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#1 Posted by Craigieboy (114 posts) -

I enjoying gaming but I also like many aspects associated with the hobby as well. Part of that is critics and reviews of games from friends and strangers alike. Not only can it be a useful tool for making informed purchases on games but in general I like to see the various viewpoints of games I've played as well as games I might get into as well. I do like to write my own reviews from time to time as I find it challenging but also fun to form all of my opinions and thoughts on a particular game into a readable state. That said the scores you often see attributed to a game as a mark of it's quality are something I personally don't like and don't use myself.

There are definitely some positives from having a set scale to judge games against, especially for more casual users who just want a quick overview on whether the new triple A game is worth getting on day one or not. However if you try to look too deep into scores of games you can for sure find some oddities in there. A score on it's own can be misinterpreted by quite a margin depending on the game. A classic example I think most people here might know was the IGN review of Imagine Party Babyz which received a 7.5 out of 10 which in the context of that game is for all I know a fair reflection on how good that game is for the people that will buy it but people were quick to point out other games such as God Hand and The Last Guardian having lower scores. In no way should we really be comparing a party game on the Wii to something like The Last Guardian. It's a bit of a paradox since the scoring systems people use are universal for all games (ie a 1/10 is bad and a 10/10 is good) but each score is actually unique to that game.

I feel some people hold the grade a critic gives a game out of a certain scale a lot higher that what that person actually said about the game. This is made even more of an issue with what people perceive to be a "bad" score with 6-7/10 often seen as not good enough even if the reviewer has praised certain elements of the game in the review but overall felt the game deserved that score. I don't include a score when I've reviewed games because I don't want people to take two scores from seperate games that don't have much if anything in common and then ask me why one is better than the other.

I would be interested to hear what the GB community thinks on this subject if they share some of my remarks or have other reasons for or against scoring in reviews. I'm not suggesting they need to stop altogether, rather they just aren't relevant to me.

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#2 Edited by shivermetimbers (1706 posts) -

I think traditional 'consumer' critiques of games are dying out....somewhat. Rating the graphics, sound, how much fun or interesting the game was/is to the critic will probably always have an audience, but that audience is growing tired of hiveminds of the likes of IGN, Gamespot, and (yes to a small extent) Giant Bomb. Which is probably one of the reasons why GB has been lowering their review count or bringing in voices such as Austin Walker for a more nuanced perspective.

This is gonna sound weird and confusing, but I don't care if someone 'had fun' or 'enjoyed this aspect of the game' anymore. I can usually look at a gameplay trailer and figure stuff like that out myself. I want to know what the game's design is implying and if it makes sense in context. There is now a resurgence of new game criticism spearheaded by more independent and freelance writers and they don't use scores (or rarely). Scores really exist for the consumer perspective and it doesn't tell me anything other than attempting to quantify the un-quantifiable.

Edit: when I say, "This is gonna sound weird and confusing, but I don't care if someone 'had fun' or 'enjoyed this aspect of the game' anymore." I'm referring to the notion that most consumer oriented outlets employ of talking about things such as the graphics and gameplay and attempting to quantify their enjoyment with them. It's fine to enjoy something, in fact criticism should reflect what they're feeling. However, I want critics to go deep under the hood into the game's design and talk about what they thought about it.

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#3 Posted by MiniPato (3014 posts) -

It took a lot of maturing for me to stop taking review scores so personally. Posting on gaming forums since my early teens, I definitely got caught up in the score comparisons and "taking reviewers to task" by comparing an old review of a completely different game to another irrelevant game and going "SO THIS REVIEWER IS SAYING THIS GAME IS WORSE/JUST AS GOOD AS THIS GAME?!" And other tired immature arguments like "there should be no 10/10 games because no game is perfect!" thinking I was being very clever and perceptive. I posted on gametrailers a lot and watched their reviews and basically thought reviewing should be a math where you assign a number to different aspects of the game like graphics, sound, story, gameplay, and then take the total average to get the score. At the time, I thought that was a good objective approach to reviewing/criticism. A lot of my forum activity during my youth was definitely spent arguing that some games weren't getting the right numbers that they deserved and how so-and-so publication sucks at games/ got paid/ isn't qualified, etc. if they didn't give a game the "right" score.

