Going Gold: Practicalities Makes Perfect

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Going Gold: Practicalities Makes Perfect

Are games getting better or are reviews getting worse?

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Games are getting better, but reviewer's standard aren't getting higher.

For industry, reviews to them is a mean for advertising.

vivaldiscool:
Games are getting better, but reviewer's standard aren't getting higher.

You think so? Reviewers are the ones who gave games like No More Heroes and GTA4 top scores.

I think games stopped getting better overall in 1998.

. . . very little comment about the equivalent trend of runaway reviews scores in the West.

Must be joking. I thought customers had given up professional reviews as rotten (both in the sense of morally corrupt and so-bad-that-they're-stinking) years ago.

I'd say it is a mix. Games seem to be evolving, rather than getting better shall we say. And reviewers standards seem to be getting pretty low. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal opinion. Can't really dispute that can you?

40/40 for a rehashed 2.5D remake of a classic game...Sir they have already lost their credibility. Its nothing more than Nintendo paying them under the table for that score. Famitsu you are fail in my book.

There are more and more quality gaming experiences, exceptional in how they play but nothing fantastic or standout that isnt based on hype. I agree, if the score are objective in anyway than logic would dictate you give credit where credit is due. Scores should be going up since i can spend all day just listing all the excellent (but not GREAT) games just in 2009.

Ya know, this reminds me of a few games I thought should have been good.

Namely Mirror's Edge. It was a first person adventure game. Fairly unique and tried something new. Looking at Meta, it did rather well to garner a 79-81. My issue with it is the game should have been higher because it was something new.

Another game that probably needed a better look through is Kane & Lynch. I had high hopes for it until it came out. It wasn't panned universally, but at 65, would it be worth a run through when there's Modern Warfare out that is all the more intriguing? At $60 dollars, I want a darned investment. Something it seems these two games don't necessarily offer. My issue with K&L was the fact that it looked and played as if it should have been on the PS2. I had already played that game. Freedom Fighters. Rather good but they could have done more with the tactics involved.

In short, I feel that there continue to be great games out there, scores be damned. Just because Metacritic puts it out there, it doesn't necessarily make it so much worse than the biggest and best. Hell, look at Mega Man 9 with a score of 77.

DTWolfwood:
40/40 for a rehashed 2.5D remake of a classic game...Sir they have already lost their credibility. Its nothing more than Nintendo paying them under the table for that score. Famitsu you are fail in my book.

There are more and more quality gaming experiences, exceptional in how they play but nothing fantastic or standout that isnt based on hype. I agree, if the score are objective in anyway than logic would dictate you give credit where credit is due. Scores should be going up since i can spend all day just listing all the excellent (but not GREAT) games just in 2009.

Despite the fact that it's completely based on decades old conventions, NSMBWii is a stunningly well made platformer, with challenging gameplay that never becomes frustrating, creative level design, and very very fun multiplayer. I see no problem with giving this game a perfect score at all, as it is easily one of the best 2d/2.5d platformers of the decade. So what do you think? Was I payed by nintendo under the table?

I think people are just putting too much stock in the actual score, vice what the reviewer actually says. You should hear what the man or woman reviewing the game has to say, which is why I like the reviews here on The Escapist. Numbers are arbitrary. Yes all reveiws are opinions, but if you nitpick about the same sort of things the reviewer does, then you have a better chance of choosing the right game for you.

If you just go to a site, see an 80/100, you don't know *why* it's an 80. It could be because of things that aren't even that important to you, but are a wet dream to the reviewer.

Most recent example: Pretty much everyone and their dog gave MW2 an almost perfect score, from what I've seen. The ONLY reason I play it, is because my roomate has it, and because you can use a riot sheild in multiplayer. It's a not a bad game overall, but it seems like a freshman title from a company that's been doing stuff like this for years. I expected a lot more for $60. It even was on sale for $43 at Amazon the other day. Still passed it up.

I disagree. Games aren't getting better. Reviews are getting worse - or, rather, the standards of reviewers are lowering with the times.

No one in their right minds would argue that "games have gotten better". While it's true that the tools of game design have become better over time, the rigs the PC gamers have have gotten stronger, and the audience playing games has gotten larger, this doesn't suggest that the creative result of design itself has advanced at all.

Design is facing too many challenges in the gaming industry to do more than stagnate or deteriorate. Let's look into those, shall we?

