Anatomy of a Game Review #002: “The Point of Points”

There are two sorts of beauty; one is the result of instinct, the other of study. A combination of the two, with the resulting modifications, brings with it a very complicated richness, which the art critic ought to try to discover.
-Paul Gauguin

 

 

Life sure has a way of making up its own schedule, doesn’t it?

When I initially posited the idea of a new series on TWRM about games writing, reviewing, and critiquing, it had as its object the wedding of established art criticism methodologies, terminologies, and contexts with games and discovering where the two fields may overlap. I noticed that the world of game review writing was a place without much instruction, where you couldn’t learn how to critique a game as easily as you could learn how to do the same with any other visual art form.

Here’s how I stated it:

I’m the kind of individual who generally wants to make improvements to their craft, so I began listening to audio, watching some videos, and reading some articles about the nature and the ins and outs of art criticism. This to me seemed like an area that was widely different in the art world than it was in the gaming world. I found plenty of videos with concrete ways to render constructive criticism for artists, painters, and filmmakers. I consumed a host of helpful resources discussing ways to investigate and measure objective qualities in works of art. I saw that critics had built a history of critical studies and critical disciplines to apply when critiquing art.

 

Then I tried to find the same thing for video games. I couldn’t find anything.

 

That’s when it dawned on me… If video games are an art form… then why is there this absence of teaching games critique respectfully and if possible correctly such as there is for other art forms? Now of course, I couldn’t survey the entire internet and I’m certain there are many great resources out there for games criticism instruction, but I can at least report that that stuff is comparatively hard to find.

 

In the spirit of creating the kind of content I want to see in the world, I thought up this series…”

For those interested in the science of the critique, in learning if there’s any way to do it properly, to deepen the activity, this great emptiness simply wouldn’t do. Art is great. Games are fun. But why?

I originally hoped to have an entry in this series available monthly. As blunt, truth-telling history shows, I haven’t met that aspiration.

This is typically where I’d march headlong into a jaw about how busy I am, how I didn’t anticipate certain variables arising, how I felt increasingly inadequate to the task, and so on. If you don’t mind, I’ll just skip all that.

The first Anatomy of a Game Review post, “What People Look For”, was meant to establish a basis for the series and that foundation at least remains. Over 30 personalities shared their thoughts on game reviews and why they read them (or not). I intended to build upon that platform by addressing the various topics they raised, share some thoughts on the matter and see if there were any analogies to be discovered in the world of art criticism and history.

And that’s when Twitter gave me a kick in the pants. Front of the pants, back of the pants, it didn’t matter. The inspirational spark to continue the series came.

I’ve written about scoring systems and score inflation before, but I stumbled upon the below image (which I did not create) and I thought it was interesting in what it revealed about the perception of game reviews and their scoring scales. The image attempts to demonstrate that modern 10-point grading scales have skewed toward the high end, with a score of 8/10 being average, whereas the supposed scale from before the millennium seemed more reasonable with 5/10 in the middle.

Spoilers, I think that’s where it should be. A lot of others do as well. At TWRM, our scale (which I’ve just re-clarified today) is meant to reflect as much as possible 5/10 as average, not terrible, but pedestrian. I’d play games even below 5/10, below average, bordering terrible, if they had flawed and limited but fun experiences or things to teach me. My personal take on 10/10 is it means “perfection”, so there’s that too.

Anyway, I decided to ask for some thoughts on it. Pardon the French:

I wasn’t prepared for the exceptional response. I guess it’s possible after all for a diverse group of people to share their opinions and discuss their differing takes on a timidly controversial subject without arguing. Check mate, internet!

If you’re unable to follow every thread on Twitter, that’s ok. I’d like to summarize six of my favorite takeaways from the conversations and express their salience when it comes to the sphere of games critique and scoring:

 

#1. The importance of clear definitions for your own system

@16bitdadblog shared the breakdown of the scoring system he uses on his own site, which brings up the excellent point that people must be able to understand what you mean by your scoring system, if you use one. If you don’t use one, I assume you still want people to understand what you mean by your words, right?

