On Ratings

by Evan Burchfield - October 17, 2007, 11:58 am PDT
Total comments: 87

Why review scores are ruining gaming.

Today's art world is dominated by merchandising and consumerism; we buy art from the movie theater, iTunes, and GameStop. Because today's popular art is recordable, and therefore reproducible, it can be sent to as many locations as need demands. This has put a glut of art at our fingertips. No other era can claim to be as drowned in aesthetic objects as our image dominated and Internet-savvy culture. With a wealth of choices, the role of the art critic has been downgraded to that of the art reviewer, and with that comes a multitude of art reviews and art ratings.

This is a crisis moment for modern art, where the melding of consumerism and artistry has created a group of movie-goers, musicheads, and gamers who believe that art can be rated on an objective scale. The idea of applying ratings to paintings or sculptures (even modern ones) is pretty unthinkable. Though it has taken thousands of years, no one today would question the cultural validity of paintings or sculptures as a medium.

Video games are subject to the shackles of ratings more so than other arts due to a couple reasons: one is their high cost. A gamer may only be able to purchase one game every paycheck, or every month, and the difference between a 9.0 and a 9.5 suddenly becomes important. Another reason for excessive ratings in the game world is their status as software. Since they are a program that must perform certain functions, problems like a lack of polish in graphical presentation, poorly designed controls, or simple bugs and errors can all be treated as quantifiable leaps that the user should or should not have to make, in the reviewer's mind. Yet when a journalist reviews a game under our current system, he must also attempt to apply numbers to the game's artistry and his overall level of satisfaction, in the hopes of giving a solid purchase recommendation to the video game world.

Most reviewers would admit to being concerned more with the artistry of a game than with its functionality as software; these two pieces are necessary parts of a review, but by this time in gaming history, functionality should be a non-issue. Slowdown and control glitches will always be with us, but a reviewer must comment on them only insofar as they hinder the experience of playing the game. The game's goals as an aesthetic experience must be paramount in the reviewer's mind.

Yet numbers dominate our discourse; if a reviewer rates a game lower than his peers, he is seen as having an incorrect position. And though every journalist may strive to write about a game before applying a rating, the overall score that comes at the end of the review can never fully be out of his mind. It is supposed to be a reflection of where he thinks the game falls on a scale of 1 (for terrible) to 10 (for incredible). It can supposedly be compared to his other reviews: if he gave a 9.0 to a game I didn't like, then I have no reason to believe that his 6.0 for a different game is accurate.

Reviews can never be fully separated from their rating: the philosophy of numerical scales forces reviewers to give reasons why the game is better than an 8.0 but less than a 9.0. Though this may aid the purchase recommendation part of the review, it does little to encourage dialog about a game's actual merits. The score is a straw man to argue against, with the game's aesthetic qualities mere support for why it was deserved.

Even Roger Ebert (who has no doubt that movies are art and most video games aren't) claims that his stars and his thumb are worth less than his written review, yet he will only put four-star movies on his top ten list each year. Similarly, when the “Game of the Year" hype contests roll around, scores are a main part of the debate. Is it possible for a 9.0 average game to pull ahead of all the 9.5s and 10s to steal the contest? Does anyone truly believe that these year-end lists are anything more than phoned in months in advance?

Reviews without ratings are less satisfying for readers because they do not supply the tidy summary of a game's worth that is expected under the current conditions. A review without a number cannot be compared to another review instantly, and the reviewer cannot be looked down upon by the public until his words are read. Many reviewers may feel pressure to not give the “wrong" score for a beloved franchise installment, hoping instead to say things that are in line with other reviewers. If he is the standalone aberration on MetaCritic, he will be fighting consensus and dismissed.

Yet ratings never make sense. The Bit Generations titles are so simple that a rating of 8.5 doesn't mean the same thing as an 8.5 given to a Zelda game; the first may be too high for a simple game, while the second too low for a much more complex game. Does any reviewer honestly look at Tetris and Zelda and say “Zelda is better" as if the two could be compared? When Nintendo releases the next console Zelda or Mario game, is a score of 9.0 going to dissuade you from purchasing it? Do journalists ever give 10s to games outside of established franchises? Even within genres, comparing two very similar games like Okami and Zelda seems fruitless if we must conclude that one is superior over the other. The only comparison that seems appropriate is whether a new Zelda game is as good as the previous ones (in which case I may have to revise my score for Twilight Princess).

Reviewing a game's graphics, sound, or control too is a nonsensical idea: does a high polygon count within the framework of realism look better than a simple and striking fantasy design? No game is worth less for having blocky graphics if it works in context with the story; not all games can have their graphics measured in the same way.

Instead of writing about whether a game fulfills my preconceptions for what a good game looks like, sounds like, and plays like, I should be compelled as a reviewer to rate the aesthetic experience I had. Though this is a subjective statement of my opinion, it can be qualified by my appraisal of a game's graphical and aural design, as well as my opinion of how successful the game was at creating a world, delivering a feeling of suspense, showing me beautiful images, giving me a sandbox to play in, telling a story, or whatever else the game may have tried to do. No single philosophy of game design is correct, and with as many artists as there are in the game industry we ought to encourage them to take their individual ideals as far as possible. This is why games like Metal Gear Solid and Super Mario 64 can both be praised for their different visions of what video games can do.

Removing scores from reviews will not prevent us from discussing games, comparing disparate genres, or discussing objective quality. Instead, it will allow journalists the freedom to examine a game as a holistic and inclusive experience, an exercise that has been constricted for decades by universal participation in scoring. Having to quantify a game's graphics, sound, control, and fun factor are roadblocks to true discussion. The best art you will ever see cannot be summed up in an essay, or a review. To this day people are discussing the aesthetic experience known as Michaelangelo's La Pieta, or Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. As soon as we believe that we can fully know and understand these works of art, we have lost the ability to ever know anything about them. Only in the ongoing discussion of how video games affect us, and what keeps us coming back for more, can we break through the meaningless numbers and make gaming journalism into something more than just software reviews and purchase recommendations.

Talkback

This is a great read, and a wonderful treatment of a topic that deserves attention. Thank you.

Ian SaneOctober 17, 2007

The problem with getting rid of review scores is that I don't have the time to read every review to find out what games I might like. If you've got a job to provide an income to pay for these games odds are you don't either. The scores are almost like a summary. You see a list of scores and you get an idea of what reviews to pick out and read in detail. If I'm interested in a game having that quick score can be a quick comfirmation of my purchase. Give it a high score I'll buy that game I already want anyway. Give it something I don't expect I'll read the review to find out why.

This works for movies too. If I want to see a movie I'll hit up Rotten Tomatoes and look at the average. If it's high, good. If it's low then I'm going to start looking further into it. Sometimes I still see the movie because I find that what the reviewer doesn't like doesn't matter to me.

Sometimes I do get burned by overinflated scores. I think I'll like the game or movie, see good scores, and then discover I hate the resulting product. But sometimes I just don't like something that everyone else does. It's worth the risk. If I made an effort to read every review in detail for everything it would all become such a pain in the ass that I would ignore reviews completely and then base my decisions on marketing which is not a good way to do it. We want people to be more informed consumers. I hate it when a crappy game sells. I hate it when a crappy movie is number one at the box office. If we don't have the little "cheat sheet" of scores or star ratings that will become worse. Reviews need to be mass market friendly and scores help that.

Though I think one problem with games is that they're still treated as disposable. A movie can flop in theatre and then become a classic on DVD. Some films and some music albums took decades to be recognized as classics. That doesn't happen with games. So many games just disappear if they're not a big hit. If that didn't happen we wouldn't be worried about review scores potentially hurting a game's success. If it flops, it's gone forever and that's a different and bigger problem.

Yes, there's obviously business reasons why scores are enforced, and Ebert's been giving out "thumbs up/down" ratings for YEARS because of this. But that's actually a decent compromise: a vague, almost emotional review system not based on numbers, but appealing to our emotional intelligence to understand what to expect out of the game. We don't need to know if a game is 7.6 or 8.3, we need to know if a game is bad, mediocre, decent, good, or great.

If we can never escape review scores completely outside of academia due to these real world pressures, I still say a good compromise would be to rate things on a vague emotional scale, the way the SF Chronicle does it: with a chair showing a person paying attention, clapping, sleeping, jumping for joy, or missing altogether.

DrydenOctober 17, 2007

A wonderful editorial, and I mostly agree.
I've never understood why popular media such as music, TV and movies are ranked on scales up to 4 or 5 (not including point fives), and yet video games are largely based on a hundred point score.

I see an incredible value in a simple ratings system - only four-star movies should make it on Roger Ebert's top ten list, right? Otherwise, the ratings are pointless. But video game ratings are ridiculous. Ever go to University? Papers aren't graded out of a hundred, they're given a set of five letters with +/- modifiers. Why not use that system? Why not use the four star system that movies use, with "point fives" being granted to games that don't quite excel enough to make it into the next tier?

IGN is perhaps the worst for this, giving new ratings to games on the Wii's Virtual Console Service, games that have been around for as much as 25 years. Thank goodness NWR chose a three tiered format for those, as opposed to an arbitary and dated scale.

I'm happy if I agree that Zelda deserves an "A". Minus or Plus, I know that it's clearly reviewer opinion. And that I can read about.

Nintendo Power actually used to rate on a 5.0 scale with .5 increments... back when... back when... /cry

DrydenOctober 17, 2007

I think a much better indicator is if a game lives up to the expectations put onto it - for Nintendo more than anyone. Does Smash Bros Brawl disappoint after the blitz of information? How about Mario? For new franchises, does it deliver everything you'd expect from the genre? Does it exceed or disappoint?

I think a simple, school-like grade, A through F, next to an indication of whether the game lives up to the media surrounding it, would be plenty for me.

vuduOctober 17, 2007

Lordy, you use a lot of big words. face-icon-small-happy.gif

I agree with you for the most part. As Ian said, there needs to be some sort of executive summary for every review (even if it's just a few numbers written next to words like Gameplay and Lastability). However, the current system is completely broke (as we've previously discussed in this thread).

