“Let he who is without bias voice the first opinion.” If we went by that rule, nobody would ever say anything as we are all influenced by our surroundings and/or past in one way or another. Lots of people criticize reviewers of any media for not being completely objective, which is utterly insane. Opinions without bias do not exist and anyone who has spent any time thinking about reviews knows that that is what they are and can only be: Opinions.
How often do people complain about how a sequel to an existing franchise is “garbage” when in reality it just doesn’t hold up to the image they made up in their own head because of what they thought of the previous game. For example, a friend of mine was pretty upset about the “new” Devil May Cry game (DmC), calling it all kinds of bad. You can probably guess that he was a huge fan of the DMC series prior to that one and he did not like the way it changed. I on the other hand had only ever played DMC4 before this newest iteration (crucify me!) but am generally a fan of the genre. I really enjoyed DmC and would expect anyone with any fondness for action games of that kind to at least like the game, but my friend would not have any of it. His assumptions for what Devil May Cry was were disappointed since a lot of things were changed from one game to another. But what if that game had simply been called something else? If it hadn’t had the “DMC” seal attached to it I am almost certain he could have come to love it for its smooth, stylish fighting and presentation. My friend would have probably not liked DmC more than the previous parts of the series; he’s not that blind; but if we could look past our bias we would be able to enjoy games much more freely while still being able to critique their shortcomings. I’m not saying to put on rose-tinted glasses, but to take off the Dante’s-white-hair shades.
Another way that one’s perception of a game can be muddled it via your own expectations. While playing Transistor, which is a beautiful game with amazing music, I somehow made myself expect some crazy, mind-blowing twist or something of that kind, which made me look for metaphors in everything, trying to dissect every line of dialogue for clues as to what crazy turnaround would await me around whichever corner. That never happened. The story just played out. Not in a bad way at all. It was moving and interesting but it just left me feeling a little empty because of the false expectations I had made for myself. After some thinking I realized that there was really no reason to let that influence my opinion of Transistor, since I did enjoy it a whole lot and the story was good. For a few moments though I did feel disappointed, all because of my own bias.
So what is the lesson here? Bias can come from all kinds of places and in all kinds of forms. It can make us hate something we might have otherwise liked but it can also make us like something and as long as we’re human it is unavoidable but we can and should still do our best not to let that ruin the fun of gaming for us. Especially if we’re trying to write reviews or make recommendations in any other way.