If you plan to use any kind of scoring scale, it’s important to make its meaning transparent. 9.8-22p/ROTFL Emoji doesn’t mean much to me… but 9/10 or 9.8/10 or 90/100 does because we all have a fairly common idea that that’s just short of the upper limit of an evaluating scale.

Explaining what you mean with your scores helps prevent readers from unintentionally hijacking them, as well! For instance, I may say a game is a 6/10. To me that means above average, a positive term, but if someone is coming from a big publication and reading that, they may think I believe the game to be terrible. We have to define the terms we’re using, as it were, before we’re able to agree or disagree. In light of that, I revamped our Instruction Manual for clarity’s sake.

 

#2. The danger of painting the past sepia

More than a few people, @the3rdplayer, @RetroRevelation, and @avianther, shared their thoughts on the above chart’s depiction of the past. We got to see some magazine scans from a bygone era, which is a great bit of evidence to either establish or tear down the claims of the chart.

The point here is we should be aware that there’s a very real bias toward glorifying the past, the “good old days” when everything was right with the world. If there is a trend in modernity toward skewing the scale, then that’s something to talk about if you care enough, but comparisons to the past probably aren’t going to help the problem. At least the chart provides an example of an accurate scale.

On a larger scope, the danger of letting nostalgia overwhelm is a relevant one in games critique. Analyzing retro games is fun and enriching but keeping them within their historical context, limitations, authorial intentions, and discovering their flaws alongside their virtues is a challenge. Recognizing your biases is half that battle, though. Nobody is without bias.

 

#3. The importance of navigating the difference

Both @adventure_rules and @avianther mentioned the importance of being able to navigate the difference when the scale is skewed. Time is an important factor, as is finances, in considering which game to purchase. When reviews take the form of consumer reports, they are useful only so far as you understand the meaning of the person you’re taking the recommendation from. If you’re aware that the pool of opinion you’re drawing from has skewed the scale and the writer thinks of 7/10 as average, then that’s good on you. If you know that you’re only looking for games that rank above average or higher and you can parse out that meaning wherever you find it, even better.

Scoring systems and scales can present their own difficulties for the reader. As the reader you must be careful about understanding what each score means, just as the writer must be careful about saying what they mean.

 

#4. The freedom to choose

You don’t have to use any scoring system. Suhprise!

You don’t have to look down upon someone who doesn’t use a scoring system your way, or who doesn’t use a scoring system at all, or even people who choose to use a scoring system. It seems we’re naturally built to believe our way is the best because we want our opinions to be informed. That’s good and we can take pleasure and pride in ourselves, but not at the expense of others doing the same.

Everyone has the freedom to choose the scoring system (or lack of scoring system) which best fits their approach to writing reviews and critiques, their purpose in writing them. That’s outside of any consideration of the value or usefulness of scoring systems. As ever, we have to learn how to communicate through our differences, find what the other person is trying to say while making our own minds known. That’s civilization.

Just know that what you do choose ought to ideally fit with your express purpose in creating reviews. For instance, with our critiques at The Well-Red Mage, we have opted for a long-form and analytical style. To bolster that philosophy, we created the 8-bit Review segment which follows an initial body of text. The bulk of the article is there for those who have the time and inclination to read it, and the 8-bit Review portion is there for those looking for the numbers but having to grade 8 separate elements of each game allows forces us to consider the game as a whole and as the result of its parts and their relationships with each other, to be able to express not just the difference between a good game and a bad game but between a good game with some specific flaws and a bad game with some redeeming qualities.

This is our approach but it’s not going to fit with the review philosophies of many other writers out there. Those looking to create shorter reviews will find better use in 3- or 5-point scales, for example. Video reviews may not use numbers as much as written ones for the sake of the listener’s memory. Reviews which emphasize the summary of a game’s story or solely the author’s opinion on the game as good or bad may have even less use for things like this.

Thank goodness we have the freedom to choose to be different.

 

#5. The possible problems

There were a lot of theories we discussed concerning just why the modern scale might be skewed at all, and I liked what @ABXY_Reviews suggested. Maybe it comes down to honesty. Are critics being honest with their takes on games? Is the risk of expressing an unpopular opinion too great? Is the temptation toward mob-think too irresistible? Surely it’s easier to hate on something or praise something based on what others are saying.

There’s no way to know who is being honest and who isn’t and to what capacity. All we can do is be as honest as possible in our own criticisms, demonstrated with decency, of course. Journalists have enough of a bad rap for being dishonest without us having to add to it. Conversely, “Brutal honesty” has found its own niche in those looking to click on videos of people being angry for the sake of being seeing being angry, but how is that different than the maligned pretentiousness that high-brow art critics are stereotypically known for?

Adopt the honest of a critic without adapting the attitude of one.

 

#6. Does it even matter?

Why have a points-based critique system at all? What’s the point of a 10-point system, or a five-star, three-star, 100-point, thumbs up/thumbs down, or smiley face system? Communication. All these are is exactly what the words we use are: modes of expression. Numbers in whatever scoring system you so choose are there (as was suggested) as placeholders, summaries, in-a-nutshell statements that crystallize your meaning.

Like the words which build your review, your 7/10 is set of symbols. Isn’t the purpose of writing to communicate your meaning? Inasmuch as clarity and communication matter, your score “matters”, not on cosmologically, not socially, not fundamentally beyond the significance of communicating meaning between minds. However much you value that is up to you but I consider it a miracle.

That doesn’t necessitate their use (see point #4 above…), not at all! It does however go toward explaining their potential utility, provided they have clear definitions. In a world where readers have less time than ever to offer to any piece of information in a sea of symbols, condensed information thrives. It’ll continue to do so as long as readers lamentably absorb information through headlines and snippets only, but that, as @wrytersview said, is a project that will require generations to fix.

“Does it really matter?” That’s sort of the big question, isn’t it? Here’s a final thought on that: I’ve bumped into a few people several times since we founded TWRM who suggested that questions with answers that don’t matter aren’t worth asking. “Are games art? Is the modern score system inflated? Who cares? What does it matter?” But I think that dismissing questions on the assumption that their answers don’t matter is shortsighted.

Is the only dumb question the one which has an answer that doesn’t matter?

How many questions are worth asking despite having answers that won’t change fundamentally change us, our world, or the universe, or even our perception of it? Rule out a lot of philosophy, the inquisitiveness of science, the natural curiousness of a child, the motivation to learn through asking questions, the value of research, and you’ll be closer than ever to establishing the thought police. In the meanwhile, when my wife asks if I love her, I’ll smile and respond “Yes.”

Let’s continue to ask questions. Let’s keep on being curious. Art gets better for it and so do we.

And who doesn’t want better art?

 

That’s the point.
Well-Red-Mage-Black-sm
-The Well-Red Mage

 

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26 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Game Review #002: “The Point of Points”

  1. Reviewing and critiquing is definitely an art, and not everyone can do it. Many reviews devolve into, to put it bluntly, shit posting where the goal is to be as crude, mean, and “funny” as possible. It’s why I’m not fond of certain, more famous game reviewers and tend to gravitate to the relatively smaller forums. There’s also subjectivity. There’s a huge difference between something being of poor quality and something not being for you (e.g. purple prose like on Twitter lol). For some reason I *think* I have notes on this idea, because I wanted to write something about the art of the critique. There’s nothing wrong with putting your own opinion into a review. It’s *your* take after all, but I always feel like you should clearly define why you have that opinion, because if your readers are of a like mind, it will serve them better in their choice, but if it’s not something that bothers/affects them, then that, too, will be useful.

    I’m definitely one of those who could benefit from remembering that 5 is average on a 10 point scale. I generally start at 10 and take points away as I see issues, but it would probably make more sense to start at the average point and add points. What’s funny is such a concept is also seen in how people rate their own attractiveness. Most give themselves a 7 or 8, but that’s obviously not possible since 5 is average looking. I think this is less vanity and more the same issue we find on the 10 point scale of rating anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to think of it as an art, a craft, too. Well, that’s why I’m doing this series anyway! Thanks for putting it so cleanly. There is a difference between something being poor quality and something not being liked or for you. If we can’t recognize bad game design, then gaming is in a bad spot. And if it’s all subjectivity, then what’s the difference between informed and uninformed opinion?

