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Gaming, Professionalism And The Score System

Review scores and the convoluted system that entangles them is nothing new. It’s a system of overwhelming bias for the mainstream and an overall stain on gaming. Well, at least from my perspective. Scores should be removed because they have no backing. What truly defines an eight or a B+? Even more so, what is the unique difference between a few points on the scale? Well the answer is none, there is no difference. It’s just a number for each and every person to draw their own conclusion. “Reviewing” others opinions on a game’s score reveals this truth. Gamers will praise a nine, but will also complain about a nine as if that score alone causes the game to vanish from existence. It’s not necessarily the systems fault though; it’s the perception of the system that destroys credibility.

Mainstream gaming has created a false sense of professionalism and truthfulness. On one hand, when reviewers adhere to the public opinion they are viewed as professional and trustworthy. Yet, step out of line and downgrade a game that is supposed to be great and everything goes out the window. An easy way to regain loyalty is to agree with the general consensus and then you’re back on track. Gamers enjoy talking about how journalism is reflected in the industry and how it has, more or less, gone down the drain. Well I say to you, my fellow gamer, that it hasn’t gone down the drain. Actually, it’s being forced, shoved and molded into what it is today. We have created the seven to ten scale, the high score hype, the censorship and the bias. Journalism is merely a mirror image of what gamers want. For the most part it’s a collective opinion for you to agree with. Disagreeing is highly discouraged and censored.

Personally, I’m not afraid to speak my mind on scores. Want to know what I truly think about Uncharted 3? The game is a four at best. Skyrim? No more than a six and that’s being generous. Although, why does it matter what I think in reflection to a score? Well, it doesn’t matter. My information is about as useless as anyone else claiming the score should be applied much higher or lower, reviewers and journalists included. It baffles me that important information regarding key components is disregarded in favor of arguing. There is a definitive line between debating the topic and arguing the point and I think we know which one is the more dominant force. Granted, if I ever wrote a review with such scores, my points and opinions would go unnoticed. The review itself would quickly be drowned in a sea of random numbers, references to sites with better scores and general personal attacks. Yet, this seems to be the point of reference that we currently enjoy and embrace.

Yes, that’s my truthful and honest opinion transferred into a numerical form. I could easily describe my reasoning in a clear, detailed and concise manner, but it would do little justice. I would be pointed in the direction of sites with “better” scores, have someone quote Metacritic and be told how one person’s opinion matters over mine. Something I see quite frequently and far to often. Valid reasoning and logic does not seem to mix well with various gaming communities. Now, I don’t mean that in a harsh way, I can only imply that by what I see. Being irate, illogical and outlandish is acceptable with the backing of the gaming community. It’s just one of those norms that goes without question, not only in regards to reviews, but in almost every aspect.

Review scores, and sites alike, are almost identical to the Call of Duty franchise. Even though we complain about how unbalanced, broken and unfair it can be, we keep coming back. Nobody wants honest journalism because, at some point or another, that would create a conflict of interests. That idea alone will keep an unchanged and outdated system relevant.

We desperately need a new method to the madness. Assigning a random value to a game just doesn’t cut it. Truthfully, I have no better alternative in mind. That’s why I would opt for a mandatory scoreless review, allowing readers to actually discern points within the review itself. That would do away with half of the flame bait articles alone. Low scoring reviews, written with no score, would probably go unnoticed and unmentioned. Of course, nonsensical articles for hits will always be present, but who can blame them? Poorly written, pointless articles for the sake of arguing will always have the upper hand on well written, informative information. Say what you will, but gaming sites are only catering to their intended audiences, you.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

AtomicGerbil4277d ago (Edited 4277d ago )

I agree, do away with scores. I prefer reading the pros and cons so I can make up my own mind.

Take a look at your average FPS, all of which seem to score between 8.0 and 9.5 out of 10, when you delve into the reviews for these games you start to see some very disappointing comments, such as, the story is too short, too clichéd, disappointing ending, glaring faults with multiplayer and so on. Yet they still get a high score. I remember when a 7 was considered a good score.

coolbeans4277d ago

"I remember when a 7 was considered a good score."

This 100%. I remember game ads that would include quotes from sites that gave it an 8!

Christopher4275d ago

Yeah. For years, I had seen mostly 7 and 8/10 quotes on most game advertisements. Seeing one that got a 9 or even a 10... holy crap, that made me very excited. Now, I can expect almost any game to get a 9 or 10/10 from someone. Even a reputable source. I haven't had that sort of feeling in more than a decade.

