Again with the review scores

Keith Stewart of the Guardian wrote an interesting piece a week back, about how Mirror’s Edge’s less than stellar review scores (and possible less than stellar sales as well) was due to nitpicking reviewers. According to Stewart, Mirror’s Edge should be forgiven for not included some things we take for granted in games since innovative titles seek to redefine those very things. A week later Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal wrote an equally interesting rebuttal to this and a couple of other articles, essentially saying that while prizing innovation is indeed a component of a review, a game can still have high production values (as shown by other innovative games having high scores) and disregarding those would be neglecting the point of reviewing the game.

On a personal basis I feel inclined to agree with Stewart and I don’t think Croal addresses his main point (if a game aspires to re-shape a fundamental part of a game mechanic, should we fault it for not implementing said game mechanic well?), but on the other hand a game’s score is usually a measure of it’s overall quality, not some indication of how much it furthers games as a medium. The average review score being somewhere in the 70%-s, the system is vague and adding another filter based on someone’s perception of innovation would only make them less useful.

It would be easy to say that the problem is actually the publishers’ emphasis on review scores, but that’s only a half-truth – since they hold the money blaming them for wanting a measure on the quality of the product is unreasonable. Retailers are exempt for the same reason, and while it could be easy to just say that developers should make sure their games actually have what reviewers expect of them, this would disqualify designs that make this hard – making an intuitive interface for “Portal”, for example, was likely just a question of keeping what was already in Source, but Mirror’s Edge basically had to come up with completely new concepts that no-one was familiar with.

Seeing as the cost threshold for creating a modern game is still quite high, having developers creating games for the sake of art and innovation is still limited to experimental games; meaning it puts a higher demand on the player to actually enjoy it. This is usually fine, but for some games it becomes very hard to see the good parts of a concept, so it is always nice to see a publisher taking a gamble and giving a huge budget to something new. And with the open-source movement ever growing and middleware becoming more frequent in every area, hopefully realising even advanced concepts will continue to grow simpler.

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Posted on Dec 01/08 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »