Editor's Note: In this article Alan shares his personal views in response to a similar Soapbox by our YouTube man Alex, in which Mr Olney (he of the "hello there lovely people" intro) shared his views on why reviews should have scores. When Alan wrote this counter-piece and sent it to me I thought it seemed like a perfect way to give both sides their fair hearing.
To be clear, however, we visited this topic in the past and let you, the community, vote on our scoring system. You voted to keep the existing scale, and so that is the continuing policy of Nintendo Life. We also remain committed - to the best of our abilities - to utilising the full 1-10 scale in our reviews, aiming to avoid some of the pitfalls highlighted below. Of course with a topic like this debate can be fierce, and views diverse. Not all like scores, but many do, so each website has to make its own choices or let its community decide, as we did.
With that said, it's an interesting debate, so now I hope you enjoy Alan's article - as a point to make, one image has some swearing in it but is key to Alan's argument, so consider this some advance warning.
At the beginning of 2016, game blog Kotaku ditched its entire grading system for video game reviews.
This change was already the second revision to its traditional grading policy, the first one being a pivot from grading on a traditional scale to that of using a simple "Yes/No/Not yet" answer. The latest revision has done away with any highlighted grade altogether.
Major gaming outlet Polygon, on the other hand, still maintains a 10-digit numerical grading system for its reviews, but has in recent times allowed a game to become revisited if for whatever reason the title received additional content, or if its primary experience saw any additional changes. In ways that bridges the gap between these two approaches; many smaller journalism outfits have slowly phased out hard review scores in a myriad of different ways.
There is a new era dawning in the gaming journalism sphere. And in fact, there are many serious reasons why professional critics are ditching the review score. Unfortunately, much of the reasoning goes directly against what we as a journalistic industry have been force feeding you, the reader, for years: that in-depth number grades have any sustainable worth.
The Metacritic Problem
Perhaps the most tangible reason for why the industry is slowly becoming cognizant of the problems with number scores is the "Metacritic problem". There are plenty of excellent articles that dive into this issue in depth, but for a primer: Metacritic is a review aggregate website that collects review scores all across the internet to provide a colour-coded, median score. These numbers have now become mental shorthand for eager consumers, as well as an economic crutch in the eyes of game publishers across the table. Taken from Jason Schreier's article on Metacritic's negative impact:
"It's pretty common in the industry these days, actually," (Kim) Swift told me. "When you're negotiating with the publisher for a contract, you build in bonuses for the team based on Metacritic score. So if you get above a 90, then you get X amount for a bonus. If you get below that, you don't get anything at all or get a smaller amount.
"In other words, a developer's priority is sometimes not just to make a good game, but to make a game that they think will resonate with reviewers, which could mean anything from artificially extending a game's length or adding superfluous features that they believe reviewers like."
This problem is not to be taken as the inherent fault of Metacritic, or even the innocuous idea of averaging reviews. But in a job field where money and talent changes hands in massive quantities, the latent result of producers coming to commonly expect a 90th percentile review score can and should be described in only one word: bad. It is bad for developers, bad for consumers, bad for journalism and bad for anyone who cares about video games, because it fundamentally changes the way games are made and the way we are told to perceive and purchase them.
This is only half the problem, and knowing this is still not enough. All parties involved must additionally ask themselves a far stickier question: why do I want a review score so badly anyway?
The Reader-Scorer Problem
Exhibit A: This popular Reddit image:
Vulgarities aside, this chart's sage wisdom can hardly be contained within its pithy vessel: a meme pushed forward for laughs and, perhaps, cynical finger-pointing. To be frank, if you care about games and their wellbeing, this chart is not a laughing matter. Even in jest, this chart describes the landscape that we as critics have seeded, watered and harvested throughout years of treating review calendars with the similar veneer of a professional wrestling event: hyping the next contender in the digital arena to either massive fanfare or broiling disgust.
This chart is also the reality that we as consumers perpetuate with our reluctance to think critically beyond iron-clad expectations of what a game might, or should "get". A review score is no longer nuanced criticism. It is flat out entertainment. And this is bad.
Exhibit B: Video games are very unique medium, and their appraisal is where it most shows
In an essay housed within Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson's book State of Play, we learn of the history of gaming reviews as originally more of a consumer report: what are the graphics like? How does it control? What is the replay value? This makes perfect sense in an evolving medium where aspects like these contribute more directly to an experience than they applicably might in a movie or a play. But questions raised on these factors are what we have told our readers to expect and demand, and furthermore, that they should especially be concerned about them, as they convey net "worth". And yes, now readers have come to expect and demand these things, in droves.
On the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, we are beaten to death with the platitude of never judging a book by its cover. But for video games, "the cover" effects ostensibly a game's entire net worth: its review score (and thus its entirely liveliness) now depends on how good the sand looks and whether we want to play it twice, even often in cases where those things do not contribute to the game's overall goals. We've peddled fidelity for so long that it now is an inescapable part of our shared analysis; we demand the consumer report.
Ironically, gamers often loudly decry that games ought to be considered art, and yet we still heavily grade on these identical variables, as if to quietly suggest that games are soulless machines.
Our very own Alex Olney makes a claim in the video titled "Game Reviews Always NEED a Final Score" that he feels one game he reviewed deserved a score of "8 out of 10", despite claiming he had more fun with said game than a separate title he strongly felt deserved a "9 out of 10".
This is a disconnect. This is a known problem many of us - myself included - share in willingly with little effort to change it.
And this is not to even begin on the statistical uselessness of a scale in which 7/10th's conveys the same meaning to the majority of people: "not good".
Game reviews have taken on their own language, one in which we all have unknowingly learned over years of devotion to game writing, or unfortunately happened across when curiously searching for an honest opinion. The legacy of review scores proudly represent taking stock of a game's parts instead of the summation of its whole, which is a huge way the industry still lags behind other mediums more aged.
My Review Score
We need to do away with the acceptance of hard review scores until our audiences and our industry can come around to understand why they can exist and how they can work to actually serve them.
If you actively enjoy review scores and feel they help you better understand what a title provides, like even I still do, you need to further examine why a grade colours your expectations more vividly than a paragraph, or even an actual playthrough. You need to berate years of commercialism that brought you to the conclusion that a well written article is incomplete without a number. You need to study the placebo effect.
Even well intentioned journalists have overseen a positive feedback loop that consists of macho scores and satiated readerbases. Instead of erring on critical analysis, or even doing as little as informing the public on how to use their dollars, many media outlets insist on utilizing this one method over something that an informed opinion could provide far better, with far less negative repercussions.
This weird dichotomy between what's good for the industry and what's good for readers is the reason The Daily Dot's Dennis Schimeca can say in one breath: "If outlets want to abandon review scores in an effort to reform video game culture by removing the fuel for arguments between gamers... or to lessen the influence of Metacritic... they ought to follow their conscience", and then in the same interview, "I am personally not sure that removing this aspect of video game culture is possible, unless everyone chooses collectively to drop scores. And I don't think that's reasonable…"
To quote the genuinely wonderful Alex Olney on video game reviews that feature no score: "You're just giving an opinion; you're not providing a review."
It's time we kill the review score until both "review" and "opinion" become synonymous once again.
In all seriousness though, Alan puts forward some really fantastic points here; these are the sort of things that should be discussed and both sides of the argument need to be fully explored, so kudos young man!
@AlexOlney From a quick glance, you kind of have the face of Jim Gaffigan.
I added scores to my reviews at first, but then focused on the number too much instead of the actual review. Thus, I removed the scores and focused on the writing itself.
I think you forget that a lot of us don't have the time to read reviews. A score helps us avoid making a lot of purchasing mistakes.
I don't like scores. A critical analysis can't be summed up numerically and most scores just come from the critic's feeling of a game. Number scores are too broad to use in forms of art, especially in video games where it's based on your personal experience.
I suppose my biggest complaint about numerical scores is how the industry has tied them to a bonus structure that is quite arbitrary and the whiners that flood message boards when a game gets less than the score they feel it should get.
Nah, I still think they need a final score or rating of some kind. Just do it out of five stars or something, because a 3/5 star game is actually considered a decent-good game by most people even though it's technically a 6/10 or 60/100, which most people would think of as meh these days. Funny how that works. But my point is that it's more the particular scale that seems to cause the issue than scoring in and of itself. Also, no matter what sites decide to do, it's nigh-on impossible to avoid the likes of metacritic being an important aggregate source for a whole lot of people.
I always liked how old games magazines like Mean Machines scored the different aspects of a game separately (giving each area a general summation aswell), and they also had more than one person contributing to each review too (that's obviously better than all reviews on a site consisting of one person's opinion), as that really helped you understand better where the game's strengths and weaknesses were (from multiple perspectives), regardless of the final score:
See: http://www.meanmachinesmag.co.uk/pdf/zelda3snes.pdf (far more informative, even at a glance of just the "score", than any modern Nintendo Life review, imo)
I obviously enjoyed reading the entirety of those old magazine reviews, but even at a quick glance I could also get a whole lot of genuinely useful information about whatever game, be it via the highlighted comments sections from each of the review contributors or from seeing where its strengths and weakness were in all areas from presentation and graphics to playability and lastability.