As I've said before, I'm in favor of dropping the number from the score and replacing it with a descriptive word. Sticking with your phrasing of "a scale of 1 (for terrible) to 10 (for incredible)" why can't you just review a game as being terrible or incredible? Rather than use a system where half the scale is practically unusable (or you get blasted by readers if you do use it) use one that doesn't have the same negative stigmas associated with the lower half of it. Use ratings such as Bad, Mediocre, Good, Great, & Excellent to assign a worth to a game. It leaves a lot of interpretation up to the reader.

If I'm trying to turn these words into numerical scores in my head, I might assign a Great score as somewhere between 7.5 - 9.0. It will likely be completely different for someone else. It also depends a lot on the game and on how much I enjoy the genre. I'm going to be interested in pretty much any action-adventure game that scores at least a Good but a first-person shooter would need to be Excellent to get my attention.

vuduOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Dryden
Ever go to University? Papers aren't graded out of a hundred, they're given a set of five letters with +/- modifiers. Why not use that system?
I couldn't disagree with this more. The problem is that most gamers (and most reviewers) don't pay much attention to games assigned less than 80/100 because they consider these games as bad. Most websites really only use 20% of the reviewing scale for any halfway decent game. The reason for this is because anything less than 80/100 is considered to be a C and therefore Average. If you start using the A-B-C-D-F scale it will only increase this notion and we'll never see anything below a B- except for licensed games on GBA and anything on a Nintendo console at 1up.

shammackOctober 17, 2007

I think any kind of quantitative summary, even if it's dressed up in something other than numbers, is doing readers a disservice. Even if they do read the whole review -- which a lot of 'em won't -- for most people, that rating is going to be the last word in making their decision, and everything you wrote in the main review will have little impact in comparison. I don't think they should have that crutch. A review should give you the relevant information about the game and the reviewer's opinions about it, and you draw your own conclusions about whether it sounds like something that interests you.

Yeah, while the A, B, C, D, F system appears quite feasible, it's tied too strongly to the 100 point scale for it to be an ideal solution.

MaverickOctober 17, 2007

I like the idea of assigning word-grades to titles, like some suggested above. What Kairon suggested reminded me of a Gaming mag I used to read back in the day (Next-Gen maybe?), where reviews were summed up with a picture of a face, and depending on the expression on the face, you would get the general idea of the review.

So is this editorial (yay, an editorial!) an indication that NWR will be changing its review system?

roger6106October 17, 2007

I agree with the "Bad, Mediocre, Good, Great, & Excellent" rating system that vudu suggested. I think it would be great to switch the rating system even though it would take a little to get used to.

For reference, here are the pictures that accompany each SF Chronicle Movie Review:

50.gif40.gif30.gif20.gif10.gif

ShyGuyOctober 17, 2007

Yay, Evan brings the editorial back to NWR!

Evan, is this why you didn't post your Prime 3 review? You didn't want to assign it a number?

TrueNerdOctober 17, 2007

I think the VC rating system (Recommended for everyone, Recommended for fans, Not recommended) should be applied to all of your reviews. And everyone else's. It's perfect, really.

And Evan I love you.

Ian SaneOctober 17, 2007

I really don't like those pictures. The first two seem near identical to me. The last two both suggest a bad movie and the middle still suggests a good movie since the guy seems pleased to be watching.

I think proposed rating systems tend to reflect the attitude of the individual suggesting them. Some people seem to give everything a chance so they suggest a system that emphasizes postives and makes bad ratings rare. Some people are more selective are are going to want to seperate the cream of the crop from everything else. Who has time for okay? And some are going to be in the middle.

For movies a popular rating I would give out with be "just a movie". Like there's no harm in watching it but if you never did it doesn't matter and while it didn't suck you didn't really like it or wouldn't recommend it either. Does "just a game" make a good rating. Considering the higher cost I think "just a game" is worse than "just a movie".

It often seems that those that complain about the rating system do so because of some very average game that they for some reason like and others didn't buy. It's like when people talk about underrated games and then just pour over some game that at face value is really "just a game" in that it does things competently but really isn't anything exceptional. There seems to be an attitude that not showing interest in the average is somehow bad. Well most of us only have so much time and so much money so our priorities are going to be more on the better stuff. Why spend time with what's okay when there isn't even enough time for what's exceptional? If there are only so many job positions I'm going to hire the exceptional people, even if perfectly okay people are available. Gaming is a business. It's a competition. As gamers it isn't our duty to give everyone a pat on the back for effort. Not all games are equal and if great games are being made it's not unfair for them to get more attention then decent ones.

Quote

Originally posted by: Ian Sane
I really don't like those pictures. The first two seem near identical to me. The last two both suggest a bad movie and the middle still suggests a good movie since the guy seems pleased to be watching.

...

For movies a popular rating I would give out with be "just a movie". Like there's no harm in watching it but if you never did it doesn't matter and while it didn't suck you didn't really like it or wouldn't recommend it either. Does "just a game" make a good rating. Considering the higher cost I think "just a game" is worse than "just a movie".


But that's exactly the beauty of the scale Ian. YOU decide how good each category seems to you. You think the middle picture means the movie is still worth watching, but I think that the middle picture represents a movie that I'd MUCH rather avoid. It works on you emotionally: would you mind watching a movie that is more or less just another movie? Or do you set the bar at clapping?

This review scale leaves it to the READER to emotionally assign their own labels, free of percentage points or perceived levels of average. Place a 5.0 on a game and it automatically places judgement. Place a man sitting not particularly caught by what he's watching and the reader has leeway to make their own judgements, which is to say, to join the debate on the title's quality.

Ian SaneOctober 17, 2007

"But that's exactly the beauty of the scale Ian. YOU decide how good each category seems to you. You think the middle picture means the movie is still worth watching, but I think that the middle picture represents a movie that I'd MUCH rather avoid. It works on you emotionally: would you mind watching a movie that is more or less just another movie? Or do you set the bar at clapping?"

The problem is the way I interpret those pictures I feel there are pictures missing. It's too black or white to me. Now admitingly after using this for a while I would probably just associate certain pictures a certain way. But will reviewers do this? Bob Jones' middle picture review might suggest the film is okay and worth watching while Mike Smith's middle picture review might suggest the filme is okay but not worth watching.

I have pretty much no issue with review scores but rather just inconsistency. Too often some reviewer suddenly decides a 6 is average when everyone else considers it crap and now I'm lost. Typically it's those calling for a new review standard who have been causing confusion by suddenly deciding to give good games 7's and going against the grain. Really it doesn't matter what you use provided it's consistent. I never had any problems until someone decided that not enough games were getting 4's and starting using 5 as the average point, thus f*cking everyone else up who used something more like school percentages where it doens't matter really what you get below 5, you still f*cking failed. The problem isn't that 1-5 aren't using enough in the 10 point scale but rather that we now seem to have two groups using the 10 point scale differently.

IceColdOctober 17, 2007

If reviews are numerical, I think there should always be a "Tilt Factor" or "X-Factor" similar to what GameSpot has, except they implement it quite poorly. Reviewing games (like nearly anything else) is an evaluation of both the technical and intangible parts of them. The technical aspects include the graphics (framerate, polygons etc), quality of audio, measurable aspects of gameplay (number of hours, variety of challenges etc) and the like. On the other hand, the subjective aspects include art style, music, and how enjoyable in general the reviewer finds the game.

But the most important of these subjectives (and the one that causes the most discussion) is how much fun the game is. I find that this aspect is the one that's the most under-represented, as most reviewers try to force it into the Gameplay section, which is too all-encompassing. That's why a game that is greater than the sum of its parts (see WiiSports, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat) is rated so low by so many media outlets. Which is a damn shame, because Jungle Beat was probably the most pure fun I've had playing a game last generation.

Most reviews aren't a weighted average of their categories, and the final score is supposed to account for this tilt factor. But sadly, it's not usually the case, since reviewers are afraid of giving a considerably higher score to games when the scores in all the categories are relatively lower.

BigJimOctober 17, 2007

No real additional words of wisdom to add to the discussion, but I've also been disappointed by most current gaming rating systems, and it's been complicated all the more with the Wii.

Of course, "Wii Sports" games shouldn't be compared to Zelda. But going further than that, one of the main reasons why gaming hasn't gotten more credibility in the mainstream press is because it is like reading a foreign language.

A proper amount of attention should be attributed to a game's visual style and graphics, but when so many review sources go into the territory of frames per second, textures, lighting, etc, you lose 95% of the mainstream readers. *We* know they're trying to be helpful, but average people don't know what the hell they are talking about.

These gaming sources have tried so hard to be "credible" over the years that they've lost touch with the average readers, and it has grown to be common practice to discuss all the technical mumbo-jumbo without second thought.

Video games are no longer an enthusiast niche market. They're mainstream. Reviewers should start considering that. There is a market for the techno-babble, but it is the 10% enthusiast crowd. (I'm pulling that % out of my ass, but you get the idea.)

I don't need a paragraph about textures and crap like that. I can look at screenshots and decide whether I like the visuals or not.

Furthermore, other forms of media also pretty much only get ONE overall rating. Movies don't get separate ratings for acting, special effects, directing, soundtrack, stage sets, etc. That would just be silly.

...as silly as it is becoming with video games.

Is the game FUN or not?

I’ll join the chorus in saying they need to make it simple. Whatever that means, I don't know. Some kind of emotional stamp could be a good idea.

Ian SaneOctober 17, 2007

"These gaming sources have tried so hard to be 'credible' over the years that they've lost touch with the average readers, and it has grown to be common practice to discuss all the technical mumbo-jumbo without second thought."

Reminds me of music reviews. Ever try to read those? F*ck, they're just full of vague adjectives that mean nothing.

One thing though is that even if games are mainstream the audience of the review might not be and probably shouldn't be. Not every review should be written for everyone. WiiSports' target demo isn't IGN readers. It makes more sense for IGN's reviews to be based on the tastes of IGN readers. WiiSports' score being controversial has more to do with whole non-games vs. games debate that exists within IGN's target readership. Non-games are going to get all sorts of varied scores due to the varied opinions of those reviewing them. Just like how not everyone agrees about then on this forum, not all reviewers on gamer focused sites agree about them.

