Editorial

Blind Hype is A Major Issue in the Games Industry, and It Starts With the Press

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A major issue I’ve seen over the past few years with the gaming industry is blind hype. What do you mean by blind hype, you ask? Well, read on and I’ll explain.

This year we’ve had a number of high profile releases including Metal Gear Solid V, which was arguably one of this year’s most hyped up games. Fans of the series have been waiting for the next entry in the Metal Gear Solid series since MGS4 released all the way back at the start of the PS3’s lifecyle. Who could blame those fans? Kojima is one of the most respected game developers in the industry, and every game he’s ever released has been of exceptional quality.

However, no game is without its flaws and Metal Gear Solid V is far from a perfect game. For that matter, there will never be a perfect game in that sense of the word. However, when a game receives almost universal praise, one has to wonder whether certain aspects of said game are being overlooked for the sake of blind hype.

Blind hype pushes you, as a gamer, to turn off your critical eye and enables you to overlook obvious flaws that other games wouldn’t be able to get a pass on. Unless there’s glaring problems, like a game not working for example, sometimes it’s hard to see some fundamental problems within a game.

Am I telling you that you need to be overly critical of the games you play? No, I am not. This article is actually more directed at the gaming press and their coverage of certain titles. When a gaming website has turned off their critical eye to a game and only releases unabashedly positive coverage about that game, that should raise some eyebrows. Without a critical eye, games will never improve. We are supposed to be critics, not promoters, and with quite a few reviews that I’ve seen over the past few months, they are becoming more or less promotional materials for game developers.

Witcher3

I recently wrote an editorial discussing Metal Gear Solid V’s apparent repetitiveness, which 90% of other outlets seem to have completely glossed over. The main complaint that most critics had with Metal Gear Solid V was the story, which I have to agree with. But quite a few outlets have been treating the game like the best new thing since sliced bread, and in my opinion, the game isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before. You can read more about my thoughts on that here.

Many of these same websites lambasted other open world games for being repetitive and not having enough variety in their mission structures. So, why do some games get a pass when others don’t? Well, that’s where the blind hype comes in.

It’s a bit formulaic, so to say. The games press gets a preview of a game and provides almost universal positive coverage about the game. Readers of said website take that information and run with it, and begin hyping themselves up for said project – especially if it’s a long running and exceptional series like Metal Gear. The press previews the game again, says mostly positive things about it, maybe criticizes a thing or two and readers point out those criticisms as non-issues, usually. Then, the review comes out and with a game as popular as Metal Gear Solid V, you as a reader probably already know what the scores are going to be.

For a time, there’s only positive discussion about the game. After a while, more and more people begin to analyze the game and discuss its flaws and the opinion of the game starts to shift – not always, but I’ve seen it enough now to know that’s usually how the process goes.

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-32

As a gamer, your blind hype comes in the form of disagreeing or agreeing with a review of a game before actually playing it yourself. How can you agree that a 9.5 for MGS V is an appropriate score without laying a hand on the game? Then, when another website scores it lower than you’d like to see and criticizes it a bit more than the overly positive review, you call out that site for creating a controversy for hits.

Metal Gear Solid V was also reviewed by most major outlets at a review event where you’re given an allotted amount of time to play the game and write a review. Most major outlets took advantage of that to have their reviews out on release day. Most even noted they never finished the game. That speaks volumes to me about the accuracy of some of those reviews, even if they were “reviews in-progress” baloney. At the end of the day though, those traffic jumps are what matter the most though, right?

Blind hype is bad for the games industry. It closes our critical eye to fundamental issues in games, and thus we get the same experiences over and over again with a different skin. As much as I enjoyed Batman: Arkham Knight and am enjoying Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V, I feel like I’ve played them all before.

With the rising quality of games coming out, being critical of them is more important now than it ever has been before.

Nick Calandra
OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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12 Comments

  1. “As a gamer, your blind hype comes in the form of disagreeing or agreeing with a review of a game before actually playing it yourself. How can you agree that a 9.5 for MGS V is an appropriate score without laying a hand on the game? Then, when another website scores it lower than you’d like to see and criticizes it a bit more than the overly positive review, you call out that site for creating a controversy for hits.”

    You can’t agree or disagree with a review for something you’ve never played but that generally doesn’t stop fans of things. After all, they are fantatics of the thing that is being criticized. They take it upon themselves to champion what they love and your damned regardless of if you can justify your stance or not because fans don’t care about your review, they care about the thing they are fans for. It wouldn’t matter if both the higher praise and lower praise pieces were as equally in depth because only one of them is right for the fan.

    That said, I don’t necessarily agree that blind hype is the reason for,

    “It closes our critical eye to fundamental issues in games, and thus we get the same experiences over and over again with a different skin. As much as I enjoyed Batman: Arkham Knight and am enjoying Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V, I feel like I’ve played them all before.”

    Feeling like Batman, Mad Max, or Metal Gear are just the same experiences over and over again in a different skin doesn’t mean that everyone else’s critical eye has been shut off or that if they were more critical of the sameness of these games that we would get new different experiences.

