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Game criticism is never as simple as determining whether a game is good or bad. After a game receives glowing reviews and racks up solid sales, many begin to wonder whether the game deserves its success. The result is a flood of completely worthless articles declaring a hot title to be "overrated."
The author of an "overrated" article doesn't aim to do much. They don't try to prove that a successful game is terrible; they simply point out a few reasons why it's not perfect, why it's only a 7 or 8 and not a 9 or 10. For example, God of War is "overrated" because it's got so many Quick Time Events. Fallout 3 is overrated because it's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion with guns. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is overrated because the optional dungeons are all kinda the same and thus it gets boring after the first 40 hours. Even the best games have weak points so it's an easy article to churn out. You don't even need to point out a flaw - maybe just an aspect of the game that isn't as well-developed as another aspect. One common criticism of first-person shooters (such as Killzone 2 or Call of Duty 4) is that the single-player campaign isn't as fun as the multiplayer.
The supposed reason these articles are written is to provide a rebuttal to people who think a game is impeccable. The author wants to point out "the Emperor has no clothes" - in fact, that very expression frequently appears in these articles. Who is actually making the argument that these games are perfect, though? IGN prompted a lot of eye-rolling when they gave Grand Theft Auto IV a 10 - the first 10 they had given out in about a decade - but even they weren't arguing that it was a flawless game. To quote the review: "A 10 doesn't mean a game is perfect -- it means a game is pushing boundaries, expanding a genre, and doing many things to a level so far above and beyond its competitors that they overshadows any flaws. Certainly, GTA IV has some issues, the most noticeable being the occasional flaw in the cover system, but there are many more pieces of GTA IV that are better than anything I've seen from a game in the past decade."
The only way you'd believe that other people think a given game is perfect is if A) you don't actually read reviews, or B) you spend too much time arguing over the Internet. You might think that the Xbox 360 fanboy - or "Xbot" - you're debating on a discussion forum believes Halo 3 is flawless but he doesn't. He's just not going to admit his misgivings about the game to someone named "Sony4Life" who just called him a douche bag. Ask the same "Xbot" what he'd like to see in Halo 4, though, and he'll probably mention aspects of Halo 3 that he hopes will be improved...unless he's actually a douche bag.
An article stating that a popular game isn't perfect is arguing with opponents that don't exist. People who enjoy a game and people who hate the game often notice the same weaknesses/strengths. The difference is that the first group feels the game's strengths outweigh the weaknesses while the second group believes the opposite. The storyline and open-ended gameplay of Fallout 3 more than make up for the ho-hum combat in my opinion. For someone else, the combat might be a complete dealbreaker. So what's the problem? What chaps your ass so much about someone liking a game more than you do? Who cares if IGN gave it a 9 and it sells a couple million copies? As Jay-Z said, "What you eat don't make me shit - where's the love?"
While some writers that declare games "overrated" are just irritable, others have an ulterior motive: traffic. A list of "Top 10 Overrated Games" will rocket to the front page of N4G or Digg faster than pictures of an E3 booth babe nipple slip. Even if the author isn't butt-hurt over the success of Gears of War 2, there's bound to be some readers who are and they'll love seeing the game get raked over the coals. Fans of the game will likewise visit the article, if only to leave angry comments.
Is there any other purpose to these articles other than bitching or traffic baiting? People who have played and enjoyed the game aren't going to turn around and say, "By God, this 500-word blog entry is right! I was a fool to base my opinion of Metal Gear Solid 4 on the dozens of hours I spent playing it." Prospective buyers, meanwhile, are more likely to read an actual review of a game than a hit piece when making their decision about whether to purchase it. So what's left, the historians' view on a game? Are you worried that our cyborg descendants from the year 2121 will believe God of War was slightly better than it actually was?
To put it another way: think about how many games from five years ago you still play. How many from ten years ago? Twenty years ago? The video game industry produces so many games and the technology evolves so quickly that this overrated game you're sulking about will be all but forgotten eventually. Why not put your energy into talking about the "underrated" games that are already being lost in the shuffle?
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