IGN shouldn't make reviews for the mainstream because the site isn't for the mainstream. We can b!tch about them all we want but they are targetted at the gamer subculture. Maybe they can't cover all the little fanbases within the gaming subculture but IGN and Gamespot and all those sites and mags like EGM or Gamepro are not for grandma. The readership is gamers and the reviews should be made for that audience. Otherwise it would be like a Heavy Metal magainze crapping on an album because it's too loud and is the devil's music. Change IGN's reviews to reflect the mainstream and Metroid Prime 3 gets crapped on for being too complicated. Having a specific audience is very important.

NinGurl69 *hugglesOctober 17, 2007

7.0 - Dragon Blade

7.5 - Zelda PH

GOTTA LOVE THAT 0.5 INCREMENT

Quote

Originally posted by: Ian Sane
The problem is the way I interpret those pictures I feel there are pictures missing. It's too black or white to me. Now admitingly after using this for a while I would probably just associate certain pictures a certain way. But will reviewers do this? Bob Jones' middle picture review might suggest the film is okay and worth watching while Mike Smith's middle picture review might suggest the filme is okay but not worth watching.

I have pretty much no issue with review scores but rather just inconsistency. Too often some reviewer suddenly decides a 6 is average when everyone else considers it crap and now I'm lost. Typically it's those calling for a new review standard who have been causing confusion by suddenly deciding to give good games 7's and going against the grain. Really it doesn't matter what you use provided it's consistent. I never had any problems until someone decided that not enough games were getting 4's and starting using 5 as the average point, thus f*cking everyone else up who used something more like school percentages where it doens't matter really what you get below 5, you still f*cking failed. The problem isn't that 1-5 aren't using enough in the 10 point scale but rather that we now seem to have two groups using the 10 point scale differently.


Well then this problem will NEVER be fixed because reviews are totally subjective Ian. I mean... you'll just have to read thye whole review if you're gonna be that hardcore about details, everyone else can just look at the picture and use a quick emotional judgement to orient themselves.

Rating systems SHOULD NOT REPLACE READING THE REVIEW. They are, in and of themselves, a different way of delivering information. They're actually emotional touchpoints: part summary, part recommendation, and especially effective when, in the SF Chronicle's case, the rating system is visual, emotional, and conveys more information than a number conveys.

Of course, it'd still be great if we didn't need rating systems because everyone read the review's text and all other reviews on the subject and could therefore join the discourse freely and preparedly over the quality of the subject but... heck, even I don't do that a lot of the time!

To me, all I want to know is, should I buy this game? A simple question, but you can break it down into meaningful levels like this:

Everyone must own this game, period.
Everyone that likes this genre must own this game.
If you like this genre, you should rent it because you'll probably like it.
If you like this genre, there's better stuff out there.
Even if you like this genre, don't bother.
Nobody should buy this, it's crap.

Just off the top of my head, but you can see where I'm going. The overall "score" reflects the criteria upon which people base their buying decisions.

MaverickOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Professional 666
7.0 - Dragon Blade

7.5 - Zelda PH

GOTTA LOVE THAT 0.5 INCREMENT


Haha, it also seemed that some of the sentences in this editorial were referring to the "backlash" of the Phantom Hourglass review.

NinGurl69 *hugglesOctober 17, 2007

The fight rages on.

BigJimOctober 17, 2007

Yep, IGN caters to the enthusiast crowd, and perhaps their reviews are fine for that group of people.

That being said, I think if they want to also review market-expansion games, non-games, etc, they should either adjust their scales accordingly to those titles, or create an off-shoot brand that is geared towards the mainstream where games can be properly represented and content is more accessible to the other 90%.

At the VERY least, since we are on the internets where anything is possible, a very short summary review can be made available on the first page, with the "enthusiast" version on the following page(s), if they care to read them... rather than the summary getting stuck in at the end, which seems entirely backwards to me.

I have to reference and give props to GamerDad.com. They're doing a relatively good job, and I would like to see more of their type of reviews rather than watching sites compete to be more and more elite.

Edit Note: Not all IGN reviews are long, extensive, cluster-F's of "look how smart I am" techno-babble, they're just an example. I've seen much worse self-indulging reviewers at other sources.

thatguyOctober 17, 2007

I have barely read anything here, but I'm already decided. Numbers mean too much in too many other ways to work for reviews, mostly because of school. The numbers you receive in school are based on accuracy. A long time ago, people figured out that it's better to be more than half-accurate for passing marks. Would you trust a doctor, teacher, surgeon, news anchor, or anything else that only was right half of the time? Of course not.

But here's the thing. You can't judge the accuracy of a game, a movie, a book, or any kind of art. That concept is ridiculous. An "art" can't be accurate. It can't be right or wrong. It can be tasteful, entertaining, captivating, innovative, and a number of other things.

The number-based score is invalid when it comes anything apart from accuracy. It only works for quantitative measurement. A game can't be 70% accurate. The only way this would work is if the reviews all had a solid, concrete equivalent to compare. For example, if you were to rate out of 100, a score of 85 would mean that there are 84 games out of every hundred that aren't as well done as that one, and 15 that are better. Now, obviously, since average scores tend to be in the 70's and 80's, this isn't true. So it's time to scrap the system.

Did you know that NWR has a few phrases that define their ratings? Why doesn't NWR just scrap the numbers, and substitute in those phrases, with perhaps a little extra changed for each number? It would give meaning, and would really show that NWR rates based on what they feel is right, not based on what each individual deems the correct score for a type of game. It would give reason where before there were just numbers.

Check out this: http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/policy.cfm for more information. You'll see that NWR really doesn't rate with numbers at all, but they do it to match industry trend. I say that NWR should forget trend, and instead, go the next step, and forgo numbers when it comes to the overall rating. It might be worth it to use numbers in the smaller categories for a little while, but hopefully, in time, you can encourage the entire readership to take time to understand why a game is worth their time, or, perhaps, why it isn't.

Anyways, I'm sure Evan's right, but I beat him to eat over in General Gaming about a month ago. I just am not such an eloquent writer...

mantidorOctober 17, 2007

Numbers and reviews have become meaningless for me, with some scarce exceptions. My best review is forums in general, I see the buzz of a game, I kind of know the people behind the buzz and I kind of know their tastes, so I can measure fairly accurate if I would enjoy the game or not based on their comments, of course is an enormously complex system that I doubt is of any of use except for me and other handful of people.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 17, 2007

I support ratings, personally I don't think there is much you can do to get around it. Most people have grown accustomed to it and although review scores can differ from time time, usually they are fairly close to each other across the board giving some sense of what the game is like. Now could alot of that sense be more fictional than real? Perhaps but I know I feel much better with a review that has a review score than one that doesn't. In fact I go out of my way to read review scores that may differ from the pack in order to see why that particular reviewer gave it a low or high score. Also I think scores can also be helpful if you know the reviewer and can better determine what the score means quality wise and how much emphasis they put on certain things.

Quote

Originally posted by: IceCold
If reviews are numerical, I think there should always be a "Tilt Factor" or "X-Factor" similar to what GameSpot has, except they implement it quite poorly.


I complained about GameSpot's review system for years, but just recently they overhauled it to eliminate all subcategory scores. Also, the overall score (now the only score) is only given in .5 point increments, so there won't be any more 6.8s or 7.9s. It's a much, much better system than what they had before.

Many of you have probably heard that I did not use scores in my reviews at the Nformant, and when PGC started to discuss what would become our review format (in early 2001, before we imported the first GBA games), I was very vocal in suggesting that we avoid scores altogether. However, I was a lowly Staff Writer at the time, and although my opinion was registered and respected, other viewpoints prevailed. I think most of my superiors at that time agreed that "it would be nice" to omit scores, but they felt the practical benefits were more important.

It's funny, because now I am Reviews Editor, and I still believe review scores are a bad idea. But I'm not sure that I would want to even try to get rid of them now, because they are part of the institution of NWR. It would even be technically difficult to create a new type of review article without the scores and have the new reviews indexed along with the older ones. So I don't know if we could ever eschew scores now that we are standing so deep in them. But certainly, I agree completely with the spirit of Evan's editorial. If I had a new website and could start from scratch, I would definitely review games without scores. That's not going to happen, though.

ShyGuyOctober 17, 2007

I think an ice cream flavor rating system would be best. Phantom Hourglass is rated Orange Sherbert Swirl and Dragon Blade is rated Mocha Chocolate Chip. Is Orange Sherbert Swirl better than Mocha Chocolate Chip? I KNOW I PREFER THAT FLAVOR OF ICECREAM

shammackOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: ShyGuy
I think an ice cream flavor rating system would be best. Phantom Hourglass is rated Orange Sherbert Swirl and Dragon Blade is rated Mocha Chocolate Chip. Is Orange Sherbert Swirl better than Mocha Chocolate Chip? I KNOW I PREFER THAT FLAVOR OF ICECREAM


This is a fantastic idea.

k_bukieOctober 17, 2007

Breaking down art objectively is almost impossible. Breaking down technical aspects of a game objectively is easy.

I'd almost suggest going to a "Recommended for everyone", "Recommended for fans", and "Not Recommended" review for all games, but even the VC games get criticized and compared for that simple system (lol Kid Icarus).

Maybe the best thing would be listing the pros and cons of a game, and just let the reader decide for him/herself whether it's worth it.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: k_bukie
Breaking down art objectively is almost impossible. Breaking down technical aspects of a game objectively is easy.

I'd almost suggest going to a "Recommended for everyone", "Recommended for fans", and "Not Recommended" review for all games, but even the VC games get criticized and compared for that simple system (lol Kid Icarus).

Maybe the best thing would be listing the pros and cons of a game, and just let the reader decide for him/herself whether it's worth it.


Wait is this topic going to turn into "Is art subjective?".

DjunknownOctober 17, 2007

I weep for people who just look at the rating of a review without reading it... face-icon-small-sad.gif

Quote

Do journalists ever give 10s to games outside of established franchises?