    Are Batman and MGS repetitive? Sure. And do they draw from the same well that we’ve been getting our water at before? Damn right. BUT they are also very, very good games (I can’t comment on Mad Max having not played it). I agree that MGS is repetitive and I too kind of wondered why others haven’t been questioning that as well but I can’t take away that it is still quite an excellent game. And after talking with friends about it, while they agree the missions/locales/objectives are repetitive, their own experience with the game hasn’t mirrored mine due to the different ways we play the game and they also don’t view it as as much of a negative as I do. So while I would mention it in a review, they might not. That doesn’t mean that either of us have turned off our critical eye, its just that we’ve experienced the game differently.

    1. I understand people have different views and the games I mentioned above are good games, you are correct. But, some of those games were called out in reviews for being repetitive and others were not, aka Metal Gear Solid V. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, but this was something that the press did not relay to their readers at the time, and now that we’ve had time to play the game, it’s pretty easy to see bigger sites like IGN did not play enough of the game before writing a review.

      There’s a difference between how you play a game, and what the core objective of that game is. Everyone has their own unique experiences in games, and that’s fine, but when you’re completing the same objective over and over again that means there’s gameplay variety, but not objectionable variety.

      1. But that is where the personal opinion of a review takes place, one may value the gameplay variety over the objective variety (I don’t think you were looking to use objectionable there) differently. To me doing the same type of extraction mission in the same area for the 4th time kind of annoys me but I know for a fact that it’s not something that is bothering some other players.

        We’re now a month out from release and I’m still hearing people from these big sites, nevermind the gaming community at large, claiming its the best game of the year, possibly the best game ever. I don’t necessarily agree but I don’t think any of that has to do with blind hype or them not playing the game enough. In fact, a lot of these people have put in double what I have to this point. Somethings just don’t bother people about some games the same way that doesn’t mean that their take on it is any less valid.

        1. Again, I’m not faulting anyone’s opinion on Metal Gear Solid V, I’m fine with the fact that people like the game and I myself enjoy it. For the most part. But, if you read through reviews, most of the reviews from big sites did not complete the game at the time, and still gave the game almost universal praise.

          It’s core structure is repetitive, whether you agree with that or not. Many of the missions you complete are…blow this up, save this hostage, or something similar. More than likely, you notice it more in MGS V than other games simply because an actual narrative is hidden away from view in cassette tapes (I’m also working on an editorial about that junk).

          Everyone has different preferences, you are correct. But as a game critic whose played a shit ton of open world games, it’s relevant to call out when a game is repetitive in its objectives. There’s no comparison between MGS V and The Witcher 3 per say in different types of tasks you can complete.

          1. I just sat down and read through the reviews from Polygon, Gamespot, GiantBomb, IGN, Game Informer, Destructoid, US Gamer, and Kotaku. I’m probably missing a site or two that someone would consider big but I think that’s a fairly sizable base. Aside from US Gamer explicitly calling out that the reviewer did not finish the game, none of the others make reference to them not completing the game, with plenty of evidence to support an intensive playthrough of the game, and others specifically call out that they did finish the game. Maybe an argument could be made that Polygon’s reviewer didn’t complete the game as their review is arguably the most sparse on in depth detail for whatever reason. Regardless, I’m not sure where this implication that these sites didn’t complete the game for review is coming from.

            As I said prior, I agree with you that MGSV is repetitive. And I did notice it far quicker than in other open world games for a variety of reasons (one of which is the notable lack of story and its weird delivery – and I look forward to your write up on that). For me at least, MGSV’s flaws are more evident because of what it isn’t than what it is. And to me it’s biggest flaw is its lack of Metal Gearness, if that makes any sense. But talking to others about the game and bringing up the repetitiveness and other issues, they look at me like I’m crazy. To the point that when I pointed out your article last week about the repetitiveness, they were like, “So what if it was Extract a Highly Trained Soldier #47, this time I dropped a supply package on the target’s head, jacked a tank, blew up all his buddies, had my horse crap on him, and then fulton’d the target out!” And this was coming from someone that hated Metal Gear up until V. I don’t want to get into my discussion with die hard MGS fans that basically believe this is the best game ever created and it all falls on the variety of gameplay options. All I keep hearing is, “Do you want to do a mission a certain way? Do it because this game let’s you” Even if my own experience has been, I’ve extracted Dude 47, whom isn’t really much different from Dude 46 and the only real difference in the mission is that this is taking place on a cliffside outpost as opposed checkpoint #5.

            And as someone who has been reviewing games for nearly a decade now, I get that there are things that should be called out. But certain things don’t necessarily bother everyone the same way or request the same importance. So while you and I may feel that the repetitive nature of MGSV’s missions, it’s notable lack of proper storytelling, and it’s rather dead world (I’m not sure you agree with this last point but roll with it), others might not view any of that of any consequence because they feel the gameplay variety, base building, and free range to do anything they want in the world outshines it. Neither opinion is wrong, it’s just a different way of looking at it.