The broader technology providing us with game reviews has clearly improved since the 90s, with websites that are far more technically sophisticated than any magazine ever was or could be, but maybe the actually journalistic quality is what's really lacking here: All we tend to get now, on most sites, is roughly a page's worth of text (all from one person's perspective), a handful of images, and an overall score that doesn't really tell us anything beyond broad strokes. Seems like we lost something in the move from print to digital.
This is one of the best arguments I've heard in a long time, and really has me reconsidering my stance.
But, I still feel that a dual-score system could work just as well (if not better).
One score as a "consumer report" graded 0-10
Second score as a "fun factor" graded 0-100 with 0.25 intervals
Tell us how well you'd rate the game but then tell us how fun it is on a 100 point scale. Grade the best game you've ever played first and then score in relation to it- that way you don't end up in a situation where you have to keep grading higher but already reached the tip of the scale.
And if the day ever comes where you play a game that's funner than a game you gave a 100 to- then "adjust for inflation" and add another 10 points to the scale. Maybe in 10 years the scale will go up to 120pts, who knows. Once you've established a year's worth of scores, calculate the standard deviation, multiply by 3, and add that range on both sides of the yearly average. That zone will encompass around 99% of every review score, statistically. Adjust the scale accordingly.
@Kaviam so do i. and i prefer to visit sites that score the games they review.
@AlexOlney IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?! - Pit, 2012
If I can make any additional comment I just want to make clear that I don't even believe that the goal of any review should be to tell consumers how to spend money.
I do acknowledge that this directly contradicts the form and function of most media websites, and that this is a problem not easily solvable. Resume hate mail.
Overall I'm a fan of scores, though I don't even consider writing off a game unless it scores relatively low (5 or under for me) across the board. I also understand that reviews are more opinionated than anything, so if it's something I really want to play, I'll probably pick it up regardless.
At the same token, I do believe that scores can be damaging. Take Fire Emblem Fates, for example; all three games have an excellent aggregated score on Metacritic from website reviews, but the user scores tend to trend lower. Most of the low scoring user reviews have only downvoted these games because of the whole localization/censorship controversy. I don't feel that such scores are fair since users are letting their bias against the censorship overshadow all of the great things about the three Fates games.
I think that this argument is presented very well in this article. To summarize, I have nothing against scores as long as they're used fairly and aren't abused.
I'm really glad there was a follow up counter argument. This convinced me to read/watch that other article I originally passed over because I knew I disagreed. Now I got something more out of both viewpoints.
I usually read the review itself since numbers aren't always the best way to find out if a game is fun to play or not. Though that can be a problem when the reviews don't list all of the features the game might have. It just leads to "Trust me, you'll like/hate it" without knowing if you'd truly like it or not.
Brilliant article, especially as I want to get into games journalism myself! I feel that it is the content of the review that is most critical (naturally), and that it is mostly the consumer's fault if they do not read the whole article and go straight to the score, because they need to see if they themselves will enjoy it.
Take Star Fox Zero. It has mixed scores and reviews, because it is a decisive game. If you read a review of the game, you should be able to notice that the controls are the big glaring problem. Some impact a reviewer's score more than others, but if you notice that there is potential for a really fun shoot-'em-up, and don't give much of a toss for the controls (or at least you feel you can adapt to them), then the game may be on your 'radar', so to speak, of games the get.
At the end of the day, if I do end up writing a proper games site in the future, I don't mind if we do score games or not. I feel that a score does allow for an overall feel for the game. But then again sometimes I have had a hard time giving a game a certain score (Splatoon being my prime example). Either way I feel that it is within the consumer to dig a little deeper to make sure they want to get it. Even if the game has got 95+ scores across the board, you are doing yourself a disservice for not ensuring you want to get this game, in addition to the reviewer themselves, who spent a good while just so they can inform people of what the game is and if it is worth playing.
Seriously?! You're comparing the 80's - early 00's review scores to todays scores as an argument?! Unless you're absolutely blind it's easy to see why averages are skewed given the amount of shovelware released and the number of games that are broken upon release.
Let's face it, when you are reviewing a product say a game, movie, or book you are to give your opinions of what you thought of it, did you like it, what is its strength, its weakness, and do you recommend it to other consumer/audience and give it your best grade. You're basically critiquing a work someone made just like how back in school when a teacher critiques your work and the score of anything is the grade you give for the product you try. It's not to determine if that product is good or not, it's to determine whether it met your expectation or not and your score should reflect that so when the original developers, authors, director, etc., sees it they will know which area needs to improve, which to change and which could stay the same or altered.
When you are reviewing something, you are basically the judge and you need to give a score or a grade, no score or grade means you fail to do your job and probably shouldn't become a critic, teacher, or anyone like that to begin with. If you're a student and you turn in your work, you expect to see feedback and a grade, no feedback means that your work probably is good enough and no grade means the person who review it probably doesn't care about your work or probably doesn't want to hurt your feeling which is disrespectful because then you will never improve cause your mistakes and flaw weren't point out.
I can see both sides but for me scores are important. People started giving scores because people wanted to be able to rank things, metacritic exists because eventually someone would want to know what a certain games average review score was. People like numbers and top 10/20s. It's in our nature!
Without a grade and just a big wall of text you have to some reason to invest in reading it. It's fine if it's a game you've been following the whole time but what about really good games with little or no PR money behind them? How do these games get noticed? A score helps them to do that, it makes someone like myself take note and then invest in the text to see what the fuss is about.
Another problem recently(more on Eurogamer than anywhere else) seems to be people spoiling the games in the review. Skipping to a number alleviates that if you want to go in spoiler free.
If everyone stopped giving numbers they'd better expect hits on their review to drop. There are far too many games and too many reviewers, if we have to read all the text we'll probably stick to only reading certain people's reviews...
Giving numbers to quality has always been stupid-- it's arbitrary, meaningless and unfair.
But no matter how 'in-depth' a review is, it's a single opinion, so something like metacritic is really nice.
But also.. if game developers are taking into consideration critics, it's idiotic. You cannot create something original and individual that will be universally accepted, the things that do are usually bland and simple.
And STILL no-ones addressed the main reason people like metacritic: It allows you to average a wide range of opinions very quickly. I just don't have time to read through more than 1 or 2 reviews.
What if the 1 or 2 reviews I have time to read are both massively anomalous from the average opinion? I need a quick, albeit clumsy, way of judging what that average opinion is.
I remember when the first review I read for ALBW was the destructoid one that gave it 6.5/10. I was genuinely worried they'd made the worst Zelda game ever.
Metacritic was vital in giving me a quick way of essentially saying "don't worry, that was an anomaly, most people loved it (and therefore you probably will too)".
@Dezzy Again, this is why I loved the Mean Machines reviews back in the day, even though they were still reviews from a single magazine source: You at least got opinions from a couple of people in each review as well as a better breakdown of a particular game's strengths and weakness (both written and scored) beyond that single overall score. They really were well put together reviews imo:
If someone could make their website reviews that informative and just that cool (in terms of look and layout too), I'd be all over that.
PS. If Star Fox Zero was reviewed in Machines machines it might score something like this:
It falls short of the standards most gamers have come to expect from first party games, especially on systems that don't have "Nintendo" written on them somewhere. Simple picture intros are like stepping back into the 90s; that's just not good enough in 2016.
Hardly impressive, even by Wii U standards, and outside of Wii U standards they're basically serviceable. There's even some visible pop-in/fade-in at times, which is kind of unforgivable for a game that doesn't exactly push the boat out graphically.
Still uses some sounds from the original SNES game. The music is generally OK but largely forgettable. Voice acting is extremely cheesy, and the corniness is far more apparent here than it ever was in the original game.
Decent enough length for the single player campaign and a few extra modes to mess around with, but it lacks the multi-player that was in many of the earlier entries in the series, which is going to disappoint some.
The controls really make this a love it or hate it type of game, and even those that "love" it are likely just tolerating it more than genuinely loving it. Not having any option but to put up with the motion controls and dual screen setup is basically criminal. Sure, you can fudge your way around not using the full motion/dual-screen stuff, but it's very telling that something isn't quite right here if that's what you end up doing.
It's not the amazing and epic new Star Fox game the fans deserved in 2016 but it's the only one they got. Some people will probably be happy they even got a new Star Fox at all, while others have higher standards and expectations from Nintendo than that.
Plus there'd be the general review text that goes over every aspect of the game in more detail, as well as the highlighted Comments from each of the review contributors, which are also a bit like general/overall summations of what they thought of the game. For example:
The original Star Fox was truly groundbreaking and epic for its time, from the highly cinematic presentation and stunning graphics to the amazing 3D shmup gameplay and movie-like music. Even back then I recall it feeling like Nintendo's in-house version of a Star Wars game and I still think of it very fondly 20-odd years later (and it mostly holds up excellently too). Star Fox Zero doesn't live up to that brilliant legacy; Star Fox Zero will be forgotten about in a couple of months—that kind of says it all really.