      I laughed at the vanity scale! Haha I try to start from a 5 and work up but sometimes it’s a matter of working from the number I imagine a game to be to the real number, at least using the system we have at TWRM.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that’s an integral difference so many people miss out on. It’s why I use my feelings about FPS in regards to this. FPS games aren’t bad; they’re just not my type of game, and I’ve enjoyed watching quite a few of them. It’s not fair to denigrate something just because you’re not good at it :p

        I’m clearly a 10…in vanity 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really good to see that there’s somebody out there who is interested in exploring the craft of criticism and applying it to games. I went to graduate school specifically for critical theory, and got my masters degree in the study and evaluation of popular culture with the aim of applying the time-tested, enlightened approach to criticism that was pioneered in fields like literature and film to the medium of video games. When I graduated, and set to it, I found a culture that had gone off on its own direction, and that was unwilling to accept that sort of approach. Disheartened, I focused my professional aspirations elsewhere. I guess the point I’m trying to make is, keep on doing this thing you’re doing. It’s valuable, relevant work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! I’m sorry for the late reply but I am really excited to talk with you. In a lot of ways, it seems like an uphill battle even trying to define criticism as a craft in gaming with its own set of rules, logic, history, skills, and so on. That sounds like an excellent degree to pursue, and I’m sorry you were disheartened by the way the culture has turned out. I still believe it’s possible to wield the power of the written word to change things, and I have a billion questions for you on your thoughts!

      I wonder a lot specifically what time-tested, enlightened approaches to criticism are actually relatable to video games. More importantly, I’m curious if you’d be willing to have a discussion on it with me and we can publish the conversation as a kind of educational interview. I don’t mean to take up your time, but I too believe this kind of thing is extremely valuable, especially if we want better products.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi! No need to apologize.

        I’m always willing to talk about this sort of stuff. My views on criticism in terms of both approach and practice are somewhat unconventional, so if someone is willing to have a discussion, I’m usually game to participate. Just ask Pete over at MoeGamer. I’ve talked his ear off about critical theory and how grouchy I am with modern professional games writing for many an hour.

        I’m fairly easy to get a hold of. You can email me at mrgilder@gmail.com, and we can chat on there using hangouts. I’m also on twitter and instagram as @mrgilderpixels, so you can contact me on those platforms as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Unconventional, you say? Well, that piques my interest even more. One can’t blame you for being grouchy about modern games writing.

          Thank you for sharing your contact information! I’m thinking Twitter will be our avenue since I definitely intend to follow you there as well. Again, I believe these are some valuable talks and thoughts to share!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a fun discussion to watch unfold, and these are some great takeaway points from it. I will say that there are a few blogs I check out that are very adept at utilising a number scale system, this one included. While I veer away from them myself in my reviews, I do find that they can be great to help break down the points of a game and article well for intellectual intake (rather than just a block of text, which can work for some but not for me usually).

    The different opinions and methods of review, though, are what’s so great about the independent reviewer community. I think your thread made that very clear, so thanks for inciting the blaze of constructive opinion sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I was pleasantly delighted at how this Twitter talk turned out, as I’m sure you’ve experienced too how sour some discussions can get on there. Goes to show if you get a good group of people together that they can share their differing thoughts without it becoming explosive. I wholeheartedly agree that whether you use numerical or textual summaries or not, the great thing about indie reviews is the real diversity of approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a spell on my blog where I gave film reviews a score based on vegetables. To show how pointless that is. I think a lot of people just jump to the score, but in this era that’s a mistake depending on some journalists. So it’s actively worth digging up the writer’s previous reviews… it’s starting to get a big over complicated and weird, basically. I just usually head to reputable sources with journalists I trust. Not Slant Magazine. No never.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe there’s a specific utility to using scores but I also do believe that readers need to be less lazy and use numerical summaries as an excuse to skip all of an article’s content thinking they’re going to get all the meaning from that one score. It’s just like reading headlines alone to get your news. You bring up an excellent point about getting familiar with journalists you trust. I think we naturally gravitate to those which defend our biases, conscious or unconscious, or those we believe are being honest despite not agreeing with them. The important thing there is discernment, a skill that adults develop over time.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I give your comment a score of turnip.