1) There are rising development costs for commercially produced games, as graphical expectation is reaching into the stratosphere.
2) There is increasing financial success for small-design cost games and mods through systems such as Steam, leading to the big companies like EA making Russian Roulette-like cuts to their spending on each individual game to compete and potentially save money in the process. This makes unfinished games, downloadable endings (the worst kind of downloadable content) and very little funding for glitch testing far more common.
3) Both of the above problems are exacerbated in the context of the economic crisis, which is badly impacting all luxury and entertainment industries.
4) Let's face it, if we know anything about Charles Darwin, the creative abilities of humanity are unlikely to be evolving over time in general, and game design is no exception. As games have made a financial shift to America over Japan, the great minds behind the perfect scoring games of the 90's (many of which deserved such treatment) have been unable to reach the kind of ridiculous funding trash like Halo or Call of Duty gets (anyone who has ever seen a sci-fi or war movie will have seen exactly how much "creativity" went into those highly acclaimed modern series, and that is none).
5) The increasing market for video games in the casual sector has lead to less effort being taken to actually make a game in the true tradition of immersion that we saw in, say, Ocarina of Time, instead following the path of cheap novelty value, like in Wii Sports. The very magic that was so highly valued in the old days, and which allowed reviewers to be very discriminating with their scores, has been forgotten in the switch from the detail-oriented Japanese process to the money-focused American Hollywood-style crap spinner.
6) Reviews themselves are now much less limited to professionals than they were (Rotten Tomatoes being one example, GameFAQs being another), and the fanbases themselves are far more interconnected than they used to be, leading to a vast increase in fanboy power on such sites, giving perfect scores to games with completely tasteless and blatantly stolen ideas. What's worse, these fanbases often have ways of influencing actual professionals in the reviewing business through the social "wow" factor of the dreaded exclamation "the best game ever", doing massive damage to objectivity.

In the process of such shifts, it was inevitable that games developing companies and eventually reviewers themselves were going to forget that it was still entirely possible to make more games of equal designing greatness to Ocarina of Time. Instead, it was realised that it was much easier and more profitable to steal ideas from successful movies than to make entirely original, interesting worlds. So, if the perfect score is more common, I will say that it is merely a result of a lack of long-term perception on the part of reviewers and a lowering of expectations for a generation of people, most of which have never seen a game with the creative excellence of Super Mario 64.

Until 2009, I've felt this has been the best generation of games since the SNES. I still stand by that statement. With the N64 and PSX, developers were dealing with horrid graphics and new 3-D technologies that they weren't used to. This trend improved in the PS2, Xbox and GameCube, but it was actually the one generation of games that bored me the most overall. The good releases felt fewer and farther between.

This generation has been different. Even the bland games are fun enough. Developers have figured out how to make a good game, but it's as Christian Ward said. The number of truly stellar titles is shrinking. So many games can be swapped out and exchanged for others. Do you really think all these shooters are that incredible, or is it just like the 90's rise of fuzzy mascots?

The problem with review scores is that they reinforce a love-it-or-hate-it relationship with games. It's either super duper awesome sauce (80-100%) or it's not worth ejaculate (79% and below). Bill Kunkel spoke of this with some other folks at VGXPO this year during a panel, a 7-8 gap that keeps people from even touching decent ideas.

Plus, game journalists are just that. Journalists. They know how to go out and find news (and, most often, hype), but they aren't critics. They are just well written opinions of any other asshole you've spoken with on a forum. These aren't people that can look back and try and piece together amazing evolution in game design, from Super Mario Bros. to Mario Bros. 3 to Donkey Kong Country (some of the greatest evolutions in the side-scrolling platformer ever) for example. They're just gamers. The industry needs a separation of game journalists, fact finders and news hypers, and game critics, people like Yahtzee and Shamus Young on this site that have an eye for design and are able to pick apart the smallest flaw while still being able to enjoy a game (that's right! Most games on Zero Punctuation aren't actually bad! He's just pointing out the flaws no other reviewer will because they're a typical unsophisticated gamer that doesn't care or understand that level of design!).