Star Fox Zero is probably GOTY for me. It's rare to see such a polished game in other platforms. I still have to play Dark Souls 3 though.
We need scores. I mean, let's be honest here, reviewers don't have journalistic degree but are some randoms from the web who make a living from it and nothing more. Sometimes showing their own lack of knowledge on the subject reviewed or just their own botomless stupidity as a human being.
This article is nothing more than a bunch of hot air and nothing more.
Exhibit A modern part is actually very own reviewers fault, giving 7s left and right and there are so many 7s, that 7 is actually AVERAGE.
What writer also forgot (probably unintentionaly, because nobody gives a sh#t about something so important) is the sole reason why 80s/90s/00s looks how it looks - nowadays, we have oversaturation of the market/how much games there are.
I mean, through whole life of the SNES and Genesis combined there were around 1500 games. Now compare it to today's standard of 700 games PER YEAR. So of course when there is MORE the final result/average will differ. The market changed in the last 30 years.
Metacritic gives the convinience of not reading every single review but average of all the scores and opinions. Not every game is Nintendo game where the plot doesn't matter and more often than not there are braindead idiots reviewing games who can't say anything about the gameplay/music/performance without f-ing spoiling the whole game.
A review should be an objective look at a game/movie/song/whatever that should be assessing its merits and faults. I feel that a score is basically a summary of the merits/faults and which side has a bigger weighting. A review should be objective for many reasons. Think of it like an essay in school - did your teacher mark you lower because he/she didn't like the font you chose or the format you presented your work in? No - it has to purely based on the quality of work. And that is what a review should be:
"a written piece assessing the quality of a game without bias"
A score should complement this. If a game has lots of good things about it, the score should reflect this. Yet, time and time again, I see reviews about games with many good things, yet because the writer didn't like a specific element, even if it was 'good', the score gets bumped down - which is why many news outlets seem to be dropping scores because they become too opinionated. Scores should be a representation of the quality of a game, which is why I vote in favour of them. As long as they aren't opinionated, and come from a true assessment of how good a game actually is, I'm fine with them. If a game that is actually good gets a 6 because the writer didn't personally like it, I get annoyed. If you want to include your opinion, it's not a review, but a personal recommendation. Why else do you think I don't trust IGN anymore?
Scores are also good for the lazy, I guess.
Honestly, I think a part of the issue is that review scores are too similar to how scores are in schools/universities. Sure, we can try to spread out all the game review scores among the 10 point scale with 5 being the average, but there are so many people with the mindset that 5 is terrible because everyone is bombarded with the fact that a 70%, or a 7 is average.
Being constantly exposed to one particular scale in which 7/10s of the scale is useless causes other similar scales to follow suit. It's purely psychological.
@Dezzy To you and some other readers:
Yes, metacritic is convenient. Yes, a score is an inoffensive, attractive option.
But we must also consider this: This convenience has led to some very serious issues in our field. And yes, the uniqueness of games have led to scores changing how they get created.
With these facts in front of me, I believe that losing that basic convenience and risking someone not reading (so?) are lesser problems than incentivized industry contracts and dumbed down reader bases.
People don't want to buy crap and reading is boring. When a Nintendo game gets a 8/10 that's literally all you need to know because they are mostly long running franchises.
Mario/Zelda/Kirby got at least 8/10? Buy it. Yoshi got 6/10? Skip It unless severely desperate for a new game.
That's all there is to it with Nintendo games.
I think scores are helpful, but should only be taken semi-seriously (by the industry and gamers as it is fairly subjective). Unless you find someone you completely agree with in terms of scores and tastes, not giving a game a try (that you think you would enjoy) just because it didn't reach a certain score is a bit silly.
Even if we reverted to the older scale of scoring, where a 5-6 is an average game, I feel like the market is so flooded with games in general (a majority or large portion of which is shovel ware or which or is potentially not preferable to play compared to other options) such that most people would not give it a try unless the score were 7+ or 8+, be it due to time o budget constraints. That being the case, reverting to the old scale I argue may just make people less likely to give a decent game a try. There is some peer pressure to play 'good' games, and trying to play a game that is only a 5/10 'feels' like you're missing out (half the total possible score). I think people also may relate it to the school grading system (where 70 is average and anything below is essentially a fail).
I personally get the best info from video reviews and watching gameplay, the score is a nice quick initial check
@NinChocolate Actually, it seems to me that reading reviews online these days is only boring because of how it's presented on modern gaming sites in general. I'd read far more game reviews in their entirety if they were written and presented a bit more like this:
There's charm and character in that review, and each section is broken into clear blocks that feel like mini-reads in and of themselves, so you don't feel like you're just reading a whole page of text in one go, and all the little breakdowns, various images, and individual comments really make it great to just go over at a glance too. Overall, it's just a far more enjoyable read and it actually makes you want to read everything.
As brilliantly designed and coded as the Nintendo Life site is, its reviews pale in comparison to what I'm showing in that example link. The presentation, layout, everything broken down into smaller and fun chunks, with lovely images interspersed throughout, all help to make the old magazine review format just so much more fun and engaging.
The actual review section is just generic and boooring (ignoring the nice article title image/graphic); it's just a wall of text (broken down into a few paragraphs) and a few images all formatted rather blandly, and then a single score at the end that generally means very little (and results in most people making sweeping judgements).
Just look at how cool some of those old magazine reviews were:
Modern game websites largely don't even come close; young'uns don't know what they're missing.
And THAT is why we just end up largely skipping to the final score these days.
Kotaku ditched scores a while back and I think it's great. It forces folks to actually listen to what they have to say about the game instead of just focusing on a number.
I don't think the industry contracts argument really works. First of all, they don't actually have to do that. That's their choice.
But if it wasn't THAT incentive for a bonus, it'd just be something else. Probably sales. Not sure how that's much different. It's probably worse actually because it's letting marketing affect your likelihood of a bonus, rather than just quality.
I think scores are good but as long as the site has a scoring policy and doesn't just blindly give a score Nintendolife's scoring policy is a good example of a good scoring policy.
However, I do feel that if a game gets better after a while due to updates and add-on content, reviewers should be allowed to change their score and give an explanation. Yes, @AlexOlney should be allowed to change his 9/10 to 10/10 for Splatoon
shows up, reads article
... I ain't even gonna touch this one.
slowly walks away towards the nearest exit
I don't think it really makes sense to generalize to the whole site. Reviews are written by individuals. I usually happen to agree with Chris Carter's scores for games, that Zelda review was just a massive anomaly.
@buildz review can't be 100% objective, because diffrence of personality/tastes/experience (especially that).
I mean, I've heard few thousand metal albums, of old and new so I have diffrent perspective than average Joe who listens to couple of bands that are well known. So when I "objectively" say that X mainstream band is crap because some other did something like that years ago only much better, Joe will call bullcrap and impassibru (which happened in my reviewer years... just like trusty hatemail ). You have that happening with review scores, when, for example, IGN gives score lower/higher than everyone else and people that did not even play the game say it's too low/high based on scores of other sites.
Games can be scored objectively to a degree, being performance/graphics, but it can't be objective 100%, because it's written by human being and not machine.
"Think of it like an essay in school - did your teacher mark you lower because he/she didn't like the font you chose or the format you presented your work in?"
Yes. Many, many times yes. I mean, if you will chose to write your homework on toilet paper because reasons, you will get what you deserve (F).
Also, essey is not review. Also homework/task has a objective predetermined by the teacher (or rather programme, be it subject or didactics) in advance that student must meet. If you don't know how something works, then don't bring it up.
I tend to use mostly the review to decide whether I think I would enjoy a game or not. Sometimes the scores given correlate with my impressions, but often things that reviewers mark down, I'm not bothered by at all, (and the inverse - things I don't like at all score well with the reviewer). Mario Maker for me is about 4, yet it was way higher than that for most people.
I don't follow the crowd with anything. Everything written and spoken is done so with bias, whether we are aware of it or not. Nothing is truly objective. It's the details that matter. In fact, I think we should teach bias and opinion recognition in school. The amount of tripe being peddled as absolute truth in all areas of life is astounding. I would also argue against forming an opinion based solely on a score that is based on an opinion. Decide for yourself. That's only my opinion though.
As always everyone has free speech and they can post their thoughts and how to score them if they want, it's better to have more thoughts displayed.
I miss 0-100 scores of the old days, 0-10 (sometimes even the ridiculous five star deal, or even less, probably borne out of utter idiocy) is too vague.
Now these birdbrains are proposing a "no score" system. How utterly f****** revolutionary. Not.
