Why We're Using Review Scores

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Why We're Using Review Scores

The Escapist's Editor-in-Chief explains why we decided to institute review scores.

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Reassurance that scores being implemented not resulting in literary laziness is nice, but time will tell whether it will affect the writing or not.

As much as you comment that nothing is lost if an individual flits on to check a score and flits off again, it can be destroying to the author if the traffic dictates this is the case (i.e. page 2 is opened immediately after page 1, videos are watched for ten seconds etc). Inevitably if you feel underappreciated the item you slaved over will suffer in quality.

I may just be a cynic, but as times have gone on I've seen the impact of reviews done by Gamespot and IGN plummet in quality, as if they're skipping over the "foreplay" knowing that everyone only wants the climax. Perhaps this is part and parcel of the crowd those two websites attract (and I don't have enough knowledge on other sites to comment on their standing) as being realistic, I like to think of this as the broadsheets and those the tabloids.

I hope your writers do maintain their standard, I enjoy reading their opinion, something not quantifiable in numerics and an ethic lost on many a review source.

Integrity I have no worry about, The Escapist is a proud site and I'd doubt you'd want to ruin that reputation by taking a backhander from publishers.

I believe that, although numbers never tell the whole story, review scores are a good idea. Many people feed off the numbers better than a good review. I know I do. I can only hope that this site offers a fair and accurate scoring system that uses every number in the scale, not just the high or low ones.

*sigh* I guess it had to happen sometime...

That being said, I will still read the reviews, and not pay attention to a numbered score.

I just don't believe you can condense a whoe experience with numbers, especially with videogames and how everyone likes different things. What may be a 1 to you could be a 5 to someone else, and vice versa.

So long as your reviews are still good, I don't mind, but I still won't look at the damn score.

You want to put in scores because some people only want the score? If hey won't read the review and just look at the score, why do you even want their traffic? I know if I wrote something I would want it read and if you only want some artificial number to decide things for you then I don't want to share my opinion with you anyway. Don't read, piss off back to sites like IGN.

I might just be a snob, but that how I feel. The kind of people who will come here just to see the score are not the ones we want here anyway.

It's too bad. I really liked the recommendations you put on the bottom of your page where you say why or why not you'd recommend a game. However, out of all rating systems, the five-star system is probably the one I like best (having watched X-Play review for years), as it still very much a "recommendation based" system, unlike a 100 point scale which almost seems like a teacher giving a student a grade.

I do agree with the part about the people who read reviews only for a score are not likely to be reading reviews now anyway, so saying you might gain people is not far off the mark, actually.

Its just because people rage without numbers next to a review to say "Hey, spend your money on this game, it got a 9.5!"

I really don't mind scoring systems... Easy if you want a quick read.

chantzzzzz:

I do agree with the part about the people who read reviews only for a score are not likely to be reading reviews now anyway, so saying you might gain people is not far off the mark, actually.

So its a cash in. Sacrifice artistic integrity for higher traffic numbers. Thats how this is looking right now.

Just my opinion anyway. You guys review any way you want.

Dark Templar:

chantzzzzz:

I do agree with the part about the people who read reviews only for a score are not likely to be reading reviews now anyway, so saying you might gain people is not far off the mark, actually.

So its a cash in. Sacrifice artistic integrity for higher traffic numbers. Thats how this is looking right now.

Just my opinion anyway. You guys review any way you want.

This isn't a "cash in". If you'd read about the part where Russ says that this might encourage people who only look at review scores to actually read the entire review, I'd say that that's looking more on the positive side of this change. Maybe people will actually realize that there's maybe something worth reading above those stars. And, as pointed out in the article, The Escapist (hopefully this is the right code to use!) is merely trying to keep up with trends, like online sites have to in order to maintain a presence in the online world.

I'm not sure how I feel about this... If I wanted to a score, I would go to X-Play or something... I come to the Escapist to get really meaningful, insightful reviews. I'm not saying a score will change that. All I'm saying is it's difficult to represent a complex opinion with a number, or star amount. So I fear that they will perhaps simplify things for the sake of the scoring system. That's all I'm saying.

I really didn't mind not having review scores, but I'm a bit worried about the knock-on effect of introducing them.

People may simply skip to the end of the review to see the score, rather than reading it.

chantzzzzz:

Dark Templar:

chantzzzzz:

I do agree with the part about the people who read reviews only for a score are not likely to be reading reviews now anyway, so saying you might gain people is not far off the mark, actually.

So its a cash in. Sacrifice artistic integrity for higher traffic numbers. Thats how this is looking right now.