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  5. great post! The twitter thread took off and I had a hard time keeping up lol. So appreciate you putting this together in this post. Knowing all the different views and opinions on the subject in a way makes me want to consider using a number based scoring system at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks for reading and taking part. It was hard to keep up with the thread myself!

      As far as using a scoring system, I think what’s most important is finding the system that best works for the emphasis you bring in your reviews. If it’s textual summary that fits you best, then no worries about a numerical system, but if you want something to help catalog thoughts easily or represent a succinct value for your opinion, then there are a bunch of numerical systems to consider. Even though it’s not the way we do it at TWRM, I think that the best you can get with numbers for clarity and brevity is a simple 5-point system. Typically people use stars, as you know. Heck, you could even do a 3-point system, “boo, ok, yay”, or a 2-point system (essentially two thumbs up lol).

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  6. Some of the folks who helmed CGW (Computer Gaming World) back in the day, like Jeff Green, experimented with posting no scores on reviews for about 4 issues or so from what I remember. Anyway Ziff Davis (The publisher at the time) noticed almost instantly the news stand, and subscription sales dropped sharply. They found a lot of these people were only interested in seeing a number or a star to validate a purchase or to ensure a purchase.

    I think some people unfortunately don’t care to read through an opinion, or (For my video content producing friends) watch through an opinion. They only want to see if it’s critically acclaimed or not. By no means are they the rule. But there are probably enough of them to make a dent. At least in the case of ZD which honestly also had websites, and search engines killing off print magazines.

    But this is where stuff like that review score chart meme from a few years ago comes in. It more or less pokes some fun at the folks who just look at aggregates. But it shows the mentality of a segment of the population who only want media that is lauded to the heavens. Which is sad, because it means they’re not coming to anything with their own individual view. Just because I consider Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams one of the best platformers to have seen release in the last decade doesn’t make it fact. I would hope someone looking for a new experience who hasn’t played it, might read my article, and check it out. But I don’t expect them to adore it as much as I do. It’s not meant to command someone to like something, or not like something. It’s meant to be informative, and perhaps a little entertaining. Then the reader can choose to try it or not try it. If they do, and they like it great. If they try it, and they don’t like it, that’s fine too.

    We can all think of a case where we saw a review of a movie, book, game, etc. where it was praised to the hilt. But we came away confused, not seeing any of the glory that was just described to us. Or the opposite. Where something was trashed, and we came away confused, not seeing what the problem was. We’re all individuals, with our own unique tastes. We should embrace that. Reviews can be a conversation starter too. You could play Tekken 5 for ten hours, and come away not thinking much of it. But then read someone’s positive take on it, and go “Well I hadn’t looked at this mechanic that way before. I still liked the way Tekken Tag Tournament 2 handled it better. But I can see why they liked this.” You then may have a friendly debate with that friend who enjoyed T5 more than you, or even leave a polite comment with the writer on that point. You may find that you came up with something they hadn’t considered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing that experiment. I think that’s really interesting and insightful. That’s reviews as consumer reports which is probably the most widely useful thing people find in reviews. In that case, they need the information so that explains why they skip to the grade but they unfortunately miss out on how the reviewer ARRIVED at that grade. That goes on to explain why your 6/10 may not be the same as my 6/10, or why I gave a 4/10 to a game you gave a 7/10 to: it’s a matter of why we value certain things over others in games and you can’t get that just from a score alone. Like you pointed out so well, we can’t grasp all these things if we’re not willing to consume the content or have the conversation.

