Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Geek Rant Topic 18: The Internet Reviewer

When all Else Fails returns and I, Mousa the 14, have come to talk about something a bit recent I'm sure many of you are intimate with and if not, come and learn.

So on the internet we have this budding "career" that's been going on for a few years now. I've brought up previously the network of internet reviewers known as that guy with the glasses.com, and well that's what this is about.

Somehow, at some point once upon a time a man named James Rolfe made a review series called The Angry Video Game Nerd where he took on the persona of a foul-mouthed and bitter nerd reviewing very old video games. Somehow from there things just exploded and in a few years from his introduction, internet reviewers were everywhere. Not that they weren't there before, obviously people must've been doing written reviews of anything everywhere. Mr. Rolfe's show was however not only informative, but entertaining and comedic and even had skits and the like, and it was in video format to boot. This is especially notable because he came out around year before YouTube, so I imagine with the onset of YouTube, word of the man got around.

With the combination of someone doing it first and YouTube being a free platform for nigh everyone, almost every geek with an opinion and a camera wanted to do a show like Mr. Rolfe did. Why? Maybe they want to be heard, maybe they want to be entertaining, maybe it's for fun, maybe it's for the money, either way, the wave was coming and could not be stopped.

This whole internet reviewing thing is an interesting format, primarily becuase of how varied it is whch has been both good and bad. ou see, there seems to be two different sorts of reviews and the overlap between the two can be so muddled that the lack of distinction has caused anger, fconfusion, o frustration among the audience.

Reviews can be defined as Informative or Entertainment and while reviews are really meant to be both, usually it's pretty obvious where it's leaning towards. For example, Yahtzee, The Escapist's video game reviewer leans heavily on the entertainment side, using absurdly odd and hilarious metaphors and snappy visuals to describe his feelings about a video game, but what he presents is an extreme exaggeration of his opinion or simply accentuating the negative. Usually the games he reviews are not as horrid and he admits this to be true, he just tends to point out and emphasize nitpicked issues that bother him and could potentially other others. And sometimes he's simply pointing something out to make a good joke.

On the flipside we have gents such as Bennett the Sage on Blistered Thumbs or MovieBob on The Escapist, a video game reviewer and a movie reviewer respectively. Both take calmer, slower, more analytic approaches, especially Sage whose reviews are usually highly informative and tell exactly what is the good and bad about a game. However some of the times, reviews like these can be boring or dull, but if you want information you look to these. However, MovieBob tends to throw in a bit more entertainment value into his movie reviews, but make no mistake, it's clear they tend highly on the informative and analytic side

Sadly, a lot of geeks are not very smart and they can have trouble seeing when things are meant to be taken seriously or not. Despite the fact Yahtzee's reviews are not the full picture, many will take his word as gospel and assuming that because he says a game is bad, it must be bad. If they had half a brain they would notice that despite the fact his review of say Red Dead Redemption seemed to the flowing in negatives, he loved the game and had it in one of his top five of the year.

This is especially glaring for the reviewing conglomerate known as That Guy With The Glasses.com that seems to be confused about what it's trying to be.

That Guy With The Glasses.com is a website that gathers internet reviewers under a singular Channel Awesome, founded by Doug Walker and his friends, better known as The Nostalgia Critic, a loud, angry, bitter, Daffy Duck-esque character that reviews all of the bad movies of the 90s and 80s. This site has reviewers of almost every niche, usually repeating so if you don't like one movie reviewer, they have another, or if you want an anime reviewer, they have more than 4 to choose from.

The problem is that the site heavily combines, meshes and stirs around, as well as blurs, frappes, and smudges the line between Informative and Entertaining to the point that you don't know what to expect anymore; some opinions could the facetious and completely in character, or only partly in character, or be totally informative. It's very jarring for some, especially of you are incapable of telling the difference between a character and someone's actual opinion or the difference between a legitimate problem or something used for a joke. This is even more of a concern when you realize you have no idea what the goal of the site is; reviewing or entertaining?

Ideally reviews give you overview, analysis, opinions, and perspective on a given program without spoiling anything or giving away the plot. They are merely meant to say if something is worth your while or not. However, a lot of comedic reviews take a page out of the book of the show Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (A geeky show I'm unfamiliar with but notably inspired near all of them.) where instead of doing a proper review, they critique a program bit by bit throughout it's entirety, spoilers and all, mostly so they can have a gag about parts of the program in general. If you wanted a review to know whether or not you want to see or play something, these types are not what you're looking for because you are learning about plot and character elements you may want to find out for yourself. Pretty much every movie reviewer on the website uses this style which is definitely a lot of fun, but might turn people off if they wanted to look for a normal review that happened to be entertaining.

The video game reviews primarily on the other hand seem to be entirely like normal reviews unless explicitly stated otherwise; they inform and entertain, but primarily inform. One of the better synthesizers of these two elements would be Angry Joe of TGWTG.com and it's spin-off video game review site Blistered Thumbs . This is probably because it's harder to spoil a video game when they are longer and you want to inform the viewer of the gameplay and other such elements. So with serious and entertainment reviewers all in the same place, how do you distinguish? One obviously should use their brains but as previously mentioned, people are not exactly insightful enough to distinguish between the two.

This isn't just TGWTG.com though, this can be for reviewers everywhere who have attempted to take up a fictional persona and bare their opinions to the world. Whose the entertainment? Whose the real reviewer? At this point the lines will become so blurred that the term "review" may come to lose all meaning.

Characters can seem to diminish the actual opinions of the person makings the review. Furthermore, playing characters while reviewing makes it easy for the reviewers to hide behind the character when something goes sour with the audience. I love character which is why I know there needs to be proper distinguishing between being entertainment and being informative.

Many also note that entertainment reviewers have this tendency of injecting plots and memes that can take away form the actual review. I agree that the reviewers are free to have their review and their skit shows, but some would prefer having them separate, primarily when they have little to nothing to do with one another.

There is also an issue of quality control that I may elaborate in other installments, but many of you are probably aware of Sturgeon's Law. If you'ere not, the short version is that 90% of everything is crap and the internet is the biggest evidence of that. There's a reason why the internet is known as a cesspool to the informed and uninformed (for different reasons.). The Internet is nigh free, a wild frontier, a wild wild West where there virtually is no law, and no executives. You can come out why whatever content you want regardless of quality or content or being worthwhile. Part of why TGWTG.com exists is to the pick out that remaining good 10% and bring them all to one place. I mean imagine how many Angry "Insert Medium here" Nerds there were that came and went? Or the utterly sickeningly large amount of That Guy With The Glasses knock offs to appear and die in an instant. I cannot even begin to imagine the grotesque number of That "Gender-specific noun" in the "Article of clothing" people there are and simply disappeared into the ether.

I love the internet reviewing scene, it's a wonderful and free creative outlet for many that allows them to be able to creatively express their feelings for something they love or hate, if they can't draw or write or make music or other such things (Unlike the magnificent me) . But right now, the whole "medium", if you can call it that, is a bit of a mess. Hopefully things will stabilize in a few years, or some form of "selling out" comes by. Either way, I can't wait to see how things turn out.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a show to make. To boldly go where no podcast has ever gone before!

-Good Bye, Good Luck, and Imagination Is Your Greatest Power.
Mousa The 14