Bad Press: IBT’s Embarrassing Elden Ring Clickbait

International Business Times deletes embarrassing article.

Continue reading “Bad Press: IBT’s Embarrassing Elden Ring Clickbait”

Steam Library Beta Shows Life After Clickbait Spam

The new visual update for Steam is here! Well the beta is, anyhow. You can download the beta by going to your settings and opting into the beta branch of the Steam client. It’s very simple and doesn’t require any external downloads unlike the previous trick to get ahold of the early version.

The new Steam is all about ease of use. Click on any game and you’ll see all sorts of information provided by the developer. See your achievements, your trading cards, DLC releases, timed events. Anything your heart desires and more that you might have had to navigate through multiple windows to find before is now in one easy place. What isn’t there? The clickbait spam.

One big complaint that users have had of the Steam News section for each game is that Valve thought people really wanted to see clickbait spam from bloggers like Rock, Paper, Shotgun, PC Gamer, etc. It’s basically a glorified RSS feed that pulls stories based on certain websites that Valve trusts (for some reason) tagging their articles with the games in question. The result? An embarrassing deluge of articles that have little if anything to do with the game they are tagged in.

Well those of you unhappy with Valve’s handling of the Steam News will be glad to know that the clickbait spam newsfeed is officially gone as of the new library. It will be interesting to see how the traffic to the websites is affected once they are no longer getting free advertising on a massive platform for their clickbait.

[Rant] How To Defeat Evil Game Scores Forever

Overwatch 2016-05-06 05-39-24-40

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, the Washington Post has taken quite a bit of heat over its review of Uncharted 4 published just a few days ago. Some of you might be confused, since stating one’s opinion on video games isn’t known for inciting vitriol while others might not detect the sarcasm in this sentence. The rest of you are probably thinking “Washington Post reviews video games?”

Before we go on, the usual statement needs to be repeated: Given that we are talking about opinions on video games, and not how to go about convicting a serial killer, the people who have been posting death threats and death wishes to Michael Thomsen, the guy who wrote the review, can kindly see yourselves out of any further discussion. The same goes for the people spouting a variety of hate speech, a population that does not include the readers of this website who are in my opinion the cream of the crop in terms of netizens.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to write a guide on how to beat game review scores.

The first step is to find a publication that reviews games, or even more than one, that you believe you can trust. You might have to stick with one or two websites for a while in order to get a feel for how the editors work, what they look for in games, and how they evaluate titles. In fact, these sources can easily be Youtubers, streamers, or just simple bloggers. Find the people whose interests and focus meshes with your own.

I say this because I can say with relative certainty that 90% (hyperbole) of the people piling onto the Washington Post review either have never read, or don’t generally use, the paper as a source for their game reviews. In fact, I’ll go further and say that the majority probably don’t read the Washington Post straight out. The opinion of their staff, let alone one guy writing a game review, didn’t matter until he gave this game a bad score. And by the time the Washington Post publishes its next game review, most of the people in the comments section will have returned to not reading the Washington Post.

And for the record, Michael Thomsen isn’t exactly an unknown entity in games media. Thomsen is known for taking a contrarian approach, slamming popular titles by giving them low review scores. Does it make him an expert on games? No, and the review itself isn’t particularly insightful when it comes to convincing the reader why the game isn’t good.

The second step is to avoid making your purchasing decisions based off of the aggregated opinions of a small handful of people you don’t know and whose opinions you probably don’t agree with or respect. This goes hand in hand with the step above, if you go to Metacritic and see that Uncharted 4 only has one review below an 80, from a guy at the Washington Post, and you decide not to buy the game…well that’s on you.

The problem with scores is that each publication has its own system on how it scores games. You can’t compare different metrics and aggregate a mean score, but Metacritic does it anyway. The problem isn’t with the reviewers, it exists solely on Metacritic’s side, determining arbitrarily who deserves representation.

This also goes for developers and publishers who make deals based on the game’s aggregate review score. Publishers who force developers into contracts that hold multi-million dollar bonuses ransom behind the opinions of a few editors. I’ll echo Adam Sessler when I say that publishers have a great way of figuring out how a game performed, it’s called the sales charts, you have access to them. Withholding bonuses because a game sold great but scored less-than-perfect is about as asinine as giving a bonus when a game tanks but scored really high.

And finally, the best step is to stop feeding the clickbait machine that is the internet. Let me be completely frank, the sponsored post you saw on Facebook about the dog that grabs a stick and you wouldn’t believe what happens next? Odds are you will, in fact, believe what happens next. Unbelievable, surely.

For everyone who fell into clickbait in order to leave a post complaining about clickbait or share the post to attract more traffic to said clickbait, well you’re feeding the monster. Without you, clickbait articles would be…well they’d still be easy money makers, but they’d be making less money. If you were to go by the ratio of “this is clickbait” comments, they’d be making no money at all.

The thing about clickbaity headlines is that they work, and the thing about review scores is that they work. If The Washington Post hadn’t scored Uncharted 4, would anyone be talking about their review? Yes, but it would be a small handful of people shaking their head and tutting “oh that Washington Post, they don’t really play games do they?” And that would be it. No wide attention, no Troy Baker, no nothing.

They work, and I say this as someone whose website doesn’t run ads, I still look at metrics. The more sensational a headline is, the more people pay attention to it, and the more likely they will share it.

But let’s stick in reality land, shall we? Ultimately Metacritic made the mistake in not treating the review as an outlier and ignoring it, something that any aggregator worth its salt does. It is the job of Metacritic to properly curate its list of reviewers and the job of readers to take Metacritic to task when it fails at its job.

Other than that, I have no opinion on the matter.

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