First off, I want to say that I am truly astonished and humbled my last blog was not only herded, but also included as part of the weekly GI Newsletter. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my rant about Modern Warfare 2’s Campaign. Consequently, I have played through the campaign on Modern Warfare 3 and have a few things to say, but that is not what I want to discuss today.

Every year around this time, tons of blockbuster titles are released, many of which turn on the hype machine a long time in advance (years in some cases) to build up excitement around their title and sell as much as possible. Part of this hype machine is reviews published by reputable critics. Unfortunately, there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to these professional reviews.

Some may remember a few years ago a video game website claims that the developer Ubisoft refused to give them an advanced copy of Assassin’s Creed 2 to review unless they promised to give it high marks. I am not claiming this is true or not, but I use this example to illustrate my point: the lives and works of professional critics and their integrities are generally not transparent to those of us reading their reviews. This is not to say all reviewers are crooked, but the possibility for a reviewer to bend the truth is out there and is reality.

Game developers know good reviews boost sales while poor and even mediocre reviews will destroy a game’s sales. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, at some point in time, most of us (I won’t say “all” because I will have dozens of noble gamers saying they never do) have been swayed by a review to buy a game when we were either sitting on the fence about it or had no intentions of buying. But, after we bought it, we disagreed with the review, feeling it was complete garbage. Here is a list of a few of my shameful purchases that were swayed by reviews (the meta score is an average of reviews froms elected “reputable” critics):

1) Final Fantasy XIII (metascore: 82)
2) Tom Clancy’s EndWar (metascore: 77)
3) Halo 3 (metascore: 94)
4) Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (metascore: 91)
5) L.A. Noire (metascore: 89)

There are plenty more than this and I am sure there are many here that will disagree and say these are all great games or some of them don’t deserve to be up on this list, and therein lays the true problem. In order to have a true metascore that really makes sense, we need a community of gamers to play the games and give their own opinions without the bias of needing to sell magazines or make a buck. Where might we find such a Camelot of thought and opinion? Does it exist in a world on rainbows and unicorns rather than our world of terrorists and dictators? No, we need look no further than the Game Informer website.

The Game Informer website offers the ability for its users to write reviews about games and provides an average of the review scores provided to come up with a community score which is displayed below Game Informer’s score. But there are a few flaws in this system.

First, reviews are being posted before games even come out. This blockbuster season, we are seeing a large number of sequels for games with massive fan bases (Call of Duty, Battlefield, The Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, etc…). With such large fan bases and a wide array of maturity levels when it comes to those fans, we see a lot of garbage reviews like the following that were posted for a particular game before it was even released to the public (and no, I am not kidding, these are real) [spelling and grammar errors have been left in for good measure]:

“I can't wait to live the life of a assassin again.” – This was the entire review, which gave the game a 10/10

“Obviously I don't want spoilers as to what happens but what time frame does the altair missions take place in, is it before, after the events of AC1 or is it a mix of both.” – Apparently this person thought it was a Q&A session rather than a review, this garnered another 10/10 for the game.

“This is going to be so epic, this is a must buy for anyone. I don't agree with the score gameinformer gave it. They focus to much on the stories bad sides than the good sides. That is what I feel. Plus, they barly talk about the awesome multiplayer” – First, how would you know if you never played the game and second, criticizing the review of another person does not a review make. I believe this beautiful review gave the game a 9 or a 9.5/10

“Honestly' amazing i think that it should at least be recommended for game of the year because the assassin's creed franchise is always finding a way to change the gameplay or your experience in the game” – Yes, let’s all judge a game based on its franchise history because that makes a ton of sense. If we used that logic, Mario Brothers 2 for the NES would be considered a *** game yet, for some odd reason, it isn’t. This review gave the game a 9/10

“man it looks so good. cant wait!” – I’m not even going to say anything about this one, but it gave the game a 10/10.

Hopefully this small collection of premature reviews has illustrated my point well enough. If not, maybe you were one of the ones writing the reviews. If you did write one of those reviews, I am not going to sugarcoat it and say that you will do better next time, I am just going to respectfully request you never make your opinions public again, because that is how IQ’s drop.

The second major flaw is you. Yes I am pointing at you, the one who is not taking a few moments to let us know how you liked or disliked the game play in Skyrim. You who thought the storyline in Battlefield 3 was crap and said nothing about it, thus not preventing me from wasting $60 on a game I purchased solely for a good single player campaign and co-op experience.

Let’s face facts, when it all boils down to it, the only thing that makes the members of this community and the professional writers for Game Informer different is the ability to write and express our thoughts (and the fact that they get paid for it, play the games before we do, and have sweet industry connections…). Many of us have just as much experience playing games as they do, in some cases more. And just like them, we have the opportunity to share our opinions about them.

Where am I going with all of this? I am begging you to tear yourselves away from killing a dragon in Skyrim, fragging your buddy in Modern Warfare 3, flying your jet in Battlefield 3, or even casting some wacky spell in Harry Potter Legos and spend an hour writing out your thoughts on the game you have played most lately. Tell me what you liked about it, what you didn’t like about it. Look at the game on its own merits, comparing Transformers to Die Hard isn’t a fair assessment of a movie nor is comparing Battlefield to Call of Duty to Assassin’s Creed. Look at the game on its own and tell me why I should or shouldn’t buy the game. Give it an honest score of 1 to 10, considering the story, the graphics, the game play, the multiplayer, etc… And be honest with yourself, step away from your allegiance to a franchise, look at the game for what it is and be honest with us and yourself. Because, if you’re not honest, you’re just another a**clown puppet pushing some marketing manager’s objective of getting that yearly bonus for sales figures. Finally, take those words and post a review about that game with your honest score. Just make sure you can back that score up with facts and not just “I thought the game rocked,” because that makes you no better that the brilliant people I quoted before.

Please, save me from wasting another $60, I beg you!