I also agree with Christian Ward in his referencing the different magazines and papers that reviewed 2012. I would LOVE to write for a newspaper like the Philadelphia Inquirer, who seems to get their game reviews pulled from a bunch of other websites (they don't actually put anything into print), but I don't know how to approach them on such a topic. Plus, I doubt they'd listen anyway (I've tried to inquire about it before and gotten no response, but let's face it. There's a good reason the Philadelphia Inquirer is in trouble, and that's because they don't know how to move with the times, no matter how hard they try).

Yet from here there are so many other issues with the games industry that, well, it's just one symptom of a greater problem.

Also, Famitsu doesn't necessarily give 40/40 just by being bought out. I've read in a few sources that they also will modify a score based on how well it would likely sell anyway. For example, you'll never see a SquareEnix game score low because people in Japan will by it no matter the quality.

Which is just a weird system, but honestly, can you say giving the shitty GTA franchise a 10/10 each time isn't the same thing?

Silva:
I disagree. Games aren't getting better. Reviews are getting worse - or, rather, the standards of reviewers are lowering with the times.

No one in their right minds would argue that "games have gotten better".

I would. Then again, there's a question whether I'm in my right mind ;-D

While it's true that the tools of game design have become better over time, the rigs the PC gamers have have gotten stronger, and the audience playing games has gotten larger, this doesn't suggest that the creative result of design itself has advanced at all.

True, but it DOES suggest that the ability of the people who make games to capture their design has gotten better.

It's like...it's like giving Jimi Hendrix an electric guitar if he'd been on acoustic his whole life. I'm sure with his talent, Jimi (or your guitar god of choice) would have been great even if he was born back in the stone age, picking away on some Flinstones instrument. However, more developed technology allowed more of his talent to shine through.

Same thing with game design: even if game design hasn't advanced, the ability of a game to contain what the creator was imagining has. I mean, I'm sure the number of great movies went up as movies developed the ability to use audio. Does that mean the standards of movie critics for films of the talkie era were lower than those of the reviewers of the silent film era? No--it just means technology allowed for more of the creativity to be captured by the medium.

Christian Ward:
What we have seen is a real increase in the solid-but-unspectacular game, the one that hits all the bases and does almost everything right, but which just doesn't quite do anything brilliantly. You used to see a lot more games on either end of the bell curve - spectacular duds and audacious successes. But despite what Edge and Famitsu would say, I feel we're getting a lot of congregation in the middle these days.

I recently saw the music critic Simon Reynolds make the same argument concerning music through the decades. "I reckon that if you were to draw up a top 2,000 albums of every pop decade and compare them, the noughties [2000-2009] would win," Reynolds wrote last week. "But I also reckon that if you were to compare the top 200 albums, it'd be the other way around... the 70s would slightly less narrowly beat the 80s, the 80s would decisively beat the 90s, and the 90s would leave the noughties trailing in the dust."

this is somewhat related to the point above: in the 60s/70s pop music technique and recording technology really matured. I saw a documentary about how John Entwhistle of The Who had a choice between becoming a rock bassist or a horn player. He chose the former because he saw that the story of how to play the horn had already been written, but he would have a chance to define how the bass guitar would be played--he was there at the start of it all for that instrument. Well, that's why you're going to find less of a bell curve in the 60s/70s: that was the era where the technology caught up to the technique and pop music for the electric era found its footing.

Right now we're on the tail end of the technology of gaming catching up to the technique: graphics are good enough for characters to show emotion; sound quality to match the cinema; the move to 3D; photorealism that might not be perfect, but falls farther towards 'film' than towards 'cartoon' if we put them on a spectrum; quality voice acting; etc.

Maybe that explains why you and Edge/Famitsu disagree: in music terms, maybe we're right on the cusp of the 60s/70s.

Christian Ward works for a major publisher. Silent Hill 2 has a Metascore of only 89? Sacrilege.

Don't forget: Pitchfork gave "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" an 8.7 and Rolling Stone gave it a three out of five, while the Village Voice ranked Hole's "Celebrity Skin" album above it for the year: some things are *too* good to be recognized in their own time ;-D

ccesarano:

This generation has been different. Even the bland games are fun enough.

I agree with this.

Developers have figured out how to make a good game, but it's as Christian Ward said. The number of truly stellar titles is shrinking. So many games can be swapped out and exchanged for others. Do you really think all these shooters are that incredible, or is it just like the 90's rise of fuzzy mascots?

But not with this: I think all these shooters are better compared to the fighting games of the 90s, which *were* incredible. I think you can no more swap out Halo for Call of Duty than you could Mortal Kombat for Virtua Fighter (all four are games I love).

