Why review scores are irrelevant
If you TL;DR, you'll completely miss the point of this article.
But basically this is my opinion on why review scores are inacurate, irrelevant numbers that don't mean anything.
Most gamers are not idiots.
- We know destroying Liberty City in a murderous rampage doesn't make us want to go out on a massacre in real life.
- We know graphics aren't everything, and as long as the game mechanics are fun and well polished, it'll be worth the hours and money we put into it.
- We know the large companies like EA and Activision and their investors don't care for one day about making good video games. They only care about making profit.
- Most of us know that reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, as the reviewer in question always will have a somewhat biased view on the particular game being reviewed.
- We are pretty damn smart, if I do say so myself. (And I do).So why are we still trying to measure games on a numetric scale from 1 to 10? Let me tell you what's wrong with what is considered to be the standard in regards to reviews.
1. We rely on reviewers to tell us what to think.
I am all for the reviewer having an opinion about the game - without that, what's the point in the review? But where I think reviewers go wrong is when they tell you what you should do. There's nothing particularily wrong with saying "I don't think you should buy this game, because...", but many sites - including this one - have a statement that says Buy it, Rent it, F*** it. Of course you could just say "Well, that's just what he wants to do with the game", but in the wording you are explicitly told to do something, and that's something I generally don't like. Let me form my own opinion, the reviewer should simply point out their views on the pros and cons of the game, and as a somewhat intelligent individual I should be able to form my own opinion. Do I, for instance like that GTA IV had odd vehicle handling? I among others personally hated it, but a lot of reviewers liked it and said it added to the suspense in car chases - and that is certainly a valid point, but not one that I would agree with. Now, what the reviewer thought to be a pro, is suddenly a con for me.
2. Reviews are supposed to subjective, yet people don't seem to get that.
There is no definitive answer to what makes a game good. You simply cannot judge a game that way, because it can not be measured statiscticly, you cannot put numbers on it and say "Well, our graphics indicator tells us the graphics in this game are 8.7/10, so there's that I guess", because good graphics can mean different things. Sure you can probably measure how detailed the textures are and how many polygons make out the characters, but a game without proper asthetics that reflect the theme, lore and/or mechanics will appear dull. The reviewer can say wether they enjoy the asthetics of the game or don't and if the game has technical problems, but that's about it. There is no final answer.
3. The numerical review score system is built for ignorant people.
It is designed to make the process of forming an opinion as easy and accessible as possible. You don't have to read, listen or even think much for yourself to have an opinion about the game - which would be fine, if it was not completely biased as I pointed out before (There will always be bias, but limiting it as much as possible should be the ultimate goal). Furthermore there's the problem that you'll actually skip what they review has to say just to get their final verdict - hence forming your own opinion becomes is practically non-existent.
When Mirror's Edge was about to come out I was really excited, because it was something brand new with a unique art style to it. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Then the review from Gameractor came out, giving it a 6/10. This ultimately led me to not buying it and just sticking to the demo, which I played over and over. I eventually decided to just buy the game and it turned out I loved it to death. Had I not been exposed to that number on that website I would've bought it straight away - this simply shows how much power a reviewer has by labeling a number on a game.
4. These inaccurate numbers affect the industry.
EA and Activision love going to Metacritic and checking their games' meta-scores. It makes ressource management so much easier for them in their minds, because if a studio gets a 7/10 they can pretty much just spare the whole studio and put money into something else, or just keep it. There might be insanely talented people working in that studio that are now left without jobs and have a hard time getting a new one, now that they're labeled a 7/10 because some reviewer didn't like an aspect of their game, or simply trying to gain views through being controversial, thus lowering the average score. There is also the problem that sites, such as this one (ScrewAttack) have a completely different opinion on what the average game should be set to. Here, the base line for an average good game is 5/10, whereas GameTrailers would probably label that as a 7/10, yet they're still in the same pot on Metacritic - this just makes the whole affair even less accurate. And don't get me started on the sites that use 5 as maximum.