Just my opinion anyway. You guys review any way you want.

This isn't a "cash in". If you'd read about the part where Russ says that this might encourage people who only look at review scores to actually read the entire review, I'd say that that's looking more on the positive side of this change. Maybe people will actually realize that there's maybe something worth reading above those stars. And, as pointed out in the article, The Escapist (hopefully this is the right code to use!) is merely trying to keep up with trends, like online sites have to in order to maintain a presence in the online world.

I did read it, twice.

That part of the argument doesn't fly with me. I simply don't buy it as a viable reason for doing this. It just implies the possibility of some small positive side affect.

Get ready for whole bunch of "How can you give such and such game 3 stars??? What is the matter with you???" posts by the people who haven't read the review. Thus we see another kind of forum spam aside from the "FIRST!!!!111!!!!!11!1!1" posts. Do the possible positive outweigh the definite negative effects?

hmmmm...

Well, I have no substantial objections to scoring, but I have to admit, I'm not so keen on the idea of The Escapist using it.

As a website as a whole, I've found that this place is always so very different than its competitors, which is exactly what makes it appealing.

Surely trying to keep against competition isn't the right thing to do, when your so far off the set trend anyway?

I don't like scores but a lot of internet reviews of games are too long in my opinion. A short paragraph or two is enough for many games.

So the reason you changed is why exactly? Because everyone else is doing it? Because you can? Because you just got sick of the debating it over and over? It is a shame to see something like this happen. It will be even a bigger shame to watch the posts in the reviews degrade to "well you gave game X 2 stars and gave game Y 3 stars when game X is a better game." Or the classic "This game deserved X stars"

And where Bobcat may not have concerns about the integrity I do. Your reviews used to read like a user review. A fellow gamer reviewing a game and giving thier thoughts and opinions of it. This put your reviews miles ahead of Gamespot or IGN's since it sounded like you were playing games for the love of the game. Not for the love of a paycheck. It looks like now you will have to play the games you review. Not want to play them. And that will effect the integrity of the reviews. Afterall it is hard to give a game a fair chance when you really want to be playing another.

Hmm. Can't say I'm happy about this, nor do your arguments convince me. But I suppose the quality of The Escapist's reviews will be able to say more than this column.

What can I say? If you guys just keep making it worth our while, even the harshest critic will shut his mouth.

Well everybody else pretty much said what I was going to regarding this. You don't seem to have anticipated the possibility that you will actually lose some of the people who appreciated the fact that you never pandered to the lazy asshats who can't be bothered to actually read the review and want a simple distillation of a complex opinion. None of your arguments convince me that this is a good thing, and frankly, I'd rather you indirectly tell anybody too goddamn lazy to actually read to just fuck off. It was one of the reasons I actually appreciated the content on this site over the big sites like IGN and Gamespot.

Just as I would always wait to see the recommendation at the end of the review, I still don't skim the review for the score. I rather like the escapist's reviews, since they actually do go into some good detail that I have a hard time finding on other reviews. In other words, they feel like the really are written by a gamer, not just someone who reviews because they have to that week (I've seen some reviews that it was obvious the person didn't want to do even though it was a good game).

That being said, I'm not too sure if new visitors will just skim to the score or not (if they do, they're missing out).

I suppose if anything will give people a quick glance at what is thought at the very least

Dorkmaster Flek:
Well everybody else pretty much said what I was going to regarding this. You don't seem to have anticipated the possibility that you will actually lose some of the people who appreciated the fact that you never pandered to the lazy asshats who can't be bothered to actually read the review and want a simple distillation of a complex opinion. None of your arguments convince me that this is a good thing, and frankly, I'd rather you indirectly tell anybody too goddamn lazy to actually read to just fuck off. It was one of the reasons I actually appreciated the content on this site over the big sites like IGN and Gamespot.

This is my feelings as well. Though I am by no means a frequent poster, I did use the Escapist for reviews.
If you intend to fall in line with the rest of the reviewers out there, there will be no point in reading yours over that of any other. Numerical grades tend to draw the eye and "force" people to skip to the end of the review. As a result, the writing deteriorates, as the writers realise that there is no need to exert themselves. Do you think places like Gamespot became what they are today over night?

There is no need for the Escapist join the dark side, we have enough of those sites out there already.

EDIT: And the reasoning that this might make people that normaly just look at scores read the review is pretty weird. I think you might have cause and effect backwards there. People that read only scores can hardly be sucked into reading the review, since by their definition they read the score and move on. The quality of the unread text is immaterial.

