Evaluating evaluations. (or, video game review scores as a whole = 7.9/10)

Game reviews are more important than reviews for any other medium in predicting its financial success. For a long time, I put too much faith into them. If something came out and it received less than a 8.5/10, I became disinterested. I was doing myself a disservice. Recently I’ve noticed there are a lot of games that don’t receive critical acclaim, that I end up loving. I’ve also noticed the opposite, some “classics” I don’t particularly enjoy. Do I still think reading reviews are valuable? Of course, it’s one of my favorite things to do, but no longer will I dismiss something just because it got a 7/10 from a certain someone.

A Take Two executive acknowledges the importance of review scores in a recent Gamespot article. He mentions that while a movie may get trashed by critics, if it’s a “crowd pleasing comedy” people will still show up to the theater. That’s almost never true for video games. Metacritic, the review aggregate site, has become so important that publishers give developers bonuses based on their final Metacritic score.

There are some in the gaming journalism industry that are trying to change that. Eurogamer recently shook things up a bit when they announced they would be forgoing reviews scores. For those that don’t have time to read the entire review, they still label games as Avoid, Recommended or Essential. By doing so, they have removed themselves from Metacritic. Kotaku also doesn’t use scores. I think this is a good way to go, although admittedly there are aspects I would miss. It’s what’s in the review that matters. Unfortunately, I don’t see most of the industry going this route as gamers tend to be highly value ratings, especially on mobile devices.

A recent Kindafunny Gamescast had a great discussion about review scores.

Colin Mortiarty’s main point is that reducing your review, something that is totally subjective, to a number is counterproductive. Why not just read it and figure out for yourself if it is something you would enjoy? Tim Gettys makes a counterpoint that there are lots of people that play games casually. They just want to know whether a game is worth playing or not, and looking at a few numbers is a lot easier to do than combing through thousands of words and deciding who to trust. A Metacritc score is perfect for people like that. But overall I think it’s hurting the industry.

Placing less importance on game reviews has made me a more well rounded gamer. If something intrigues me and doesn’t get a 9/10, I’ll still experience it for myself. My most played game this generation, Destiny, has a 76 on Metacritic. I had fun recently with Tokyo Jungle, a totally weird game that has a score of 74. The old me probably would have dismissed it.

What about you? How much do you value review scores? Is there a certain ratings system that you prefer? Think they should be abolished completely? Or do you like the way things are now? Let me know in the comments.

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