Game Reviews Part 2: What Can We Do?

Game Reviews Part 2: What Can We Do?

With the problems mentioned in part one, some are likely asking, how can we fix these issues? Some of the problems mentioned are obviously not able to be changed. Companies want to release games to make money, and there’s only so much money to go around. Likewise time is limited as well. So for three of our five problems, we have very limited things we can do to impact them. All we can really focus on are the reviews themselves and work on how we perceive reviews.

A major hurtle is the focus on review scores. Review scores whether we like it or not are some of the most important numbers in the video game world. Obsidian actually missed out on a bonus due to getting an 84 instead of an 85 on Metacritic for Fallout: New Vegas. The most radical idea is to remove scores altogether and have the review stand on the content without any number attached to it, a few sites actually do this. The problem is review scores have been around for so long now it would be quite difficult to change this. Another problem with this idea is there is no longer any quantitative data to examine with reviews. Additionally, a small section of a review or issue in a game could have quite an impact if the reviewer doesn’t adequately explain why whatever it is doesn’t ruin the game or the gamer doesn’t read it.

new vegas

A much more practical option is to limit review scales to 10 or 20 points. This would allow delineation without trying to differentiate by 0.1. This change would also allow games to expand the scale used. Most game sites will have a 7.0 or 7.5 be the low portion of their good scale. Once you get down to 5 in many cases you would be in the area where there’s little to be found to like. This can be difficult as a bland game that’s technically sound is different than a game that just flat out doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. However, the true 1.0 and 2.0 games don’t come around as often as 7 to 9 games.  Extending the range of scores considered good could be an interesting imitative. Of course gamers that visited the site would have to adjust.

Just to give a bit more of an example. Let’s say 7.0 to 10 are various levels of good to amazing games. Then the 6s are various levels of mediocre games. Currently 5.9 to 1.0 or 0 are used for what most sites consider bad games. Imagine even expanding the good side of the scale even a little, Say 6.0 to 10 is considered good to amazing. 5s are considered for the mediocre and then once you start going into the 4s you are into dangerous territory. While the difference may be a small one, it could theoretically give reviewers a bit more room to divide titles than the typical 3 points. While this may not seem like much of a difference, psychologically it could help.


Obviously you could break the scale down even more. Say something like “buy it” or “skip it”. Could even add a third option at least in the US, “rent it.” Systems like this are used by some sites, however this does limit granularity. It also makes it tough for a gamer to figure out where his gaming dollars can go. Five “buy it” scores don’t really tell you which games are the best ones of the group. While the gamer may want them all, they may only have the cash for one at least currently. Ultimately “best” is subjective, but more variance in scores than 2 or 3 can help a gamer figure out which game is for them.

The biggest step can be taken by gamers themselves. Stepping back from the fanboy wars that argue that Game X is better because it got a 9.3 rather than Game Y that got a 9.2. Also, looking over the content of the review rather than just the score can make a huge difference. Refer to my comparison of Just Cause 3 reviews on IGN in part 1. The first patch on the PS4 version of Just Cause 3 fixed the loading issues. There are definitely still times where the game could run better, however what if that’s not as important to the gamer? What if the PS4 is their only option to game? Should they then completely avoid Just Cause 3 just due to those issues? Without really reading the review the player wouldn’t realize that was the issue. Plus, think about this, you’re going to buy a game based off a number that is purely subjective that is added at the end of an opinion that you may or may not agree with. Furthermore, you are inherently trusting the reviewer’s opinion that the score matches the content of the review. Sometimes you can see a review score and look through the review and it seems to take a very different tone than the score would indicate. This may not happen often, but it is something to keep in mind.

just cause

What are your thoughts? What are your ideas on how reviews can be fixed? Sound off in the comments below.

Originally posted by me on Exmainer.

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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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8 comments on “Game Reviews Part 2: What Can We Do?”

  1. Avatar Back_Lot_Basher says:

    Any effort to improve the concept of reviews needs to push back against this notion that they have to be time-sensitive. In the digital age, sites are literally trying to shave minutes off their "publish time", so they can be the first ones out of the gate. While this might be fine for a 70 minute CD or a 2 hour movie, games now need to be played for several weeks (minimum) before a complete assessment can be made.