I like reviews they save me making a bad decision. But I don't agree with all reviews
I enjoy looking at the score. Does it convey everything perfectly? Of course not, but it does give a general idea of how the game will play. The idea that games cannot receive scores has some valid points, but then again the same arguments can be made against the opinion of how the game plays and therefore the developer should just always provide a demo and you yourself play it (a reviewer you trust may have a different opinion of how a game plays than you). In fact, why have any reviews at all? Maybe a developer should just put out demos and buy advertising space. A grade gives a person some understanding of where the game falls. I know I like strategy games so I understand a game with a 6 or 7 score in that category may still be a worthwhile purchase for me, but a FPS game with an 8 score might not warrant too much of a look. The game itself is good, but the score lets me know the overall quality of the product. The score essentially is being used to summarize the overall experience which makes it hard and leads to times that seem unfair, but to be blunt I wouldn't read a review without one. Does a school grade tell you everything about a student? No, but the general trend of how they score on tests is a good summary of someone's performance. Nothing is perfect, but I think this "fix" is worse than the problem.
@Dave24 You're taking my essay example too literally. Of course if you hand your essay in on a piece of toilet paper you'll get an F (or even U). Though, I have seen that happen...
I wasn't trying to outright say an essay is exactly like a review, I was merely saying there are a few elements that carry over - in specific, the fact that a teacher shouldn't be marking based on opinion (such as, for example, if they liked it). I understand a review cannot be 100% objective - but, on the flipside, a review shouldn't be too heavily weighted on opinion. I'd point you towards Kotaku/Polygon's review of Star Fox Zero for what I hate in a review.
Still, you present a valid point. Whew, there's been a lot of controversial news posts on NintendoLife lately, eh?
The issue comes with these "middle of the pack" games (that somehow end up with 7.5s or 8s out of 10, in part because most people only play games that they want to like and that drags the average upwards) - reading the SFZ review on this site, for example, if that had not had a grade attached I would have assumed the reviewer gave it about a 55 or 60 point score.
I don't think the issue lies in the review scores themselves, but rather in the inability of people who read them to fully recognize that a review is nothing more than the subjective views of one person. A score is just an opinion, but people treat them like points of fact and allow themselves to be swayed entirely by the reviews and scores they come across. If people would go out of their way to read multiple reviews for a given game and remain open to the idea that they are allowed to disagree with a critic, and that it's not the end of the world when a critic doesn't like a game that the reader does like, then this wouldn't even be a discussion.
People want review scores for one of two reasons: they're entertaining, or because they save the consumer from having to think. Neither is a good reason for their existence. Ditch 'em.
Reviews absolutely need scores. I won't and don't read reviews on sites like GoNintendo and NintendoEverything for this very reason even though I respect them very much.
And reviewing criteria out of 5 and then converting it to a % out of 100 is just wrong. Some sites do this themselves, nevermind Metacritic. Like a certain site I frequent gave SFZ 9/10. Yet each broken down section was marked out of 5 and if you converted the 5's the score would have been 82.5. So where a 9 came from I do not know. They gave it a 5 for audio when the music is largely the same, the script is mostly the same B movie if not C movie standard. "Do a barrel-roll". "We need your help Star Fox". And generally not very well acted. Star Fox Zero doesn't have orchestrated music, Assault on the Gamecube did, so if anything it's a step backwards. Assault also had multiplayer, SFZ does not. And don't get me started on it not having online.
Bottom line, games need scores. I know they're subjective but just because some sites don't do it right doesn't mean they should be removed. I'd be interested to know from sites that have removed scores from their reviews, whether the traffic rate has reduced on people reading them.
I'm not a fan of this either.
That's worse than a score system, it's way too vague.
The issue is taking a score as an objective all-encompassing representation of a game's "fun". To get something like that, we would need game experts who could judge the quality of both the game's design as well as the specific appeals of the game. An almost impeccably designed RTS is going to be a great game, but only for the audience that appreciates that genre (and maybe some others). Strengths and weaknesses in the appeal of a game are far more important and rarely, and sometimes impossible, to provide. Multiplayer-focused games, for instance, could have the appeal of a great, polite, funny community. That won't be known until long after the reviews have been published. The current environment for good reviews doesn't exist, nor does the audience of said reviews properly interpret them. It's almost futile, but a complete overhaul of the review system would do wonders for the industry.
There are pros and cons to using scores:
I'm going to make a sweeping statement here in relation to review scores relative to each individual site: If the score is somehow a problem—maybe you feel like people aren't reading your full reviews and are just jumping to broad conclusions based on the score alone, or whatever—I'd say it's a more a reflection of your reviews just being kinda crap to read (it's almost certainly they're somewhat soulless, bland, and boring, regardless of the actual quality of the writing), such that people don't bother reading them, than it is some kind of inherent issue with giving games a final score.
Again: If your reviews were presented a bit more like this (in terms of being fun and all-round engaging), I think people would do more than just skip the text and check the final score:
That's just my honest and blunt take on the notion of scores being a real issue with modern game reviews—like, without scores you actually imagine people would be more likely to read through your full reviews and take in all that lovely information before thoughtfully deciding what they think about a particular game based on your words. Yeah . . . no.
Now, scores might present an issue with how publishers use and abuse aggregate scoring sites like metacritic, but that's a whole other thing, imo.
@buildz like I said earlier, review of a game can be only objective to a degree, something that has nothing "personal", like framerate etc.
You are right with "review shouldn't be too heavily weighted on opinion", though, with reviewers puting some agendas etc. - that should not exist in the review.
"what are the graphics like? How does it control? What is the replay value? This makes perfect sense "
i would be happy without a score if the above mentioned were covered in detail.
I love to use the duke nukem game as an example of a "b" game but because it was super hyped and it didn't match hype, it got 2/10 scores. It ended up in the bargain bin and I loved every minute the $5 bought me. But at the end of the day, I feel bad for the devs. I've played worse games with better reviews, but because of hype and reviews, nobody played it. And if people just played it, no prejudice, you would have enjoyed it.
@Aneira but you have time to make posts like this. Did you have time to read the article?
I usually scroll down to the end to see the final score, then go back up and read the article to know why it got that way. It's a little backwards thinking I'm sure, but I feel scores are still important (and totally subjective too). If I wrote review articles, I'd probably put a score on top and explain how I got there, but again that's my weird backwards thinking going on.
It's not the score that is the issue, its the reviewer.
Lots of reviews are full of contradictions and with a score you wouldn't know if the game was worth its price.
And there are two many reviewers that can't decide if a game is worth a 10, so they play about with .2 .5 .7 etc.
If it's not good enough for a 10 then give it a 9. If it's better than other games that you have given a 9 to, then you have over scored those ones.
I think we need video game critics more than ever. Nobody likes spending a wad of cash on a game, only to find that it's a dud. And then there's the issue of download only games (something that may become the norm - and there's no refunds for those titles). We need quality control.
Oh, and I think that example image above, the one that is supposed to demonstrate how we considered review scores back in the 90s versus how we think of them now, is a little off too. No one ever really thought of a 7-8 game as being "great"; they thought of it as good. At least that's how I've always seen/interpreted it, and certainly based on the content of the reviews from back in the day*.
It's say that scores were thought of more like this back then:
10.0 - MASTERPIECE
9.0-9.9 - AMAZING
8.0-8.9 - GREAT
7.0-7.9 - GOOD
6.0-6.9 - OKAY
5.0-5.9 - MEDIOCRE
4.0-4.9 - BAD
3.0-3.9 - AWFUL
2.0-2.9 - PAINFUL
1.0-1.9 - UNBEARABLE
Note: I just nicked IGN's current system.
I'm seeing the words "good" and "decent" being used a lot in those 70-79/100 reviews, but again, the specific details not covered in the final score are still important for getting the complete picture, which I still think those old written magazine reviews did better than most modern website written reviews.
The issue with scores nowadays is that opinion often dictates the score more it should, which is basically the point I tried to make over the last 2 comments of mine.
saying how game makes you feel and how it plays is more important than the scores to me. i mean i love some games that got panned in reviews, making me distance when i learned the reviews given, some sounded like they have an agenda against x games at times. if i had known the "score" i might have backed away, it's why i have a never knock till i try it.
i brought witcher 3 and i hated it the combat was just terrible for me, i brought fallout 4, played it a fair bit but it's not the type of game i feel compelled to replay at all. getting the way the game plays, if the controls are good and how responsive it was and how you felt playing it. that is far more important to me, scores just fuel the fanboy wars imo.
I already talked about the compression of scale in review scores in my comment last week, but as far as Metacritic goes, did they ever actually publish the forumla by which they divine their score? I mean, it's definitely not just the statiscial median, they're publishing, so I would be careful about the wording there.
Anywho, I actually had a discussion about this with Chris Carter over in the comments at Destructoid some time ago, and he told me, that all the scores they give out are individual ratings, that do NOT relate to each other! This is important because it means that - as they do not relate to another - you cannot bring them into an inherently logical and meaningful order. Game ABC that scores an 8 is not better or worse than game ABC Part. 2, that scores a 9. Unfortunately ... if you can't sort scores, it is mathematically impossible to calculate the median score ... no sorting, no median score, simple as that.
