Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Video Game Industry Needs a ‘Roger Ebert’

Does anyone care what video game reviewers think? A better question might be, does the average consumer know where to turn when seeking advice on what games to buy? Here is a simple question: How many video game reviewers can you name? If you live and breathe video games you can probably name 2 or 3, at the most. The average consumer couldn't name a single one. Compare this to movie reviewers. The average consumer can surely name at least 2. Why is this? I think one reason is that most people over 30 still think of video games as a kid activity that you outgrow. The number of older gamers is definitely growing, but the kiddy perception still lingers. Another reason could be the lack of trusted reviewers. Most people who read video game reviews probably never even notice who is writing them. And why should they? There is no true authority in video game reviewing. There are no ‘Roger Eberts’ in the video game industry. But there needs to be.

This isn’t to say that there are no current video game journalists capable of achieving this. The gaming industry may need to mature a bit before taking this next step. Gamers who remember getting an Odyssey 2 or an Atari VCS when they were first released are just now reaching into their 40’s. And every year that passes, more and more older gamers will be talking about gaming as much as any other industry. The opportunities will be there for them to widen the scope of gaming. Part of that widening is already happening. Several non-gaming websites have active gaming sections:,, and others. And with this, more and more consumers are exposed to video games. The more people that are exposed to gaming, the more the game playing populace will expand. Once critical mass is hit, we could see a change in the way people view video game reviewers.

What I’m talking about here are people who are capable of reaching both hardcore gamers and casual gamers. The ‘Roger Eberts’ of the world are viewed and read by more than just movie fanatics. Even casual movie goers know exactly where to go to find a review when they need one. But casual gamers seem absolutely clueless when they are in need of a review. That is mainly because these gamers don’t know where to go to find good reviews. Or at least, reviews that they trust. Most casual gamers’ information comes from asking a kid working in the video game department. That is rarely a good idea. Have you ever gone to a theater with no clue what to watch and ask the ticket taker his advice?

Once a ‘Roger Ebert’ emerges in the video game industry, video game reviews will be more common place and be more accessible to casual gamers. The more mainstream gaming reviews become, the more the industry will grow. And, the more it is legitimized. And that will be good for all video game fans, hardcore and casual alike.