They have. Sometimes they come out of left field. Soul Edge was just some 3d fighter, it was playing 3rd fiddle to Virtua Fighter and Tekken. But when Soul Calibur came on Dreamcast, one could say that game was so good, it almost single-handeldy killed the arcade.

Quote

Reviewing a game's graphics, sound, or control too is a nonsensical idea: does a high polygon count within the framework of realism look better than a simple and striking fantasy design?


One of the underlying assumptions we make for console games are: is it using the hardware's power effectively? I don't want to speak for everyone collectively, but Wii games that visually look PS2's is insulting to me. While the Wii may lag behind the 360/PS3, in my mind there's no excuse for last gen graphics. The visuals need to match the vision as close as possible.

Games like Wind Waker hit it right the nose, despite the misgivings when it was first revealed. Karl's (and one of mine) favorite game, Killer 7 does this as well. Metroid Prime 3, to use a more recent example, should ideally be the rule instead of the exception. When done right technically, we can further discuss the artistic merit. But if misses the realism mark by a wide margin, than that needs to be addressed.

One aspect that just about all developers got right is sound. Sound at a technical level thankfully isn't an issue anymore. Instead the reviewer can discuss what they think of the sound effects, the scoring, the voice overs when its applicable.

Control should always be taken into account. Ultimately, all video and computer games live and die by the interface. This is what separates itself from the rest of popular media. You interface and interact with it. You can have the greatest production values in the world, but if you can't interface with properly, what good is it for? Lair is a prime example. While Suda 51 and Hideo Kojima are considered gaming's mad scientists/oddballs if you will, they wouldn't in their right mind ship a game with purposefully broken controls.

Quote

Furthermore, other forms of media also pretty much only get ONE overall rating. Movies don't get separate ratings for acting, special effects, directing, soundtrack, stage sets, etc. That would just be silly.


But they do get awards for each individual category face-icon-small-wink.gif That's an interesting way of looking at it. I don't think Ebert and Roeper nitpick movies like that every single time.

thatguyOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Jonnyboy117
Many of you have probably heard that I did not use scores in my reviews at the Nformant, and when PGC started to discuss what would become our review format (in early 2001, before we imported the first GBA games), I was very vocal in suggesting that we avoid scores altogether. However, I was a lowly Staff Writer at the time, and although my opinion was registered and respected, other viewpoints prevailed. I think most of my superiors at that time agreed that "it would be nice" to omit scores, but they felt the practical benefits were more important.

It's funny, because now I am Reviews Editor, and I still believe review scores are a bad idea. But I'm not sure that I would want to even try to get rid of them now, because they are part of the institution of NWR. It would even be technically difficult to create a new type of review article without the scores and have the new reviews indexed along with the older ones. So I don't know if we could ever eschew scores now that we are standing so deep in them. But certainly, I agree completely with the spirit of Evan's editorial. If I had a new website and could start from scratch, I would definitely review games without scores. That's not going to happen, though.


Well, what about putting a standard phrase with each score. For a 9.5 or 10, there would be this phrase, or one similar next to the score: "We think this title is a nearly flawless game, fun, and innovative for all. Do not miss out on this great experience!"

For an 8 or a 7.5, it could be, "We believe this title has substance, but not everything is of the highest quality. If you have interest in the genre or series, this game is probably for you.

For a 5, which NWR defines as the borderline, the phrase could be, "This game isn't the best or even close, but if you absolutely enjoy the genre, you may want to consider spending some time with it."

And so on. That way, there would still be numbers, but you'd have guidelines so people would understand what they're looking at, so hopefully, they won't overreact quite so much.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 17, 2007

At least NWR's rating for PH was dead on. That is my 2 cents face-icon-small-tongue.gif

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorOctober 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Maverick
Haha, it also seemed that some of the sentences in this editorial were referring to the "backlash" of the Phantom Hourglass review.


To be fair though, for some of us, the problem wasn't with the "rating", it was with how the review itself was written.

wulffman04October 17, 2007

All ratings, are in a sense, flawed. No one person can take a game(or anything for that matter) for what it is and not put in his own opinions about it. Then again, are ratings just opinions of experienced people?

-I can hear Evan holding back his hand as he desires to reply to these messages.

Why not just add NWR's "Recommended for Everyone," "Recommended for Fans" and "Not Recommended" as an additional label for each game? It's not scarily new, it's just applying the same thinking of the VC's impressions to the game reviews. Even keep in the point score if you like, just prominently display the "label" at the top of the article, away from the score.

Quote

Originally posted by: thatguy
Well, what about putting a standard phrase with each score. For a 9.5 or 10, there would be this phrase, or one similar next to the score: "We think this title is a nearly flawless game, fun, and innovative for all. Do not miss out on this great experience!"

For an 8 or a 7.5, it could be, "We believe this title has substance, but not everything is of the highest quality. If you have interest in the genre or series, this game is probably for you.

For a 5, which NWR defines as the borderline, the phrase could be, "This game isn't the best or even close, but if you absolutely enjoy the genre, you may want to consider spending some time with it."

And so on. That way, there would still be numbers, but you'd have guidelines so people would understand what they're looking at, so hopefully, they won't overreact quite so much.


I have intentionally avoided score guidelines like the plague. We don't even have internal staff definitions for the numbers. I think reviewers will be more accurate to themselves if they are forced to choose a number based on instinct rather than an established rubric. And I see no proof that providing a clearer definition of numbers to the reader would lead to less controversy or overreaction -- look at how much hand-wringing takes place over most reviews at GameSpot, IGN, 1up, and other places where the numbers are pretty well defined.

Quote

Originally posted by: Kairon
Why not just add NWR's "Recommended for Everyone," "Recommended for Fans" and "Not Recommended" as an additional label for each game? It's not scarily new, it's just applying the same thinking of the VC's impressions to the game reviews. Even keep in the point score if you like, just prominently display the "label" at the top of the article, away from the score.


One of the problems with this proposal is that "Recommended for Fans" has never been clearly defined, and it's going to be ambiguous no matter what. Also, adding this kind of system would not really help matters in the context of Evan's editorial, because we are still treating reviews like recommendations. I do believe reviews should include recommendations in addition to actual criticism, but I fear that institutionalizing it in this way would make the recommendation seem overly important to both the reader and the reviewer. In other words, it might seem clearer than numerical scores to some people, but it will make things more confusing for others, and it doesn't solve the root problem either way.

thatguyOctober 17, 2007

Quote

look at how much hand-wringing takes place over most reviews at GameSpot, IGN, 1up, and other places where the numbers are pretty well defined.


Really? NWR does a much better job defining their ratings numbers than any of those places. I can rarely match up the written reviews with the scores in any logical fashion at those sites. That's something I love about NWR, that the number always matched the written review. At the above sites, I feel like everything is 7.something or 8.something, just because. If it isn't in that range, it's a major license or a highly publicized game.

At one point we tried to put better definitions next to numbers, but it's just too difficult. For example, I think most on staff see 7 or 8 as good with some serious setbacks...but why a 7 instead of an 8? That's really up to the reviewer.

GoldenPhoenixOctober 17, 2007

I think at IGN Wii the ratings are being a bit more defined.

thatguyOctober 17, 2007

You can have a quip used for several different numbers, especially if the staff agrees there's not much difference the two scores, but that right there tells you a reason why numbers alone are no good. Why a 7 instead of an 8? If the staff can't answer that question, then why should they be using the system that makes them answer it?

Soooo. I think the answer there is that individual reviewers have their own ideas of 7 vs 8. I didn't say there was no difference. It's just that my 7 may be Karl's 8. For me an 8 is a game that is fun to play and is probably worth buying, but has some notable shortcomings. A 7 for me has more critical shortcomings that muck up what aspects of the game are fun, making it at least a rent-before-you-buy.

IceColdOctober 17, 2007

Quote

A 7 for me has more critical shortcomings that muck up what aspects of the game are fun, making it at least a rent-before-you-buy.
That's basically the industry standard, but NWR has been giving games like you just described 5s instead of 7s recently.

Quote

Originally posted by: thatguy
Quote

look at how much hand-wringing takes place over most reviews at GameSpot, IGN, 1up, and other places where the numbers are pretty well defined.


Really? NWR does a much better job defining their ratings numbers than any of those places. I can rarely match up the written reviews with the scores in any logical fashion at those sites. That's something I love about NWR, that the number always matched the written review. At the above sites, I feel like everything is 7.something or 8.something, just because. If it isn't in that range, it's a major license or a highly publicized game.


I will take this as a major compliment -- the thing I stress most is that the numbers should match the review. But the miraculous feat (in my opinion) is that we can do this without actually defining the scale at all! I think what you're saying is that the scores are defined on a per-review basis by the reviewer, in that he or she is writing the entire article to define the number score (or better yet, choosing the number that most intuitively matches the article). That is totally different than putting a chart on the site so everyone can see "5.0 = Average, 8.0 = Great, etc."

thatguyOctober 17, 2007

My biggest problem is that NWR is the only site that I've found that's actually capable of doing so, though, so it creates a horrible unbalance to shuffle between the mushy corporate reviews and the cleaner-cut NWR ones. For everywhere else, every game seems to earn about a 7.5, but NWR would hypothetically adequately give this game something around a 5.0, which actually makes sense. It's not really NWR I have the problem with, it's everyone else. But then, because everyone else is flawed, it creates an invalid perception in the industry, and that's why people act like a score around 7 is a terrible thing for a game like Wind Waker, when it's really praise with a slight warning, IMO.

As far as those phrases go, perhaps each rater could summarize their recommendation/feeling about the game in every review in one sentence, even though the reviews usually finish with this, anyways, repeating the statement by the numerical score could encourage people to actually read the reviews before they react.

I think what I'm trying to say is that the way other sources rate games has skewed the population's perceptions of these numbers. However, NWR seems to be more fair, sensible, and even when it comes to ratings, and manages to use the full spectrum quite handily, unlike said other sources. Because of the population's ignorance and NWR's steady scales, misconceptions and misjudgments are typically made, usually because most people expect to see padded scores. I think just a brief sentence written by the reviewer could quickly alleviate some of the concerns readers have in this manner. Does that make a little more sense?

If the entire world was crazy, and you were the only person who wasn't somehow off the deep end, wouldn't that make you aberrantly normal, and clinically insane?

