The Review System: A Fanboy and Publisher Nightmare

Over the years we have all become rather accustom to the review score scene as gamers. Games get scores in a numerical form based off a journalists review, and then it winds its way into Metacritic and Game Rankings where it is combined with other reviews to give you the overall score of the game. Unfortunately for all of us, game “scores” from reviews have become far more important that the actual content of the review. Even more troubling is the vast differences in which scores are given and judged by journalists of all kind.

What makes up the criteria that journalists use to assign a score? I mean where do they publish what 1 star means versus 5? A seven out of ten these days is completely un-acceptable, and an eight somehow now means mediocre in most eyes. Nine is great and ten is perfect to most. Anything below a 7 is critically hurt by the press and often times unfairly. I think we all know a game or two that scored a 7 or lower that we enjoyed yet to the average eye the game score would have told you to stay clear.

On the personal front, we have all probably cried about a review score at one point or another. It feels almost like a personal attack on your taste when you see a score come out lower than your feelings about a game you enjoyed. Fanboys especially take the scores to heart and of late have begun using counter review scores and/or punishing scores on sites that allow “user” reviews to turn the tide or spite the opposing side.

Supposedly gamers go in and read the reviews of the games, and then based on their trusted source of reviews make buying choices. However is that really what happens? Do people really go in and read the actual reviews or do they merely gravitate to the final score and the synopsis of the review and judge it there? Don’t get me wrong, I know many of you do read the actual reviews but, I am just as sure that others don’t even bother going to the actual review and instead simply jump to metacritic to see the average score as their basis.

Publishers of course are no better than gamers are when it comes to reviews. They more or less don’t care about the content of the review and rather just focus on the score and how it will impact its overall score on Metacritic, etc…. They bully and try to bribe their way into more favorable scores with ad dollars and “review guides”. Nothing about the process feels very honest at the end of the day.

So what can be done? I like most would agree that more or less nothing truly can be done to sway the judging eyes of fanboys or the pushy publisher from trying to push high scores. That being said a standard of review system by ALL major game reviewing entities would go a long way. Sort of like the ESRB, create and enforce a standard of review. Settle on ONE system of scoring and make it universal. Create a standard that all can follow. If you ask me, I would say get rid of the 10 point system and the letter grade system. Both systems are very harsh to games on the lower end of the spectrum when they are not necessarily needed to be. A standard of 5 points would bring a balance to review scores on sites like Metacritic. No longer would you see the “rounding” of scores or interpretation of them as there would be no need. Additionally as users we would be able to better judge our sources of review compared to others.

So, should we ever expect this to happen? No sadly, I doubt it will as this is the way it has been and unfortunately the way it will probably stay. However with the recent shake up in the online gaming sites and magazine community maybe it’s something that could be addressed?

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  • Very interesting article and one i really agree with. In a matter of fact our website will be using the 5* system much like films do simply because we believe you can’t mark a game out of 10 or even 100 as some websites do.

    Its also important that its clearly stated what each score means e.g. 3 stars may not mean an average game.

  • The concept of a perfect game, i.e. a 10 out of 10 is ridiculous. Every game has its flaws and things that keep it from being a “perfect” game. I personally like the 5 point system. As PlayStation Gamer UK pointed out though you should have some kind of legend as to what the score means. Don’t leave it up to interpretation.

  • Nice write up. Me and my podcast co-host Allison Boyer got into it about review scores for games being used at all.

    Not to seem spammy here, but if you fast forward to one hour 22min or so on this page .. I bring it up to be something we talk about quickly, but then we get into it. I am personally ready to abandon a scoring system all together, however I see the need for a quick “overall” view of a game instead of a fleshed out review. I am toward the idea of a score system based on the cost of a game. For example, all PS3/360 games would be rated on a system of $60, Wii games would be out of $50, and XBLA/PSN/WiiWare games based on their respective costs. I mean, with a review, isn’t that what it comes down to, you are letting a consumer know whether a game is ‘worth it’ or not, so in the end, why not have the score based on an actual cash value.