I wonder if stellar titles are really shrinking, or if the people who talk about games are just...well, they can't see new games with fresh eyes. I left console gaming behind for the PC a looong time ago: the gap for me is between the Sega Genesis and buying a PS2 for God of War just because it looked so awesome and I didn't realize consoles could do that now.

And I've noticed that...these games are really good! That's what happens when you're away from everything but fighters/RTS/4X for a decade. It's a glass half full/half empty situation: is it that I'm a n00b all over again and I'm easily impressed? Or is it that people who have been around gaming long enough to know what they are talking about are jaded?

Cheeze_Pavilion:

While it's true that the tools of game design have become better over time, the rigs the PC gamers have have gotten stronger, and the audience playing games has gotten larger, this doesn't suggest that the creative result of design itself has advanced at all.

True, but it DOES suggest that the ability of the people who make games to capture their design has gotten better.

It's like...it's like giving Jimi Hendrix an electric guitar if he'd been on acoustic his whole life. I'm sure with his talent, Jimi (or your guitar god of choice) would have been great even if he was born back in the stone age, picking away on some Flinstones instrument. However, more developed technology allowed more of his talent to shine through.

Same thing with game design: even if game design hasn't advanced, the ability of a game to contain what the creator was imagining has. I mean, I'm sure the number of great movies went up as movies developed the ability to use audio. Does that mean the standards of movie critics for films of the talkie era were lower than those of the reviewers of the silent film era? No--it just means technology allowed for more of the creativity to be captured by the medium.

I have to agree with this particular statement, but I also think something needs to be added. Along with games better being able to capture the story the designer intended, as games start to be considered a more legitimate outlet, greater creative minds start finding themselves attracted to video game design. It's much like your comparison to John Entwhistle. I imagine, had he gone on to play the horn instead of bass, he would have become equally great. However, he chose bass, and rock music benefited greatly for it. In the same way, gaming has people such as Hideo Kojima with the Metal Gear Solid series, and the minds behind Bioshock. They could have gone on to likely become great film writers (which some may argue Kojima does anyway), or novelists, or whatever you may have. However, they went to gaming. And gaming has benefited all the more for it. As I said in my post on the Escapist's glory days, they aren't behind us. We're still living them. We make them happen. These are the glory days.

jabu354:

DTWolfwood:
40/40 for a rehashed 2.5D remake of a classic game...Sir they have already lost their credibility. Its nothing more than Nintendo paying them under the table for that score. Famitsu you are fail in my book.

There are more and more quality gaming experiences, exceptional in how they play but nothing fantastic or standout that isnt based on hype. I agree, if the score are objective in anyway than logic would dictate you give credit where credit is due. Scores should be going up since i can spend all day just listing all the excellent (but not GREAT) games just in 2009.

Despite the fact that it's completely based on decades old conventions, NSMBWii is a stunningly well made platformer, with challenging gameplay that never becomes frustrating, creative level design, and very very fun multiplayer. I see no problem with giving this game a perfect score at all, as it is easily one of the best 2d/2.5d platformers of the decade. So what do you think? Was I payed by nintendo under the table?

Stunningly well made or not, it's still a 2.5D game. You can only make so many things with basic ingredients, like just cheese and bread, even if the result tastes pretty good, and tasted pretty good in the past. The limits of the form/genre shine right through, fun or not.

Besides of which, it's hella cheaper to blow the dust out of my old Mario 3 cartridge, and give that a crank.

I have to say I think its not that games are getting worse per se, just no one appears to have any vision or drive to make a game that really pushes the boat out.

I mean take two of the best games of this year, Dragon Age and CoD:MW2, both great games for their time period, but lets compare them to a decade ago. Dragon Age vs Baldur's Gate 2, almost exactly the same concepts with little changed except voice acting and graphics. MW2 vs Half Life, update Half Lifes graphics and aside from a few set pieces MW2 wouldn't have much of an edge to be honest.

Both are good games, but they are good for precisely the SAME reasons as their forebears were. If anything I think reviewers have gotten much less demanding. If you read reviews from the mid-late 90s you really felt like the reviewers were reviewing for "you" and by "you" I mean the hardcore gamer. Now even in more specialised publications I feel like they are always reviewing for the mindless gamers who never played any of the classics and just want to see someones head explode. MW2 getting near perfect scores across the console board was a mind boggling example of this.