Anyways, wanna know the kicker though? You can sort games according to scores right there on the dtoid website, it's right there, build into the site. Metacritic just pushes it one step further, and not only pretends that score A given out by dtoid relates to score B also given out by dtoid in a meaningful and logical way, but it pretends all scores given out by all outlets in respect to one game relate to each other in a meaningufl and logical way ... the problem is, that this is not true for dtoid scores as such, so how can it be true for dozens and dozens of wildly differnet publications and reviewers, adhering to different criteria and scoring systems?
Yes, you probably guessed, it's not possible. It just a severe case of "let's just pretend our data is good enough to allow for this mathematical transformation, although we know it ain't".
Review score enable this misrepresentation, they impact the way the industry views it's own products in a major, and therefore they sould be abolished - at least, if you believe in decision based on sound data and reasoning, as well as generally just honesty as such.
The problem with a score is that score ages. If you go back to older games that scored 8's and 9s, in the modern climate, they may actually be seen as flawed today. So if a game is to have a score, then it needs maintaining. Zzap64 magazine and Superplay used to have retro reviews. A small section where they quickly scored games they reviewed 1 year ago. It is quite suprising how their judgements had changed, and so, a score cannot be definitive. It needs an original score for archiving its 'back in the day' status and a score that evolves over time as it fits in to its current climate.
I don't know how the rest of the consumers make their purchasing decisions, but I tend to throw "popular" opinion out the window and simply ask myself if a game is something which I would enjoy.
So to boil it down, my priorities are as follows:
1. Do I have a genuine interest in the gameplay/mechanics?
2. What do the Images/Videos tell me about the in-the-moment experience?
3. What does the review, summary, and score tell be about the longer-term experience?
Looking through my collection, some of the titles in there dip into the 6s and maybe even 5s. That isn't to say that I haven't been shied away by review scores that are </= 3, but buy-and-large if I have even a glimmering or redeemable interest in a game, I tend to throw it in the mental "maybe" pile and scoop it up during a sale.
In the end, a title may be a great game, but if it doesn't hold your interest, then it isn't worth getting. You know yourself far better than any reviewer could and the decision ultimately rests on you.
Well I still interpret review scores the way that is shown in that '80's/90's/00's review scale'. It would be news to me that this has actually changed.
Just to be clear: Just because a few dumb people or even a dumb majority are unable to properly understand/interpret the digits 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, that doesn't mean that the review score scale has changed. Video games are just more popular than in the decades before and that necessarily draws in more dumb people.
"you need to further examine why a grade colours your expectations more vividly than a paragraph, or even an actual playthrough."
Who said that? A grade can never replace an actual playthrough and it certainly doesn't influence expectations the way words do.
Users who don't read the review but only look at the score have only themselves to blame if they should be disappointed afterwards.
However, even after reading a full review, I still need a score at the end to sum up what the reviewer thought of the game, to put it in relation to other games, to make it comparable, but also to make sure that I don't misunderstand the reviewer's text.
If there is no score, I can't be sure about that. Because after all, a review only consists of words and those can be easily misinterpreted.
There were several cases where a review sounded really awesome/exceptional to me but at the bottom of the page the game got 'only' an average or good score. Without that score, I would've thought the reviewer regarded it as a masterpiece.
The same applies the other way around. Some reviews are overly critical and sound like the game is really awful. But then they give it a 6 or 7 and you know it's still worth a try. Without that score, I might think that game is garbage, just because I could misinterpret the review's text.
So to sum it up, the purpose of a score isn't to replace anything, but to make the reviewers opinion as clear as possible. Not giving a score is shying away from making a clear statement and that's just cowardly in my opinion.
I'm all for doing away with review scores if it helps ensure we don't have another Star Fox Zero situation. Where we had a handful of idiots text-walling about why they feel the review should be lowered from an 8 to a 7. A SINGLE POINT. As if it matters.
A review should conclude with a verdict of buy, try or skip.
That's all I ever need to know. I'm a big boy so I like to form my own opinions.
Review scores on games can unfortunately make or break a game's success, often unfairly, based on the reviewer's OPINION which does not necessarily represent the gamer. A reviewer can sit there and play games all day and write reviews on them, sometimes just tired of seeing yet another game, and give a lousy review and bad score because he was in a bad mood or not interested in doing another review, and thousands of people look at that score and think the game is crap when in reality it's an excellent game. A good review would be factual, not have a score, and simply point out details about the game, or obvious flaws such as if it crashes or had incorrect dialogue or bad camera angles, etc. The review should state what the game offers, how it plays, what you do, etc. Leave the opinions out of it.
I like scores, a review without a score is just not as easy to understand. It's best to be able to compare the review with other reviews written by the same person(s). Then you get a better picture of how in dept the review is and if it's objective, subjective or as in most cases a little of both.
Too many pure craps games around these days is the biggest issue I think. Natural ly only the decent ones get high scores and are goty worthy. I see no issue here.
Sometimes I just like reading the reviews of games I know I'm going to get anyway just to get me hyped about buying the game and I like the way some reviewers critique games. I don't usually bother with the score because they never align with the "score" I give the game.
It's close, but-- in IGN land — anything below 7.5 is awful, and shouldn't be played. The lowest score has a stronger bias held towards it.
Multi-critiques offer opinions. I enjoy having reviews, before I purchase a game
I've really enjoyed Star Fox Zero. I didn't realize that the controls were so bad, until I read a review.
I view review scores as pretty redundant on the whole, but they are necessary when such a vast majority of so-called video game "journalists" have trouble getting their point across otherwise. So many nitpick on and blow up tiny things that in practice turn out to be non-issues. And that's not to mention the rampant corruption of ethics and bias so prevalent in mainstream reviewing media, resulting in "good" scores for games that objectively don't deserve them.
In the end though, the only opinion I truly value are my own, those of my friends, and maybe three or four video reviewers.
Really quick, I'd like to say that I actually don't know where I stand. I see pros and cons to both sides. Overall I think I side with the no score side, however, one thing that Alex mentioned that really resonated with me was how he had more fun with one game than another that he gave a higher score. For me, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is a 10/10 game because of how it affected me. That said, I don't think it would affect most people the same way, and its core gameplay is incredibly niche, and because of this I feel it's more deserving of somewhere around an 8, and I don't know, I honestly can't decide whether trying to be objective or subjective is more important. They both seem equally important to me, but you have to lean towards one side more with a review, I would think.
I really like having game scores. They sum up overall thoughts on the game as opposed to simply saying, "oh, I liked it" or "I recommend this game." That doesn't give you a sense of how good it is.
Also, as much as I find the "80s, 90s, early 00s" score chart better than the one that most people see games as, I definitely wouldn't consider a 6 "good." Even this site uses a 6 as "not bad" while a 7 is "good." We shouldn't completely get rid of scores just because of the misconceptions a few reviewers have, like anything below an 8 is terrible.
I like video game reviews, however, most websites I don't trust. Reason being, IGN has been paid off before. Meaning, they were bribed into giving a bad game a really good rating, making the gaming audience confused(Skyward Sword for the Wii being a good example ).
I like scores. That being said, in order to get the full picture of a game, I usually go to several sites to get the full picture.
Speaking of Metacritic, some of you may not know, but they use a different scale for games than they do for everything else. Seems rather fishy if you ask me.
@shani Great comment. Couldn't have said it better myself.
I will say that I think companies basing their pay scale on Metacritic scores is ridiculous. If I worked at a company that slipped that into my contract, I'd probably start looking for a job that rewarded me for my effort and not for someone else's opinion. Sometimes games just don't achieve what the developers envisioned or set out to achieve. That doesn't mean that they didn't pour their heart and soul into the game. Creating a game like (insert your all-time favorite game here) isn't easy and when it comes to feeding your family, I don't think you should be penalized if the perfect game you envisioned didn't quite come together as planned, especially if we're measuring success based on that skewed graphic.
I need a score. If reviews were the length that they were in Nintendo Power - aka short sweet and to the point - I could probably live with no scores and just ike "recommended" or "not."
But no, reviews must write 2,000-3,000 word, overly detailed reviews that struggle to stick to a point. And I don't care to read through 4-5 of those before deciding on a purchase.
So keep the scores, or max out review lengths to 500 words. either way is fine with me.
"I will say that I think companies basing their pay scale on Metacritic scores is ridiculous."
Exactly! I mean, Metacritic has its place and its value, but it should never dictate the way developers design their games or the way the work of developers is reviewed internally in their company. After all, even if the majority of reviews gives a piece of art (game, movie, series, comic, music, concert, software, whatever) bad scores, there's still the possibility that the reviewers just didn't get the creator's intention or what they had envisioned. Just because there is a majority of (positive or negative) reviews, it doesn't mean that they are objectively right. After all, all reviews are subjective.
