Game Reviews Part 1: What’s Wrong With Game Reviews?

Game Reviews Part 1: What’s Wrong With Game Reviews?

Constantly games are boiled down to 7.9, 5.5, 4.7, 9.8, 8.5. The scores themselves end up being the most important part of reviews. Which if you think about it means that the score itself is more important than the reasons the game was given the score in the first place. Often you will see a thread, “I’m not buying a game if it gets below [insert score here].” And sometimes they go even further by saying if it gets below a certain score on a specific website, even for games they are excited to play. Why is this? A few reasons come to mind, let’s take a look and see why.

Reason #1: There Are So Many Options

With the flood of indie games and just seemingly more games released in general be they niche or AAA, there’s generally always something to play or something coming out shortly that one will want to play. PC gamers in particular get trapped in the dreaded Steam sales buying games for less than $5 that they never have a real chance of playing as by the time they get to them the next game is out.

steam sale 1

Reason #2: Time Commitment

Games like The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 can be played for 50 hours or even into hundreds of hours. Then to branch out even further you have games like Destiny and Warframe that can be played almost daily and even exclusively by some. Finally you have games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV that can end up being played daily and exclusively for years. Trying to squeeze those games into time around work, family time and any other commitments can be tricky, especially if they generally require an hour to two hours of minimum commitment to accomplish something.

Reason #3: Money

Some gamers may only have the money in their budget for one or two games over the next several months. They want to naturally get the best game for their money. That in and of itself makes sense. However making the choice based on a number is an odd one, which we will talk about a bit more in part two.

money

Reason #4: Subjective Reviews

While they may be strong clever writers with punny things to say and clever allusions, at the end of the page, it’s still ultimately the opinion of a person. His or her view may be vastly different than yours. If you are bored by strategy RPGs and then go out and buy Fire Emblem due to whatever review score, are you going to be upset when it’s a strategy RPG that you are bored with after 15 minutes? Would that be grounds to call a reviewer awful, etc.? Also unless two games are reviewed by the same person, it would be really tough to tell which game is considered better if the scores are relatively close.

Reason #5: The Scoring System

Fifth and sometimes overlooked. The scoring system. Examiner uses a 5 star system. Many sites use a 0 to 10 scale, which sounds fine until you realize they have a decimal for the tenths place. A 10 point scale ends up being a 100 point scale. Delineating games over 100 points, well really trying to review anything over 100 points seems like overkill. For school often you would be able to figure out how many points a question is worth. In a review it’s entirely the reviewer’s prerogative which comes back to the fourth point above. As a recent example, IGN had two different review scores for Just Cause 3. The PC review and the PS4/Xbox One review are a whole 2.0 points (in this case 20 points) apart due to some technical issues on the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Are those technical issues the difference between 2 letter grades (20 points on their 100 point scale)? Is the difference in performance worth the deduction to all? Particularly to those with only one platform to choose from? Only the person can know.

And to expand the idea further, what exactly is the difference between an 8.5 and an 8.6? You can say 0.1 but what does that really mean? The scale has also been tilted. Some gamers consider anything below an 8.5 a failure. Part of this philosophy could be related to the problem of so many games available and to be released.

review score

All these issues can really make finding the right game difficult. You’re probably thinking, well yes we have all these issues, but how can these be fixed? For a further look at that be sure to check out part two of this editorial: Game reviews: what can we do?

What do you think? Are these problems you tend to think about?

Originally posted by me on Examiner (opens in new window).


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I've been a gamer for 25 years, from the NES days to the PS4, Xbox One, PC and Wii U. I play a little bit of everything from Mario to MGS to Final Fantasy. I write for examinercom and also run a podcast, though currently we are switching gears, more information to come on that.

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30 comments on “Game Reviews Part 1: What’s Wrong With Game Reviews?”


  1. Avatar Scar85 says:

    in my line of sight – dont trust the typical Reviews from ign over meta over x/y-0815
    just think of games like evolve for example which got good Reviews but seriously – who gave that game for the lack of Content.microtransactions etc etc that grades!?
    most of the sites are just getting games for giving them a good grade/rate for getting next time another game from the developer/Publisher etc…
    nobody talks about the lack of something, rates it down cause bugs or anything else – they just talk about “the good stuff” and tell you the Gold and rainbow side of it but ist not really a “critic” at all!

    before i read such stuff i look PEOPLES opinion up on games and Reviews – like angry Joe on yt for example….

    there are just a handfull of Publishers/developers i trust blind nowadays….like naughty dog….from soft…..devolver (Hotline Miami)…..red Barrels (outlast)….and maybe Rockstar also if a new gta or maybe even red dead redemption 2 will Show up…
    Bethesda i lost some trust into after F4 also…they could use besides a new and better/actual engine more stuff and not going more and more backwards from a normally good formula -.-‘

  2. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    Personally, I kinda need reviews to help me. Unless I know a game is from a series that I would 100% enjoy regardless, I can’t just blindly buy because I thought it looked cool in the trailers but then the final version was terrible. (Haze, watchdogs anyone?) I don’t have the time, or the money to waste on a bad video game purchase.

    Even if scores are inflated for some games, I don’t think it is hard to tell which. If it is a game that is clearly mass market and relying on pure reputation alone without any real innovations (assassins creed, call of duty, Fifa, halo etc), you know you can ignore the reviews. However I think for most other games reviews are done pretty fairly, and while the scores are inflated compared to other medium (look at meta critic where the descriptive boundaries are 10% higher in gaming than in every other medium), I think relatively scores are done well enough for me to make buying decisions from them.

  3. Avatar GrinTwist says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the follow-up to your article for this! Admittedly, I’ve started to get a bit annoyed at most of the problems that haunt me when I check reviews out online so this was spot-on. At this point it’s turned me off to going to most game reviewers for advice on games to play.

  4. Avatar XuitusTheGreat says:

    Nicely put article

    Personally I don’t read reviews. I look at trailers, gameplay demos, etc and decide for myself.

    For some the security of the score makes them feel more comfortable in their choice of game.

    I’m in the position that if I buy a $60 game and don’t like it I will be disappointed. However, I won’t be destitute.

    For some the budget is a single $60 game or maybe two and they want to make sure they get the best or one of the top games.

    Personally I think reviews are horribly corrupt and worthless, but that’s besides the point.

  5. Avatar Emergence says:

    This is a good topic and a bit of an elephant in the room that needs to be discussed especially when so many bonuses for devs are tied to metacritic scores. Review logic is a bit of a beast and it’s one we’ve wrestled with back and forth on the site as far as how to score, whether to score, etc.

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