      I appreciate the comment, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I found that when I reviewed games, I tried not to give it a score because while I may enjoy or hate a game, someone else will see the beauty in it even if I didn’t. I may use a playful point system just because but it doesn’t impact my overall opinion of a game. I like the idea that the person above me has to take the scoring out of the hands of the reviewer. I always enjoy your reviews though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate the kind words, my friend. Of course the point of this article, or one of them, is that you’ve got to find the system that works best for you and your particular emphasis in reviewing. That said, I don’t think you need to shy from using scores because you might enjoy or hate a game someone else didn’t, because you’d be giving your opinion in the score the same way you give your opinion in the text portions of the article anyway, whether someone agrees with you liking or hating the game. Scores are just another way to express the same opinion you’ve been expressing through writing, and people can agree or disagree with your opinion all day. It’s just easier to complain and argue over a number than it is to provide an articulate counter-point to your opinion lol! That’s probably a reason why people avoid scores, right there. But essentially, scores are just summaries of your opinion, or at least they ought to be. I know we’ve all read some reviews that are like “Worst game ever! Hated everything about it! SUCXXX! …7.5/10”.

      Like

  8. I’m not a fan of the current usage of the way the scoring system mirrors the American school grading system. It makes everything but the top 30 or 40 points (on a 101 point scale) worthless and gets even less descriptive when you have a whole number or half number scale.

    When we reviewed games regularly on Critically Sane I’d constantly be asked to expand the system to use 1/2 points (we use a 6 point * system) and my argument against would always be I wanted to keep it simple and if you add in another 5 points to the system you need to expand the definition of the scores making it more complex. Let the review do the nuanced speaking. It’s also why I took scoring out of the hands of the reviewer and had staff read the review and score it. This way the reviewer isn’t writing to justify the score they’ve already determined for the game in their head.

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  9. 7/10 Too much water

    But seriously? I’d rather see the return of the notation system used in Player One, a old and now defunct magazine in France. Basically, there were two grades. One was the Technical one the other was the Fun one. It allowed, for instance, a differenciation in games depending on what they brought. Super Bormberman 2 from memory, got a 99% Fun ratin, but only 85% or so technical, because, well, you’re not here for a story, you’re not here for amazing graphics… no, you’re here to get the multitap out and bring three friends for a good afternoon of raging against that traitorous bomb push in your back when you shouted “Allies!” ten seconds before. Separating the Art from the Heart, for ultimately, a video game is more than a painting and more than a Monopoly, but the subtle mix of both, and not everyone used the same amount of ingredients on their product.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve seen the image you posted do the rounds a few times and I’m not entirely convinced it’s accurate. I recall the whole “nothing under 80% is worth bothering with” mentality going back to at least the Super NES era, at least over here in the UK; perhaps publications elsewhere in the world skewed differently, which is probably interesting to look at in itself. PC Zone Magazine rated anything under 40% as “pants”, for example, whereas really, rationally, that should be “slightly below average”. It was quite fashionable for games mags in the mid to late ’90s in the UK to be rather cynical, and I’m not sure if there was a similar trend in the US press.

    I’ll preface the following by saying this is all my personal opinion on the matter, and of course I’m not casting any sort of aspersions on individuals or publications who do choose to use scores; I’d just like to explain why *I’m* not a fan.

    Personally speaking, I’ve never liked using scoring systems because, to me, they attempt to measure something inherently unmeasurable — and I’ve always found it doubly silly when I see publications nitpicking between whether something is “worth” a 9.7 or a 9.8 out of 10. Sure, they provide a handy, at-a-glance indicator for a reader passing through to see if the game is any “good” or not, but the fact that different people are into different types of experiences kind of negates this benefit for me. A publication might give, say, Halo a 9/10, indicating that it is very good indeed, but as someone who doesn’t really enjoy modern first-person shooters, particularly ones involving space marines, I will doubtless feel differently about it, making that “9” meaningless to me.

    Conversely, I’ve derived the greatest pleasure from games that tend to fall around the low-to-mid end of the Metacritic scale. If I hadn’t ignored the numbers completely, I would never have discovered things like Hyperdimension Neptunia, which has subsequently become one of my favourite series of all time. In fact, it was playing through Neptunia for the first time back in 2012 or so that made me think “okay, yes, so modern game review scores are now completely useless for me”.

