Blog | Bias
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
With reviews for the latest entry in the adventures of the rebooted Lara Croft not exactly being outstanding, there have been a large number of complaints - from people who have not played the game - that various outlets should've gotten fans of the series to review it instead as they'd like it more.
While it's certainly true that fans are more likely to be positively pre-disposed to the thing they love, it shouldn't really matter if you're professional about it. Just do your job and, if the latest release in a franchise you enjoy is not great, you should still be able to say exactly that.
This is why I've found it a little weak from some people who write/have written about games saying that they recused themselves from talking about certain titles because they're fans. I think it's one of those occasions where you can still see just how young the game industry is - not just the medium itself, but everything else around it.
Critics of almost every other kind of media will happily review subjects they love and there's no accusations of bias there because it's expected by most that those people are paid professionals doing a job, which is exactly as it should be.
The best critics can be legitimately hardcore fans of a particular genre, franchise, creator or any other aspect relating to their passion, but they are professional enough - and good enough - to explain why that is. For some reason, many of those who review video-games clearly don't feel that they are good enough at their jobs to be able to do this.
And I'm not going to let myself off the hook here - I've reviewed various titles on this site that I loved and was pre-disposed to like well before I ever got to experience them, but I hope that I got across why I loved them after getting to play/watch/read them.
I'm 100% sure I've not been completely successful with that, but I'm also not being paid to do this, and I want to at least keep trying to improve how I write about movies, games, TV - and more - to better articulate why I hugely enjoy certain things, especially if I believed I was going to before starting.
Practice makes perfect, and there are a number of people who write about games that don't seem willing to even try and communicate exactly why they are a fan of something. Hell, if you can get that passion across, while backing up what you're saying with substance rather than simple fandom, it'll make that review memorable for those who read it.
Saying this, I think review scores are still a large part of the problem, with gamers focusing far too much on them to the detriment of other efforts. There are some strange people who believe reviews should essentially be a recitation of facts, and that opinion should never enter into the equation.
This is clearly bonkers, as a review of anything is literally someone giving their opinion on whatever it is they are reviewing - an opinion formed by their own unique experiences and preferences. It's not bias to like a particular thing more than another, it's preference.
But this then brings me back around to those recusing themselves from writing about certain games because they like them too much: that liking of a particular title will influence everything you write about any other game, even if only on a subconscious level.
Let's say that you're reviewing a game that has a mechanic similar to a title you love, but it's not quite as good as you believe the latter to be? You'll be inclined to view the former as lesser, even if you never consciously compare the two in your mind.
Why not just review the game and try to be as professional, and as honest, as you can be? There's going to be lunatics in the comments no matter what you say, so why not be up-front? Admit you were expecting to like a thing going into it, and if you do end up enjoying it, just say why as best you can.
As an example from this site, look at my review of Ant-Man and the Wasp. I'm a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and expected to like it going in, which ended up being the case. However, it still ended up getting just a 'decent' review from me because that's all I felt it deserved.
I'm an amateur writer trying to learn how to get better at writing about the media I experience and i didn't let my fandom of a franchise sway my opinion of a title. I hope to get better over time as I write more and more, and to communicate why I love the things I do - why should I expect any less of those who get paid to do it?
A different kind of 'bias' to above, Spider-Man on PS4 has been occupying a lot of my time since release even if I've barely advanced the story, instead preferring to swing around New York doing side missions and basically exploring the city while enjoying the amazing web-slinging mechanic.
But I do have to admit that I'm not particularly enjoying it that much at the moment. Being a Marvel and Spider-Man fan, I went into this expecting to love it and am so far only liking it. Spidey's movement may be just about as perfect as I could've hoped for, but I'm finding the combat to be dreadful.
Part of this is due to me being a Spidey fan and being used to a faster, stronger Spider-Man who should be knocking out most of the thugs in the game with a single hit. It's disappointing to have to hit some random mook half a dozen times before they finally go down.
I did wonder if it was my personal preference of a more powerful wall-crawler blocking me from enjoying the game on its own merits, but it only takes going back to one of the Batman: Arkham games to see that Spider-Man's combat system isn't quite as good as it should be.
Now, I'm not saying that Spider-Man should have just mirrored the Arkham games, but the latter are far more responsive. The number of times I've been hit by an enemy in Spider-Man despite pressing the dodge button multiple times before they could connect has often proven infuriating.
It might not sound like much, but combat makes up a large part of the game and you're often put up against groups of opponents and the camera is also a little too tight, making it tricky to judge just how soon you should dodge, having to account for what often feels like serious input lag judging by how long it can take Spider-Man to respond.
Seriously, if you haven't played the Arkham games yet, you should play Spider-Man first. You'll get used to how the game works far easier, learning how to time things according to how the game works, rather than getting an instant response.
Then go to the Arkham games and tear through three times as many people in a quarter of the time without taking a single hit and wonder why the power-free Dark Knight feels so much more terrifying in combat than a super-strong, super-fast and super-agile Spider-Man.