There are many misunderstood movies, games etc out there that get a bad or mediocre score from many sites. Only a few review sites get what the creator actually intended and the rest is just not perceptive/intelligent enough.
In my opinion Metacritic should only be used by users - not by companies - to get a general view of all the different opinions in those reviews, not to actually judge about anything.
After giving Starfox Zero an 8/10, you guys should be banned from using numbers in any form at all!
@3MonthBeef in my experience games that score around 7.5 to 7.9 are games that work well, look good but bring nothing new to the table, Games like Enslaved: Odyssey to the west or Far Cry 4 and the lego games, and games from 7.0 to 7.4 seem largely hit or miss and bargain bin fodder but still can provide entertainment like sims 2 or XIII and shadow warrior reboot.
@Kirk IGN actually used to break down their scores for games into like 5 categories. Presentation, sound, graphics, gameplay, and replayability/lasting impression and THEN had a final score at the end. The issue with this was that people would complain when the final score was not an average of each category so they stopped doing it like 5 or so years ago. I think the last review I remember that used that style was Skyward Sword.
Scores are necessary for primarily one reason... A site's revenue. There's a load of people who try to be informed consumers, but ultimately just skip text and go straight to a score of some kind. A shame, but true. Any site that doesn't include scores will be skipped by these people, either intentionally or because Metacritic will no longer include that site's review. Meanwhile people who care less about the score and more about what someone actually thinks in text form will stay regardless.
It would be nice if there could be some consistency on what a good score is on a 0-10 scale though.
@AlexOlney for a second, I thought your username was Alan and you were complementing yourself
@Ichiban This is a perfect reason why sites shouldn't have reviews score. There was a lot of debate on what score it should receive. Many reviewers were very dissatisfied with the game. Some other reviewers really liked it. A lot of people who have played it liked it. One polygon reviewer didn't finish the game. It largely came down to how good you are at game.
I think some transparency helps, like if the reviewer says that they love JRPGs or that they hate games on rails. Good Game are always great at doing this, a benefit of having two people review the game I think. Their Dark Souls 3 review perfectly shows this.
My main issue with scores, is that they are so superfiscial. If I gave a game a 7 out of 10, some (not all) would act like the game is average or "not good enough." A score shouldn't determine if you had fun or not.
Quite frankly, I don't listen to review scores on websites. In most cases it's the opinion of one or two people. Even here at Nintendo Life your score is meaningless to me because I might enjoy something the reviewer did not.
I do look at group review scores, such as those on Steam. It's a safe bet if out of 1000 reviewers 800 of them said the game was awful, then it probably isn't good.
I only read reviews with scores... without a score it feels kind of pointless..
I like the review scores here on the site, and elsewhere. For the most part your guys review of a game means almost nothing to me. I'm only looking for a reinforcement of my own gut feeling for a game. I usually won't even read the actual review. It's only when a game I want scores low, or a game I thought was going to be worthless scores high, that I actually read the review. And this is very valuable to me. While it hasn't stopped me from getting a game, it has helped me set my expectations. And it has caused me to buy more great games that I would have passed on originally.
I've been saying for years a simple binary yes or no, entertaining or not entertaining, thumbs up or thumbs down, would be better for reviewers and consumers.
I really appreciate the balance you guys brought in the discussion and the points both sides made. I guess it's why I use you guys even though I'm American and people seem to expect me to stick with American-based outlets.
Besides, games can only be compared to their genre. How many titles get reviewed solely based on multiplayer? Based on platformers and previous releases?
In 2004, many of the reviews simply explained why the game was good/bad.
I remember Metroid Prime Echos being chided for limited multiplayer at the END of reviews. The rest was comparing it to the precious title.
I do remember some of those reviews comparing it to Halo 2, but they stressed how different the games were.
It is dangerous to allow publishers to dictate how the market responds, by creating and prolonging fads.
I don't see an issue with the scale. I have always read the scale as this.
5 star - Once a generation amazing
4 star - Very good
3 star - Not bad, ok
2 star - Not good, avoid
1 star - Once in a generation awful
4 = 7/10 - 9/10, it's no surprise most games worth reviewing are in that range.
Games, movies, books, they all NEED scores! Because there are soooooo many nowadays, and money doesn't grow on our backs. Especially games need scores, since they are very expensive.
I personally always look to the score and conclusion first, and after that I read the review. I admit that there are quite some 7's or 6's I passed on, but that's also because I can't purchase every game. But sometimes I'll buy a 7's game if it REALLY looks like fun to me.
I always laugh though how some people can get so fired up about a review they disagree on (especially ign reviews). Relax people, everybody has its own opinion. Is that so wrong?!
I've read many reviews on this site and am always certain if I want to buy a game based on the article and the conclusion. If the mark out of 10 was removed, it wouldn't make a difference.
But I don't think having the score is a bad idea. The score always seems reflective of the article. A must have (8+), or highly recommend with minor issues(7), good but misses out on recommendation due to a, b and c (5 or 6) etc.
Definitely games should receive final scores. I am not really interested in wether an 8.3 game is better than an 8.2 game, its just a general indicator how well the game was received. And its interesting to see how the reviewers justifies the score he has given.
the problem is that the generation of today is more spoiled and less educated, thus in their mind they always associate the cost of a game with what they think it should be scored. For instance, "If I pay 60 bucks for this it better be at least a 9 on gamespot and IGN!!!!" and then it is a 7.8 and they rage about it...because they always wanted the game but will not buy it now because it scored a 7.8 thus it is not worth their money....
What this generation forgets is that 7.8 is considered a good, very good game in the days of the old. Then again, today's games have changed. Amazing graphics and still slow internet access as well as limited SSD memory for the price it costs, in most parts have forced devs to create a repetitive grinding gameplay, otherwise bananas would be way too big, and the only thing that pisses me off, is when repetitive games on tiny banana maps with beautiful graphics get a score above a 6. This will fall under CONTENT, so BF, COD, etc has basically not much content. Then however, people invented the achievements bananas, which in most games replaces content and apparently keeps the players happy...
@Varathius: Please watch your language - Octane
Is score this article an 8.......
Reviews and reviewers mean nothing to me. I like to see screenshots and watch gameplay footage but until I play the game myself I can't know if it was worth my money, that comes after I finish the game and how I feel about the expierence and if I'm willing to expuerence it all again.
However, not everyone is being reasonable when giving a score. Oftentimes I see readers going overboard with scores like '0 out of 10' and then providing little to no explanation as to why.
I also discovered that most overwhelmingly positive reviews are simply biased and shouldn't be trusted either. Important points that must be brought up are dismissed, game is near perfect, 9 out of 10. Then I play it for myself and fail to see what's so great about it.
I think the only way scores are ever going to disappear is if every single website does away with them — which is highly unlikely.
While I personally find scores problematic — numerous comments in the past on this site have told me I've "got it wrong", despite the people behind those comments not having actually played the game in many instances — I think they're what users want.
It's comes down to people's web behaviour. While browsing, very few people actually read every single word on the page; we scan-read because we're looking for specific information or answers to questions we may have (e.g., is this game any good?). Scrolling down to a score is much easier than taking the time to find the independent bits of analysis that you want to know about and then come to an informed view on it. That's not to say that numbers are perfect — far from it — but people evidently want them because they suit their web browsing behaviour, and sites should cater to the needs of their users as best they can.
One suggestion I'd put forward for NLife (informed by a recent training session I went to) would be for us to be much stricter with our paragraph and sentence sizes (shorter is better), ensuring we separate different topics/points up by paragraph, and then perhaps also putting key sentences or phrases throughout the article/review in bold. It would enhance a user's ability to scan-read, and might mean they draw more out of a review before they reach that score at the bottom.
Just my two pence.
@Indielink All they should have done was just put a little "Not an average" at the end, or something like that. I think reviews are generally better when broken down and each element of a game is giving it's on critique and rating; it really helps you better understand everything in context.
@MegaWatts Once again, I go back to how it was in a magazine like Mean Machines:
The way those reviews are structured and presented actually encourages you to read all the little chunks of text and individual sections of the review, and you enjoy doing so too. Oh, and just like you said, they're most smaller chunks of text at that.
It's not just walls of boring black text on white background (even if it's broken into shorter paragraphs); there's little personal comments sections that are from more than one reviewer (with custom character images for most reviews), each part of game usually gets it's only little block of text that's presented nice and clearly in a cool way (sometimes with accompanying illustrations and stuff), the individual aspects of each game are broken down, commented on, and scored very clearly (making even the final score much more informative and fun to just skim over), there's lots of images to view and they're not just laid out in a mostly linear fashion and all at the same size (even though they're still very readable visually and you clearly know how to go through the review from one section to the next), and it's all just easy and fun to read.
You end up wanting to read the entirety of those printed reviews, and that basically solves all of the problems you're presenting above.
