Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was released last week. As someone interested in the game and franchise, I did what many others had done, and decided to read some reviews before the game was actually released. I set off to Metacritic’s page for the game, and as I am wont to do, I opened a handful of posts, running the gamut from high scores to lower scores. Well, I found this review by Chapel Collins on Gaming Nexus, a site I haven’t heard of before, and as I read the piece, I knew what the comments would be like. There were only two at the time (there are 151 right now), and they did not disappoint. A classic circling of the wagons by an indignant cult (or fandom), an all-out attack on the outsider.
The best defense of the fandom – attack the critic.
(While this post is somewhat of a rant on fandoms and the search for “objectivity”, it’s also an editorial on the nature of reviews.)
Before we proceed further, a couple of words on what I look for in a review, specifically of something such as a video game, headphones, or a computer mouse, which is often not what I wish out of a “review” of a narrative, though video games can also incorporate that “other” part (see Austin Walker’s post on Darkest Dungeon as an example). What I look for in a review of this sort is enough information on the product to tell me what it’s like – what qualities it has, what it focuses on, what it actually plays like.
This piece was a long-time coming. The nugget of realization came early, but realizing what exactly bothered me took some more time. For those who don’t know, back in 2009-2010 this blog had regular content about anime figurines, including a few figure reviews. The topic of what to provide in my post, and the nature of how I perceive most blogs at the time to handle their take on mass-produced content also carried to why this blog doesn’t really have episodic content, and certainly didn’t in the past.
What figure reviews look like
Look at a fan’s review of a figure, what do you see? You see them taking shots of the box in which the figure arrives, you see them unpacking said box, and then you see numerous shots of the figure that’s being reviewed. You might not get “unboxing the box”, but for most such reviews, that’s what you’re going to get. So, what’s the problem? Well, there isn’t exactly any problem, but head over to YouTube, search for a review of a gaming mouse, keyboard, or even a food processor, and you’ll see more or less the exact same thing.
That’s still not a problem, it just means that all these items are presented the same way, right? Well, here’s where we’re getting to the problem – it’s a culture of mass-producing “reviews” of mass-produced items. And like all mass-produced items, there’s not much to differentiate the items, both the products being reviewed, and as a result, the reviews themselves.