5. With all of these problems, what should in my mind be considered a great review?
A great review should be indepth, the game in question should be completed, and if various branches exist in the storyline, if possible they should be explored. The review should be comparative, taking into consideration previous titles in the franchise and if there are/are not any improvements, taking competitors with similar style/game mechanics into consideration. It should not seek to condesend the viewer/reader to tell that person what take away from the review, they are completely capable of forming their own opinion based on your review. The conclusion should NOT be a numeric value or a simple boolean buy/don't buy statement, since we all have different pros and cons about games, but may include an opinion by the reviewer wether they think it's worth a purchase/rental.
To conclude I would also say these general rulesets should be applied to other forms of art such as movies, music, plays, paintings etc.
If you agree or disagree, I would love to get some feedback and maybe starting a discussion. This took some time to write, but I feel it's something that should be mentioned. I know a lot of people probably already have discussed this, but the subject is still relevant as long as the industry is plagued by these scores.
Unless you bought it digitally. Sometimes it can be too late.
While I myself use a 0-10 point rating system, I prefer to do it where 5/10 is mediocre while 7/10 is good. The highest thing I have ever given something is 9.5/10 since nothing is perfect (10).
I like this article alot.
It's never too late. If you liked the game, cool. You can keep it and enjoy it. If not, return the damn thing, so long as it's returned during the period said on the receipt. In my time, I've reviewed a small number of games, and I usually just say whether it's good or bad.
Can you elaborate on how you think it's abusive? Again, to me it's only a reflection of the reviewer's overall opinion of the subject. The further the score is away from the midpoint, the more the game's good points overshadowed its bad points, or vice versa. I think the only time when it could be construed as abusive is when the author interprets a given score differently than the reader. The author might decide to use the inflated scale used in the school system, where a 7/10 is considered average, but the reader might consider a 5 to be logically average and interpret that the game is, overall, better than the author meant to convey.
But again, if you have anything more than passive interest in what you're looking at, you're going to look for more detail than a simple score can provide. So I don't really see what the big deal is.
Well... you just summarized my point. The bias is being planted in the reader by the reviewer - and THAT'S what I think is wrong.
I don't agree with the first phrase "Most gamers aren't idiots." That applies to real life but to gamers who actually go online for info, the general consensus is that a great deal of these games are morons who let the media and general opinion dictate how they should feel about certain products and companies, which sucks since we're left dealing with these "geniuses" and trying to reason with them.
I do agree with everything else, the good thing about reviews though, is that there is a wide variety of them so it's usually easy to see which review is just flat out being a douchebag just to garner attention if the rest of the reviewers are all in agreement. For me, I do look at reviews of pretty much all games I'm interested, BUT I only use them to help judge whether or not I should buy the game based on gameplay mechanics and execution of the game because we can't tell if a game is buggy or doesn't function properly without first trying it ourselves. Games that I know I'm going to love regardless (like well established franchises from Nintendo or story driven games like Assassin's Creed) I get not really caring what the reviews say.
Well yes, but isn't it too late for you to review for yourself when you've already laid the money down?
And neither should you. I was tricked into buying Diablo III by my friends. What a piece of junk I thought it was. Very repetitive, boring game-mechanics and techical issues out the wazoo. When I said I'd much rather be playing Torchlight... Well Blizzard has its loyal fanbase - ugh.
Yes, demos are something publishers need to put out way more. It only serves in their best interest as more people will learn about the games while limiting piracy from people who "wanted to try before they buy". Even though practically no-one actually buys the game full-price. They'll just wait until it goes on sale and buy it for much less, even though they got it on release (sometimes before even).
I think you completely missed the point of my article and simply repeated some points you thought I lacked, even though I had already written them down.
1) You can never take something too seriously in regards to how things are presented. I don't agree with the practice of explicitly telling people what to do, because that still has an effect on said consumer's decision making. A more fair way to approach is to say: "Well, if you enjoy the feel of driving on ice, you'll love the vehicle-handling in GTA IV. Personally I don't" - I don't like that the reviewers says: "The driving controls are bad and it's too hard to turn". I don't want the reviewer to explicitly tell me that a design choice is either a pro or a con.
2) It's simply the very notion that we try to measure something that is unmeasurable. Numbers are objective. Therefore trying to fit a subjective statement into an objective number is flat out wrong.
3) This is actually where you point out the flaw in the consumer, and what I mean about review scores being made for ignorant people. They want the quick version, the superficial yes/no statement. The main point of the entire article is that most gamers are not stupid. We are not stupid because we know a number is not enough to summarize a game's qualities, neither is a boolean buy/don't buy statement. This is just as much an outcry to consumers as well as reviewers. We need to start thinking.
4) Community is such an overused word these days. It's the internet - great you like videogames as well? That doesn't mean we're part of some community where we take care of eachother. But enough about that, yes I certainly do hate people who come to these sites expecting their favourite game to have an awesome score, only to confirm their own opinions.
5) You again completely miss the point while contradicting yourself, because the rating system DEFINITELY has something to do with how people skip the indepth coverage and go directly to the bottom line. It's like reading a good book, but only the last page. You won't have any idea what the book was about.
The best reviewer of a game is you. If you like a game, you'll praise it, as vice verse.
Nevermind, I guess it hit frontpage.
What the hell happened? Someone put pictures in my article? Sudden outburst of views? ARGH!
Want to know how to get the best review of a game? Find a reviewer with the same taste as you do. Someone who has rated your favorite games high and the games you don't like low. Now when that reviewer gives a game an 8/10 or a 6/10 you know weather you'll like the game or not like it without having to read a whole review. Yes, it's that hard/easy.
I don't get why people get so upset about opinionated scores. They are opinionated therefore there is no "wrong" answer. The only "right" answer is someone with the same opinionated answer as you do. When we can't find someone who has the same taste as us we read the reviews to see if what they like and don't like sounds like it rings true to us.
When your best friend who has the same taste in games as you tells you to buy a game because you'll like it. You don't ask them for pros and cons. Whats the point if you are going to like the game? You see what I'm getting at here? Numbers are great when it comes from someone with a taste like yours. Pros and cons are when you can't trust the reviewer based only on their score or recommendation.
i agree that the numeric system is a crappy way to review a game, but it's the easiest way to put a quantitative value on something that is primarily qualitative. It's much easier to measure numbers over words. Unfortunately these numbers also have a significant impact on the fate of said "game" and their developing studios. It's such a shame when studios with potential get shut down because their game didn't appeal to a certain reviewer and pelt them with a "6.5" which is pretty much wat a lot new IPs are getting these days
not to mention people never really settle for things that are mediocre or above average, they'd much rather spend their time with something good or better
The reason anything lower than a 7 is considered bad is because thats how its like in school. Anything lower than a 7 is a D. Also, the reason the base line for most is a 7 is because anything below C- is labeled as failing. It's not the evolving minds of gamers having higher standards, its just the way we were taught to see grading in school.
I couldn't agree more.
Let me hit all of your points one by one because I have a lot to say about this. 1.) You talk about reviewers "forcing" their opinions on you and telling you what to do. I think you are taking it to seriously. Like everything in the review those RECOMMENDATIONS are formed from their opinion of the games.
2.) While I think it stupid to put a rating on every little thing, I don't think that makes it any less subjective than the rest of the review because even if it's in a numerical form it's still their opinion.
3.) This is were I think you are completely wrong. No matter what kind of rating system you have or even if you don't have one at all, a lot of people are just looking for a conformation to buy something. Do posting the rating system out right helps that? A bit, but people would just scroll to the end of the review and get the summary at the end anyway.
4.) I think this is a community problem more so than a reviewing one. When the trend of " if it's below 7/10 games suck" reviewers caught on and changed with it. I blame the people because when there favorite game didn't get a good rating they bitched and reviewers change what "good" meant.
5.) Aren't most reviews that way all ready? Don't the just have that number tacked on at the ed to just quickly summarize everything they just WROTE out to you. You talk about people forming opinions but it seems like you are just overlooking what they just wrote and only paying attention to the fact that they have scores and ratings.
In the the end I blame the people who don't read reviews. The rating has nothing to do with it because at the end of the day most people will only look to see if they make the "right" choice from a professional reviewer. At the end of the day is there really a difference between saying a game is fantastic, good, or a piece of shit any different than giving it a score that reflects that, because that's what most people will be looking for.