Have you ever read a review and then looked down at the score and been confused by just how the writer came to their numerical concussion? Or have you just looked past all the written content the reviewer put down there for you to read and analyse just to see what the score was and decided if you wanted it based off that? Maybe you’ve had the same thought I’ve had before and asked yourself why do we even have these scores? To explain if the game is good or bad? Well I say that’s what the written review is for. Well I took the next step over and asked if these reviews are really even needed at all.
There are sites like Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun that do away with numerical values at the end of a review and just talk about the game itself. I think this is how game reviews should be written with less emphasis placed on giving a game a score and more placed on the reading the review and understanding the reviewers point of view. Listen, at the end of day every review is the opinion of a game from the reviewers perspective, therefore every review is going to be different. One game getting a 5 out of 10 from one reviewer could get an 8 out of 10 from another reviewer so I feel like these numbers are just so arbitrary that they shouldn’t be included at all. I mean constitutes one game getting a 8.6 for example and another getting a 8.7 and the same can be said to a game getting a 7.5 and a game getting a 7.0… it’s all subjective.
Part of the problem is that we, as human beings, like to put a score on everything from toys, books, food, movies whatever you can get you can buy you can bet that there is a rating system for it so, of course, why wouldn’t we do this with video games? It also makes having a scoring system an easy way to rate things for comparison, but honestly I think we need to move away from this mindset when it comes to games. I feel games are such a complex experience and can have so much depth that assigning a number to that seems pointless.
Then there are things like publishers being known to give developers bonuses when they get a Metacritic score of whatever number they need. Now, I’m not gonna say this changes the game completely in a developers mind, but it could encourage them to rethink some things about what they wanna put in their game or wanting to add pointless filler to make a game longer because longer games get higher scores. It also encourages the developer to maybe play it safe in order to get a good score instead of taking a risk and going for something innovative to change things up. Publishers have also reportedly been known to use a Metacritic score of a developer’s previous games as something of a resume to see if they can give them what they ask for or they even low ball them because of their numbers were not to their liking.
When it comes to online games I think a review a score is not needed even more because online games could be bad at release, but then comes expansion packs or patches that fixes up the problems that were found when the game launched. Look at Destiny for example, the game had no story and was a total grind-fest when it launched but look at it now, The Taken King is in full effect and it’s a much better game as a result. Games that receive periodically patches like League of Legends, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft are completely different games from when they came out. Now that there are patches coming out for games all of the time, and DLC and season passes being the norm, review scores really feel like they don’t have a place in the industry.
Removing review scores would force the consumer to actually research and read reviews for the games that they want to play in order to get a good quality representation of what to expect, they’re likely to be better informed about the game instead of making judgement purely on seeing a number attached. I get that there are bad games and good games but even the most critically acclaimed game can get its fair share of people not liking it, and even the most garbage heap, bargain bin junk will have a following despite its flaws.
I understand we have a long way to go before we even possibly start to get more game reviewing websites to stop using numerical scores, and that will only happen if the more established sites take that first jump and make this the industry norm.