Should game reviewers review games for which they are not the target audience?

There are thousands of game reviews out there, but I wonder how many of these reviewers are actually the target-audience of the game, and if this makes a difference. Should reviewers only be critical of games suited to them, or can they review all games in the same way, even if these games did not intend for them to be the audience?

It is undeniable that most games are targeted towards a specific audience. Nintendo’s Bratz: Forever Diamondz is clearly targeted towards young children, who love fashion, and perhaps who like playing with the Bratz toy dolls. If someone in the late 30’s, who hated fashion, and hated dolls reviewed this game, though they may have valid criticisms about visual elements or bugs, I wonder how credible the overall review can be. Not being the target-audience, automatically means they will be missing a key element of knowledge or experience in being able to review the game. 

Of course, critics should be able to give negative reviews on generic things like poor-quality visuals, and if there is something clearly not adequate with the game, this should be mentioned. Where it gets a little more hazy for me is when we get to critique of storylines. For example, YouTuber Pikasprey Yellow critiqued the game Duel Masters: Sempai Legends, saying the jokes in the storyline were poor effort. But would a child, the arguable target-audience of this game, have noticed this? It is because the reviewer is an adult, who has played adult games, and now has certain expectations of what games should be like for them, that might jeopardise their ability to accurately critique kids’ games. Of course the jokes in the game will be basic: they are meant for kids. What children find funny and adults find funny are at completely different levels of sophistication. 

Now, if developers are deliberately making a lower-quality product for kids because they think kids wouldn’t notice, this is certainly lazy game-making, and arguably exploitive and should be criticised. But on the whole, critiquing plot points and storylines on a game that was never intended for you to play, because developers know that this isn’t something you would enjoy, seems rather pointless to me. It is like reviewing baby food as an adult: the product isn’t intended for your developed taste buds. 

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t review games that aren’t meant for them, just that maybe these reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

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Leia Butler

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October 2021
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