It wasn't until I joined Giantbomb that I started to drop that mentality and stopped trying to look at reviews as a defined math and started looking at reviews as more of a general feel. I started to see how unnecessarily stratified a 10/10.0 scale is for categorizing your opinions. What's the difference between a 2/10 and a 3/10? A five star scale makes more sense since most people consider anything below a 6/10 to be a failure anyways. I think the reason why people, including old me, cling to a 10 point scale is due to this need to rank every single game ever. Scores are seen as a tier list to validate people's opinions on what game is better than other games. That's what drives people to make arguments like "Oh sure Mario Odyssey and BotW are both 10/10 games, but I would say Mario is a 9.8 and Zelda is a 9.9 because I like Zelda better." It's essentially GB's top 10 GOTY debates happening on gaming forums on a constant basis. There's also the unfortunate habit of people equating good reviews to their favorite franchise surviving and getting a sequel. So they think there is some onus on reviewers to keep their favorite series alive by giving it a good score and as a result there's a lot of bitterness and digging into a reviewers past reviews and doing that ugly "how can you give this shitty game a good review and give my favorite franchise game a bad one?!"

I glance at rotten tomatoes to determine if a movie is worth driving out to a theater to see. I don't compare movie scores and wonder why some movies get better scores than other movies. Mostly because most movie reviewers don't do review scores. At most, rotten tomatoes does the "scoring" and even then they just determine if the reviewer liked it (fresh) or didn't (rotten). So scores are useful for me for a quick recommendations during a boring weekend or something. If I wanted to read an in depth criticism or review, then a score is irrelevant, it's the content of the review that matters in that case. The more I've gotten older, the more I realize that I enjoy talking about the actual content of the art rather than comparing scores. Throwing around numbers and scores is not valuable discourse.

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#4 Posted by odinsmana (982 posts) -

I feel some people hold the grade a critic gives a game out of a certain scale a lot higher that what that person actually said about the game. This is made even more of an issue with what people perceive to be a "bad" score with 6-7/10 often seen as not good enough even if the reviewer has praised certain elements of the game in the review but overall felt the game deserved that score. I don't include a score when I've reviewed games because I don't want people to take two scores from separate games that don't have much if anything in common and then ask me why one is better than the other.

To be fair to the consumer I think the problem with people thinking that 6/10 games are bad is mostly the fault of reviewers. Reviewers that use the 10 point scale almost never use the lower half of that scale and when pretty much no games are below a 5 I think it becomes natural for readers to think of 5 as a bad score.

It`s part of the reason why I vastly prefer the 5 star system that GB uses. There are not too few and not too many point which means that every star has a clear definition: 1- terrible, 2 - bad, 3 - OK, 4 - Good and 5 - Amazing. Because of this the whole scale is actually used and the different points don`t lose their meaning.

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#5 Edited by Craigieboy (114 posts) -

@odinsmana I think some of that is determining what a "bad" game is? I generally think the majority of mainstream games that get released are at the very least "OK" to play. If you want to grade each game coming out over the last few years, the worst game might still be fine all things considered and be liked by a portion of the gaming community.

Mostly though I do think some reviewers feel pressure from various sources to give higher scores to games that might not deserve them.

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#6 Posted by nutter (2111 posts) -

Games, movies, music. It’s subjective. There’s someone out there for everything.

I rarely read reviews. When I do, it’s more to get an idea of what other’s thought after I’ve consumed something. While Godfather parts 1 and 2, Tetris, The Last of Us, Halo: Combat Evolved and others are acclaimed and some of my favorites, I like some stuff that folks frown upon and dislike some stuff that people tend to like.

I think Pacific Rim is a terrible movie. I thought The Last Jedi was a slow motion trainwreck. Iron Man 3 is one of my favorite Marvel films. I enjoyed Beyond: Two Souls quite a bit, but thought Until Dawn was trash. I will always defend Shadowrun (360) and Perfect Dark Zero’s Dark Ops mode as deep, enjoyable shooters.