SilentNegotiator4277d ago (Edited 4277d ago )

Many sites have very clear definitions for their scores. Why throw away scores? Sometimes the score helps set the tone for the content.

The real problem is publishers. They've made a massive deal out of scores, when it's obvious that they don't necessarily have to do with whether or not a game succeeds. Look at Duke Nukem Forever; they got low scores, but sold like a million copies because they ran plenty of ads.

Publishers created a hostile reviewing environment, where they blacklist you if you give them a "low" score for their crappy game ( ) or get you fired from your position, if they sunk enough money into your site's ad space ( ).

And frankly, it's probably too late. Game journalists seem to have completely lost sight of the difference between objectivity and simply drooling over everything in adoration. Not to mention, gamers all think that anything below a 9 is "hits wanting bias crap!!" (Not to say it sometimes isn't, considering those people give them those hits, effectively working to get hits) and I fear no amount of retraining will ever fix that. It has become the culture that all games deserve a 9+....exactly what the publishers are trying to maintain. "Be a good little reviewer and give us a 9+, and we'll give you exclusive content and interviews. Anything less than a 9 and I'll have your head!"

But hey, one of my favorite reviewers DOESN'T give scores. Ben yahtzee is my favorite reviewer because he's ten times as insightful as most other reviewers (whom don't so much "review" as read off the publisher's info sheet). And I end up agreeing with him about 99.9% of the time. My other favorite review, though, DOES give scores. Jim Sterling. Say what you will about him, but he is also very insightful in his reviews, and not afraid to exercise the bottom half of the score spectrum. His scores mean more than just (bad - 8), (good - 9), (great - 10), because Destructoid has a good, well defined score system.

christheredhead4277d ago (Edited 4277d ago )

I agree, but would also further extend what you said. A lot of sites do have clear cut definitions for each number, but many dont understand that concept. Something like a seven will clearly be marked with "great" or "good", but will light up the comment section with over the top statements regarding the site, reviewer and his credibility. Might as well remove the score and explanation at this point as the review is now an after discussion. Its a debate about a numerical value and not valid criticism. Generally speaking, as that does not necessarily apply to every individual directly. Its a pretty safe statement for the majority though.

The score should set the tone, but doesn't usually. I've seen reviews pretty much downplay every aspect, mechanic, character, etc of a game and then end with a final score of 8 or 9. Contradictory, but it sort of ties in to what you said about publishers. You should be able to read a review and apply the overall view to the score value. Somewhere and somehow that concept got left behind. Not that I'm disagreeing with you, but if people are arguing over which number is their favorite on a scale of 10, its time to just throw that point system out. Also applies to games scored extremely low. One might complain about the score, but refuse to read the review because he or she is upset about the number being set lower than their predefined standards. It draws so much focus away from the writing that I dont find it a feasible method for game reviews.

I just think scoreless reviews are more in depth and user friendly to what the game encompasses. The bigger sites tend to use the score as a crutch. They seem to write 4 to 6 general paragraphs, slap a score on it and call it a review. In the midst everyone bickering over a .01, well written and informative posts are becoming overlooked.

By the way, Ben Yahtzee is a pretty informative and consistent reviewer. I do tend to like his work.

SilentNegotiator4277d ago

Eliminating scores won't solve these problems. Reviews that read like advertisements before will still be the same. Reviews that give 9s/10s to games that they find/report a lot of fundamental flaws in will be altered to be filled with slobbering positive quotes so that those people still get support from publishers. The valued thing will turn from scores to nauseating dictation.

No matter what, the majority of journalists will still be under the power of publishers. Most journalists need early copies, interviews, quick info and HD videos, etc. to survive.

Getting rid of the superficial part (the score) of the review would be disastrous. Reviewers use the substance of the review to communicate important things all of the time. Without that superficial shell that the publishers care so much about, they would go after the review itself.

We already only have the substance of the review for a small fraction of reviews, and people like Ben Yahtzee for truly honest, helpful, insightful reviews. No scores will only mean harming the former.

People like us just have to realize when a score is likely just a sham for publisher use and appeasement (eg. pretty much anything from one of the bigger, more commercial review sites), and when it serves a purpose.

jessupj4276d ago (Edited 4276d ago )

I don't think there would be an issue if there was just some actual consistancy within reviewing sites, but there just seems to be no objectivity what so ever.