Or would you simply be the only one who doesn't see the emperor's new clothes?

But what about the adage that if you can keep your head while everyone else is losing theirs, there's something that you're missing?

KDR_11kOctober 18, 2007

I think discussing "aesthetic experience" is kinda missing the mark. Treat games like art all you want but people treat them as entertainment, something they use when they're bored and they expect it to be FUN. This is the goal metric, how much fun does the game provide. I don't buy games for their creativity, their graphics or their game mechanics, I buy them for the fun that results out of the combination of all of these aspects. If aesthetic experience is what gives you enjoyment then by all means base your rating on it! However, don't pretend we have to be snobby about some external value like "artistic merit" and rate that over enjoyment. If you didn't enjoy it, say so, don't pretend that the art must be experienced despite being unpleasant to play.

I do agree with the idea that ratings are flawed but I disagree that the cause is number inflation or whatever. I simply think we need more ratings for a single game, divided as seen appropriate for the specific game. I've seen reviews pan a game for being similar to the previous one and give a worse rating for that but does that help me when I've never played the first and want to decide which one to buy? Really, you need a rating for every "demographic" that you think has to be distinguished. Take Wii Sports. How do you rate that? Party or casual play: Awesome, Conventional play: Uninteresting and short. Guilty Gear? Advanced players of the genre: Awesome, newbies or people not used to the genre: stay away. More Brain Training: Newcomers: Buy this!, Owners of the previous one: may not be worth the money. Add as many ratings as considered appropriate but more than 2-3 usually won't make sense. Trying to give one rating valid for all people is futile since the values will diverge and you can only average them by considering their relative numbers.

Abolishing ratings and telling people to read the text makes it hard to get a quick glance of whether this game is worth considering (say you have a pool of ten and want to narrow it down to 2-3, reading all the reviews will waste a lot of time) and it also compensates for the reviewers potential inability to express the exact quality of a game in writing. The shortcomings and highpoints listed in a review all have a weight but that weight is often insufficiently expressed, a game can have 100 bad points and only 10 good ones but still be awesome to play. The final rating shows how the reviewer weights the advantages and disadvantages together and considers the overall experience. It may be a crutch but would you tell the man with two broken legs to drop his crutches? Reviewers aren't necessarily capable of bringing the quality of the game across in a wall of text, they may need a number to do so.

In closing, I rate this article -1. It misses the point and demands changes that benefit noone except game developers who suck at creating games and rely on the crutch of claiming it has artistic value not seen in the gameplay. :P

EDIT: It must apparently be mentioned that with "fun" I don't mean "colorful", "cartoony" or anything like that, I mean a game that provides an experience you like when you play it. Some people apparently think a game can be good without being fun by being scary, sad or whatever else emotion they can think of, in my vocabulary fun, enjoyment, etc describe how positive you feel towards playing a game. Horror is fun but that doesn't mean you sit there laughing, just that you think "that was good" after it's over.

shammackOctober 18, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
Reviewers aren't necessarily capable of bringing the quality of the game across in a wall of text, they may need a number to do so.


Just wanted to highlight the absurdity of this statement.

I don't have much sympathy for people who are too lazy to read a review and are only willing to look at a number when deciding what game to buy. If that's the only factor going into their decision, it's pretty much a crapshoot because the numbers are so arbitrary and meaningless anyway. If they buy a game and it's not what they expected from the 8.7 review (or whatever), they will whine. If they didn't have the 8.7, they would have had to read the review and find out what to expect from the game, and maybe put some actual thought into their decision. I don't see how creating a bunch of sub-ratings is any easier to understand than saying, "The multiplayer is a lot of fun at parties, but fans of traditional adventure games may be disappointed," or something like that.

Every game has different things that it does well or badly, and the only effective way to convey those things to the reader is to talk about them. You just can't get that information across in shorthand. Yes, you could write a review with all that stuff in it and still slap a rating on the end, but when you do that, that rating becomes the focus, and people ignore everything else and say, "This game got a 7.6 and the other game only got a 7.4! I'd better go with this game!" That should not happen.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 18, 2007

Well there are alot of comments here already but I figured I'd throw in my 2 cents. The review system should be as follows:

Rating
- Recommended for Everyone
- Recommended for Fans
- Not Recommended

List of Pros & Cons

Review Text

Multiple reviewers should at least provide their rating and list of pros & cons. If multiple reviewers can, they should provide a body of text.


With a system like this you put the most important points forward from a variety of people, and readers can distinguish some sort of value based on what each reviewer felt the pros and cons were. Also if a breakdown is given of each subcategory (ie Graphics, Lastability, Presentation, Controls), Graphics should now be "Art Direction." Chances are, if the Art Direction is crap the graphics will be too, but vice-versa it won't necessarily be true (ie Cubivore, Katamari Damacy, etc).

Otherwise, great write up Evan, I think you touched on some very good points.

Smash_BrotherOctober 18, 2007

The key problem I see with reviews aiming to describe a game is that they seldom describe what the game offers an individual gamer and instead explains what it offered the reviewer. The problem is that I have no idea if the reviewer and I see eye to eye, or if the reviewer has been influenced by outside sources or not.

I had an idea a while back which could break down a review to the point where a reviewer would basically need to describe what the game offered in a much more granular scenario...

Five Scores, The Hows, Comparisons and Reviewer Notes

Five Scores:

Casual Gamer: The game's basic ability to involve gamers of average skill and entertain them.

Hardcore Gamer: The game's ability to force players to push hard to accomplish difficult but satisfying goals in the game.

Non-Gamer: The game's ability to be played by those who do not play games.

Party Gamer: The game's ability to involve and entertain a group of people.

Fan Gamer: The game's ability to please and entertain fans of the franchise.

The Hows (for each score):

What does the game accomplish in each category and how? An immediate and straightforward explanation of what the game offers and HOW it offers this.

Comparisons:

"Players who enjoy this game may have also enjoyed these other games..."

Reviewer Notes:

The reviewer's summary which comes after all of the aforementioned information.

A Sample Review

Wii Sports

Casual: 9.0
WSports is a completely new experience, one which will bring new and veteran gamers alike to their feet in excitement with an amazingly new but simple and intuitive way to play games. All gameplay is motion-based, using the Wii Remote's motion-sensing ability to translate your movement into on-screen action. Roll a ball in bowling, throw a punch in boxing, swing a bat in baseball: it's all really that simple.

Hardcore: 8.0
WSports offers a reasonable amount of goals for the veteran gamer, including increasingly difficult opponents as your skill increases and earning medals in minigames which may take you a long time to achieve, but in the end, it doesn't feel quite as satisfying and fulfilling as some other challenging games.

Non-Gamer: 10.0
For people of any race, age or gender, WSports marries the most simple and intuitive control scheme with fun and engrossing gameplay. This is the ultimate non-gamer game.

Party: 9.0
Newer gamers will spend a longer amount of time with WSports, but veteran gamers will no doubt find themselves hungering for more depth. Still, WSports is the definition of a party game for new and casual gamers as it will have people curious within minutes of watching the game (and the players) in motion.

Fan: 8.0
If you're a fan of sports games, the appeal of WSports will be immediate. However, certain missing key elements may discourage you from enjoying the game for longer periods of time, such as Baseball's lack of base running control or Golf's lack of club variety.

Those who enjoy Wii Sports might have also enjoyed:
Tennis games
Baseball games
Boxing games
Bowling games
Mario Party games
Games which focus on simple control schemes (Katamari, Super Monkey Ball, etc.)


Reviewer's Notes:
Wii Sports finds the perfect balance of accessibility and enjoyability, owing to its simple control scheme and fun, time-honored sports games. Had the game employed an online mode, it would easily find itself with a higher hardcore score, as this would keep hardcore players plugging away at the game for years to come as they try to scale leaderboards and outdo their opponents around the world. As it stands, it's an excellent piece of software to own and the best means of proving to people that the Wii's unique control scheme worlds wonderfully. A recommended buy for any gamer.


The idea is that a gamer can immediately check which score matters most to them and read the associated paragraph if they want. Games and their appeal are too large and too varied to choke them down to one defining score so it would be easier and more telling to rate individual facets of a game's appeal instead of trying to meld them all together into a score which certainly doesn't account for the variety of gaming tastes in the world.

Beyond that, the "if you enjoyed..." section, I feel, does far, FAR more for the gamer in the way of buying decisions because it immediately brings out some game types, genres and specific titles which share common likable traits with the game being reviewed.

It's not perfect, but no review system is and I think this would still be a great deal better than the standard "scroll through the Wall of Text to find the final score" system which is employed by most of the review industry right now.

Ian SaneOctober 18, 2007

"Why not just add NWR's 'Recommended for Everyone,' 'Recommended for Fans' and 'Not Recommended' as an additional label for each game?"

I don't think those labels work for new games. What does "for fans" mean for a brand new IP? Fans of the genre? Fans of the developer? These labels work well for old games because "for fans" can mean people who liked the game back in the day. It's a game that not everyone will like but if you liked it in the past you'll still want it. That just does not apply for new games.

The brief format of the VC reviews also better fits cheap games. So NWR recommends a game, I buy it and don't like it. Had they been more detailed in their "review" I would find out about this one part of the game that sucks. Big deal. I'm out like 10 bucks at the most. With a $60 purchase maybe I want some more detail in case something that I really won't like or really will like comes out in the details.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 18, 2007

I think you are touching on a really nice system S_B, but it might be extremely hard to remove yourself (as the reviewer) to the point where you can see how a game fits the needs of a crowd you are not a part of. The marketing words for describing a gamer don't help either, but I can definitely see what you're going for.

The review system is extremely broken and I think as time has passed, some game publications are realizing this and trying to make strides toward revising the system to one that really fits the needs of the readers. Anything at this point that will change the system would be welcomed.

Smash_BrotherOctober 18, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Mr. Jack
I think you are touching on a really nice system S_B, but it might be extremely hard to remove yourself (as the reviewer) to the point where you can see how a game fits the needs of a crowd you are not a part of. The marketing words for describing a gamer don't help either, but I can definitely see what you're going for.