I neither question the Escapist's integrity nor doubt the continuing journalistic quality of the reviews, but giving in to the trend toward summarizing pages of writing, and the demands of the extremely-short-attention-spanned, just feels bad to me.

I'm sure having a score will get you more clicks, and mayhaps this makes it more likely that you'll be aggregated on Metascore (in a brief glance, I couldn't see if you already were with them assigning their own number), and achieve the related clickthroughs. I'm willing to bet that this is a sound business decision.

Beyond that, the idea of a review score saddens me, because the Escapist has always been, to me, the online giant in the realm of critical thinking on this pastime that we all share and love. To give a review score is to (somewhat) imply/suggest that a given game can be fairly represented by a single scale, and that seems directly counter to the idea that games are often complex.

So, I'm not going to stop reading your reviews (or stop assigning them greater influence when comparing with opposing viewpoints), but I will be a little sad every time I get to the end of one.

Well said, traffic is the bread maker, after all, so why shoo away those that just want the number.

My issue is that in reading the reviews up until now, I always felt that playability and immersion, true game elements held the greatest sway in the review being given.

My concern was that with a numerical review, some chunks of what makes the game good get lost, with values being given to graphics and sound, and less to playability, story, etc. I have bought one or two 9+ rated games from the other sites ( before discovering The Escapist ) after reading the review to be left with a game that I wouldn't deign to use as a coaster. It seem the rating was all on how pretty it was and not in how good it was. This has left me jaded with value review sites. So I started renting, or demo-ing before buying games I was unsure about, that is, until I found The Escapist.

As long as the in-depth reviews and recommendations are there for us hardcore fans that actually want a educated opinion on what makes the game good, so that we can base our purchase on if the features of a game appeal to us instead of a attributed numerical value that explains nothing more, then I'm sold.

Besides, let the symbol-minded keep their symbols ( RIP George Carlin ). Maybe in seeing a 5 star, or a 4 star, they will be tempted to read and continue to read reviews to help them understand what they are buying. A more educated purchasing audience would be beneficial for the industry and all of us, in the end. But, please, keep the meat and the good words for the rest of us. I know you said you would, I'm just saying...

I think this is becoming industry norm and necessary for data mining and new potential revenue stream so I understand why this may be necessary. As a compromise would it be possible not have the review score disclosed in the review itself unless the reader would like to see it by clicking on it as well as maybe an additional pages that highlights all score reviews (that can potentially link back to the full review).

Maybe one of these days you'll implement actually mentioning what platform the reviewed games are released for, preferably with some kind of tag at the top of the page, instead of forcing me to do wild guesswork until I go 'screw it' and look it up elsewhere.

squid5580:
It will be even a bigger shame to watch the posts in the reviews degrade to "well you gave game X 2 stars and gave game Y 3 stars when game X is a better game." Or the classic "This game deserved X stars"

Yeah. I don't doubt the integrity and professionalism of the Escapist writing staff but I'm worried about the community devolving to the level of some other sites where fanboyism is rampant when fanboys flood the community. I hope I'm wrong.

BlicaGB:
Well said, traffic is the bread maker, after all, so why shoo away those that just want the number.

My issue is that in reading the reviews up until now, I always felt that playability and immersion, true game elements held the greatest sway in the review being given.

My concern was that with a numerical review, some chunks of what makes the game good get lost, with values being given to graphics and sound, and less to playability, story, etc. I have bought one or two 9+ rated games from the other sites ( before discovering The Escapist ) after reading the review to be left with a game that I wouldn't deign to use as a coaster. It seem the rating was all on how pretty it was and not in how good it was. This has left me jaded with value review sites. So I started renting, or demo-ing before buying games I was unsure about, that is, until I found The Escapist.

As long as the in-depth reviews and recommendations are there for us hardcore fans that actually want a educated opinion on what makes the game good, so that we can base our purchase on if the features of a game appeal to us instead of a attributed numerical value that explains nothing more, then I'm sold.

Besides, let the symbol-minded keep their symbols ( RIP George Carlin ). Maybe in seeing a 5 star, or a 4 star, they will be tempted to read and continue to read reviews to help them understand what they are buying. A more educated purchasing audience would be beneficial for the industry and all of us, in the end. But, please, keep the meat and the good words for the rest of us. I know you said you would, I'm just saying...

As Russ said, the only thing that's going to change is that there will be a little gold star at the end of the review. We like our format. We think communicating what it's like to actually play the game is the most important thing, not whether a game gets an 8.6 or an 8.5 and how you can possibly quantify that.

lol. i thought this was gonna be about why People depend on Numbers when they read Reviews.

i dissapointedly agree, i guess. the comments! they are right!

