I don’t like review scores either

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It should be said that I am probably not the target demographic for game reviewers; I usually play games from recommendation or in some cases games that are too obscure to be reviewed in the first place. That being said, I wonder who actually does benefit from them. I wanted to say something about it after reading the a review on Quarter to Three, considering when that review was posted most of the commenters had not played the game but still decided to pour their hate over said review.

This of course doesn’t apply to all studios and certainly not all publications, but there has been a lack of integrity in the relationships between the game press and the publishers/developers. Write nice, long previews and give us magazine covers and you may come to the closed preview. Give us a low score and we might not even send you a review copy next time. There are plenty of examples of people on all sides acting irresponsibly – lately the practice of publishers holding developers’ bonuses hostage to aggregate ratings have been hot in the rumormill. This is not quite as absurd as it should be, but I’ll get to that in a bit – what is more absurd is how both developers and gamers are blaming the gaming press for indirectly lowering developer salaries this way.

I do enjoy comparing viewpoints so reading reviews is always very rewarding to me, I mostly take issue with the scoring system. Even the idea of quantizing quality is not in itself bad, but since the dawn of games reviewing we have focused on breaking down a game into its functional components – art, sound, design etc. – and tallied up scores in an attempt to objectively determine if a game is good. I do agree that this might be a good way to judge the performance of the individual developers (hence it not being so absurd to use it to determine bonus payments), but at best it gives you very basic information about how well the game succeeded with its ambitions, not if the reviewer enjoyed it.

During the last few years games as a medium have diversified immensely, and even among traditional games the independent scene has made sure we get interesting new experiences. The fears from the early 2000s, that the evolution of games had essentially devolved into a tech race rather than a quest for innovation, are mostly moot now. Looking at a game as anything but a holistic, subjective experience has never been particularly helpful, but now it is also becoming very hard to do.

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Posted on Jun 15/12 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »