The opinion on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have been rather divided ever since they became a staple how consumers could voice their opinion. In principle, aggregate cites like them are best way to convey and give a median on hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers’ view on a given product. By having the experiences and musings of all these people, you should get an overall accurate image on the product, of its strengths and flaws. At the same time we all are aware how easily such things are swayed to a direction or to another. This is something these aggregate sites have had to struggle with since day one, and there really isn’t a good way to get around it. Every major “faction” tries to sway the ratings of the more visible titles, be it the industry, marketing powers, the consumers themselves or whatever sect’s having shit and giggles for that day, on the long run the aggregate sites will end up giving a decent idea on two different kind of score; the reviewer score and the audience score. The problem is, neither of them are reliable.
If we don’t beat around the bush, most modern professional reviewers are mostly paid and have an agenda. What that agenda ultimately doesn’t matter, as the end goal is to keep their job and not get the power that be mad at them. Shoot down a game or a movie that’s cost big bucks to make and piss off the right people, and you’re cut off from the circles. Ubisoft won’t invite you to press-only events to give you iPads and merch after you gave a 7 to their latest Rabbids game. I noticed during the last few Star Wars movies how the review narrative on the movies always started at the height of the hype. but after two years it petered out and to something that tried to cater to both overall consumer reception and view, and the what the marketing was pushing for. The Last Jedi probably being the best example with how it was sold as subversive and how the consumers simply didn’t get it, and with the arrival of Rise of Skywalker the same bits and bops the same people praised at first, were now called problematic and having quality issues in the storytelling. These distort the aggregate results rather strongly, especially when these industry reviewers have a small pool where to draw from.
At the same time, consumer reviews can range anywhere from thousand-page long essays to one sentence and maybe even word. While the reviewers who get paid to review have to meet some kind of deadline and word count, the general audience doesn’t. It’s easy to give short five cents and click how many stars you give something and be off. While consumers generally don’t get catered in special events like reviewers do, consumers are far more eager to drop extreme citing. It’s not rare to see someone dropping 0 or 1 due to whatever single stupid reason or because something else surrounding the product is not to their liking. At the same time you often get people who are, to quote a friend, ‘hype as fuck 10/10 bought three pieces and one extra for their dog.’ You know the type, people who will give a good review for the exact same reasons someone would give a bad review, yet have nothing to do with the product itself. Hell, positive or negative, there are Youtubers going through Steam reviews and making fun of how bad some of the reviews are.
Both are capable of using bots and campaigns to drive the aggregate numbers to whatever direction, so the point is rather moot. With high-profile movies and games it’s more an issue which one will be doing it more visibly and who will get caught first. Tweaking review numbers is silently accepted as part of the whole deal, and in the end nobody really trusts any number a reviewer givers. Which is why I don’t use a rating scale.
The Internet has made the profession of a reviewer rather moot. Everybody has something to say. Some people come across and are more educated on subjects they discuss, perhaps even have worked on projects or are still working in the industry itself. Some have jackshit knowledge where the chicken pisses but naturally can pin point positives and negatives like no other all the while bringing something new to the table. It’s rather common to become blind to your own industry the more you’re with it, how the eyes of a professional may make things sheen in pig grease and swoop down like a striking lightning, but have lost the touch to the grass root level end-consumer who just wanted a anime tiddies and a not a shitty metaphor. Nothing’s fool proof, and often it takes a fool to point out all the flaws the highest levels of professionals missed. The same applies to any industry and it can be seen on these aggregate sites, where individual consumers have far better points, plus and con, just by intuition over people who are used to analyse everything in Shakespearean terms.
There are numerous Internet reviewer sites and individuals who do both entertainment reviews and serious reviews. James Rolfe would count as both depending on what show he is doing. If his views or tastes aren’t to your liking, there are a whole lot more people that probably do. That’s one beauty the Internet has brought is; we are able to find like-minded people who may know more media we might enjoy. You might find fellow fans to share your fun with. However, at the same time we should consider outside views and what others are valuing in their media. After all, the only way to mock someone properly is to first understand what they’re saying.
Very few works of art and entertainment can claim to have objective categories in which to review and evaluate a work under. Because most of the entertainment, art and media overall is an expression of one or many, we often get something that intentionally breaks the set rules. We’re forced to evaluate outside the given parameters. Even with objective rules in which we are to evaluate something, every person will get slightly different result either due to personal experience with past productions of similar kind, or simply understanding the basic set of rules every so slightly. It is rather uncommon to see two people agreeing that, for example, some movie is absolutely fantastic, but for completely different reason. In discussions like this
Aggregate sites have acknowledged the divide between professionals and consumers, and how their world views differ. In some cases this has come to a point where the reviewers end up doing reviews that are more aimed at the industry, this being part of the whole losing-touch-with-consumers thing you always want to avoid. At the same time fellow consumers mostly likely know what at least part of the rest of people who need to pay for these products want and value. There’s a divide between the two roughly-made factions and it will not go away as long as anything like the Internet exists. In many ways, the professional reviewer is an obsolete beast, relegated to exist in certain circles in some manner, but eclipsed by a Joe Everybody with his own Youtube channel. Take the Australian electronic channel EEVblog as an example. Not only you can find reviews, but reviews that will tear down into the electronics and how they work. EEVblog is bit of a cheat, as the Aussieguy who runs it has a history with electronics industry, and it shows. However, at the same time is also a consumer. When the two worlds collide like this, magic happens. The fact that the Internet is full of people like this, and in ever increasing numbers, the traditional outlets are in a losing battle. Hell, if we manage to get into a situation where most reviewers are independent of the industry and its systems, the companies’ leverage could be almost ignored.
With some of the latest movies and TV shows Rotten Tomatoes has taken their stance to change how the calculate the scores as well as have been resetting the scores. While it’d be easy to credit malice and intentional skullfuckery with the score, like with the recent case where a ResetEra user went and review bombed a game, there are more cases where the user score simply tanks because the general consumer really does not like something and deems a movie or game to be low quality. Recently Dr. Who‘s latest season hit a record 0% audience score, but the score got reset and now sits somewhere in the thirties. Often a low score or a tanking score gets people suspicious, but nobody seems to talk about how a quickly rising score is just as weird. While aggregators do have a requirement to test methods to seek out bomber bots and the like, when aggregates begin to curate any submitted results, the whole point of aggregation becomes moot and the end-score won’t reflect the actual score.
Rarely a site or a news source providers you with more than view in a review. Some gaming magazines used to do this, and Japanese Famitsu still has multiple people reviewing the same game. The amount of text they cram into the page may be short, but the fact five different people can give some kind of points of comparisons at the same time is commendable. It’s like in Interspecies Reviewers, same thing really. Perhaps it’s cultural, perhaps it’s that most outlets don’t exactly have the time and money to have five people watching or playing something at the same time and separately submitting a review.
You know what I personally expect from reviews? Different approaches. The best reviews I’ve ever read and watched approach same point from three different angles, often utilising knowledge gained from surrounding matters, first-hand experience and what I call wildcard vectors. This way of examining something from multiple points of views should give more insight on hows and whys, as well as compound all the positives and negatives in proper manner. A negative point may still be negative, but at least one of the three approaches can understand and even appreciate that negative element.