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#7 Posted by OurSin_360 (6158 posts) -

I still look at scores but only before i see what users and critics i respect have to say. I look at user reviews for common themes to get past whatever hyperbole being spewed 90% of the time. A lot of games can be good and i will know i wont like them based off what people actually say about them rather than the blanket score it gets. Like at this point i know i wont like rockstar games or "most" open world games for that matter.

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#8 Posted by HellBrendy (1306 posts) -

I love Kotaku's "Should you play this? Yes/No" It's simple and effective.

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#9 Posted by gamer_152 (14746 posts) -

Jeff has frequently said that review scores here are only intended to be an incredibly broad guide to a game's quality and I believe that's the only way you can use them. Even then, I think they're of very limited use. We know review scores are not objective because the process used to generate them is not scientific, and that's not to say a subjective assessment of a game is useless, but taste is also subjective, so a review score alone tells you nothing about how much you'd like the game. For most people, there is media that is considered of a high quality by the majority of people that they would hate or considered of a low quality by the majority but which they would love, and they probably have plenty of feelings about pieces of media which come down in between those extremes. This is why, in a product review, the review text exists, because this actually gives you an idea of the perceived highs and lows of the game from the reviewer's perspective, and you can decide whether you'd enjoy the game by comparing your opinion to theirs. Maybe they say the story is paced poorly but you're not really too put off by bad story pacing, maybe they say the controls are snappy and that's something you care about for the genre of game on display. Even this is not a replacement for having the game in your hands, but it's the only way anyone can form an opinion based around a product review; by weighing up your opinion against the reviewer's.

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#10 Posted by TheHT (15837 posts) -

I prefer eyeballing the scores first and foremost, with higher scores either reassuring me that a game I was already interested in isn't completely borked, or letting me know that I should probably look into something I wasn't otherwise interested in (with no guarantee I'll be convinced to give it a shot of course).

It's like window shopping, but for... reviews. :\

Anyways, I don't actually care much for what the reviewer has to say. Some I'll check out (namely GB folks), because I have a fair sense at this point of the way the look at video games (and appreciate it). Other places, mmm not so much.

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#11 Posted by DoubleCakes (34 posts) -

Most games I play nowadays I hear about from other people and the specific things they talk about. Conversations on mechanics, writing, frustrations and challenge will inspire me to check out a game (or not). There have been many games where I hadn't heard anyone talk about them so I go to Steam reviews and I check out what people complain/praise the game for.

In the same time, when I review a game on Steam I'll usually recommend it but I'll also bring up loads of praise and criticisms so that readers get a good feeling of what the game is like and what things they'll get from it and what things they might find bad.

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#12 Posted by Tesla (2296 posts) -

I think most of us go through a maturation process with regards to review scores and how we feel about them. I used to care about them in a tribal way; I wanted the games I liked to get better scores than games I didn't like so that me and my team would 'win'. As I grew up, I stopped looking at scores as discrete measurements of quality and started viewing them as a percent chance that I might enjoy a game.

Basically, I stopped using review scores to validate my opinions and started using them to help me broaden my horizons and play things I might not have otherwise checked out.

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#13 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4316 posts) -

3 ways i use reviews (& scores)

1. I read what a gb staffmember thinks of a game.

2. I want to play a game but not really sure which one. I browse the metacritic ratings to see what jumps out at me. I'll probably end at the low 70's. Steam wishlist & library is a good shorthand, but with so many games coming out there are always games out there that i just miss.

3. I play a game and wonder what the general consensus was of that game at the time, i look at it, and carry on.

If you start comparing scores to other scores and care about it, you're doing it wrong in my opinion.

Like a visual novel is going for completely different things than a blockbuster shooter. Why would you compare them to eachother as games and not look at them as 2 products that go for entirely different things?

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#14 Posted by Big_Denim (833 posts) -

Another key contributing factor for me is who the reviewer is. Any praising review by Vinny or Abby is something I'll take with a grain of salt. It's not a knock against them, it's just that our tastes don't align at all. On the flipside, I'll play just about anything Brad enjoys since I always seem to enjoy similar games as him.