I have on occasion wondered if Yahtzee has been given a little something by a game company to rag extra hard on their game to increase it's popularity. No offense mate, but in an industry of corrupt magazine and game websites, its hard to know who you can trust to be honest. If it came across as an insult, it wasn't meant to be.

Games arn't getting any better; Mario is the same little fat man in red overalls still saving the habituablly abductable Princess from the same overzealous overlord. The only difference is it looks a little better. Crysis is just running around shooting bad guys trying to save the world, Doom (the original) did that too, Crysis just happens to look better.

Technologically games are getting better, but that is merely evolution. Gameplay is where there has been no improvement.

Has anyone noticed that the Going Gold logo on page 1 wiggles as you read the article? CRAZY!!!

GonzoGamer:

vivaldiscool:
Games are getting better, but reviewer's standard aren't getting higher.

You think so? Reviewers are the ones who gave games like No More Heroes and GTA4 top scores.

(ignoring the fact those are both very good games) that's exactly my point. Games like that would've been mind-boggling back in 2002. Things that are standard to day would've been unthinkable then. Game's general standard of quality has progressed naturally, but reviewer standards haven't progresssed relativally alongside that. I get the feeling a lot of games are still reviewed with that 2002 mindset. For instance, why are reviewer's still creaming themselves over openworld games when there has easily been over a Dozen triple A titles featuring them?

008Zulu:
I have on occasion wondered if Yahtzee has been given a little something by a game company to rag extra hard on their game to increase it's popularity. No offense mate, but in an industry of corrupt magazine and game websites, its hard to know who you can trust to be honest. If it came across as an insult, it wasn't meant to be.

Games arn't getting any better; Mario is the same little fat man in red overalls still saving the habituablly abductable Princess from the same overzealous overlord. The only difference is it looks a little better. Crysis is just running around shooting bad guys trying to save the world, Doom (the original) did that too, Crysis just happens to look better.

Technologically games are getting better, but that is merely evolution. Gameplay is where there has been no improvement.

Dude, I have to disagree with you there. You can break any genre down into it's componet parts and claim it's all the same, but that's a logical copout. You can like older games like doom and such is fine, but to claim there's been no actual gameplay innovation is just plain false.

It's like saying every game on the PC is point and click. Technically true, but there's a bit more to it than that.

My rule of thumb: Does the review include a score? If so, it is bollocks.

A little rough, I know, but there is a definite negative correlation between the prevalence of "objective" metrics and the quality of a review. I think part of this is because reviewers who aren't trying to be objective (Yahtzee, Penny Arcade, Et al.) admit their personal biases and can say to the reader "I tend to like genre X. In light of that, here is what I thought of Y".

This is a good article, but I must take issue with the suggestion that Rogue Warrior is a "big budget game". It was developed by Rebellion, a small British studio which also developed the similarly savaged Shellshock 2 (not as bad as its ratings suggest, but not outstanding either). When a game like Modern Warfare 2 gets 1.5/10 from IGN, then I'll start to pay attention.

Incidentally, my favourite game of this generation so far (Cross Edge) had a Metacritic rating of 39 when I bought it.

I do look at reviews, but I moderate the scores with reviews from friends/blogs.

For e.g. IGN has a lower baseline of 7.0. Anything 7 is crap, anything below 7 is worse

So it essentially becomes a 5 star rating 10 ,9 ,8, 7, below 7

G4 is pretty decent though

Great article; bold, but very honest.

