gaming, which coerce conformity and assure that games from big companies never are worse than 7/10. The ex of a friend of mine works as reviewer in a game mag. And no I won't tell which. But when he visits a game company to see the new game, he gets a free pass for a game fair, he gets free demos for games which other people have never even seen, he gets "thank you stuff" like a new monitor, a new mouse, a new keyboard, and the like. And of course he gets to see those games in time so he can write a review at release day. Because OTHERWISE he would have to BUY the game, then make a review which would be complete weeks after launch. And that would mean his review is meaningless, because all other mags have of course Day One reviews, and no gamer is then interested in reviews 6-8 weeks after release. That is how big companies assure, that their most expensive games never rated worse than 7 or 8 of 10. And even a 7 rating is VERY rare these days.
And this is, because we have no "critic pride", no critical culture or tradition. A gourmet critic, a car tester, a literature or movie critic would NEVER betray his pride into his critics in such ways. If a book is horrible in his opinion, he would shred the books to pieces. End of story. People could then read his explanation and agree or disagree, but it would be a clear statement. And some bad stuff would be revealed as bad stuff. But in gaming, I am sorry to say, every mediocre stuff is getting top ratings through all the mags. And that is just wrong. Even if we assume some reviewers REALLY feel a game like Dragon Age II was the best RPG ever, I can not believe a second, that ALL of them really felt this way. What we need is a culture of reviewers who take pride in their work! Who feel their job is to warn the customers of bad or mediocre games, who see themselves as helping to BETTER the games and not make a kowtow before powerful companies!
I must admit, in recent years that in gaming the ratings and reviews of magazines have as much validity as Sovjet propaganda about the "triumph of Socialism". Zilch.
People don't ask questions to get answers - they ask questions to show how smart they are. - Dogbert