The internet has brought two types of video game reviews, the amateur and the professional, into a strange area where at times some amateurs not only look professional but look more professional than the professionals. I hope you followed that sentence. A game can have a high score from review sites and a low score from the gamers, and often the gamers can’t a game so clearly terrible in the areas that matter can receive such a high collective score on Metacritic. The usual response is that journalists are being paid off with early access (not necessarily money) that people running their own YouTube channel or website like myself don’t get. There are also accusations of “shill media” because they’re owned by a parent company that also owns the game publisher, or controversies like Gamergate (because every controversy is a “gate” now, thanks Nixon Administration and the Nixon-hating press–I blame you both) where clearly the game got a higher score because someone was sleeping with somebody or because they share a sociopolitical viewpoint and agenda. Honestly that last one might not be completely wrong, but not completely right.
YouTuber Alanah Pierce used to work for IGN, which despite yesterday’s post is supposed to primarily be about video games. (They wouldn’t be the first site to abandon specialty and focus on every bit of entertainment media, like CBR or Variety, the latter apparently playing politics lately, too.) While she doesn’t work there now she did use her former position to clear the air about what really goes into a video game review, the Metacritic score, and pointing out the flaws that the fandom gets right. Note that she drops the swears a bunch of times in the video.
Catch more of Alanah Pierce’s videos on her YouTube channel.
So review scores are a waste of time as you learn nothing from them. And yet if a particular games gets a lower score than the fans like they throw a fit, and if a bad game gets what they think is too high a score they also throw a fit. Going by Pierce’s explanation of the scoring system maybe they should consider making five a middle of the road score. Maybe the problem lies in the numbers? X-Play, a game review show from G4 (formerly Tech TV) used a 1-5 score instead of a 1-10 score and that might be the better way to go if the 10 score doesn’t properly portray the nuance of the scoring system. Or just stop using it and go with the “pros/cons” list. Video games have mostly stopped using scores in their games unless the game requires it for the goal.
As far as the personal biases go, maybe that’s a problem as well for the gaming sites and magazines to address. If someone hates Japanese RPGs having them review Final Fantasy VI may not be the best idea. Someone who prefers puzzle games to platformers isn’t going to give an accurate reading on a Mario game. And a reviewer more interested in the “art” of the story rather than the story itself, the game mechanics, or what’s done to the characters isn’t going to give a good account of the game to the average player. That’s what’s been hurting The Last Of Us 2, a game that from reviews I’ve heard is more interested in the artistic nature of the story than the characters and gameplay. Especially the characters since that’s the source of the majority of complaints I’ve seen. It doesn’t completely disprove some of the Gamergate community’s claims either that some of the reviewers are coming from personal bias. Pierce herself noted that biases make her ill equipped to review The Last Of Us 2 because she’s friends with one of the voice actors. I know I would neeeeevvveeeerrrr be able to be negative about a friend or friendly acquaintances’ product…why is Landry Walker giving me a dirty look? Ah well.
Now you may believe her and you may not. We’ve all seen extreme responses to a review score, but this should be encouragement to actually read the article, get a handle on the reviewer’s biases, and then decide if he or she is full crap. I’ve read negative reviews where the things the reviewer hated sounded really good to me, and positive reviews where what they liked about it sounded horrid to me. Make an informed judgement not only of the game but the game reviewer. Either way, please stop using Metacritic to judge a game for you. It’s a terrible resource if you’re not going to read the actual reviews.