There used to be a good site called Crispy Gamer (they fired all of their staff and hired new people, so I don't know if the site is worth anything anymore) where the journalists did three things that can very directly help this problem:
1) they ditched the out of 10 rating system and instead assigned "buy it, try it, or fry it" to the games.
2) for very hyped up games that got high scores (Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, for example), they would take all of the negatives that had been pointed out by other reviewers into one meta-review.
3) the journalists had accounts and were active in the forums and comments sections so they could explain their scores and hear what people had to say about what they reviewed.
It kept the journalists in check, both on and off the site, and also gave the reviewers wiggle-room with their scores because they would not have to worry about offering a 9/10 for a 7/10 game because they gave a worse game a better score than that.
Good article. I like that how you relate to George's book 1984.
I have given up on every gaming site such as GameSpot, IGN and after that, published magazines like Game Informer and the like. Then I came to this site and I like it a lot.
Two incidents that I would like to call out that made me change my attitude: Jeff Gerstmann with his review of Kane & Lynch and Dan Hsu's article on editorial integrity.
I'm very critical that people only read the scores and not bother with the writers opinion on why they should buy this game or why they shouldn't buy this game. Jeff Gerstmann call it out that Kane & Lynch game isn't a good game but Gamespot and Eidos has advertising of the game on Gamespot's page. It's almost the same way giving a game a very low score like Fight Club (which has little to do with the novel or movie) and have a advertising page to the next. Few days later, Mr. Gerstmann was fired from GameSpot and went to make a video game site called Giant Bomb.
Possibly the straw that broke the camel's back would happen to be Dan Hsu's article on Editorial Integrity.
Dan Hsu was one of the harshest but very insightful video game journalists I have ever seen. If anyone recalled, he interviewed Peter Moore on the Xbox 360 and brutalized Peter Moore for the faults that the Xbox 360 has gone through. Many people consider his questioning to be inappropriately rude, confrontational, or aggressive but I find that appropriate. Dan actually went in there and asked the sorts of questions you see every day online, in the indecorous language of the hardcore forum. Days later, he left EGM and started Bitmob.
But the gigantic issue of video games these days is, why gaming reviews from certain sites and magazines are reviewing games that is stuck to only adolescent boys?
I quote Rob Fahey from GamesIndustry.biz
Talking to the creators of kids' games about game journalism, for example, is usually a depressing affair. While developers are rarely terribly enamored of writers in the first place - after all, you can't expect hugs and kisses from the people who create the products over which you've set yourself up as an arbiter of quality - those who work on kids' games are most often genuinely bitter, angry, or both.
At times, maybe the gaming journalism is broken. As long as video games are run by publishers and video game journalists plays nice to each other, the system continues to be broken. So some writers are afraid to ask the tough questions, or to criticize what should be criticized, because they're afraid of backlash from the companies from a support standpoint, from an advertising standpoint or worse, from their own editors who don't want to piss anyone off.
Then again, the entire world has their own opinions and differences. Some games are overhyped and people buy it from the word of mouth. Who knows, maybe video game reviews doesn't lead to massive game sales.
Meh. The only review that matters is your own. Hence why I tend to set a kind of mental price-point for games in my mind; if I had trust in the company/studio and the game is of a genre I like, or in a series I like, it's a buy if nothing else to show I have faith in said company. Beyond that, it's a matter of how low the price goes versus how much fun I think I'll have with the title. If the value of the game reaches below the pricepoint for comparitive value if I, say, bought a DVD or something comparable with the money, then it's a good deal.
I've been overcome by a bout of sleepyness and couldn't make my way through all the comments, but I wonder what the writer would think about the actual quality of games. As gaming becomes a better established medium, developers get more experience, and production costs skyrocket, I think it's very plausible that average game quality is increasing. This certainly does not answer the whole question, but is worth mentioning I think. Because if critics' expectations stay the same, over time this sort of inflation will be inevitable. Should critics be ever raising their expectations?
I personally rearely take reviews seriously. Unless they're reviews for terrible games. Those are HILARIOUS.
We all know there is only one reviewer worth his salt, and he hates EVERYTHING except for Prince of Persia Sands of Time.
I've never had a problem with the typical 6-10 point scale if I think of it like the school grading system. 50% (5 out of 10) is an outright failure while 70% (7/10) is usually an average grade.
Hey, Bland But With Some Decent Ideas RTS is quite good. If you insist on it it grows on you. It's bland but it's got some decent ideas.
Seriously though, that's very true. I remember when Metal Gear Solid 4: Ridiculously Huge Senseless Name I Forgot Already came out and got a 9 in one or other major site (Gametrailers if I remember correctly) and fans just lost their shit over it. Of course, I remember it because of the Penny Arcade strip on it. "You guys know where 9 is, right? It's right next to 10!"
I discovered some time ago that numeric scores are worthless. The Escapist tried to avoid this pitfall but I haven't seen anything be awarded less than 2.5 out of 5 super shiny star thingies. Then again, I just don't pay attention to the scores and the reviews themselves are okay. The problem, of course, is that the industry chooses who gets the bonuses and who doesn't by looking at a game's Metacritic score. I remember that one article about Bobby Kottick where he said before starting the game the team actually meets with the publishers and decides which metacritic score they are shooting for! As if subjective numbers pulled out of one's ass were the best indicator of a game's quality, even though most people can't even say if a 7 out of 10 means 'average' or 'just okay'.