    Take a game like Destiny, for example. In the first couple of weeks it had nearly universal acclaim, from critics and players. Then it became more apparent that the story was shallow, and the endgame consisted of one big hamster wheel. Much of this criticism came too late for those who bought into the full game and season pass. I suspect that’s why Ubisoft is staying silent on the endgame for The Division. I’d bet money they’re trying to figure out a way to monetize the game in perpetuity, not unlike imposing a subscription. Already I’m seeing references in DLC descriptions for "new game modes", which players may have to pay for. Yet none of this will be apparent for weeks or even months after release, when the luster has come off the game.

  2. Avatar Daos_Strange says:

    I never read reviews..ever; not for games, movies, or music. I always found it hard to accept the opinions of others. I need first hand knowledge. With games it’s easy because you can watch gameplay usually before and after release. Music is also another easy one as you can listen to virtually any song at any time if you have access to the internet. Movies can sometimes be a little tricky because all you have to go on is a trailer. But there are other factors inherent in all 3 that make the decision easier. Genres, producers, artist, directors, etc… Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and make a mistake. Lord knows it’s happened to me (Defiance….. anyone?)

    Off topic on The Division. I think it would be a huge mistake for UBI to sink money into this game as a long term project. Once GR: Wildlands drops, The Division is likely to lose a huge majority of the player base as players migrate to GRW for a truer PvP experience vs. the PvEvP of TD. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the beta, I just don’t see TD as game I’ll be playing for years to come; especially once GRW is released.

  3. Avatar BlitzKeir says:

    Unfortunately, Metacritic makes any and all attempts to change review scores moot. You may be able to tighten up the numbers somewhat, but the problem cannot be corrected. Review scores are eye grabbing, and many review sites pay their editors by either page views or ad revenue.

    I honestly think you’re being too kind. Review scores do more than interfere with the politics of game development. Many review sites report their opinion on a game as though it were fact. It’s practically an art critique – the snobby, obnoxious kind. This, coupled with the score, distract from the game itself. The result is people stop talking about the game, and instead get into pedantic arguments about the politics surrounding it. Sometimes the editors themselves fall victim to their own trap. Kotaku is especially guilty of publishing reviews that barely even talk about the game. Check out their Far Cry 3 review to see what I mean.

    I unplugged myself from games media a long time ago, and rapidly found that the games I liked were not the games that got massive coverage. People don’t need to be told what they like. They just need to know what a game is going for, how close it comes to that, and how well it runs. Scores do not communicate that information. This blog and a couple of YouTubers are the closest I come to reading reviews anymore, and not even to learn about games; I just like hearing what certain people think. I honestly wish Fex would outlaw review scores here. But it’s a small site and needs revenue, so I don’t think my plea will be answered anytime soon.

  4. Avatar Castielle says:

    we didn’t add scores to some reviews for the revenue. Most of our reviews don’t have scores. I never gave Bloodborne a score for example. We encourage users to add scores to their reviews at this time, because developers and publishers tend to respond to a number rather than an article. It’s a sad state of affairs to be sure, but it is what it is, and we want our users to get retweeted and refacebooked by them. We want people who put in the time and effort to get noticed and if throwing a number or a letter on there might help get their article promoted, then we recommend it.


  5. Avatar XuitusTheGreat says:

    Honestly I think something like how iMbD rates movies wouldn’t be a bad system

    You would maintain a "score" from the critic and have the players scores below it. If a critic says 9 but players are coming in at 6 it would facilitate taking a deeper look unto the games merits.

    However if you see a critic give 7 but players are coming in 9 you might check out a game you would’ve ignored

  6. Avatar GrinTwist says:

    From what I’ve seen IMDb has tried to integrate videogames into their lineup of things to review, since if you were to research a game like Dark Souls or Destiny you could find all the casting info, trivia etc. The problem with the videogame reviews there at the moment is that it looks like the only games that get any attention are the triple A games. I’m hoping they can start focusing more on videogames soon though, since it’d be great to see that same system in place for videogames.

  7. Avatar Setzaroth says:

    Pretty much ignore reviews from major "review" sites these days.

  8. jzier says:

    I think a good idea is to instead of give a score, list 3-4 games and say "If you like these games, you will enjoy this game". Thats often how i decide on my next game when there are new releases

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