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D+BATE: Review Scores

14:3411/06/2010Posted by D+PAD Staff3 Comments

‘Do review scores really matter?’

Continuing our series of D+BATEs, this week we turn our attention to review scores. The scoring of games through percentages, star ratings, marks out of ten or old fashioned alphabetical grading is (love it or hate it) a major part of the industry. Is it right that scores should maintain such a powerful position, or should they be washed away and discarded as a relic?? Is anything less than an 8 really such a bad score??

Well, here’s what some D+PAD writers had to say when presented with the question:

‘Do review scores really matter?’

Let us know what you think below.

Zoheir Beig: “Videogames aren’t alone here of course. You can find reviews of the latest film, book, exhibition opening, album – many in respected, long-running publications – in which the text is supported with a star rating or score, whether this be out of 5 or 10. The score is almost certainly the first thing that will catch your eye as a reader, but a well-written review will communicate the faults and merits of the product in such a way that if all scores suddenly disappeared then it wouldn’t matter. The text should articulate, while the scores provide a handy shortcut for establishing a product’s ‘true’ value, as Metacritic’s average scores system proves.

Where I find videogames do stand alone is in the often embarrassing scrum when a certain game is awarded, say, a 7 rather than an 8, or even – god forbid! – an 8 instead of a 9! Eurogamer’s recent reviews of both Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption are a case in point. Both superb pieces, both with comments in excess of 500 – the majority of which seem to discuss the score as opposed to the game itself. There’s little attempt at any constructive discussion and if this is indicative of the wider videogame community (I’m not suggesting it is), then videogames as a medium will only be stifled. Are fanboys, frothing at the mouth with indignation, really in the majority? I’m guessing not, but these are still important examples.

My point is that we seem to have got used to the scale of scores being heavily weighted towards the upper end, where anything less than 8 is awful, which is obviously silly. Quite why this happened is something that would take another feature to analyse. In my opinion review scores are fine, and in the right hands can still be exciting – e.g. the awarding of an EDGE 10 – but let’s not forget that the critical analysis of games should always come first.”

Emmet Purcell: “To a very, very large majority of the videogame-buying public reviews do not matter one iota – which is something that’s probably incomprehensible to the rest of us. I think reviews will always matter to those that take a larger than normal interest in their hobby – especially so for games since the single cost of a title is so much higher than any other form of entertainment.

For us “hardcore” gamers, these numbers will always matter – in most cases that number is more important to reading a single sentence from the review, which is why people’s reactions to score on Metacritic for example are quite troubling. We’re entering a strange time when people find an “8″ or “9″ a disappointing score, or that a site is deliberately marking down a game to establish itself as a non-conformist, tough-talking site. The latter may be happening, but in most cases the indignation is caused from fanboys who haven’t played the game they’re defending to death, whilst the reviewer has completed it.

Reviews will matter to us, and with score aggregators they carry even more weight than ever before. However as the people that care about them, we have to understand we’re not the majority. The majority are the people who we’re friends with, who post-release, will listen to our recommendations or good word of mouth. Our views in this regard carry the most weight than any other reviews.”

Chris Morell: “Scores are, in my opinion, part and parcel of the review culture. It does present a problem to games journalists when a title is getting high scores, with the usual ‘omg this review sux’ responses expected whenever a game is awarded a slightly below average mark but, if anything, this is more indicative of the Internet and its variety of users than it is of any games ratings system – pick any YouTube video at random and you’ll likely find similarly irate and poorly expressed responses regardless of the subject material. If this all sounds too disparaging, let me elaborate by saying that many users can still express their own, contradictory views without ever disrespecting the writers.

For those who actually want an informed opinion on recent releases, a scoring system can be nothing less than a godsend. Most who buy magazines or visit gaming websites only read the articles they feel are relevant to their tastes, as opposed to everything that goes to print. If you’ve never heard of Alpha Protocol for example, a cursory glance at the end score serves as a form of guidance as to whether or not it’s worth handing over your cash, even for a rent. I for one remember a time before the Internet, when there was very little guidance on hand to help decide which games to buy and which to leave on the shelf. Today, a title’s overall rating is available at the mere click of a button and our collections are all the better for it.”

Simeon Paskell: “In terms of how much enjoyment a single person gets out of a particular videogame, review scores shouldn’t matter one iota. Regardless of how many awards or perfect reviews a title has received, ultimately you have to make your own mind up. Sure, if a title receives universal acclaim, it’s obviously doing something right, but this should melt into nothingness when you slip the disk in your console of choice and pick up the joypad; then it’s just you and the game…the pundits should be wiped from your thoughts.

The biggest problem with review scores is that, for many, the above is simply not true. Review scores have become a stick to beat people with, a proof of quality (or lack of), a marker for taste and a justification for spending money. In reality, review scores are merely a number plucked from the air by a reviewer to try and summarise their opinion of a game, to package their thoughts into a format that is palatable by review aggregators; to be splashed across the front of a magazine; to catch the eye of a reader flicking through a magazine…

And yet…despite this, I still think there is a place for review scores. The likes of Metacritic and Gamerankings can be great resources for getting a rough idea of the quality of a given title – as mentioned above, a game that gets 90% across the board must be doing something right. I also think that review scores have become a gaming tradition, as gamers the world over pour over gaming magazines and websites, using review scores as a catalyst for debate; what made game x a 7/10 when game y got 9/10? They’re a part of a shared language that we all know, and understand.

Of course, I primarily hope that gamers will make there own mind up. Of course (with my reviewer hat on) I always hope that readers will pay more attention to the words that I have spent time crafting than the score; but in a crowded market where aggregators play such a large role…having the tool that is the tidy, easily digestible review score would, I think, be missed were we to phase them out…”

Have your say:
So…now its your chance to have your say. Would you like to see a world without review scores? Or do you never read a review, instead jumping straight to the all-important score at the end?

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  • veio said:

    I always use review scores (not limited to games) as a quick “should I look any more into this” check. If something gets 3/10 from a few places then its probably not the way to go.

  • Jon Easton said:

    I think that while review scores give an overall outline as to whether a game is good or not, they are purely subjective. For example some reviewers gave games such as Final Fantasy XIII glowing reports for it’s innovation to the genre while others panned it’s snail like pacing. An opinion is words, not numbers and to convey a subjective thought in such an absolute way I believe is wrong.

    Also if people feel the necessity to only rely on scores as to whether they’ll buy the game or not I think it is just silly. A review is just a comment on a certain thing like this is a comment on this article so I don’t think you should really base your own opinions on the opinions of others; or at least look at several different reviews before jumping to such a conclusion.

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