Of course, it seems that Orwell assumed that people would just stop reading novels out of distrust for the reviewers. That seems... exagerated. I mean, if you like a kind of thing, you'll look for it. Even if you can't trust the reviewers for telling you which novel is good, you'll have to trust your gut, but you'll keep reading. And nowadays we have the advantadge of the internet... a thousand opinions and you need but ask. The practices of PR people and reviewers are merely sealing them in the same casket as print media.
For now, the solution is: look at a couple of reviews in major sites, then watch Yahtzee's. The final average should be corrected.
(I may be joking, but ZP is for me the one stop shop for finding out what's wrong with a game. I was almost thinking Red Dead Redemption was awesome enough I should pull all stops to buy it when brave Mr. Croshaw was the only one who told me the one thing that, had I bought it, I would have wished someone had told me while crusing across America in a beaten-up Camaro with nothing but a butcher's knife and a lot of unbridled hatred for game reviewers: that it has the same retarded running movement as GTAIV that appears to forget that pressure-sensitive joysticks exist. That alone knocked it down from 'maybe I should buy it right now' to 'maybe I should rent it a few years in the future, if I have nothing better to do by then).
I like Netflix's rating system. It gives just enough granularity. At the same time, it flat out accepts that it is a subjective label and doesn't try to pretend to be an objective value. Also, you can rate anything with Netflix's 1-5 scale and you don't need to resort to comparing it to other things. I can easily say I "loved" a game or movie, no need for me to look back at other media to see how I rated it so I can place this one in the right spot.
1. Hated it.
2. Did not like it.
3. Liked it.
4. Really liked it.
5. Loved it.
I dont think I can agree enough about the point about readers needing to take a big dose of the blame. Especially various fanboys who expression their rage asking "how dare the reviewer not like my favorite game".
Anyone who doubts the impact of this should spend a couple minutes reading the forums attached to yahtzee's reviews.
This is a great article, Orwell impresses yet again. I find it funny that I was thinking about this just the other day, I was a huge fan of the first Mass Effect and was very excited for the sequel; which wholly disappointed. So many fundamental mechanics and design choices were different that I hardly recognized the classic I fell in love with. Yet it gets great reviews, just like the first. I wish I could keep fooling myself into liking it.
Tell me about it. I loved Army of Two. It was snarky and rude and hilarious, and the actual game was pretty good to boot. When its sequel, The 40th Day came out, it turned out to be an irredeemable, horrid piece of crap. Yet even Kotaku - whom I greatly approve of for avoiding scores (do they count as professional? they should) - acted like it was somehow an enjoyable game you'd like. That really bothered me. It clearly sucked. I felt like I was in the Twilight zone.
Props to Yahtzee for not falling prey to this concept, even if some people view him as an unappeasable ass because of it (not me, I'm just sayin')
I sometimes wish he'd use a scoring system, even though he hates them. Just because then his reviews would be allowed on Metacritic (and given greater weight) to help deflate every game's score. ...I wonder sometimes what people see in that site.
 OH MY GOD THAT AMIGA POWER SITE HE LINKED: http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/ap2/
That's a fuckin vintage site right there. I think we've discovered a living fossil guys! (it has frames!!!!!)
I found this article interesting. I have book reviews on my blog, for which I do not give numbers. I have several "levels" of overall feelings about a book. Most wind up at "recommended" (because I mainly review what I enjoy reading), but I have also had a "Must-read" and one "I would not urinate on this book to put it out if it was on fire".
Great article, really nailed the whole "mistrust of hyped-up games and the reviews they get" problem. Some of the reviewers I personally like and trust are Yahtzee (of course) for games and A.O. Scott for movies. He writes reviews for the N.Y. Times and usually does an enjoyable and decent job of reviewing the movie.
I've given up trusting any individual review. My personal procedure for mining review information:
1. Look up the game on Game Rankings and/or Metacritic.
2. Read the reviews with the lowest scores. What do they like about the game? More importantly, what do they hate?
3. Compare the likes/dislikes to my own preferences. Bad camera? Thumbs down. Too short? Thumbs up! The best part is the multiplayer? Thumbs down. And so on.
Basically, I don't really need a review to tell me what I'm going to like about a game. Usually I already have a pretty good idea about that from the genre, release hype, word of mouth, and so on. I want a review to tell me what I won't like - and whether the things I don't like will be minor annoyances or totally spoil the experience.
I do like Yahtzee's reviews!
There are, however, still enough robust individuals upholding these values to keep insightful games reviewing alive. Everyone reading this article will hopefully be able to name some favorites, and their continued work keeps gaming discourse above the level of advertorial guff.
Can anyone name some? I can't. I'd love to hear some if anyone has some suggestions.
I have yet to find a good, solid reviewer who I can trust. Just about anyone heaps praises, uses fallable scores or doesn't go into enough detail and analysis for me to warrant following them.
