Well said @Baines.
And this exactly the issue - many reviewers are not actually fans of what they’re reviewing. This is true in all forms of reviewing except, interesting, theatre and musical theatre (and closely-related subjects). They’re a little different because the vast majority of plays/musicals/operas are the same ones being repeated, so reviewers tend, quite strongly, to be fans of a specific composer or several composers, or playwright or playwrights, and so on.
With games, there are so many games, so many franchises, so many genres, even, that it’s actually relatively rare to see a reviewer who is also a fan of a game, unless that game is very zeitgeist-y. Fans of the genre doing reviews are more common, but the genres are so broad that reviewers often have no time for a particular game or subgenre.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, per se, but it causes a disconnect, because I think it’s fair to say, with most games, the majority of people buying them are at the very least keen on the genre, often actively fans of it, and if it’s not a new game, often fans of the franchise and/or developers too. Thus they care in a different to reviewers.
So there’s a certain false note to reviewers and journalists complaining about fans - sure, if they overreact it’s reasonable, but again I’ve not really seen anything extreme here. A lot of people reacting moderately poorly is not the same as an “extreme reaction”. The reason for the volume here is the very large number of Diablo fans out there, not that the reaction is insane. The reaction to ME3’s ending, for example, was worse, and featured a lot more in the way of lawsuits and death threats and petitions and other insanity*.
Anyway, the point is, when reviewers aren’t fans, they’re frequently unable to understand what is upsetting people, and it’s kind of fashionable right now, to not even try. It does cut the other way too, of course, reviewers who are massive fans of the games they’re reviewing can produce very strange and unhelpful reviews of games. The example I always use is Halo 3, because it really stuck in my mind. Halo 3 was a very zeitgeist-y game for a common sort of American male reviewer, and a lot of the people reviewing it were fans (you often see this with Nintendo games too).
So a lot of the reviews of it were completely useless to anyone who just “kind of enjoyed” the series, and/or wasn’t terribly familiar with it, because they were obsessively about obscure mechanics and small changes to guns and gameplay and so on, and just sort of glossed over why you would play Halo 3 in the first play, I guess because it’s the new Halo game, duh. They also wildly overrated what was basically an 8/10 shooter into being some sort of 10/10 masterpiece. You shouldn’t, I’d say, spend like 20-30% of a review talking about how the “skull” system works (some kind of difficulty modifier?), if you’re writing for a mainstream gaming mag, not like “Haloplayers.com” (I just made that address up but it’s probably real) or something.
So what I’m saying is there is value in not being a “fan” to an excessive degree, but just being shitty about people who are? It’s just another kind of real shitty-ness. Walker for example, said something nastier about that developer than literally anyone I’ve seen say about Wyatt Cheng for example (most have been somewhat sympathetic or sarcastic, rather than caustic). So John Walker has placed himself in that most-loathed category of “fans” - those who are deeply unpleasant to developers.
- = Personally as someone who loved the ME series, I wasn’t even angry, I was just genuinely shocked - I was walking around in a daze for about 24 hours after ways (probably didn’t help that I’d been playing ME3 for like 16 hours straight when I finished it), but I wasn’t really part of that because my ability to be angry/upset was sort of vapourized by the sheer awfulness of the ending to absolute favourite game series ever. I think I went straight from Denial to very brief Bargaining to Acceptance.**
** - Before someone bad-naturedly mocks this, I’d never really been a “fan” of anything before ME, except maybe DS9, and I think that experience helped me to understand “fans” a bit better. I don’t have any respect for ones who are nasty or shitty to devs, they’re a bane on society, but experiencing strong emotions about something like that, well, it’s a real thing, and shouldn’t be sneeringly and smugly dismissed, especially as in my experience, absolutely everyone who does so is the worst kind of hypocrit, and has something they react the same way to (like their favourite bicycle finally falling to pieces - seen a couple of people go through the full five stages over bicycles).