            Side note: While I agree with your opinion that MGSV doesn’t offer any comparison to the different types of tasks you can do in The Witcher III. There is no denying that The Witcher III can likewise be quite repetitive, it’s just masked better via excellent storytelling and more varied enemies. Both have their issues though, I just happen to prefer The Witcher III to MGSV and as such, The Witcher’s issues aren’t as glaring to me.

            Another side note, although maybe slightly more on topic: I think there is something to what you are saying but I think it is less to do with blind hype amongst media and fans and more to the critical group think that often arises in these big AAA games from the biggest outlets. For example, even in the reviews that are far more critical of MGSV and a few of them do get into detail with their issues, they are still scoring the game on the same 9-10 scale.

          2. Most of the reviews were reviews in progress at the time. I know IGN’s was for sure, GamesRadar’s was too. There’s no doubt in my mind that Metal Gear is a good game, probably well deserving of the scores it received.

            And you are right, everyone likes different things etc. In what I’m going for with this editorial, is that people aren’t talking about these issues and just saying, “this is the best thing ever” without critically looking at it in ways that will push developers to try and do more with their open world games etc.

            The Witcher 3 is repetitive in some ways, but there’s narratives to push you forward to do these repetitive objectives that make them feel inherently different. Metal Gear just doesn’t have that same flow The Witcher 3 had.

            So, I guess yea, most games are repetitive at the core, it just depends on how well you can mask that repetitiveness with narrative layers or whatever.

  2. I’m in agreement. If MGSV was made by ANY other studio and was called by a different name, then it would have average about a “7” as a game. But the hype was strong with this one, and the reviews show it. The game shows it’s entire hand mechanically within 7 hours or so, after which it all becomes the same old. Open world? Where are all of the civilians? Where are the mujahideen? This “open world” is completely devoid of any life, save for a random patrol vehicle driving around very once in a while. There was hardly any variety with the graphical assets or terrain, which was a bummer because the Fox engine can be quite pretty at times. To see something like this score higher than W3 which had insane variety, dialogue, story arcs etc is just insane.

  3. Because the core gameplay is better and more dynamic than other open wirld games. MGSV cuts out all the unnecessary fat other open world games have that have nothing to add to the core gameplay. Witcher may have civilians but it gets old when u hear the same dialogue over and over. The dialogue in mgsv can help with gameplay. EVERYTHING is about the dynamic gameplay and tho faults can be found there it is undeniably amazing.

  4. Disclaimer: I’m an admitted Metal Gear addict w/no intention of recovery. So, I’m in full fanboi mode – but trying to remain objective

    I think some of the critiques of MGS5, if applied to any other game, would have been more harsh. However, I’m only 11% through the game, and I have to say that it’s a different experience for a newcomer – one that I absolutely would NOT recommend to someone who isn’t a fan of the series. (Which, tbh, can be said for just about every Metal Gear) I see this game, so far, as the sequel to Peace Walker – WHICH HAD THIS EXACT SAME MISSION SYSTEM WITH STORY DISPERSED THROUGHOUT! The main difference is that this game is open-world, instead of linked-levels. From my pov, this is an unbelievable progression for MGS. I’m not comparing it to Arkham City. Because the move from Arkham Asylum -> City was, imo, a huge step BACKWARDS.

    IMO, This MGS5 (both TPP and GZ) continue the story – directly. Do you need to complete Peace Walker to enjoy MGS5? Probably not. But if you haven’t, I’m immediately going to discount your opinion – because complaining about the cutscenes or mission structure/repetition means you’ve little perspective as to what you’re playing.

    tldr; Back in the day I picked up Final Fantasy X:2 second-hand, without playing X. Had no clue wtf was going on. Naturally, I didn’t write a review about it.

    1. If you haven’t reached Chapter 2 yet aka Africa, then you won’t know what I’m talking about. Get there, complete a few missions and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to core objective repetitiveness.

    2. Why was Asylum > City a huge step backwards?

      Origins was unnecessary IMO and while the core game mechanics were as sound as ever felt repetitive and the storyline forced.

      Knight was similar – by now the game mechanics are sound but its ultra repetitive and the batmobile bits in the main are just not fun… a critical error in a game in my opinion.

  5. I don’t really base my decision to buy games based off of critic reviews, I’ll watch a few video reviews to get some information and details on a game, but I just buy what I think I’ll enjoy. I personally liked MGS V a lot and while the missions got repetitive, I’ve never a shooter that offered so much in the way of weapons and items. The missions may get repetitive in MGS V, but there countless ways to accomplish those missions. As for Arkham Knight I liked it too, it wasn’t as good as Arkham City in my opinion, but I still feel that it was a well made game. I liked the story and combat as well. The Batmobile was a new gameplay idea, some liked it, others didn’t, personally I liked it. The controls may have been a little loose for the Batmobile, but it was a cool new feature for the series, with a little refinement to the controls the Batmobile could be a welcome addition to future Batman games. In my opinions players spend too much time analyzing critic reviews and debating games with other players instead of deciding about game purchases for themselves. You should bear in mind too that stores like Gamestop usually get in pre-owned copies of new games soon after they come out too, there is also Gamefly too. So you can’t really say that players don’t have options for testing out new games.

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