So, the solution here is not to just make the paragraphs smaller or bold the text. That simply will not solve the problem. The real problem is not short attention spans; it's apathy as a result of the blandness of the basic presentation of most online written reviews and the monotony of going through a simple page of text. Most people don't visit online gaming websites to just end up reading what amounts to a plain page from a book, with a couple of boringly laid out and presented images if they're lucky. The solution is to make the overall experience more engaging and stimulating in the first place—and I don't just mean the quality or structure of the writing.
I agree with the modern review scoring scale (as per diagram), but I'd argue that it started being used way before indicated in the article, probably starting its cycle by the mid 90s at the latest. Only Edge appeared to buck the trend really. I was already noticing publications going overboard in the N64/PS1 era.
@Kirk I certainly agree about how wonderfully the magazine layout works, but it's worth bearing in mind that it's a completely different format. People's behaviour when it comes to a magazine can be completely different to a website. For one, there's the physiological impact of using a screen vs. printed paper; resolution and glare make reading from a screen slower and harder on the eye. Then there's the psychology behind it: people who come to a website looking for an answer (rather than to just be entertained) aren't looking to be bombarded with fancy graphics and layout — they want to find the answer and go. Given how many websites there are out there offering the same thing in many instances, it's even more important to try to meet this need.
I still maintain that shorter paragraphs and sentences are something to strive for — especially when NLife has a great number of international visitors, for many of whom English will not be their first language. Even the copy in those MM reviews is relatively punchy and straightforward in language, and I'm willing to bet it's intentional.
@MegaWatts "Then there's the psychology behind it: people who come to a website looking for an answer (rather than to just be entertained) aren't looking to be bombarded with fancy graphics and layout — they want to find the answer and go."
And there's the problem right there: You're building the very thing that's causing the problem. Rather than making websites and writing reviews that make people want to open, check, leave, you should be building websites and writing reviews that properly engage them and actually make them want to stay for the sheer entertainment and pleasure of it. Or else, all you're gonna get is people using and treating your work like a metric for some corporate statistical analysis meeting; hence the growth of and issue with sites like metacritic.
I tell "you" this: Actually try presenting a review similarly to how it is in those magazine examples, and let's see if it engages readers more or not and if they give you positive feedback or not.
None of the gaming websites have ever really come close to trying this kind of more visual (almost graphic design) based presentation for their articles and reviews, so I'd suggest their logic on what is and is not best for the reader is inherently flawed. It's based on giving them "computerised" reviews for however many years (generally black text on white background, or some variation thereof, written like a Word/Office document), and never realising it's the whole "computerised" look and presentation style that's the issue.
With today's screens, you could give them something that approaches the artistry of those old magazines and still have perfectly readable text and whatever else. And, like you said, the text in the MM reviews is punchy and informal—by design. So, put blocks of text into actual blocks, frame them in cool borders, use different sized images around the page (with some of them even overlapping a little bit, just for FUN), have multiple people contribute their personal takes in each review (in very clearly "comments" sections), put some cool artwork on some areas of the backgrounds, break the actual review score down into specific sections and give each a little snippet of summation, etc . . . and make it a genuine pleasure/joy again to read the reviews, such that people actually will.
That's what modern gamers coming to a gaming website really want, imo; pages that actually look, feel like, and reflect the very games they love—not glorified Word/Office documents.
I swear, if I had the means and resources, I'd be running a gaming website that poos on all the major ones we see online right now (IGN, Gamespot, Nintendo Life, whichever)—but, the ability to actually code a site like that (with dynamic image placement and image angle, generally non-linear layout, using multiple background images, and so on) is far beyond me.
@Kirk There's a very good reason for black on white text — it's very legible. Yes, there are alternatives, but again, you've got to consider all users. I am assuming that you must have pretty decent vision (or have glasses/lenses that give you it) but not everyone does. So choosing a still-legible, but ultimately less legible option could be problematic for your audience. You then have to factor in that not everyone is viewing the website on exactly the same device with exactly the same settings. On my PC, it may be perfectly legible. Put it on a 5-inch mobile screen, where I have to either scroll/zoom, everything is smaller, and I'm potentially viewing it in a noisy and distracting area with different lighting conditions, and it's suddenly less desirable than just having big and clear, black-on-white text.
It's not logic based on what a couple of people merely think; it's based in years of research, hence why the majority of websites do the same thing.
One only need look at Amazon or iTunes ratings to see the immediate problems with basing a decision on aggregating scores without reading the review: scores do not indicate the reviewer's agendas or biases.
If there are only a few you could end up with an average score that is wildly skewed one way or another. I cannot use a score for this reason. If someone doesn't like a game, film, whatever you need to know WHY that is, similarly if they do like it. If you're blindly basing purchases on numbers then you're still going to get burned.
I also think it's worth checking on this site how well Nintendo-published titles score versus third party ones and in particular how often Nintendo gets a pass for failures where third parties do not. I'm not saying there's a conspiracy or anything weird like that, but I do think it's possible there are biases that express themselves in scoring and tone. I can say for myself unless a game is truly terrible I've noted that I tend to be more forgiving of indies than big publishers, so these biases will be present whether the reviewer is conscious of it or not. If you "don't have time to read reviews" then you don't really need the score either.
What happened was this: snobbery. The games traditionally falling at the upper end, fans of each franchise got really snobby about their 10 being so much better than some other's 8 or 8.5. Reviewers picked up on this, maybe subconsciously even, but over time, a really well known franchise (if they were going to give it a high score) had to be a 9, or somewhere between 9 and 10. This skewing of the numbers, over time, caused the 6 and below are all trash mentality.
I've reviewed games, and I'll tell you that if I give a game a 7, it's likely a fun game and worth getting. Even a game that gets a 5 shouldn't be considered automatically one to ignore, it's just it may be far more niche at that level. It's about each site making it clear what their review scale says. 7-10 should definitely be the upper end, not a microcosm of "bad" to "perfect" in 3 numbers out of the 10 that you have at your disposal to gauge the game.
@MegaWatts My vision's kinda crap, but this isn't really about vision; it's about good design and making something entertaining and enjoyable for the end user. Nothing about modern screens means you can't go much more adventurous with the design.
Let me say this right now: The years of research is wrong.
You obviously don't agree—since you brought up the research in the first place—but that's because you're not considering that the research is done by number-crunching morons who care more about statistics (click rates, page views, pace and ease of article reproduction, ease of transferring layout across multiple consumer products. . . .) than the actual enjoyment and experience of the end user. They're not figuring out how to make great websites and great reviews; they're figuring out stuff that only people in suits and sitting in stuffy offices should care about.
This isn't some crappy corporate presentation you're designing these pages for; it's for frikin' gamers—video gamers. Just think about that for a second. . . . Serve the gamers, not the doubeballs in suits, and, by the sheer irony of it all, you'll find you end up serving both yourselves and the doucheballs in suits better too.
But, don't believe me.
PS. Yeah, I have no idea how I'd go about scaling such a gorgeous and awesome layout so it also displays well on a phone, but hey, I'm just the ideas guy; you people are the ones who have to figure out how to bring the ideas to fruition.
PPS. There's many more variations of one colour on top of another that are still easy to read visually than just black text on white background or visa versa (even on this page, we have white on blue, black on grey, and blue on white, lol), for all types of people and on all types of displays, and that also still look good too. I think you game review guys need to at least use the full range of options available to you.
I mean, I'm sure this review is written well enough https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/3ds-eshop/pocket_card_jockey but zzzZZZ in terms of presentation.
I like review scores, and think they should stay.
When i do research on a game, i want to get a bunch of opinions to get a decent average (there will always be outliers), and i quite honestly don't like reading through a bunch of essays with wildly varying quality, length and focus, and then try to distill the combined walls of text into something i can use to make a decision...
I haven't looked at reviews of games for years i tend to buy games if i like the look of them. With so many games coming out these days i can't afford to listen to other people.
The thing about review aggregates is that all of that noise is filtered out. That's the entire point. The more reviews you have the less impact "trolls" will have on the score. Ontop of that the best review aggregate algorithms will weigh reviewers based on various factors. Metacritic does it based on how big the publication is. I know some user-review sites that do similar things like discount ratings from people who only ever give 5 or 1 stars. Or ignore ratings from in-active accounts, new accounts and accounts with less than a certain number of reviews.
It's not a perfect system by any means and there's no accounting for taste. There are all sorts of biases at play. But as a quick measure of whether or not something is good? It's not bad.
As long as it's not for product reviews. Product reviews are pretty useless given that most people don't review a product unless it's fantastic or broken. People review music, movies and games across the board. It's not the same for headphones and toasters.
@skywake Except that for a lot of indie games, unless something has changed in the past decade, you won't get more than a handful of reviews, so every score is very important as is how it's determined.
For big publishers they get the coverage so it's less of an issue, outside of examining the treatment of the output of these companies, again going back to one of the points of this article being how games are designed with an eye to getting a good score, rather than anything to do with art or player experience. I fail to see how that mentality benefits the industry or players.
