Thanks to the internet we have access to a plethora of information related to any subject matter imaginable. As gamers, we have access to a glut of news, reviews, and editorial content related to our favorite subject matter. Metacritic in particular has been an easy access point to find a mountain of reviews for just about any game out there. However, it bothers me that a site like Metacritic has become something that folks rely on for formulating an opinion about something without necessarily having dealt with the product first hand.
Metacritic is a great tool in finding out multiple opinions about a product, but they are simply opinions. I know I've used Metacritic before to look up reviews for games I'm potentially interested in, and it definitely has the ability to sway one's opinion. Still, I cannot help missing the days of going to a game store, picking up a title at random, and hoping for the best. Obviously with the current state of the economy, it's caused most of us to be cautious about the titles that we choose to drop our hard-earned dollars on. That is rightfully so, considering most of us only have so much money we can devote to our gaming habit.
One of the dangers, however, is that Metacritic has the ability to influence people's opinions on something without having prior knowledge of the product being judged. Nothing irritates me more then seeing gamers on a forum toting the overall Metacritic score of a game and using it as though it's a proven fact that "X game is awesome" while "X game is crap." Sure, you can say the same thing without Metacritic's influence, but it baffles me more when Metacritic is brought up in a response because people treat it as though it's a fact. It isn't, nor should it be treated that way.
Metacritic really is a troublesome website if you think long and hard about it. On one hand it provides easy access to to thousands of opinions about a product, but the reality is that most use it to make judgment calls according to inherent biases, which in itself is unfair. I recognize that people are always going to make early judgment calls – it's a part of human nature. Even so, I think it's important to go out and try a demo of something to get a feel before basing any purchase on just "what the critics say." We're human too, but I suppose our influence is that we get treated like experts. Even experts and sites that tabulate them like Metacritic can't always be the deciding factor, as it's up to the consumer to formulate an opinion, and a good solid opinion should always have some personal experience attached.
I really do miss the days of going to my local store and grabbing something at random. How many folks out there often find themselves picking up a new game at random without any prior knowledge about it? These days, people doing such a risky thing seem few and far between.