Buying a video game for your child can be a daunting task. For starters, games are not cheap. A new release will set you back $60. Also, there are a ton of games out there. How do you know you are getting him/her a quality game?
The Power Of A Review
One important tool to help you make that decision is the review.
Reviews of any form of media can be tricky. I ignore most movie reviews. If I am interested in the movie, I will see it. The opinion of a critic is not going to change my mind. Whether a movie is good or not is highly subjective.
Video games, however, are a different animal. There is still that subjectivity on things like story and gameplay (among other things). However there is one big difference.
Video games can be broken.
If you go to a movie and it stops half-way through, you get your money back. The problem is with the theater, not the movie itself.
Video games, however, are highly complex, interactive programs. Bugs are inevitable. No developer can predict every possible way every user will interact with their game.
The question becomes, how severe are the bugs? Are they so obscure you would never encounter them in normal play? Or are they showstoppers? You do not want to buy your child a game they cannot even play.
That is where the reviews come in. So how do you use a review to evaluate a game?
Evaluating The Score
Most website use some form of scoring to go with their reviews. The three most common systems are 1 to 10, 1 to 100, or 5 stars (similar to Amazon).
So how can the score help you when you are evaluating a game? This is how I translate the numbers.
- 9+, 90+, 5 stars - This game is top quality. There are no apparent bugs. The developer accomplished what they set out to with the story and gameplay. This game is considered among the best.
- 8-8.9, 80-89, 4 stars - This is a solid game. There may be some minor bugs but nothing that will take away from the experience. The story/gameplay is not perfect, but really good.
I do not question the quality of a game with a score in this range. I will read the review to be aware of any issues that may be present. However, those issues are probably not going to keep me from enjoying it.
- 7-7.9, 70-79, 3 stars - This game has some issues. It may be buggy. The story/gameplay could be wonky for some reason. Or the reviewer may not have liked the experience.
This will not necessarily put me off a game. It will send me to the actual review to see what warranted this score. Sometimes there are bugs that can make playing the game frustrating. Sometimes, like with movies, the reviewer just did not like the game. If that is the case and I think I will enjoy it, I may still get it.
- 6-6.9, 60-69, 2 stars - This game has some major issues. These might include bugs or a confusing interface. I will probably stay away from it unless it is on sale for cheap.
- under 5.9, under 59, 1 star - This game has show stopping bugs. Unless the developer releases a patch to fix them, I would stay away from it completely.
Once you see the score, you will probably want to read the actual review. I say “probably” because you may not want to if you going to play with your child and do not want the experience spoiled.
A good review is very detailed. It will not spoil any important story points. Sometimes, though, knowing there is a twist, even if you do not know what it is, can change the experience.
Where To Find Reviews
The internet is a big place. Where do you go to find reviews you can trust?
The first place to start is Metacritic. You can look up the game and see an aggregate score as well as links to all the reviews that make up that score. I will be going into how to use Metacritic is more detail soon.
After that, it is a matter of finding sites you feel you can trust. Here is a list of sites I use.