A review gives a description of a product - be it a movie, a book, a game or something different entirely - with the specific intent to sum up its good and bad points and ultimately help the reader decide if it's worth their time and money. By definition, a review contains both facts and the author's opinion; it is not meant to be objective, though it falls on the reviewer's shoulders to explain his position properly so that the reader takes his opinion as credible.
GameFAQs hosts a great many gaming reviews contributed by volunteers, and the quality varies wildly. Since GameFAQs has a policy of accepting anything that's at least readable (their desire being to represent as much of the gaming community as possible), many reviews are of questionable quality; on the other hand, the site's best amateur reviewers write on par with and often better than professional reviewers for other sites and magazines.
During the early years of GameFAQs, review quality was not strictly enforced by CJayC, which engendered numerous short, generic reviews. One method used to stem the flow low-quality reviews was to incrementally increase the word requirement as more reviews were accepted for a game. The current minimum word count is 400 words, but games with dozens of reviews can have word requirements of over 2000. This measure is in place based on the theory that longer reviews tend to be better thought out and written, and also to dissuade new reviews from conveying pointless or overstated information.
With the promotion of Sailor Bacon to the administration team, CJayC is no longer directly responsible for handling review submissions. Sailor Bacon assumed the duties of checking over reviews and review contribution problems. Since then, quality control has become more stringent than the early days of GameFAQs, leading to some confusion in GameFAQs standards. It is known from Sailor Bacon's posts on the Review Contributor Board that other staff (possibly from CNET) take over review submissions when Sailor Bacon is unavailable.
GameFAQs reviews are restricted with certain coding used by the site. One problem is the use of non-standard ASCII characters, which will not display properly when accepted. This can be awkward for reviewers when using accented letters and words, such as "clichÃ©"; or when the game's title includes an accented letter, such as PokÃ©mon.
After the GameSpot Merger, the review pages were displayed in smaller text in some browsers. This could be remedied by increasing the browser's text size, but default text settings made reviews difficult to read. Additionally, small details such as the review tagline were not included in the review page itself, and details such as reviewer score and date of submission were awkwardly located. These were fixed in the 2006 Redesign.
Another limitation was resubmission. A review could not be edited; instead it had to be resubmitted. The later submission would overwrite the old review. The inherent problem was the aforementioned word requirement. An early review of shorter length could not be updated without adding significant amounts of text if enough reviews had been accepted to boost the word requirement. In July 2006, CJayC set the word requirement of accepted reviews to be the same as that of the time of submission.
On July 20th 2006, CJayC began the testing of "Featured Reviews". Prolific reviewers had all their reviews showcased on the game review lists by being placed in their own "featured" section at the top. CJayC gathered feedback from reviewers on the Contribution boards; the overall reaction was negative. The idea was accepted as feasible, but reviewers pushed for more reliable standards and alterations to which reviewers could be considered worthy of being featured.
Review System Overhaul
It became apparent that the Featured Reviewers system would not last. While its supporters argued that it gave contributors an incentive to go prolific, detractors pointed out that it merely gave users an excuse to flood the site with poor reviews and rack up KB totals. This debate returned to the forefront of discussion on the Review Contributors General Board during the summer of 2007 .
It was during this time that the administrators posted a topic asking the contributors what improvements could be made to the system. While the Featured Reviewers system was among the issues, prolific reviewers pointed out problems with quality standards, required word counts, editing, review ratings, and glitches within the submission system itself. It was through these debates that the administrators crafted a brand new review submissions system, which went live in August.
The acceptance standards received the most drastic change; rather than focusing primarily on word count, it also factored in the release dates as well. The reviews are designated differently to account for these changes:
Detailed Reviews: Must be a minimum of 1200 words and submitted 7 days after the game’s release.
Full Review: Must be a minimum of 800 words and submitted 3 days after the game’s release.
Quick Review: Must be a minimum of 400 words and can be submitted upon the release date of the game.
This new method gives users an incentive to put more effort in their reviews; Detailed Reviews are listed at the top of the game page, thus giving them more of a spotlight, while Quick Reviews are located at the bottom. This also addresses the issue of minimum word counts; since these new requirements are set regardless of how many reviews already exist for a game, reviewers no longer have to deal with demanding word counts for popular games.
The new system also demonstrates how reviews are separated in the review submission menu; users are now allowed to choose which region corresponds to the version of the game being reviewed. This minimizes the confusion that may come with a review for a foreign version of a game with a domestic one.
One of the other major issues addressed was editing existing reviews. Before, users had to save their reviews and resubmit them if they were rejected, as the site did not keep rejected reviews. With the new system, copies of the reviews are stored in the site’s database. If a review needs to be edited while in the queue, the reviewer can use the submission menu to make quick corrections and resubmit without submitting everything over again.
Another key feature is the submissions rating system. At the end of each review, there is an option for readers to recommend the review. If a review gets enough recommendations, it will become featured and receive a star on its game page. A featured review must follow at least one of the following criteria:
Attaining the top 2% recommendations of all reviews on a given game page.
Winning Review of the Month.
This addresses the problem of the Featured Reviewers system; featured reviews are now determined by the readers’ feedback, not by the amount of KB the reviewer has submitted to the site. There are some issues, however. There have been instances of vote stuffing for poorly written reviews. Many Review of the Month winners have also noted that their winning entries have not been awarded their stars. Thus it remains unknown if the rating system is defunct or merely in need of an update.