That seems like a much more legit criticism than this:
Which like… no… that’s not odd. That’s good writing, particularly good criticism. I can’t even count the well-written film reviews where person had a lot of good things to say about a film that they didn’t enjoy overall, or particularly vice-versa, detailed criticisms of a film they loved.
To me there’s nothing worse than reviews which are one-sided. Someone who always writes reviews which lack nuance, and instead portray games in a wholly positive or wholly negative light (and this has been a common issue since the mid-late 1990s, but was moderated by scores often making you go “hmmm”), no matter how beautifully they write about what they like/hate about a game, is not useful to me, and not very interesting either. To me, despite it being somewhat common, that is what is “odd” - a reviewer who will write some ridiculously positive review about a mediocre or even bad game.
I think the apex of this, the crown jewel of bad reviewing, was Bioshock Infinite reviews in general. Bioshock Infinite was a mediocre-ass game. On every level. It has deeply mediocre gameplay (even by the standards of the time), it has a half-arsed plot which insists on “both sides” bullshit Trump would be proud of (and even at time seemed pretty gross). The world-building was so-so and very white-man-centric for a game claiming to be partly “about” racism. The visual design is good, but derivative, and not great.
Yet read reviews from the time? You’d think it was the greatest game ever made. By some margin.
For example, this from one of the reviews on Metacritic:
“When the history of videogames is written, not one, but two BioShocks will be remembered for pushing gameplay, story, and subject matter to new levels.”
Hooo boy. That line did not age well. Even a year after BI came out, people didn’t believe that, and now? It’s a joke, and the original at least seemed daring and clever for its time. And what’s really lame is, it wasn’t true when BI came out, either. I have no explanation for the mass hysteria that struck gaming journalists back then, but it did.
Anyway, back on your legit criticism:
Yeah, and this has been an issue with various gaming sites for decades, but I think there’s a distinction to be drawn between “likes” and “understands”. I personally don’t like it when people are serious fans of certain styles or genres of games review things, because that is the leading cause, in my experience of ridiculous overwrought reviews that make out things are the next coming of Jesus, when they turn out to be either merely good, or outright mediocre. A lot of reviewers who do habitually play a certain kind of game are pretty bad at reviewing that kind of game. You saw this a lot with reviews of Halo 3. Many of them were completely uncritical. Why? Because they were Halo fans. The could rant about the amazes nuances of improvements to gunplay design or whatever, or spend multiple paragraphs praising the Warthog’s improved handling, but they were completely unable to apparently even process that some of the levels were TERMINALLY BORING unless you were not just an FPS fan, but actual, specific massive Halo fan. Equally they were just not processing that some of the stuff about the game was grindy and dull, because they enjoyed it so much.
You get it now with stuff like Smash Bros, where the reviews tend to be useful to Smash Bros obsessives, because they’re all about nuances or peculiarities or specificities, but where they blandly claim “anyone will love this” game or the like (which I can assure you is very much false - the most recent Smash game is pretty much a 6.5/10 game for anyone who isn’t obsessed with it).
You undermine your own criticism a bit when you say:
Because, how do you actually know you don’t? How is it you’re positioned to say “Alice is wrong”? Because the trouble is, you’re exactly who she’s describing. Also, she didn’t say you need to have been playing games for 30 years. That’s you saying that (and me to some extent, with a paraphrase). She said you needed to know games from across 30 years to properly enjoy/appreciate it.
To me you sound like one of these opera fans I know (and I like opera, note), who claims you don’t need to actually understand the story, or have a real appreciation of how good someone’s performance is relatively, to enjoy it. Even though they clearly do and are so embedded that it’s 30+ years since they even arguably didn’t (and that’s the young ones - the older ones it’s more like 70+ years!), and are just theorizing. Yet my experience is that they’re wrong - I’ve been to operas knowing those things and ones not, and my enjoyment was clearly much greater when I did know what was going on, and when I could tell that this was a particularly good Commendatore and knew Don Giovanni backwards, and so on. It’s like, yes, it’s fun if you don’t, but it’s sublime if you do, and I think outright hand-flick dismissing Alice’s point like that feels a bit cheap to me.
But to be fair - some understand of the genre is needed!
So maybe I’m being unfair to you! Ever think about that, eh, LexW? Because I remember say, a Diablo 2 LoD review that was from some major site, where the reviewer clearly like fundamentally didn’t get ARPGs or how loot works in them or anything like that, and basically spent the entire review grumping that it wasn’t Baldur’s Gate. So there is that!