When I think back to some of the old game magazines I used to read, especially this one I forget the name of that had a clear and almost unapologetic bias against the Sega Genesis, it all just makes me wonder, "where is the yardstick?" with the better question being, "where WAS the yardstick?" This Sega-hating rag I mentioned gave Street Fighter II: Turbo on the SNES a score of 98% which they claimed at the time was the highest score they'd ever given a game. Sure, the Final Fantasies and Shining Forces were up there in the 90s as well, but when a fighting game gets a higher score than a narrative-driven epic, again the question of "where exactly are your standards?" comes up. What kind of game could receive 100%? That's why I love reading reviewers' biographies or editorials when they list or discuss their favorite games of all time because it gives me an idea of what they're looking for in a game and where their caresses or blows are coming from. Sure, sometimes Roger Ebert can be a bit harsh on a film the way Yahtzee can be harsh on a game, but anyone who's really paid attention to them knows what their favorites are, so we know what yardstick they're using to beat down a certain movie or game.
Speaking of movies and games:
As the games get more cinematic, it seems like we've become more easily impressed. Sure, I'll be among the first to concede that a slick presentation or strong characters or good storytelling can forgive a number of shortcomings in the gameplay department, but all that really means is that we're now judging games by entirely different standards now than when games didn't have stories or realistic graphics or killer soundtracks. Maybe it's like with the 36 dramatic situations; we've reached a point where every gameplay style and mechanic that could ever be conceived already has been, and now it's all about how developers disguise those origins.
That just makes me sad, but then again, maybe it's good I don't put too much stock in the reviews I read, either. I still read them, of course, but I've never been dissuaded from at least trying a game for myself by one.

I can recall discussing, or at least touching on Famitsu's scoring in this thread.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/9.153273#3678674

A very good read. I like to hope that some game companies like to look on the forums and specialist sites for accurate views of the public though. I know adventure game companies pay big attention to sites such as adventuregamers.com and justadventure as much as IGN. Whether that's the same for other genres though....

I wonder if the gaming industry is slowly turning into the movie industry, where ideas are constantly recycled and most of what is produced is mediocre at best, with a few standouts being made each year. It's gotten to the point where I feel there's only 1, maybe 2, movies in a year I'd actually consider good enough to pay to own on DVD. I wonder if I'll feel the same way, and be just as picky with my spending, with video games soon.

I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with the current generation of games. For all their spiffy graphics and Hollyood-level budgets, they just don't have the same magic I used to find in videogames. Every now and again a gem might stroll along, but at a closer glance it usually turns out to be a shiny piece of stained glass. It's nice to pretend for a second that the industry has gotten itself out of its current rut. Actually, now I think about it, I may be a little biased.

I'm sick of shooters. I'm sick of racers. I'm sick of sports games. I'm sick of fighters, and I'm sick of everything having to have multiplayer in it. These days it's just the same old stuff repackaged and resold to hordes of clamouring fanboys. Sure, they're solid experiences, but that's only because they've been remade so many times that they've had plenty opportunities to get it right. I want new places to explore, and not just the next room in which to shoot/fight aliens/nazis/zombies/etc, or some generic fantasy landscape. I want more platformers, and not just the next sequel in a series that died at least 2 installments ago.

Sorry, this has turned out a bit more self-indulgent than I'd intended, but the point is that reviews and such dictate to developers what works and what's popular at the moment, and so they all go off to do the same thing, and there's no variety. It's all the same, and a large portion of that magic that attracted me to games in the first place has disappeared from the shelves of game stores. Everything is dark and moody, and just dares me to buy it, rather than invites me to.

harhol:
Incidentally, my favourite game of this generation so far (Cross Edge) had a Metacritic rating of 39 when I bought it.

I wonder why Langdell hasn't sued them yet?

That graphic on Siliconera is highly biased. It only tells you how many games received that score, but leaves out how many games were reviewed in total. Assuming the score of games has some sort of probability distribution (e.g. 1 in every 1000 games will be worth a perfect score), the more games they review, the more nearly-perfect scores we should expect to get.

The same goes for Edge. Persumably, in the 16 years that they've been in publication, they have increased their staff and the number of reviews that they do. It makes sense to see more high scores in the later years because there are more reviews being done, and as above, a certain percentage of these are likely to be high scores.

I won't deny that reviewers are taking it easy on games: I heard glowing reviews of Age of Conan before release and now everyone realizes it's a piece of shit. But that doesn't excuse using biased numbers to make the point.

I think there are a few different things happening here: there are more games being made, only good games get reviews, and of those, many of them are good but not great.

The number of games on a system has increased dramatically over the last two decades. Back in the NES era, there were just over 600 games available in the American market, including unlicensed and PAL versions. In fact, Nintendo explicitly limited how many games could be created in a year (to avoid another market flood of the sort that ruined gaming in the early 80s). Compare that to the DS: a popular list (http://www.dgemu.com/nds.html) shows over 4500 games available, and those are just the ones that people thought were worth sharing amongst themselves; there are undoubtedly more shovelware titles that don't appear on that list. Added to this, there are many more platforms available: instead of just the Nintendo or Sega offerings, we have three major home consoles, two portable consoles, the PC, and the flooded iPhone markets. That's an awful lot of games.