Maybe instead of giving whatever score feel a game deserves at the time, even when you have your period, you could objectively grade the technical and creative aspects of the game against similar games in the genre. It's one of the simplest ideas that journalists and fanboys alike just can't seem to grasp.

I don't care how harsh you are, just be consistantly harsh with every game review within the site. Is that really so hard?

You can't give ODST a nine and Killzone 2 a seven and expect educated people to still think you're a credible reviewing site.

Kthalas4276d ago

As a relatively new writer on the gaming scene, I have wondered a few times if there is a fair or accurate way to rate/score a game. There isn't really a good way to go about doing that.

I have written a few game reviews for the Playstation forums as an MVP. There I'm known as Papawarlock. I also have written 3 for Playstation Edge ( Writing in general is an evolutionary process. The more experience I get writing, hopefully the better I will become at it.

I use numbers because that's generally how people relate to this particular process. Most go only for the scores and ignore what's written. Obviously if you don't score it the way they feel it should be scored, they'll flame you. Or some people will say "Well 'Site X' gave it a 6, so I'm not touching it". Obviously 'Site X' is their preferred source for gaming news, articles and reviews.

I'd prefer to read the full information in a review rather than rely solely on the numbers. Nier received generally mixed reviews from "professional" sites, but actual players rated it pretty well. Cross Edge is another example. I enjoyed both games quite a bit, but when I wrote reviews of my own for both, I tried to point out aspects that I felt could potentially turn off gamers or frustrate others. Due to the reviews I wrote, I managed to get at least half dozen posters on the Playstation Forums to try the game out after I wrote the review, plus a few others over time as they asked about the game.

Numbers can serve a point. But the biggest aspect is the actual written content of the review. I feel that is more important than the score and easily the most overlooked, and underused feature to game review writing.

As it's been pointed out, some places consider 6 short paragraphs to be a viable review, slap some numbers up and voila. Instant review. 6 paragraphs don't begin to cover a game.

Great blog.

christheredhead4276d ago (Edited 4276d ago )

Hey, thanks for the read. You should link me to some of your reviews or your review pages. I would like to check them out.

I'm also a fairly new writer myself, in reference to reviews. Although I have bounced around through five or six sites as a contributor, I have minimal experience in reviews. Mostly I stick to opinion/blog type pieces. The few reviews that I have written, which is probably no more than 5, can be a very daunting task. Its a subjective topic since there is no right or wrong. I found out very quickly that writing honestly is not enough at times. When it comes to reviews there will always be someone who is displeased with the value and your opinions.

On the other hand its sort of the necessary evil that is expected. Heck, I've even seen people say that my reviews weren't reviews because there was no score allotted. Which they then decided not to read because they could not comprehend the numerical value to the piece. Sort of baffling.

Scoreless reviews can become "boring" because gamer's usually dont want to read the entire piece. I've tried to compensate in the middle with different guideline styles. This is the first review of its kind for me, but I'm hoping to expand upon the style so I can keep a no score post.

Only one review done in that concept, so far. Like I said, hopefully I can improve that style and get some more reviews done in that manner. Granted, that style would probably never work with "true" review outlets, but I feel that it turns out more fluid than thinking of a value at the end of my post. Sort of helps me write more instead of using my score as the crutch to bind it all together.

Kthalas4275d ago

Nier was one of the very first reviews I wrote as an MVP. The set up there is a bit odd in my opinion as evidenced by the opening section, but that's how the site prefers it done. There was a lot to the gameplay in Nier so I broke it down into sections.

God of War III

Final Fantasy IX after the PSN release. I played it on my PSP. Still the best FF in the series.

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. This was my first 'paid' review. The site's owner gave me a format he wanted me to write in. A different style of writing than I was used to.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Skyrim. My only regret with the Skyrim review was I had only 20 hours of gameplay in and at that point I had come across no errors or glitches. Even after obtaining the Platinum, I never came across the bulk of the issues that people had and still have with the game.

If I could rewrite it today, I'd change a few things and add some of the known problems. What Skyrim did right, it did so great. Unfortunately there was no consistency with the problems in the game. Several people I know online, have had many game breaking issues with it. I was lucky. Nothing I encountered prevented me from completing everything.

I liked your review. Thank you for sharing.

christheredhead4275d ago

Great, this is exactly what I was looking for. Hope to see some more reviews from you in the future. I'll be sure to check these out though for the time being.

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