I agree that this is the challenge that should befall every reviewer "Even if I didn't like it, it had _____ going for it and thus I expect ______ fans to enjoy it."

I've heard of reviews of RPGs where the reviewer basically starts the review by announcing that he hates RPGs. While I'm not a fan of RPGs either, I could still give some indication of what points of the game RPG fans would probably like.

The idea would be to communicate what the game has to offer everyone instead of using the reviewer as a "filter" which then explains what the game offered him/her.

Basically, it would establish what the game has and leave it to the reader to decide if they'd like that or not.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 18, 2007

Hell it would even be nice if game reviews were done in a group setting. I want to hear all aspects and viewpoints so I can place myself somewhere in the group and figure out what the game offers me in particular. I really like the whole idea of multiple viewpoints depending on gamer type. That combined with an effective rating system and a write up describing the major features of the game would be awesome. I don't really read reviews anymore to figure out what I want. The combination of previews and videos from the collection of sites out there I can usually feel the game out well enough to make a decision before the review even hits. Most of the time when I read a review I use it as a validation tool, however most of the time it is ineffective because my tastes often do not line up with those of the reviewer.

BigJimOctober 18, 2007

Recommended for Casual Players
Recommended for Enthusiasts
Recommended for All
Not Recommended

Score (1-10, no half points) & Review

?

"Enthusiasts" can encompass fans, fans of genres, hardcore players, etc. based on the context of the game, or in whatever context the reviewer uses to justify the selection (they should explain). And I use "Players" rather than "Gamers" to be able to encompass casual gamers and non-gamers.

I don't know if I would replace 5 ratings (graphics, sound, controls, etc) with another 5 ratings. I would probably give a game just 1 overall numbered score rating, using the targeted demographic (see above) as the intellectual scale in which it's judged, but S_B may be onto something too.

But certainly reviewers need to take themselves out of their reviews. It's not about them. They should be educated on the topic/genre, but still able to be as neutral as possible so they don't come at it with either a gripe or a glowing ball of fanboy sunshine.

KDR_11kOctober 18, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: shammack
I don't have much sympathy for people who are too lazy to read a review and are only willing to look at a number when deciding what game to buy. If that's the only factor going into their decision, it's pretty much a crapshoot because the numbers are so arbitrary and meaningless anyway. If they buy a game and it's not what they expected from the 8.7 review (or whatever), they will whine. If they didn't have the 8.7, they would have had to read the review and find out what to expect from the game, and maybe put some actual thought into their decision. I don't see how creating a bunch of sub-ratings is any easier to understand than saying, "The multiplayer is a lot of fun at parties, but fans of traditional adventure games may be disappointed," or something like that.

Every game has different things that it does well or badly, and the only effective way to convey those things to the reader is to talk about them. You just can't get that information across in shorthand. Yes, you could write a review with all that stuff in it and still slap a rating on the end, but when you do that, that rating becomes the focus, and people ignore everything else and say, "This game got a 7.6 and the other game only got a 7.4! I'd better go with this game!" That should not happen.


I don't want to have to go through a whole bunch of text when the game's total crap anyway. Why do I have to read half a page when Score: 1.0 would have been enough to get it across that the game is so horrible that you'll want to hurt yourself? Similarily, if I have three games, two rated 7.0 and one rated 9.0 I know immediately which one to look into, without the scores I have to read each review individually and hope the reviewer is good enough to make a great game sound better than an average game in the text. Scores are for the first selection, the review text is for more information. A good score tells you this game is worth looking into, a bad score tells you immediately that the only purpose of reading the review would be to make fun of the game. Using scores for direct comparisons is silly, especially for 0.1 differences and going with a 100 point scale is just silly but the rough value of the score is still highly useful. There are more quality levels of games than just "must buy", "rental" and "avoid", a score lets you decide your personal threshold for each of these. E.g. I won't buy a game at full price if it's rated 7 because that usually leads to disappointment and when I think the text of a review sounds good but the rating is low it usually turns out that the issues I thought I could overlook are really too large to ignore.

Also I think S_B's five ratings are too many, few games will have such different meanings to each group to warrant a separate score but then you might find a split that you cannot express with just these. Use multiple ratings where appropriate, not because you have to fill out a form.

IceColdOctober 18, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
I think discussing "aesthetic experience" is kinda missing the mark. Treat games like art all you want but people treat them as entertainment, something they use when they're bored and they expect it to be FUN. This is the goal metric, how much fun does the game provide. I don't buy games for their creativity, their graphics or their game mechanics, I buy them for the fun that results out of the combination of all of these aspects. If aesthetic experience is what gives you enjoyment then by all means base your rating on it! However, don't pretend we have to be snobby about some external value like "artistic merit" and rate that over enjoyment. If you didn't enjoy it, say so, don't pretend that the art must be experienced despite being unpleasant to play.
*salutes*

Smash_BrotherOctober 18, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k Also I think S_B's five ratings are too many, few games will have such different meanings to each group to warrant a separate score but then you might find a split that you cannot express with just these. Use multiple ratings where appropriate, not because you have to fill out a form.


In some cases, the scores will be N/A, but even with single player games, there's a definite "party" value if the game can entertain a crowd watching you play it.

I think the perspective is necessary because trying to apply a single numbered score to a game in the hopes of establishing how an individual will enjoy it is absolutely futile because the review knows nothing about its sole audience member, that being the reader.

When you come to a review looking to learn about the game, you might find that the game offers a shallow single player experience which is only 5 hours long, BUT that the game and its characters are immensely entertaining to watch so it could occupy a room full of people for a whole night.

Moreover, my system isn't perfect, but it at least gives readers five options so they can align themselves with a particular type of gamer and hopefully get a better idea about how they would enjoy the game.

After all, no one knows their tendencies better than they do and a review which only offers a lone number is attempting to somehow bridge that gap without any prior knowledge, something which just ain't gonna happen.

KDR_11kOctober 19, 2007

Five categories for every game will just lead to arbitrary numbers. Who the hell would test an SP game for its ability to entertain a crowd of spectators? Don't force the reviewer to give numbers he didn't really want to be separate because then it gets arbitrary and the reviewer might feel compelled to enter a different score into each box just so he can't be accused of copy & paste. Really, only add meaningful divisions. I've had enough situations where I was filling out a form and most of the given options didn't make a difference while the ones that would weren't on the form. Never mind that readers might be confused which one of the load of options meets them when all they know is "I play my RPGs for the story".

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusOctober 19, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: NewsBot

This is a crisis moment for modern art, where the melding of consumerism and artistry has created a group of movie-goers, musicheads, and gamers who believe that art can be rated on an objective scale. The idea of applying ratings to paintings or sculptures (even modern ones) is pretty unthinkable. Though it has taken thousands of years, no one today would question the cultural validity of paintings or sculptures as a medium.


Rubbish. For as long art has existed, we have applied ratings and scales to it. For things like classical art, there is no limit to that scale. An item can be brought for a million dollars or a hundred million. Is that not an arbitrary value tied to a scale we call money?

Quote

Video games are subject to the shackles of ratings more so than other arts due to a couple reasons: one is their high cost. A gamer may only be able to purchase one game every paycheck, or every month, and the difference between a 9.0 and a 9.5 suddenly becomes important. Another reason for excessive ratings in the game world is their status as software. Since they are a program that must perform certain functions, problems like a lack of polish in graphical presentation, poorly designed controls, or simple bugs and errors can all be treated as quantifiable leaps that the user should or should not have to make, in the reviewer's mind. Yet when a journalist reviews a game under our current system, he must also attempt to apply numbers to the game's artistry and his overall level of satisfaction, in the hopes of giving a solid purchase recommendation to the video game world.


A painting or statue made out of rotting apples would have no value what so ever. The same can be said for games that are made up almost completely out of cut-scenes or have controls so poorly designed that it renders the game unplayable. You might say that the rotting apples are a statement and that has value in itself, but would appear asinine to everybody else.

Quote

Most reviewers would admit to being concerned more with the artistry of a game than with its functionality as software; these two pieces are necessary parts of a review, but by this time in gaming history, functionality should be a non-issue. Slowdown and control glitches will always be with us, but a reviewer must comment on them only insofar as they hinder the experience of playing the game. The game's goals as an aesthetic experience must be paramount in the reviewer's mind.


While true in a perfect world, you said it yourself, "functionality should be a non-issue". You may have an absolutely fantastic work of art, but if you display it next to a cesspit, it will detract from what's really there.

Quote

Yet numbers dominate our discourse; if a reviewer rates a game lower than his peers, he is seen as having an incorrect position. And though every journalist may strive to write about a game before applying a rating, the overall score that comes at the end of the review can never fully be out of his mind. It is supposed to be a reflection of where he thinks the game falls on a scale of 1 (for terrible) to 10 (for incredible). It can supposedly be compared to his other reviews: if he gave a 9.0 to a game I didn't like, then I have no reason to believe that his 6.0 for a different game is accurate.


While that is a problem, and it would be impossible to remove the reviewer's personality and bias, doing so would a be disservice. As long as the reviewer has made clear their dissatisfaction and why in a review, there should be no reason why a game shouldn't as along it is justified.

Quote

Reviews can never be fully separated from their rating: the philosophy of numerical scales forces reviewers to give reasons why the game is better than an 8.0 but less than a 9.0. Though this may aid the purchase recommendation part of the review, it does little to encourage dialog about a game's actual merits. The score is a straw man to argue against, with the game's aesthetic qualities mere support for why it was deserved.


Limited resources and time demand review scores. It quantifies how much a person my pay for a game. If a game is 9-10, I am far more likely to pay the full price for the game let it be 50 - 60 dollars depending on the console. This also extends to budget games. This works, because games have a local fixed ceiling in price. An understanding that if prices rise above a certain point you will be punished for lower sales.

Quote

Even Roger Ebert (who has no doubt that movies are art and most video games aren't) claims that his stars and his thumb are worth less than his written review, yet he will only put four-star movies on his top ten list each year. Similarly, when the “Game of the Year" hype contests roll around, scores are a main part of the debate. Is it possible for a 9.0 average game to pull ahead of all the 9.5s and 10s to steal the contest? Does anyone truly believe that these year-end lists are anything more than phoned in months in advance?