With so many games, reviewers can't review them all. Most reviewers focus on the big budget titles coming out, and the indie games only get reviewed if they end up being surprisingly good. Why? Because gamers don't buy magazines with reviews for games they don't care about. They want to hear about the next Halo or Metal Gear Solid, not an unknown game like Balloon Pop. There's nothing interesting about the headline "low-budget game by unknown developer is a flop".

At the same time, game developers have begun to find the "Disney formula" for games. Nintendo is a great example of this, milking its Mario Brothers franchise for all it's worth. Each genre has found its niche and nearly every big-name title at least hits the genre formula properly. As the article said, there are lots of games that are acceptable, but not amazing. For over a decade, developers have avoided taking leaps of faith, instead relying on tried-and-true genres and themes. When something new does come along -- like Spore or Scribblenauts -- reviewers take notice, but as expected, the games often don't live up to their hype. It's hard to get something right the first time, but the archetypes of FPS, RTS, and RPG have been done to death, to the point where it's safe and easy to make yet-another clone.

All of these things combined means that reviewers are seeing a constant stream of good-but-not-great games. Sure, there are lots of duds out there, but they are filtered out long before the reviews come out. The selection bias is clear and it skews the results.

On top of all this, I think it's still fair to say that reviewers are taking it easy on new games. There was a time when developers would be blasted for releasing Resident Evil 4: Same as the Last Three, but it has become so commonplace that the industry has come to accept it. Rather than complaining that NHL 2009 is almost exactly like NHL 2008 (and why buy the same game again?), they praise it for adding a couple of new, minor features. Maybe this is part of judging a game based on its own merits -- after all, NHL 2009 was still a great game -- but this makes it easy for developers to garner high scoring reviews by releasing the same honed-to-perfection game year after year.

So, all in all, it's hardly fair to compare game reviews from the infancy of the medium to today's formulaic approach; there are just too many biases along the way.

PS: That Siliconera graphic is probably one of the worst charts of all time. Look at each of those numbers individually and tell me if you see a pattern. The 38s start off strong, taper off in 2003-2004, then came back almost equal up to 2009. 37 starts off nearly the same every year, spikes considerably in 2005 and 2007, but returns to typical values by 2009. The 39 and 40 are the only numbers that seem to show an increasing trend, but the quantization is terribly coarse: at most there are only 4 in any year. Is the difference between 3 and 4 significant? Based on the growth of the other numbers, probably not. The only number that's telling of anything is the value for 36, but even that doesn't deserve a linear fit -- not by a long shot. There does seem to be an increasing trend, but it's a very bumpy ride: what's the standard deviation there? Add to this the lack of total games reviewed (which would tend to raise all of these numbers, as per my argument at the beginning), and you can see just how useless these numbers and this graphic is. Shame on Siliconera for passing this off as a smoking gun, and shame on The Escapist for praising it's terrible analysis.

Hmm...come to think of it, PC gammer never used to give anything higher than 9/10 for the first few years I was reading them, & then around the year before I quit subcribing, they started dishing out 10s, & to games that didn't interest me in the slightest. All my other, better game zines went under, all for in one damn year >:(

games are getting shitter since the numbers of who think they can do games multiply. also nobody thinks what he would do in the game situation, and so games don't make fuken sense. games stopped being games after 2006. look at what own inventions GTA VC had, and compare them to the boringness and tiredness of GTA IV. Murderous problem is that noting better is produced nowadays.

I got a message for devs: don't show screenshots, they don't make any sense.

vivaldiscool:

GonzoGamer:

vivaldiscool:
Games are getting better, but reviewer's standard aren't getting higher.

You think so? Reviewers are the ones who gave games like No More Heroes and GTA4 top scores.

(ignoring the fact those are both very good games) that's exactly my point. Games like that would've been mind-boggling back in 2002. Things that are standard to day would've been unthinkable then. Game's general standard of quality has progressed naturally, but reviewer standards haven't progresssed relativally alongside that. I get the feeling a lot of games are still reviewed with that 2002 mindset. For instance, why are reviewer's still creaming themselves over openworld games when there has easily been over a Dozen triple A titles featuring them?

