Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Why We're Using Review Scores

Russ Pitts | 9 Feb 2010 16:00
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Although it has been our policy in the past to offer reviews as pure editorial without appending a numerical score, we believe it is possible to change with the times without compromising our core values and integrity. We can offer both experiential, meaningful reviews and review scores, and if, by so doing, we are able to continue to grow and evolve and welcome more readers into our world and way of looking at the experience of playing games, then we see no clear reason not to.

I can assure you this was not a decision we made lightly or without years of deliberation. In fact, we've been arguing about whether or not to implement review scores at The Escapist since we first published a review almost four years ago. The last time we discussed the issue, I remember voting decisively - and loudly - against it. Times, however, change, and we must change with them lest we fall victim to our inner hobgoblins.

In our internal debates regarding review scores a couple of criticisms against the policy continue to come up, and I would like to address both of them with you.

The first criticism is that review scores can provide game publishers leverage to use against us in order to coerce us into compromising our editorial ideals. A publisher could, for example, threaten us in some way if we offer a review score lower than what they feel they've earned.

I know this is true. We've seen it happen over and over again. Fortunately for us, The Escapist was founded in the belief that our editorial integrity is sacred, and that no publisher will have the right to dictate what we can and can't say about a game. I'm pleased to say that, to this date, we have an unblemished record in this regard, and I don't expect that to ever change.

The second major objection to review scores is that they encourage readers to marginalize the written content of the review. Again, this is true. I've seen hard statistics that show many readers of game reviews will scan the page for the review score only and ignore the rest of the content.

I don't like this. As a reviewer, I work very hard on the review for each game I play, and I put as much - if not more - effort into it as I do my lengthiest articles for The Escapist. I believe that the bond between reviewer and reader is one of the holiest trusts, and I agonize each and every time over my description of the experience of playing a given game.

Therefore it pains me to no end that some readers may open up my review - or any review at The Escapist - only to look for our number of stars, then flit off without reading a single word of what we've written about the game. Ultimately, however, if that's how readers choose to consume our work, I can't stop them, and those people who would be inclined to do so aren't reading our reviews right now, so we are losing nothing. Perhaps, even, if we're lucky, we're gaining.

If one single drive-by reader stops to take a breath, reads our excellent review prose and learns just a little bit about how meaningful these experiences can be, then I think that will be one for the "win" column. After all, why are we here if not to share?

I know there are many, many more reasons not to offer review scores, but these are the key two we have debated for the past four years at The Escapist, and the ones for which - until we had an answer - we saw no good reason to change. We hope that you, dear readers, will accept this change as gracefully as always, and that you will stand with us as we attempt to prove that scores and integrity are not mutually exclusive.

We've written a handy explanation of our scoring system which should explain what we mean when we say a game deserves however many "stars." You can read this here, and it will be remaining on the site and linked to from every review.

As far as the content of the reviews themselves, we trust that you will find it hasn't changed a bit with the addition of scores, and we promise that it never will.

Russ Pitts

Russ Pitts

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