Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Would You Accept A Fan’s Review?
I have to admit, it sometimes seems so superfluous to continue to produce a dedicated opinion column when I’m putting out opinion-based exclusive content almost everyday, and have been for the better part of this year. Still, a dedicated opinion column affords me the opportunity to talk about some of the more personal matters of my life, my personal life notwithstanding. Not that I don’t have a kick-ass personal life — I’ve used the word ‘intriguing’ to describe it, of late — but perhaps this isn’t the place for that.
In any case, a few weeks ago I recommended the few-months-old Deadpool videogame to a friend who subsequently quipped that my affinity for the Marvel-based Merc With The Mouth had blinded me to the game’s actual worth and effectively voided any credence that my review might have held. I didn’t take too kindly to that, even though I smiled and played it down as an overbearing love for a character that has only just acquired success in popular culture. But the fact remained that because I was a fan of the character, my review of the game was not taken as seriously as I might have hoped.
Excuse me, but, I dare say, is anyone more qualified for such a review than a fan of the series?
But then I got to thinking about it. Really thinking about it. Weighing up both sides of the argument. And when I put some real thought into it, I had to concede that there are very valid reasons both for and against a fan of something doing a review of that thing.
I recently read that one classification of most reviews is that of a fangasm, where a fan of the series simply boasts about all of the great things the latest entry into that series has, without really taking the time to be critical and reflective of every single component. A fan of a series might overlook glaring issues in favour of fan service, and the result is that the consumer suffers. On the other hand, who knows that series better than a fan? Therefore, who is more capable of sharing their opinion on it? There again my mind goes back to another recent experience, that of Man of Steel.
I really loved Man of Steel. Not just because Henry Cavill is a beautiful man in that suit, but because it took Superman in a different albeit not entirely agreeable direction. In fact, a lot of fans of the character hated the movie. They called it soulless, alienating (no pun intended?) and a disgrace to everything the character stood for. Meanwhile, I couldn’t hear them over the amount of fun I was having watching the movie. And I’m not even a fan of Superman, or I wasn’t before.
So perhaps there are times when being a fan is harmful, and there are times when that is simply not the case. But how can we differentiate? Is the only qualifier how much of the source material is bastardised? I didn’t particularly disagree with the direction that the Arrow TV series based off Green Arrow from DC Comics went in, and it tore those comics apart. Not everything can be Watchmen, after all. And if you remember that ending, neither can Watchmen. Even The Lord of the Rings took some liberty with its work. But this is veering off topic, and that’s not really the point of what I’m talking about anyway.
What I’m talking about involves specifically whether or not we should allow a fan of something to review that thing. What do you think? Let’s use Azhar’s review of Batman: Arkham Origins for the purposes of argument. Now we all know what a massive Batman fanboy Azhar is. He’s self-confessed and therefore, he should by all rights have given Arkham Origins a near-perfect rating. Only he didn’t. If he had, then perhaps we might all have just screamed ‘fanboy review’ but he didn’t. Why? Is it because the pressure from all of us led him into doing the opposite in order to prove that he’s not a fan? Or is it because he was able to set aside the fanboy and just be critical of a game, the way a reviewer should be?
The argument against fans reviewing something is solid. A non-fan of the series would better be able to speak objectively about the game, going on the lack of real attachment to that thing. However, how would a fan know if it’s being done faithfully or not? The better question is: Would it matter if it was or wasn’t?
Personally, I don’t think it’s an issue and it’s entirely dependent on the person. I’ve seen a few reviews (*cough* Halo) where the words in the review practically leaked fangasm juice, but usually these types of reviews are obvious from the get-go. However, I’ve seen other reviews from fans of the series where the entire thing was done objectively and with an air of professionalism, putting critique before emotion. So it is possible. And I’d like to believe that a review of something should be taken based on substantiation, not on a person’s predisposition. But then, none of you agreed with my Dragon Age II review, so who am I to talk?