The Meta-Review

A peek into the world of modern gaming journalism, and what has become of it.

A commission from @ TurnTwister on Steam

It is no secret that Video Game Journalism has undergone changes over the past couple of decades. I mean, all journalism has, and will continue to. Stories became digital, articles turned into videos, videos turned into shorts, etc. The streamlining and inevitable evolution of content delivery grows closer each day that passes. Despite that, there are still newspapers, still articles, and still websites (like this), that allow for the publication of anyone’s thoughts. Where am I going with this, and what does this have to do with video games? Well, as far as the current generation can tell, video game journalism is a joke. I still hold pride in doing my part to contribute to the written history of video games, but in its current state, video game journalism has become so disconnected from the foundation of any good piece of writing: passion.

What makes me say this?

As an amateur looking for a way into the field, it’s an incredibly bold claim to come along and act like the structure of video gaming journalism is all wrong, and that is completely fair, but don’t just take my word for it, take it from the people they’re writing reviews for.

Taken from YouTube
Taken from YouTube
Taken from YouTube

These are just some of the countless videos and other media made solely for the purpose of bashing the craft. As someone who has spent more time in the gaming chair than in the thinking chair, its easy to ingest this media and assimilate into the crowd. Nowadays, its cool to hate video game journalism, its cool to disregard any and all reviews not made by a YouTuber with millions of subscribers, and its cool to instantaneously shut down any one journalist trying to speak for themselves. And therein lies the main issue with video games journalism as a whole: it is not the people writing the review, it is those that publish them.

You’ve lost me…

Now hold on, wait — a wai — HEY, HEY. STOP. Let me explain.
The “Meta-Review”, as a working concept, was an undertaking that worked to point out and correct the major flaws with modern gaming journalism. Noticing the amount of zealous anger forming within communities online made it seem like an easy task. However, when I started writing reviews, and actually took the time to sit down and think about the games I was playing, my views began to shift. Simply because publishers and other huge companies have a lot of writers at their disposal, it is easy to pick out the bad takes and immediately make it the entire medium’s problem. Some especially egregious examples include the Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales GameSpot incident, the IGN “Too much water” dilemma, and the Kotaku Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Persona 5 DLC issue. These three articles became huge for the wrong reasons, and left a relatively bad taste in a lot of player’s mouths. So what does this have to with the creation of the “Meta-Review?”

To The Point

I realized that the focus became too heavily involved with the idea of gaming journalism as a whole that I forgot to break down all of its moving parts. While I realized this, I fear not many others have, and still continue to perpetuate the idea that all every bit of writing for games holds no credibility. The point I’m trying to make is that we’ve forgotten to take the writer into account. The authors of these articles published by big companies have a say in what they like, but that does not ultimately mean that everyone gets to automatically review anything they choose. Freelance work is something that has been a part of the writing world for a long time, and is utilized a lot within these big companies publishing some bogus articles. Its not rocket science to deduce that you may enjoy the written work of one individual as opposed to a company; I mean, that’s literally why content creators on YouTube are considered better ‘reviewers.’ This “bond” — if you will — is founded on the idea that the creator’s and viewer’s interests align, and thus makes them feel like someone you can trust with an opinion.

This isn’t to say that journalism is dead, it just turns out that people tend to value the opinion of a person they feel is more similar to them than the nameless author of any given IGN review. This ties back in to the word I decided to create the “Meta-Review” on: passion.
Simply because content creators on YouTube need not worry as heavily about the performance of any given review-style-video (and don’t particularly have to try and make the most comprehensive review in a relatively short amount of time for maximum views) they are granted with the ability to run with any ideas they can come up with. This, paired along with the general observation that content is easier to ingest through a video than an article, makes it incredibly hard to even compare two reviews made by a company YouTube channel and a YouTuber; its apples to oranges!

If you want a visual example of this, take FUNKe’s video on ‘Movement Shooters’ and compare it to the basic review of Titanfall 2 by IGN. You’ll know what I mean.

So, now what?

While print outlets may cover specific issues in YouTube-land, I almost never see pieces that are dismissive of the entire medium, as more often than not they’re featuring a good video from X or Y content creator. But YouTubers seem incredibly eager to pick fights with the goal of stoking hatred against the press and trying to get everyone to ditch all gaming sites and solely watch YouTube videos instead. — Paul Tassi, 2017

While this quote is technically out of context, AND almost 5 years old, I think this statement reigns true to this day. Yes, there are issues on both sides, and yes, it cannot be easily solved by the likes of me, but the goal of this article is to not discredit either side, it is to reinforce the idea that you can find great things if you just look for it. Before this year, I had rarely been keeping up with the on goings of Destiny 2, and after discovering Paul Tassi through a YouTube recommendation, I’ve never felt more up-to-date than I do now. In that same vein, if I had not seen videos from the likes of content creators like EmpLemon, FUNKe or Dunkey or Schaffrillas Productions, I wouldn’t feel as strongly as I do about reviews and content as a whole.

Within any given medium there are bound to be issues that hold it back from perfection; and sometimes, stigmas may poison the well, leading to a major disregard for said medium. In this case, I feel as if people woke up and decided to try and find reliable sources for reviews, they could absolutely do so. The reality, though, is that content creation and general attention span have trended in a way that is not favorable for mediums like video game journalism, and may continue to worsen as time goes on. Despite this, I think that there should and will be a place for this type of content to thrive. Should a day come where people decide to stop looking at all the things “wrong” with video game journalism, there finally might be a chance to relight the spark that led to the creation of these reviews in the first place. All it would take — I think at least — is just a healthy dose of passion.



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A Video game enthusiast, explorer and professional reviewer.