Check back to your own end of year awards. You don't mention scores and scores shouldn't be mentioned. The moment that happens it becomes a genitalia swinging contest. Anyone who mentions scores at that point is a fool since you are already at the top, the cream of the crop. A special region where scores are rendered irrelevant due to the fact that everyone has collectively agreed that it was worth "Full price".

Quote

Reviews without ratings are less satisfying for readers because they do not supply the tidy summary of a game's worth that is expected under the current conditions. A review without a number cannot be compared to another review instantly, and the reviewer cannot be looked down upon by the public until his words are read. Many reviewers may feel pressure to not give the “wrong" score for a beloved franchise installment, hoping instead to say things that are in line with other reviewers. If he is the standalone aberration on MetaCritic, he will be fighting consensus and dismissed.


While certainly true that this does happen, if actually read most of those outliner scores, they are horribly written reviews, in general. However, this can go the wrong way, where the hype of a game can override even the body of the review render the entire system defunct. *Cough* Halo *Cough*

Quote

Yet ratings never make sense. The Bit Generations titles are so simple that a rating of 8.5 doesn't mean the same thing as an 8.5 given to a Zelda game; the first may be too high for a simple game, while the second too low for a much more complex game. Does any reviewer honestly look at Tetris and Zelda and say “Zelda is better" as if the two could be compared? When Nintendo releases the next console Zelda or Mario game, is a score of 9.0 going to dissuade you from purchasing it? Do journalists ever give 10s to games outside of established franchises? Even within genres, comparing two very similar games like Okami and Zelda seems fruitless if we must conclude that one is superior over the other. The only comparison that seems appropriate is whether a new Zelda game is as good as the previous ones (in which case I may have to revise my score for Twilight Princess).


The problem is that you base this assumption that both games are worth the same monetarily and serve the same function and have the same function. If two similar games get the same score, then tough luck to the buyer deciding between the two, or for the optimist, hey look, two games I can buy and I will be happy with it regardless of choice. This is especially true if the both games were reviewed by the same reviewer.

Quote

Reviewing a game's graphics, sound, or control too is a nonsensical idea: does a high polygon count within the framework of realism look better than a simple and striking fantasy design? No game is worth less for having blocky graphics if it works in context with the story; not all games can have their graphics measured in the same way.


What happens if it is not within the context of the story, your screwed right? Well, yeah. If I, with no thought what so ever, threw paint against a wall it would have value under your definition. The only thing I had demonstrated would be my sheer laziness. If I decided instead to place some cohesiveness to the entire thing, then there maybe something of value here. Rouge-likes, with their ASCII graphics work because there is an understanding, like a book, you are meant to imagine what is happening. Never the less, this does not excuse developers who could have done better. Your next paragraph affirm this.

Quote

Instead of writing about whether a game fulfills my preconceptions for what a good game looks like, sounds like, and plays like, I should be compelled as a reviewer to rate the aesthetic experience I had. Though this is a subjective statement of my opinion, it can be qualified by my appraisal of a game's graphical and aural design, as well as my opinion of how successful the game was at creating a world, delivering a feeling of suspense, showing me beautiful images, giving me a sandbox to play in, telling a story, or whatever else the game may have tried to do. No single philosophy of game design is correct, and with as many artists as there are in the game industry we ought to encourage them to take their individual ideals as far as possible. This is why games like Metal Gear Solid and Super Mario 64 can both be praised for their different visions of what video games can do.


Those preconceptions are formed by your very past experiences that allow you to rate any aesthetic experience. Without it, you would think and accept Bartz horse riding is a good game.

Quote

Removing scores from reviews will not prevent us from discussing games, comparing disparate genres, or discussing objective quality. Instead, it will allow journalists the freedom to examine a game as a holistic and inclusive experience, an exercise that has been constricted for decades by universal participation in scoring. Having to quantify a game's graphics, sound, control, and fun factor are roadblocks to true discussion. The best art you will ever see cannot be summed up in an essay, or a review. To this day people are discussing the aesthetic experience known as Michaelangelo's La Pieta, or Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. As soon as we believe that we can fully know and understand these works of art, we have lost the ability to ever know anything about them. Only in the ongoing discussion of how video games affect us, and what keeps us coming back for more, can we break through the meaningless numbers and make gaming journalism into something more than just software reviews and purchase recommendations.


Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey I found was rubbish even though I saw it for free. Regardless of whether you assign a score or not, people will/can discuss the game. That will never be in danger. The real problem is that you have assigned something different to the score than what it should be. It is indeed a purchase recommendation regardless of whether you like it or not as there isn't infinite amount of time or money or will to play all games. Why play a game even if you got it for free if you don't derive any enjoyment what so ever?

Edit. Fixed bold.

KDR_11kOctober 20, 2007

As for the art comparison, let's take architecture. Architecture is art, there are many famous artwork houses around the world. That does not mean that functionality is not important. An art-house that is not structurally sound and likely to collapse is not a good idea, neither is a house with an interior that's completely unusable because it's built like a videogame level or something. And contrary to what Sony thinks, if the architect places the doors wrong people WILL complain.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 31, 2007

Looks like Kotaku is running a similar Editorial to what Evan has put together here.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 31, 2007

I'm pretty sure the mass of gaming enthusiasts out there is starting to realize that there is an obvious flaw in the system of reviews. We need to streamline this process and put together a better system. Lots of good ideas have been put forward in this thread, it would be nice to see some of these ideas get implemented and put to good use.

vuduOctober 31, 2007

Oh, I know you didn't just copy and paste the entire article in your post. That's a big no-no.

Favorite quote:

Quote

Completely made up rule of thumb: The more numbers a reviewer uses, the more they are trying to authenticate their own bullshit.
Can I get a Hell Yeah?

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 31, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: vudu
Oh, I know you didn't just copy and paste the entire article in your post. That's a big no-no.

Favorite quote:
Quote

Completely made up rule of thumb: The more numbers a reviewer uses, the more they are trying to authenticate their own bullshit.
Can I get a Hell Yeah?


Good point vudu, I removed the text from my post, didn't remember that it was a rule.

ummmm... Hell yeah?

I mean, I certainly expect the world to turn into a utopia of millions of Svevans writing long thesis-like reviews that lack scores, but ...omg...

Quote

Originally posted by: oohhboy
Rubbish. For as long art has existed, we have applied ratings and scales to it. For things like classical art, there is no limit to that scale. An item can be brought for a million dollars or a hundred million. Is that not an arbitrary value tied to a scale we call money?


Oohhboy! You just gave me an awesome idea!

... why don't we rate games... using MONEY!

Why isn't the review score a monetary amount that the reviewer says would be a "fair price" for the game? That way we wouldn't have 9.0's or 8.0's... we'd have games that are great for $30 but cost $50, and games that people should and would pay $60 for (Zelda titles for example) but only cost $40 (Zack & Wiki)!

...bad idea? ... yeah, probably... but it's a new one at least!

vuduOctober 31, 2007

Because money's not an absolute value. If I have more money than you do I may be willing to part with more money for a game I enjoy just as much as you. We're not communists.

Can I get a Hell Yeah?

Smash_BrotherOctober 31, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
Five categories for every game will just lead to arbitrary numbers. Who the hell would test an SP game for its ability to entertain a crowd of spectators?


...which is what the N/A is for when the score wouldn't apply to a game.

Quote

Really, only add meaningful divisions. I've had enough situations where I was filling out a form and most of the given options didn't make a difference while the ones that would weren't on the form. Never mind that readers might be confused which one of the load of options meets them when all they know is "I play my RPGs for the story".


This is like suggesting that we shouldn't have horoscopes for different signs because people are too stupid to figure out which sign they are.

You're missing a very simple point here and that is that basically anything is better than a player reading a review and not knowing that the reviewer sits 100% opposite them on all their tastes and opinions. By asking that the reviewer attempt to place him/herself in the shoes of someone who might have enjoyed the game, it forces them to consider it in a light that might be more appropriate for the review.

And even if it isn't as effective as it could be, it's STILL worlds better than not trying whatsoever which is what most reviewers currently do.

If the purpose of a review is to save the reader from a potentially poor buying decision, then that goal is best accomplished via attempting to cover different bases.

Quote

Never mind that readers might be confused which one of the load of options meets them when all they know is "I play my RPGs for the story".


Most reviews have 5 scores already, covering the graphics, sound, etc. If this didn't cripple the minds of those attempting to decipher them, than a different 5 scores won't do so, either.

And if someone enjoys RPGs for the story, it would be mentioned under the normal section that the RPG offers a deep story and shown under the hardcore section if it's difficult.

IceColdOctober 31, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: vudu
Because money's not an absolute value. If I have more money than you do I may be willing to part with more money for a game I enjoy just as much as you. We're not communists.

Can I get a Hell Yeah?
No cross-posting.

Also, price is determined through supply and demand, not through critical merit. Popular games like Madden inherently would have a higher price than, say, Okami, even though they may not be as good.

PlugabugzOctober 31, 2007

For that review that i made for super paper mario, i described the game with merely one word.

While one word may not be enough giddy does broadly summarise what the game entails.

KDR_11kNovember 01, 2007

A N/A rating leads to the question "why was this not checked". I've seen plenty of reviews that mentioned score modifiers you should apply if you like X or didn't play Y. Your five boxes still wouldn't solve that, there'd still not be a field for "playing RPGs for story" or "owns the previous game". Furthermore, some scores will be inaccurate because they lack consideration but you cannot tell which ones. I want meaningful divisions drawn where they make sense for the individual game, not just more arbitrary numbers. If there's a reason to distinguish between casual and hardcore play, sure, draw the line there.

I don't think adding four scores just to make clear that the reviewer is a hardcore gamer makes sense.

Five scores for components plus a final score still give you only one final score, the component scores are pretty useless and they have specific meanings, there's no arguing whether polygons count as graphics or sound but there is arguing where the line between a hardcore and a casual gamer is and even then the component scores seem kinda arbitrary to me. Noone is going to look at the table of component ratings to find out whether they like the game, there's a big score below it that states "final score".