BlicaGB:
Well said, traffic is the bread maker, after all, so why shoo away those that just want the number.

though i agree that they will get alot more people flowing in, its just as yahtzee said, you cant critique a game solely on a digit, that there are so many dimensions that just arent reached when you give a game an 8.5. unfortunately, the world doesnt work this way so... bring on the numbers i guess.

I'd rather everyone just switch to a boolean mechanism instead of numeric scores:

Recommend/Don't Recommend

I've played games that have a metacritic of 7/10 that I liked a lot more than some that have 9.5/10 - this is why I feel a recommend or don't recommend option would be great, since a 7/10 could very well be worth playing, but a lot of people will skip it because it's not at least an 8.

The escapist is the only Video Game website that would ever use Emerson to explain why they are changing their policies. Yet another reason I don't get my gaming news from anywhere else.

I salute you!

Frankly, I will never pay attention to the star rating. It's all in what it says. Nevertheless, I understand why some people will want it and I agree that it is worth appealing to as many people as possible. If giving a score will make the difference between sticking around or not, why not throw it in? With a solid description of the levels, it's certainly not hard to determine what you would mark it as. Do what you must!

It's okay, Russ.

You take a look at the traffic and advertising money coming towards sites computed in Gamerankings and it suddenly becomes very difficult to justify not having review scores from a merely financial point of view.

What I would say, however, is if you're going to do it, do it with some conviction. The editorial feels like an apology. "I'd like to not have review scores, but they'll bring in traffic and money". Make up your mind, are you selling out or not?

I, for one, don't think so. I do think there is quite a lot you can communicate on a percentage. I know what an 86% means for a game. It means it's good. Great, even, but it is flawed. But not so flawed that you need to make an effort to like it (that's an 82, perhaps). You like it, you just wish it was a bit better.

Of course.

Four stars are not as informative, though. It means it's not a superb game and it means it's not bad, but I read three stars as a game you're not telling me to buy unless I know I'm going to like it and five stars as a must buy. Four stars is kind of everything in between, so it doesn't really convey as much of a solid bottom line.

I know what you're thinking, of course. "My reporting can't be summarized in a number". And it probably can't. The number won't tell me WHAT you liked, or WHY. But it will tell me how much. Scales are used to measure things that can't be measured objectively all the time. Patients are asked how much pain they feel from one to ten in hospitals. Marketing surveys will ask how much you agree or disagree with sentences from 1 to 5. That doesn't mean every 3 means the same, or that everybody experiences the pain of apendicitis in the same way. They just do what all communication does, they lay out a touchstone, a reference, a mutually agreed abstract sign of what you feel that can't possibly convey it entirely but does a decent job of laying down a baseline for discussion.

And that's good.

So my personal advice would be to go to a percentage scale instead of stars, which, again, is kind of an indecissive compromise. It will give you all the bad stuff and very little of the good stuff (although it will get you links in all the measuring sites, so maybe this isn't a great point after all).

While I'm not fully convinced including a score is necessary, as long as they keep the bottom-line recommendations at the end (which I always found more useful than scores), I'll be happy.

I didn't even notice the score, and I like it that way. If you have to put scores in, put them somewhere out of the way, where I don't have to see them. I loved that the Escapist had the balls to not reduce sophistication to a cheap score, and I prized the magazine over any other gaming review site in part because of that fact. If I wanted scores I'd go to Metacritic, or Gamestop, maybe even IGN. If I wanted actual, human, emotive reviews, I come here. But, if you have to put down a score, then at least do it innocuously. The stars system is alright, since it's one of the least complex arbitrary systems that could be used, and even manages to clarify that you don't really want to reduce gaming to arbitrary scores. Don't back down, Escapist. Stay strong, stay complex, and stay emotive. If you can boast Yahtzee as the "free-spirited rebel of video game journalism", why can't the entire site boast such claims? Be independent, be creative, and be beyond the ordinary! Be The Escapist!

I've been having this discussion for a long time now, and when I started my blog I refused to put review scores on there as a rule, and then it turned into a debate about having to institute SOME kind of final grade system on there.

The actual system I went with is...well, it's me. Check the site if you want to see for yourself, but it's not something X-Play would use, that's all I'm going to say here.

In regards to this decision by the Escapist, I can understand the change, and I think you're in a position where it will actually do more good then harm. You're established, you've got your fan base, the people who know what you do and will stick by you, this shouldn't be something that hurts you.

I hope. I've hit the point where I more or less gave up on any other site for reviews, so if the site starts to suffer, then so will I.

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