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#15 Posted by Craigieboy (114 posts) -

@big_denim: This is arguably one of the most important things to consider when looking reviews up for a game you might buy. We all have different tastes, If I was interested in a game from a particular genre I like such as a Racing Sim then I would want so see a review from someone who is well versed in that genre and knows all the subtle nuances that come along with it. A review from someone who has never played such games trying to critique something like Gran Turismo would have little use to me specifically as I would be wanting to know more of the nitty gritty details rather than "The cars look nice and there is a lot of tracks"

It's also something I thought about myself when I reviewed things, I avoided certain games and genres because I knew I wouldn't be able to accurately review them to the people that would want to play them. In some of the instances where I left my comfort zone in retrospect I was unhappy with what I wrote.

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#16 Edited by fatalbanana (1106 posts) -

The important thing I always bring up in conversations like these is that no one piece of information is meant to be taken on its own. Whether its the score on a review, the text or the review as a whole. Very rarely do the people who look at reviews regularly look at a review score with that alone being what is informing them. Every bit of information works in conjunction with each other to inform, that is if the review is if well written. I doubt you would find many people that have written reviews say that they write them with the assumption that readers are only reading their words and deliberately blocking out any and all other information about the thing they are reading. How often do you read a review and have heard/seen nothing about the game beforehand then you look at one score on its own and decide whether or not to buy the game? Not to say that doesn't happen but I'm willing to say that if you are paying attention to the point that review scores matter that much to you that can't be the only thing informing you. And if that's the case then scores have a real tangible purpose.

So to single out scores I think is to ignore how they are used in conjunction with every other piece of information. Even if you don't read the text in the review, scores are just another piece of information. It's a reviewers job to give as much information as possible and trust that the readers use it in whichever way they choose. Their job isn't to tell people what information to focus on or what is and what is not the most important part to them. With youtube, twitch, podcasts, screenshots, word of mouth, customer reviews, reviews from other outlets, to say scores alone are what people are going off of and that's a bad thing I just don't think is how the majority of people make their decisions. If it is then they are voluntarily deciding not to be informed and that's on them.

Who are we to say what information is good for other people? It's the consumers choice to be informed on the thing they are buying. Omitting a piece of information because it isn't being used the way you think it should be is worse then someone deciding not to be educated. That's my take on it anyway.

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#17 Posted by The_Greg (539 posts) -

Reviews are completely subjective. I try to ignore scores and go off the content of the review and match it up with my tastes.

For example, if a reviewer praises a game, saying that all the characters are believable children, I will avoid that game like the plague. I don't want that.

On the other hand, if someone reviewed a game and said the gun-play is amazing and every mission is an adventure through a detailed environment, but the main character is a chauvinistic brute, then I probably will play that game because I like shooting things in cool places whilst not giving a f**k about anyone but myself.

I can't help but notice the scores though. I like the Giant Bomb 5-star method. It pretty much boils it down to a 'would recommend/would not recommend' level of simplicity that I can appreciate.

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#18 Posted by glots (4295 posts) -

I sometimes get overly excited when I see a row of 5/5 scores on a game, but those games I've pretty much always already decided on buying beforehand. I definitely don't share the insane mentality of those people, who are ready to send death threads due to their favourite game getting a low score. It's the same kind of bullshit that happens during GOTY, like this (at best) ONE negative score is going to turn the game they like into a pile of shit and kill off the developer.

I just listened to an older Beastcast episode this week and they talked about reviews in it, with Dan bringing up another issue I hate, aka, if you give the game a high score you're obviously getting paid for it, and if you give it a low score, then it's obviously out of spite because you hate the developer or didn't get paid. I personally know a few people like that and nearly want to slap them across the face when that happens.

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#19 Posted by LittleWask (115 posts) -

Traditional reviews just don't do much for me. I'd much rather listen to a podcast from people I trust, or watch a quick look, and suss it out from there. Review scores only have weight because we, collectively, give them weight.

That said, I'll probably never stop saying, whenever Polygon gives a game a score over 7, "well I guess it's better than The Last of Us". It's just too fun to stop.