Yea sorry, I got temporarily dyslectic there.
Of course reviewers are the reason so many games are overrated: they are the ones who rate. I think we just need more sarcastic and jaded reviewers that can focus more on details rather than their opinion.
While I agree that gta4 would have been mind boggling in 2001 (before gta3), I think we would have to go back to 98 to make No More Heroes impressive: even then I think you would have had to suffer the same kind of abuse that would make shows like Tim & Eric funny to you. Bottom line, both of them (along with RE4, which was at least a good game) share the title of most overrated game of all time.

Honestly though, I don't read reviews for the authors value judgements: it's obvious that most of them have horrible taste. I read for details about the title being reviewed. I don't care what they think of the hypothetical open world you mentioned (hell, many reviewers raved about No More Heroes' open world and you have to admit that that was the game's weakest point) I care about what details and activities I can learn about said open world.

And I think the reason that they still sometimes cream over an open world is because even now there's occasionally one that's really impressive either in scale or detail or both: Fallout3, Batman AA, Infamous. But that's true of every gimmic or tool, look at how nuts people are already going over Heavy Rain. People going nuts over quick time events... in 2009.

The games that I played in my yoof (Space Invaders, Pac Man, Tank Command) were just as absorbing and entertaining as games like AC2 has been to me now. How can a platform game such as Jet Set Willy or Manic Miner (both massive hits with 90% review scores) compare to games that have followed them through the years.

Innovation, originality, gameplay and entertainment should be the basis for decisions. Anything else such as graphics and audio can only be marked against what could be achieved with the technology available.

Having been a gamer since before the advent of consoles and home PCs I wonderer on the age of reviewers these days; where's their heritage? How did they earn the right to criticise and where's the credentials that allow me to merit their opinion?

Cheeze_Pavilion:
I think all these shooters are better compared to the fighting games of the 90s, which *were* incredible. I think you can no more swap out Halo for Call of Duty than you could Mortal Kombat for Virtua Fighter (all four are games I love).

I wonder if stellar titles are really shrinking, or if the people who talk about games are just...well, they can't see new games with fresh eyes. I left console gaming behind for the PC a looong time ago: the gap for me is between the Sega Genesis and buying a PS2 for God of War just because it looked so awesome and I didn't realize consoles could do that now.

And I've noticed that...these games are really good! That's what happens when you're away from everything but fighters/RTS/4X for a decade. It's a glass half full/half empty situation: is it that I'm a n00b all over again and I'm easily impressed? Or is it that people who have been around gaming long enough to know what they are talking about are jaded?

It's a mixture. I understand your point, that Call of Duty 4 vs. Halo vs. Half-Life are not interchangeable. For me, each of those games provides something that all the other titles do not (well, Halo 3 I tossed aside because it did nothing but disappoint, but I actually really dig ODST).

However, there are also SO MANY games that come out, are fun, but are not all that great. Hell, while I love the levels for Modern Warfare 2, it didn't feel like the jump that MW was. Granted that it's not so surprising when only two years exist between games, but simultaneously look at what happened with Assassin's Creed 1 and 2. MAJOR differences between the two.

But this is also discussing the hugest of huge Blockbusters. Even forgotten fighting games of the 90's like Clayfighter had their own appeal that other games did not. It was possible to find a clever low-budget platformer like Dynamite Heady that also achieved excellence in its own way. These days even some of the larger budget titles are pretty meh and interchangeable.

Of course, some of it may not even be the fact that we're jaded. It could also be that values change as we get older. The only games I find worth keeping are ones with great stories/narrative forms or games that that have unique gameplay mechanics. In some cases my stack of games is full of your typical big hype names, but I've also got a few lesser gems in there (Project Sylpheed is super fun despite a God awful story).

When we were kids, we couldn't afford to play that many games. Even in high school when I worked at GameStop I didn't play as much as I do now. So that could also be an easy factor. At a younger age you're exposed to the cream of the crop. At an older age you can explore further, and thus expose yourself to trash as well.

The only thing I will say for certain is I miss the oddball absurd concepts you had for games back in the day. Mega Man, Clayfighter, Donkey Kong Country, Harvest Moon, EarthBound, can you imagine any publisher hearing these concepts and turning them into a reality today?

Ok, well, maybe Mega Man, but it would likely have more in common with Bomberman Zero (AUGH) than how we know it today.

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