    The other thing that is a relatively recent addition to the mix is that the review scores of today from mainstream commercial sites have an element of being politically charged and deliberately provocative. Polygon’s recent review of Far Cry 5 is a good example; the review praised the game, suggesting it was very good in terms of mechanics and presentation, but its final score was only a 6.5, primarily because the game’s narrative didn’t reflect the politics that the author was hoping it would. (They wanted it to be a Trump supporter-bashing simulator; it was not.)

    The darker side of this sort of practice is when publications deliberately rate something very high or very low (or not in keeping with what otherwise appears to be the critical consensus) in order to appear prominently and noticeably on Metacritic’s summary page. I’ve seen people brag about this on Twitter, so it unfortunately does happen! And Metacritic is a traffic magnet — usually for people storming into the comments section of the publication in question to rant and rave about how “wrong” their score is! But every click is a good click so far as ad-driven sites are concerned, unfortunately for everyone else.

    And on top of that, you get publications rating games that they’ve barely spent any time with using the same weighting as things that have had a month of non-stop coverage. This causes the sort of games I’m into in particular to suffer greatly at the hands of Metacritic, since I’ve seen in more than one case a reviewer saying that they only bothered to play an hour of something like Senran Kagura before rating it less than 50% because they didn’t like boobies, and optionally calling its target audience paedophiles in the process. That sort of dismissive nonsense shouldn’t be given any weight whatsoever, let alone equal consideration to someone who has actually bothered to spend time with a game and analyse it in detail.

    Metacritic also has the issue that converting every type of score to a 100-point scale doesn’t really work. If you rate something 3.5 on a 5-star scale, for example, that’s obviously good, but converted to a percentage, that’s 70%, which is perceived as “low” (or “mixed” in Metacritic terminology). We had this issue on USgamer; people would complain we had given games a “perfect 100” when in fact all we’d done was give them five stars.

    The other thing I find is that scores encourage laziness on the part of the reader. Why read a well-crafted review when you can skip straight to the score and go “huh, 80%, might grab it on sale?” This is why I actually like the approach you take here on TWRM; your system still requires some reading and consideration of the key points about a game while also catering to those who need some sort of numerical validation of their impressions.

    Summary scores, though? Nah. Never liked ’em, which is why I don’t use them. I don’t exactly write what I’d call traditional “reviews” in most circumstances, though, so even casting aside the fact I’m not a fan of them, they wouldn’t really be in keeping with what I do anyway!

    As a slight tangent, consider how people writing about other forms of media and art do things. While things such as book reviews and album reviews exist (and often use scores), the most interesting articles out there are those that don’t use scores, simply writing about the works in question to make the audience interested in what it’s all about. I feel that in gaming we’re much too attached to the idea of “grading” everything, and there are many cases where taking an approach that is less “consumer report” and more “here are some interesting things about this game, you can decide how you feel about them” is more enjoyable to read. For me, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I give this article a 9/10. Best article of the year!!! 😀

    Jokes aside, I generally like reading personal takes on films and games rather than objective reviews. Critics with objectivity are obviously a good thing… but I don’t base my decision to spend my money on a review.

    When I read blogs or articles about films and games, what I love most is seeing how people personally relate to it 🙂 That’s how I try to write about stuff too. One of my favourite gamey bloggers on here is Lightning Ellen because she so writes about her personal take on stuff. No offence to you mages through! I love you folks too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks! I’ll take second fiddle to Lightning Ellen any day!

      Something we’re beginning to see phrased out is the difference between reviews as critiques and reviews as consumer reports/recommendations. I think you can balance both but going into writing a review with a focus in mind about either pattern seems like a wise thing, and eventually that builds up one’s reputation for the flavor of reviews one creates. That helps the consumer too because then they know what to look for and seek out the reviews they like. Case in point, yourself!

      Personality is one of the big reasons why so many of us read blogs instead of the big publications.

      Liked by 1 person

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