Smash_BrotherNovember 01, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
A N/A rating leads to the question "why was this not checked".


Because it doesn't apply to the game. If the game is played on a DS and has no multiplayer component, then the "party" aspect of it doesn't exist and it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the score was omitted. N/A means "not applicable". If the score doesn't apply then it doesn't apply.

Quote

I've seen plenty of reviews that mentioned score modifiers you should apply if you like X or didn't play Y. Your five boxes still wouldn't solve that, there'd still not be a field for "playing RPGs for story" or "owns the previous game".


Both of those fall under the "Fan" score, where the reviewer can state that fans of the franchise or fans of the RPG genre will enjoy the game, especially if they play RPGs for the story.

Quote

Furthermore, some scores will be inaccurate because they lack consideration but you cannot tell which ones.


I'm aware, but having some scores be inaccurate is better than having one score which is inaccurate. I never said the system is perfect, only that it's infinitely better than what we have now where one reviewer throws down one score based on their own tastes in gaming which are not made clear to the reader.

Quote

I want meaningful divisions drawn where they make sense for the individual game, not just more arbitrary numbers. If there's a reason to distinguish between casual and hardcore play, sure, draw the line there.


And why isn't there a reason?

It was already said in this thread that games are entertainment as much as they are art, so it's safe to assume that people will have different tastes in games and reviewers should at least ATTEMPT to acknowledge this fact. Sometimes I want a game which is going to make my eyes hurt from the intensity. Other times, I just want a game I can sit down and play without needing to have keen reflexes. Sometimes I want a game my mother would enjoy.

These are all quantifiable variables, and while no two reviewers will quantify them the same way, you can at least guarantee that the attempt to define the idea puts the reviewer closer to their reader. If I, as a reviewer, say, "What would hardcore gamers think of this game? Are there difficult challenges which unlock extra content? Would they feel the desire to keep going until they got the most out of this game and is there a 'most' to get?" then god knows I'm doing a better job than if I thought, "This game is too f*cking hard. F*ck this game." and gave it a 3/10.

The fact is, what one gamer may consider a strike against the game will be considered by another as a reason to buy it. The single score everyone looks at is too black and white for the experience being evaluated.

KDR_11kNovember 02, 2007

Both of those fall under the "Fan" score, where the reviewer can state that fans of the franchise or fans of the RPG genre will enjoy the game, especially if they play RPGs for the story.

But you still need to mention a fan of WHAT. What if there's more than one kind of fan involved? What if it's fans of strategy vs fans of story, which one gets the fan rating and which one goes into the other category?

And why isn't there a reason?

Because not every game has a different value to different people?

It was already said in this thread that games are entertainment as much as they are art, so it's safe to assume that people will have different tastes in games and reviewers should at least ATTEMPT to acknowledge this fact. Sometimes I want a game which is going to make my eyes hurt from the intensity. Other times, I just want a game I can sit down and play without needing to have keen reflexes. Sometimes I want a game my mother would enjoy.

But are these divisions meaningful? What if I want to know how e.g. a 3d Zelda stacks up for someone who's used to 2d Zeldas? The answer is badly Do we need a "fan of this series" vs "fan of series X" score?

Use meaningful divisions, if the game warrants five scores for five groups then it warrants five scores for five groups but what you're doing is force something non-uniform into a form. Don't force people to interpret which division is closest to the one they want.

Smash_BrotherNovember 02, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k But you still need to mention a fan of WHAT. What if there's more than one kind of fan involved? What if it's fans of strategy vs fans of story, which one gets the fan rating and which one goes into the other category?


Then the reviewer can elaborate on that fact in the paragraph under the "Fan" section. Mario Baseball, for example, could possibly appeal to fans of both baseball and Mario and I hardly think it's beyond the scope of human capability to address both in one paragraph.

I thought this discussion was about improving reviews for the sake of the readers, not suggesting that reviewers are a tired, beleaguered people who should feel free to fart whatever they want onto a page and call it a review.

Quote

Because not every game has a different value to different people?


You've stated a complete and total impossibility here. Every game will be viewed differently by different people and the deviations in gaming styles is the best place to define these lines since we are talking about reviewing games here.

Quote

But are these divisions meaningful? What if I want to know how e.g. a 3d Zelda stacks up for someone who's used to 2d Zeldas? The answer is badly Do we need a "fan of this series" vs "fan of series X" score?


Ocarina of Time:
Fan: 9.0
The game brings the world of Zelda to life in brilliant 3D for the first time ever. It should be noted that fans who cling to the 2D Zelda style may take some issue with the execution of Link's newest adventure but if the shift doesn't bother you, you'll love every minute of the game.


There, now was that so hard?

Quote

Use meaningful divisions, if the game warrants five scores for five groups then it warrants five scores for five groups but what you're doing is force something non-uniform into a form. Don't force people to interpret which division is closest to the one they want.


Who says people have to "force" themselves into a division?

I find all five scores are useful. For example, if a game gets...

Normal: 7.0
Hardcore: 5.0
Party: 9.5
Non: 9.0
Fan: 9.0

I can learn that a game has little difficulty, limited replay value alone, but kicks ass at parties where there will be people unfamiliar with games and fans of the series will love it.

Oh, by the way: that review was for Wario Ware: Smooth Moves and considering that I've used the game on Wii nights at a local bar, that review is spot-on. It also makes a great drinking game.

I consider myself all 5 scores, personally. I love good fun games, but I love challenge, and I love group gaming, and I love introducing games to non-gamers and I usually always come back for a good sequel.

The system is designed to show gamers where the appeal of a game may lie and WW is an excellent example because it lacks in the single player but has awesome multiplayer.

KDR_11kNovember 03, 2007

Fan: 9.0
The game brings the world of Zelda to life in brilliant 3D for the first time ever. It should be noted that fans who cling to the 2D Zelda style may take some issue with the execution of Link's newest adventure but if the shift doesn't bother you, you'll love every minute of the game.

There, now was that so hard?


So what's the score for 2d players?

WanderingNovember 03, 2007

Quote

If I, as a reviewer, say, "What would hardcore gamers think of this game? Are there difficult challenges which unlock extra content? Would they feel the desire to keep going until they got the most out of this game and is there a 'most' to get?" then god knows I'm doing a better job than if I thought, "This game is too f*cking hard. F*ck this game." and gave it a 3/10.

You can't speak for other people. You might think hardcore gamers will love Xtreme Gears Bloodfest 9000, and hate Shadows and Whispers: A Tale of Lost Love, but you can't know. You can say that you think Xtreme Gears is too hard, but you can't say that hardcore gamers will think it's legitimately challenging. Maybe they'll think it's really cheap. You can say you think Shadows and Whispers is beautiful, but you can't say that hardcore gamers will think it's boring. Maybe they'll love it just as much as you do.

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
Fan: 9.0
The game brings the world of Zelda to life in brilliant 3D for the first time ever. It should be noted that fans who cling to the 2D Zelda style may take some issue with the execution of Link's newest adventure but if the shift doesn't bother you, you'll love every minute of the game.

There, now was that so hard?


So what's the score for 2d players?


I think the 9 is for 2D players, the score for the people who like 3D is 14.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusNovember 03, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: wandering
Quote

If I, as a reviewer, say, "What would hardcore gamers think of this game? Are there difficult challenges which unlock extra content? Would they feel the desire to keep going until they got the most out of this game and is there a 'most' to get?" then god knows I'm doing a better job than if I thought, "This game is too f*cking hard. F*ck this game." and gave it a 3/10.

You can't speak for other people. You might think hardcore gamers will love Xtreme Gears Bloodfest 9000, and hate Shadows and Whispers: A Tale of Lost Love, but you can't know. You can say that you think Xtreme Gears is too hard, but you can't say that hardcore gamers will think it's legitimately challenging. Maybe they'll think it's really cheap. You can say you think Shadows and Whispers is beautiful, but you can't say that hardcore gamers will think it's boring. Maybe they'll love it just as much as you do.


This is a true point, but regardless of how good the review is, sometimes you are going to get burned. At least with this scale it really differentiates based on people's tastes and comes much closer to accurately portraying the game.

Smash_BrotherNovember 03, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: KDR_11k
So what's the score for 2d players?


9.0, minus however much preferring 2D Zeldas means to them, which is entirely feasible for the reader to decide.

You seem to think that because my system includes deviations that it must therefore include EVERY deviation possible. Covering the 5 basic gamer types is enough.

Like I said, my system may not be perfect, but this would be infinitely better than all of the OoT reviews which gave the game perfect 10s across the board and offered absolutely no caution regarding 2D or 3D preferences. If players were going to be burned on mine, they'd be roasted to ashes by the standard reviews.

Quote

You can't speak for other people.


Agreed, but this is already what every review does every time it's written. By saying "The controls are hard to manage", they're automatically writing off the fact that other people may not have a hard time with them. When they say, "The game is a dream come true", they once again ignore the fact that not every other individual will feel that way.

By breaking it down into 5 scores, the system at least ATTEMPTS to have the reviewer try on the shoes of others and see it from a different perspective. That alone makes it a better alternative to taking the word of a reviewer at face value when they say a game is good or bad.

KDR_11kNovember 03, 2007

9.0, minus however much preferring 2D Zeldas means to them, which is entirely feasible for the reader to decide.

When OOT came out there was no way to know how much it means to you :P.

I'm arguing that you're introducing scores without looking at the game. As I said, I often see reviews that mention conditions under which you might like the game more/less than normal. These conditions would remain, excpet maybe they'd have to also mention which of the five scores are affected.

If you really want those scores at least point out which ones are test results and which ones are guesses. When someone says the game is good for casuals but bad for hardcores you don't know per se which group the reviewer belongs to and which score is just extrapolated.

Smash_BrotherNovember 05, 2007

That would be ideal, and I agree that that exposes one key flaw in the system which is that one reviewer cannot possibly speak for all 5 scores with 100 % accuracy since some scores sit opposite each other.

I do appreciate it when a reviewer notes that he/she isn't the biggest fan of the genre as it further provides the reader with an idea of what to expect.

Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement