Influence of Games Journalism on your Purchases


#1

This question is partly inspired by the latest ep of the podcast talking about how people who you may perceive as respectable, knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest in Video Games, and possibly even on other topics (Hardware, Cars, Clothing), influence whether or not you give up your hard earned dollary-doo’s to purchase them.

If I remember correctly it was a letter sent in by Steve, who may or may not be 25% Irish, and Danielle who read it out, the gist of it was that those people who are in Games Journalism talking positively about a game slowly transforms in my mind into meaning “This Game is Good”. This has been on my mind for a while, but the letter and the chat about it afterwards really brought those thoughts to a fore, and I kind of had to see how everyone else felt.

Personally I felt like this happened to me in the last little arc of conversation with Prey on the podcast. I went out and purchased a physical copy, which I NEVER do, just because the guys on the pod had been talking so much about it. Luckily I’m thoroughly enjoying the game, but I’m not sure how I’d feel if it was just the influence of the guys on me, and I actually didnt really like it, not to blame them if that was the case, in the end its my purchase. But it’s really strange, I can see that it’s happening but I still go through that process of influence upon me.

I guess it’s like Advertising, where it plants a seed in your brain that slowly grows right? How do you guys feel about this, or deal with it?


120 Games, 1 Goal - Pile of Shame: 0
#2

I guess the difference, or part of the difference, is that it’s unpaid mercenary advertising so the games that get promoted are being promoted out of a genuine enthusiasm rather than for money


#3

Most of the time I already know what I’m going to do when it comes to buying a game or not. It’s like flipping a coin to find an answer you already know you want: if result is heads, fair enough, if the result is tails, fuck it that’s not what I want I’m going with heads. I value the podcasts I listen to and the views I hear, but ultimately I already know more about my buying habits and the kind of games I like than anybody else. Their views are just the icing that sweeten my decision making.

Its the problem childs that make me take the time to stop and listen. We’ll take Mass Effect Andromeda as the most recent and best example. I love the Mass Effect series. Played through all of them, clocked up over 200 hours in ME2 alone, even read most of the books, with the only content I’m missing being the poorly written/researched novel and never playing the ME3 DLC that fans say elevated the base game. I really, really wanted to get Andromeda since the moment I heard it announced. Then the previews started coming in. Then the animated gifs. Then the disappointing reviews coming from a place of warm remembrance of what the series was. It kinda broke my heart a bit. I still really want to get the game just to play more Mass Effect, but the reviews and professional opinions I value tell me to hold off and wait for a sale or something.

Ultimately I don’t look at negative reviews as saying I should never play a game, but more that I should be responsible and thoughtful of my money. If a game I really want to play turns out to be bad, I decide it’s better to wait until it goes into the bargain bin level instead of hoping to get involved in the zeitgeist.


#4

The only time games journalism/media has any influence on what I purchase, or how I feel about a game in general, is when they tell me that a game is technically broken. Otherwise, no, I know what I look for/prefer in a game, and feel perfectly fine in saying that I probably know just as much or more about my favorite genres than most, if not all, of the people on the media side of things–i.e.: I’m not taking fighting game recommendations from games journalism when 90% of the people in it seem like they can’t do a combo. I’m in that community, so if I want opinions about a fighting game I’ll look there instead.

It probably also helps if your preferences in games lie more towards the technical side of things like mine do. With Prey in particular, I played the demo prior to hearing anyone in the press say anything about it (Bethesda’s new “no we’re not sending out review copies” policy in action) and thought the weapons were boring, that the music was bad and awkwardly used, and that the act of shooting was the opposite of fun. As interested as I am in hearing what that game does well, no amount of positive word of mouth will overcome how undesirable it was for me to engage with that game on a base mechanical level, so the case is closed. The shooting feels bad in a first person shooter? Money saved.

Similarly, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a positive impression of a game be retroactively degraded by any popular sentiments that go through the media side of things. When somebody in the press says that they like Persona 4 more than Persona 5 I’m more inclined to just think that they’re crazy.


#5

@Pretzel

I think you’ve basically described the concept of ‘influencers,’ right? It makes sense that they exist because humans are social beings and we’re responding to other people’s ideas even if the exchange is asymmetrical.

A person’s emotional reaction and enthusiasm is more influential to me than their position as someone who is “respectable, knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest in Video Games.” Thinking about specific instances, the broad, general enthusiasm about Dark Souls was what made me try it out, and it was a feeling that I gleaned from podcasts, streams, and reading things online. But there are also instances where one source’s enthusiasm has convinced me to try out games: Idle Thumbs talking about Crusader Kings 2 and Dave Snider doing a Quick Look of Mount & Blade: Warband over at Giant Bomb.

That said, this influence is dynamic and not always guaranteed. For instance, both Prey and Nier Automata are 2 recent games that have been championed by folks but I don’t have a strong desire to play either because of personal taste reasons (I’m not interested in playing a first-person shooter or a sloppy 3rd person action game for its story.) And even when I try games out due to a passionate proposal, it’s not always a guarantee I’ll like those games. For example, I think the Borderlands games are boring as hell despite having played 1 and 2 for multiple hours each.

I’m okay with the fact that other people can sway me to try things, though I think for me personally it’s less of a seed that grows into the thing it was planted as and more of a river where waters mix and split in different ways.


#6

I approach it the same way that I approach film or book reviews. I find the reviewers whose views best represent my own and use them as a scouting party to deal with works before I engage with them. If someone I respect and tend to agree with highly praises something, I’ll put a little note on it to follow-up later (probably). Games aren’t substantially different from books or films in that regard except in being more costly (in time and money).

I don’t play enough different games to form different opinions about them. Simultaneously, I don’t lengthily talk shop about games that often, so hearing engaged discussion about them is definitely helpful for me to develop my thoughts on a game.


#7

Reviews, not so much nowadays because while a good writer can get across what it is like to play a game as they play it, it’s hard, and it’s not always going to work. I find I am influenced to purchase a lot more by watching a video or listening to a podcast where I can see or hear the person’s excitement or disappointment and it comes out in a much more unfiltered way. I find it easier to discern whether I am likely to have a similar reaction.


#8

I do often find myself being intrigued by games because of podcast discussions, only to realise I’m just enjoying their enthusiasm. Prey sounds interesting, but shooters, much less immersive ones, are not my bag. I bounced off of Dishonoured twice, because I appreciate a lot about that game but I don’t actually enjoy playing it.

I occasionally just need to remind myself that even for people who I like and often have similar tastes to me, I shouldn’t just jump right into everything they praise.


#9

I like to get my point across when I like a game and I like to think that I might push some people to buy a game I really liked. I appreciate when others do the same in a constructive way. The difference with games journalism is that, I’m willing to buy it more if I have someone to talk to about my purchase, which games journalism doesn’t really offer, obviously. I’m uncomfortable playing a game without being able to share my thoughts. This is where I stop in my tracks to be willing to buy games, and this is why I tend to take friends more into consideration when they are positive about a game.


#10

I’m always more swayed by positive coverage than I am dissuaded by negative coverage. Partially because negative coverage is often comes in the form of folks clearly looking for stuff to rag on. I get the mind-set, if you aren’t feeling something immediately then the natural response is to look for why, which is when you start seeing stuff that isn’t there, and putting too much weight of stuff that doesn’t matter. “Repetition” is a common criticism I think falls into this a lot, which I’m low-key sick of. If you’ve a tolerance for repetition you can enjoy basically any videogame, the medium is inherently one full of repetition weather intentional or not. You never notice it unless you already aren’t enjoying it. Obviously it isn’t completely invalid, as not everyone can tolerate it at high levels, but at that point it’s clearly a deliberate decision made to appeal to the people who do enjoy it(see: Monster Hunter).

While you can “trick” yourself into enjoying something as much as you can into not enjoying something, I WANT to trick myself into enjoying something. Because that enjoyment is genuine, as much as the lack of enjoyment when you end up making yourself dislike something is genuine.

Honestly, the most important revelation of my life was realising that you have to make an effort to enjoy stuff. Nothing is going to slot perfectly into the socket on your brain labelled “HELL YES” in flashing neon surrounded by pictures of skeletons in sunglasses having a baller time. The better you are at changing the shape of that socket the more stuff you can enjoy. And focusing on positive coverage is a pretty big part of that, as your brain is very good at copying enthusiasm when given a chance.

If that metaphor makes sense.

I like the skeletons bit.


#11

I actually find it generally works the other way.

Games journalism may put smaller games on my radar but generally it warns me away from things I might otherwise pick up early in the cycle (around release for full price). Things that didn’t quite come together or widely get reported as lacking a spark or enough value in the crafted experience. Maybe a cheap pre-order gets cancelled (in the case of devs with a strong track record who ended up pushing out an incomplete product so no point paying to beta test it/play it when the game is too broken to be fun) or just that early purchase never happens.

Within a month or two of release, when the peak (launch) price is starting to waiver and the first sales come through then enough of my friends will have sampled the game to have formed a much better opinion of where I will likely stand. I’ll have been able to look at the game in action and often even play it for an hour or two with a friend who has it. Sometimes I’ll even borrow the game for a bit (in the increasingly rare case of a disc) and decide if I want to then buy it (I have an extensive library, computer games are the primary medium I study so I do eventually [thanks sales] buy things to add them to my library so I can play them in 10 years or for research purposes in the future). But all of that really is around how friends are reacting to stuff.

I find that actual friends who you know and talk to extensively in a two-way dialogue simply creates a relationship you can’t get with any reviewer (other than a few friends are at least semi-pro reviewers). It’s just a case of not being a view you can get early on because few friends will have already grabbed a game in the first week and dived into it. But I really enjoyed DriveClub (it’s not the best but it’s within the upper tiers) - no amount of reading reviews of people who generally love the same games as me would have given me the impression there was a good semi-sim circuit racer with innovative dynamics (time and weather - with lighting that makes for far more than just a day/dusk/night selector, tracks built so the sun rises and sets to make certain straight and corners blinding) in there. And yet a lot of my friends all played and enjoyed that because of the word of mouth, the discussions we had about where the value was in that game and simply what kind of game it was (semi-sim but with super-powered brakes to shrink the braking zones).


#12

I don’t usually pre-order anymore, but I will tend to consider actually buying when I start to hear superlative talk on twitter. Podcasts help, usually if Patrick or Austin get hyped about a game, I’m usually on the same boat. On Giant Bomb, if Jeff Gerstmann gets hyped, I usually become way more interested. That syndicate remake was okaaay though.


#13

I dunno, guys, I’ve heard on the internet that games journalism has a real ethics problem these days…


#14

Despite being terrible at turn based strategy games, I 100% bought Invisible Inc due to Austin’s passionate speech about it on the Bombcast GOTY discussion.

On the more overarching discussion, I listen to the podcasts I do specifically to hear those people’s opinions on games and often make purchasing decisions based on their discussions. I often find them to be more valuable than reviews.


#15

Most of the time, the opinions of games writers has little effect on my purchases. I know what kinds of games I like. I’m much more likely to go back and read reviews after I’m finished, as I try to unpack my own thoughts on the game. Although there are occasions where a game reaches critical mass and I might be swayed to check it out. Nier Automata is a recent example.

This is a good place to get something off my chest: I am pretty sick of the moral superiority of the “never preorder” crowd. It’s one thing when it’s just regular Jane Six-pack saying it, but I find aggravating and condescending when it comes from games writers.* “Hey, this game we all got for free? We’re going to spend weeks writing, tweeting and podcasting about it, but if you decide to spend your hard-earned money on it before it comes out, you are the problem.”

“Wait for reviews, watch some streams or let’s plays.” Or maybe I just want to experience the game myself, without various reviewers’ problems or pet peeves burrowing through my mind as I play, which they inevitably will.

Sorry if this comes across harsh. Obviously if you want to wait for reviews or streams before buying something, more power to you. I just get extremely annoyed at a bunch of people that willingly participate in the hype cycle, then act like players are ethical failures if they buy into it.

-* Not going to call out anyone specific, but there are a couple Kotaku writers who are particularly obnoxious about it. I don’t know if it’s a side effect of the Gawker style, with its endless, over-the-top hyperbole or what, but they sure do love to tell people what to do/think/buy over there.


#16

Positive coverage, or even positive discussion, has definitely put games I would have otherwise ignored on my radar. People talking about the new NieR game is what made me put it on my wishlist (it was actually someone spoiling the ending that really made me think that it was a game I’d want to check it out, go figure).

On the flip side, I like to look at negative reviews for games (usually user reviews, so not really “journalists”, I guess) just to see what potential problems a game might have. If the negatives point out stuff I already know I wont like, I’ll usually avoid the game.

Because of the combination of the fact that I rarely buy games when they come out, and I view a lot of media (podcasts, videos, etc) about games and game design means that it’s very difficult for me to avoid other people’s opinions on a game before I purchase it, so any purchase I make wrt a big-name title is going to be influenced by others.


#17

I mean I think I am probably more likely to buy a game I see favorable reviews for if it’s something I haven’t really heard about or payed attention to As @ApparitionOnLine mentions with games like Prey or Nier Automata, I’m probably not going to get those because I know I’m not really good with those kinds of games. It doesn’t matter how good the story is if I’m not going to be able to play through it. I’ll probably just watch some Let’s Plays. Ultimately though it’s not so much “x person says the game is good so I’ll buy it” but rather “The way x person described this game makes it sound like something I’d be into so I want to play it too”.


#18

I’ve 100% been convinced to buy stuff because someone described it in a way they thought was negative that made me go “that sounds belting”.

Not quite a recent example, but close: someone was referring to some recent dev quote or something, I can’t remember, saying “If your game makes no sense right up until the end, I’m probably not going to buy it”, to which my immediate response was, “That sounds like Dark Souls, so I mean, I would”.


#19

I have friends and journalists who can sell me on certain things. A big red flag for me is when everyone starts saying the same thing or when the same adjectives start populated descriptions (see 6 years ago and the word “visceral”). I also tend not to believe anyone about anything I just figure it mostly doesn’t matter if I believe them so there’s that too.

I think most importantly is to acknowledge a gaming personality’s full gradient of likes/dislikes with yourself. For instance, I love the way Austin talks about the games he plays but I’m typically not a big fan of the popular make your story out in a heavy systems game (ie Far Cry 2). This enables me to pretty clearly tell when I should get something Austin likes or not. So I knew his dislike of Horizon Zero Dawn wouldn’t necessarily transfer to me. But at the same time, if Austin starts talking mechs, I’m in.


#20

Nier Automata’s another weird one because the people who were familiar with Nier and Drakengard were like “that game is going to be a slam dunk if ‘Good Platinum’ shows up.” This opposed to the popular critical response at that E3 which seemed like it was either to ask “why would they make another Nier?” or to just forget that it existed ten minutes after Square’s conference.

Similar situation with Prey as well with a demo being released. Yoko Taro should have been a known quantity, so picking up the demo and seeing that Platinum was doing Platinum things to overcome those games’ usual technical/mechanical shortcomings was enough to form an opinion without any press coverage.