"I'm going to repeat what the article said" = Ignored!
I review games and I agree, no final scores, just good and bad and possibly a personal fave meter that is YOUR favourite and no one else's.
The "Metacritic Problem" doesn't go away if you switch to a binary or tertiary model of yes/no or yes/maybe/no. Rotten tomatoes still assigns a percentage score based on that model.
Have both a number and a text review. Let the readers decide which is more important to them.
These days, a game can be buggy and glitchy as ever and still get the nomination for GOTY. I believe if there are things seriously wrong with the game that prevents a user from fully experiencing it, then the game should be deemed below average. But just because a new solitaire video game doesn't have the same graphics or gameplay as splatoon doesn't mean that it is a terrible game. There's some solitaire fanatics out there who probably will love it and hate splatoon.
"Reviews" should be some person playing the game and just commenting on how the game is played, the mechanics behind it, and any glitches that are experienced. The people watching can determine if they want some of that action or not. A number on a video game shouldn't determine if you want to play it.
@Manjushri I remember the time the Blockbuster went out of business, and where i live (Suburban Holland) all the video-rental places where i used to rent NES and SNES games back in the day all closed down as well.
Numbers don't decide.
It's the words that clear up questions people have about a game they might be interested in.
A good review is a service, a bad review is an opinion.
Holy wow those mean machines articles are ugly.
The thing I like about review scores is that they stick in your head. If, for example, you're in a shop and see an obscure game going for a cheap price, it might be difficult to remember how good it is if you've read a review but it didn't have a score. However, if the review had a big '8/10' (etc) at the bottom, then you'll remember that it's a good game and worth buying.
Numbers don't decide. It's the words that clear up questions people have about a game they might be interested in.
Let's pretend that NintendoLife doesn't have scores. How do you decide which review to read when you're faced with 50+ eshop games with generic titles. Obviously no one is going to read all of them to find the one or two games that are actually of some quality. Hm. NintendoLife used to have a list of all games released but now I can't find it. You could sort the list so that the games are arranged in order of score. Because who would want to waste time reading the reviews of games that are lowly rated trying to find a good game?
While I agree that situations like Metacritic affecting salaries of developers are a fiasco... I disagree that we need to get rid of numerical scores entirely.
I don't know how UK schools work, but in the US, we have two grading systems in our schools: the elementary school level, and everything above that. In our elementary schools, we generally have 3 grades- unsatisfactory, satisfactory, and outstanding. At every level above that, we have the familiar A= 90%-100%, B= 80%-89%, etc.
The numeric grading system for games was based on the one used for schools, just as with movies. The form it took on, grading each aspect of a game, was originally conceived back in the mid 1970s, by Play Meter magazine. It was once known as "the Roger Ebert with Gene Siskel of gaming." So the numerical grading system has a long history of being highly regarded, it isn't something that only just appeared 30 years ago with the boom of the industry.
The new grading system being proposed, where the reviewer just says "Good, Okay, Bad, Excellent" or whatever, is closer to the US elementary school grading system. It's a softball kind of system that is designed to be less critical of students/subjects. Basically, it's like saying "awww, you missed several questions? That's okay, you still get a satisfactory score!" ...The same score applied to someone who missed a couple less questions than that.
If we get rid of numerical scores entirely, professional reviews will be relegated to coddling games with broad, highly generalized scores, and giving the excuse that "but it's just our opinion, so don't take our word for it!" If the critical review is only that, then what value does it have over a user review? Why do critics such as Nintendo Life staff deserve to paid for their labor, which includes writing reviews, if random user reviews on GameFAQ's or the like hold just as much value? Is the critical review truly worth no more than the user review, as "merely an opinion"?
That being said, I think the numerical score is only truly effective when it is applied to every aspect of a game, as gaming magazines have done over the years. Giving only a simplified, broadly applied general score, as many websites often do these days, is not the best indication of a game's "true" score. And that graph posted on Reddit doesn't factor that in- back in the '80s, '90s, and early '00s, it was very common to grade every aspect of a game, which often skewed the score downwards, so every point was hard fought. Whereas now, it's very common to only use a single, generalized total score, so each point is no longer a hard fought battle.
For example, with Star Fox Zero, the Graphics and Story might receive a 7 or 8, and Fun Factor an 8 or 9, but the Controls/Gameplay would have received a 5 or 6, going by the Nintendo Life review's words. That would skew the total "True" score downward. Ultimately, Nintendo Life decided to just use the Fun Factor score as the final score, ignoring their own criticism of the gameplay in the final score.
A single, generalized score does not impart the whole picture. It permits the excuse to be lenient with a final score, and indeed, contribute towards the Metacritic issue of giving developers higher salaries through higher total critical scores. It's an easily corruptible system.
So I would say the classical way of doing things, grading every aspect of a game, is still the right way to go. Using only a single generalized score feeds into the current system, and using no score with only summarizing words encourages an overly soft "everybody wins a trophy as long as they try hard enough!" sort of mentality.
Personally I found the issue doesn't just come to scores. At one point I gave up caring about scores and thought "The content of the review is more important". But it seems as you stop caring so much and focus less on one thing new unnoticed problems come into focus.
I'll show my bugbear with reviews in an example, Imagine this was a review of Super Mario Bros:
'"Super Mario Bros is a satisfying platformer, however it's ploddng pace of Marios movement and increasingly unreasonable jumps make the latter parts of the game unplayable. 5/10"'
The idea that a reviewer's opinion is just as good as anyone elses around a lot. If a reviewer doesn't realise what the B button does in Super Mario Bros they can produce an argument that looks like a fair point to people who haven't played the game, but is actually nonsense.
I noticed this with New Zealand Gamer's review of Majora's Mask 3D. The reviewer spent the whole game thinking that whenever you reset time you HAVE to do all the events over again to get access to the Temples. He basically gave the game a poor review for something that isn't true and also took it as an opportunity to rant about the people who like the game.
I think Famitsu has a pretty good approach of delivering reviews because they have 4 people review the same game so you don't get someone "not getting" the game and then slating the whole game because of their mistake.
I think this problem has became bigger as of late as any game that requires the player to learn something without being spoonfed . If more than one person reviewed and discussed the games this wouldn't be a problem. I feel if Majora's Mask 3D was a new game and not a remake I think NZ Gamer's review would be a lot more common and the game would review worse.
What I fear is that this will make game developers play it even safer than they do and design games specifically to review well in a way you don't have to think or learn a new game mechanic, concept or a control scheme. Also creating an environment where people have a carte blanche to crap over new or different ideas by default whereas unoriginal games that just use already tried and true ideas are given near perfect reviews because the games they lifted them from also got near perfect reviews and are ideas and controls the reviewer is already familiar with.
I remember one reviewer on NintendoLife rating WiiWare Phoenix Wright as average just because it was a port with added motion controls (which you didn't have to use if you didn't want to). 5/10 for such an amazing game? Too right there were complaints.
I'm not so keen on scores anymore. I try to tell my brother not to rely on scores so much because there's no universally accepted score system for video games. For example, a reviewer might score a game 5/10 - "average". Another reviewer might have 5/10 seen as "bad" on their scoring system. Because of this, video game scores to me have always be so inconsistent in their value.
To me, numbers don't tell me much about a game, words do.
Good point, however, there is always that one website in which you will relate to the most. For example, let's say Nintendo Life's reviews were well suited to your opinions, you'd most likely come here for advice on what game to get. But yes, you are right, this is why I don't go to multiple websites, I stick to one, and that's where I go for reviews I can trust as suitable to my interests in gaming.
@Williaint You likely didn't realise the controls were so bad because you probably don't have a great body of experience with 3D shmups for comparison, and maybe you don't really think about such things so much until other people make you aware of them (make you sit up and actually consider them), but they CLEARLY aren't great, and they CLEARY aren't a step upward and forward for the series either. Anyone that isn't playing Star Fox Zero in a vacuum, who allows themselves to question the quality and merit of other people's work (in this case, allows themselves to actually accept that not everything Nintendo does is gold), and who maybe asks a certain level of control standard from their games, will get this immediately. They'll know that the controls in Star Fox Zero aren't some pinnacle of the genre, and they'll know they could have been much better. But, alas, they are not better; they're serviceable—and a bit gimmicky, convoluted, and clunky.
Still, for anyone who does play each game in a kind of vacuum, I'm sure they'll find them decent enough.
@Kirk They did include a "not an average" disclaimer in at least 2 places IIRC. It's just that the general reader likes to not pay attention.
@Indielink Then I think they did enough in that case. Still, it's funny how those old magazine reviews never had to specify it wasn't an average and no one seemed to make a fuss.
By the way, I just saw this when I was watching an old episode of Bad Influence:
https://youtu.be/67terKhCNHQ?list=PL5F0A050752D0FC08&t=192 (watch from the 3:12 mark)
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