It’s Time to Rethink How We Review Games

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Everybody has an opinion. You do. I do. Whether educated or not, it’s human nature to judge how we feel about something. Our opinions are one of the many ways we stand out from one another. Next to that we as humans also reserve the right to voice that opinion, or to keep it to ourselves. Some go on to forever keep their thoughts to themselves. Others go on to make voicing their opinions into a career.

As you know, a lot of these careers are based in the entertainment industry. Journalists analyze and review movies, music, tv shows, and our favorite medium, video games. What they generally end up doing afterwards is sum up their thoughts into a number. This becomes one of the most important aspects of the review. This number must be carefully decided, as it will be the deal breaker in many cases.

In terms of video games, is this a good way of judging such a subjective experience? Having most of the importance be on the number? If yes, what platform is the number judging on? Say a game gets an eight out of ten. Is that an eight out of ten compared to every game to ever come out? Is that an eight out of ten compared to all of the games in that genre? Is that an eight out of ten based solely on the reviewers enjoyment of the experience? How about price? Is that a factor?

While games are fairly cheap compared to what they used to be, sixty dollars is still a lot of dough. (Chart from arstechnica.com)

If no, then what sort of system would the number be replaced with? Would the number be blatantly ignored? What about getting factored into websites that rely on scores, like metacritic? As shitty as it is, there are developers who’s bonuses depend on that number. With the way the industry is today – everyone being able to share their opinions and just the sheer amount of different games out there – these sorts of questions need to be considered when reviewing a game.

Let’s take an open world game for example. If we are judging a game based on it’s content value, an open world game would be the ideal candidate would it not? For those on a budget, how much content will this game give them for their hard-earned sixty? Supposedly more so than any Uncharted or Alien: Isolation, no? But if the content is all padding and boring collect-a-thons, their money is probably better spent elsewhere. Reviewers generally get games for free, and it can be argued that they should be reviewed based on their content alone, however there are those who have no issue throwing sixty dollars down on a six hour experience and there are those who would never even consider it. Both groups of gamers are important, how can one number cater to them both?

“Madden 17” and “Skyrim” are completely different experiences, and should be regarded as such. Especially if people are paying the same price for both.

How about the ridiculous “You gave this mobile game a 9.5 but BioShock Infinite a 9.4?! Credibility gone! You’ve lost a viewer!” comments? Technically, yes you can compare a mobile game to a console game based on enjoyment, but when it comes to a professional review, games should be judged in the playing field they are a part of. You don’t compare a basketball player to a hockey player; you compare them to other players in their respective sport. The same goes with genre. While easier than platform, it is still fairly difficult to compare a FPS to a puzzle game. If we are going to continue giving games singular scores, it simply makes more sense to have that score reflect how good that game is compared to others in its genre.

Now, gamers can just read a review and judge it for themselves, as is the point of a review. But that is still avoiding the issue of the one number fits all. Imagine if a powerhouse like IGN gave a game like Fallout 4 a 5/10 socre. There would have been outrage from those who disagree, argument from those who do agree, sales would have been affected as there are tons of casual gamers who see only that review when they Google “Fallout 4 Review”. The reviewer would have every right to that opinion, and ideally their thoughts would be well explained in the review, however there are so many who would argue for or against it because of the score alone.

Don’t believe me? This exact situation happened with IGN’s own Alien: Isolation review. To this day there are still people commenting on the review absolutely berating McCaffrey’s score. To those who say the number doesn’t matter, whether you like it or not, it really does matter. It is a necessary evil, but one that doesn’t have to stay that way. Publishers follow the trends of gamers. It happened with pre-orders, it happened with free-to-play, and maybe they would stop putting so much importance on them if we as gamers do. This could lead to more experimental projects from AAA developers, sequels being more than just rehashes, games could become more about the fun than they are about the sales.

The fateful review is the number one result. For some people, that is the only result they will pay attention to.

What’s great is that there are already those in the industry that are doing just that. Kinda Funny Games, former IGN journalists, never put a score on anything. When they do a review they simply speak their thoughts on the game. They talk about what they like and don’t like, and that’s that; no number whatsoever.

Steam’s favorite website Rock, Paper, Shotgun does the same but in writing. Even here at The Koalition we are taking a step in the right direction by assigning each major aspect of the game a score instead of solely the one number. Sort of like saying gamers are still anti-social hermits, assigning a game a singular number is an outdated practice, and something we need to start branching out of.

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