I'd suggest Game Revolution myself - their reviewers tend to be entertaining, they go into a great deal of detail and their "scores" are based on the standard American grading system with plus/minuses. So a game that's received an A- is positively excellent, albeit with some minor detractions. Very few games get a straight A, most good titles merit something in the B- to B+ range, the average bog-standard titles that are still playable and might have something to commend them receive something in a C (lots of games get C's), and terrible games get D's; staggeringly awful games, the really horribly unplayable messes or completely joyless abominations, get tarred with the dreaded F. They are definitely not afraid to call terrible or mediocre games what they are.
One of the drawbacks is that they're a smaller review site and often don't receive pre-release copies of games, so their reviews aren't especially timely, but that could also be perceived as a strength, since there's less rush to churn reviews out without properly playing games first.
A few years ago i wrote Album Reviews for a Music site. We had a scoring system of 5 points with 0.5 Steps.
Even though the page never got famous enough to us having put up with commenters that would complain over if a 4 of 5 should be a 4.5, i deeply hated the scoring system (seriously, how was i even supposed to RATE MUSIC, one of the most subjective things in life with very few technical aspects that could be rated, in an arbitary "out of 5" system) and as an effect, hate ANY kind of scoring system.
It just does not work. You cannot rate games in a numerical system. If anything, it might give you an overall impression of what a game is like, but even then you might think differently about it. But i don't want to be redundant, this article covers the issue better than i could.
Hopefully, one day the gaming press overall will ditch thier nonsensical scoring systems altogether in hopes of finally becoming relevant.
Rating music is pointless, you are correct.
But I do like the grading system. It's like a sub-categorization of genres.
You'd put Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony and Humperdink's Hansel and Gretal in both the genre of Classical Music, but in their own right they could be graded by that A, B, C, D, F system.
By which you could put Half Life 2 and Halo: ODST both in the category of First-Person-Shooters and both rank very well from 0-100, but still be graded A or B.
You know, the Norwegian system for reviewing everything actually works pretty well. It is a scale from one to six, no decimals. I don't know if it is due to the size of the scale or more to the culture around it, but it is commonly accepted that the scale is:
1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = mediocre
4 = Good
5 = Great
6 = Mindblowing
I like this - simple and effective
But I'd rather reviews didn't give number scores and just described their opinion on the game/movie whatever with the positives and the negatives
I agree with Kukakku on this one. This allows people to truly elaborate with what they liked and hated about. There is no such thing as a perfect score, as even Yahtzee mentions in his latest EP (Extra Punctuation) that Portal was the closest thing to a perfect game but drops one point because of all the cake reference. I would also like to see perhaps more precise definition of certain numbered games, provided that they still use their scoring system.
This is a very important subject, yet there is so much more to it than I would like.
It's easy to say: "stop giving so damn high scores", but as soon as I start thinking about it, it becomes complicated.
Reviews are supposed to be as objective as possible. So for example, if somebody was to review say, Final Fantasy XII, he or she can't give it a low score because he did not like the way the combat works, that problem lies with him, not the game. And nobody can praise MGS4 for heavy use of cut scenes, even if that was what he or she enjoyed most about the game, since it's a subjective opinion.
If you are going to review a game objectively, there is only so much you can really complain about. If you are not allowed to let your personal opinions get in the way, then the only way to really analyze a game is seeing if it works as what it's intended to be, i.e. functionality. Does Final Fantasy XII's combat system work? Well yes, you may hate it's guts, but there is nothing broken about it. Are the cut scenes in MGS4 well written? Well yes, they may bore you to hell, but you can't deny that they are good. And since most games are functional, scores are gonna climb, and we are going to get into this mess.
Well, then get rid of objectivity, right? Let the reviewer express his or her feeling on the game instead of telling us how the game works. The problem is that with too much subjectivity it's gonna be hard to tell whether or not the game is actually suited for you. Take your average Zero Punctuation review, it's one man's firm, unbiased, subjective opinion, but does it really tell you if you are going to like the game or not? Is it better to have a vague review with a score that at best means nothing and at worst is misleading, than to have a review that you don't know whether or not to agree with?
And that's kind of just the tip of the iceberg! The deeper you dig the more messy it gets. I guess it goes to show that the review system is broke, hell, perhaps the whole concept of reviews is broken...
If you wonder why reviews tend to go fairly high often consider that there is a sampling bias. I don't know if you have those in the US (if not the App Store's non-highlighted games tend to be similar) but try grabbing 10 random titles from the "bargain" (at MSRP) shelves and play them. That should give you an appreciation of how much quality a game has to have to even be considered worthy of a review.
Interesting article, I can understand why reviewers tend to hide in the average 6/10 or 7/10 area. There are always some positives and negatives of a reviewed title, and let's say if it's "good gameplay mechanics" and "nonexistent storyline" that would be a 2/10 in my book, but could be enjoyable for some, so it's obvious that the game will eventually get a 6/10 in order not to offend anybody.
As a result, I much rather see a couple of main points about the game to see what about it stands out as good and what on the other hand stands out as bad.
A refreshing article. I don't like the arse-kissing contest that seems to be going on between publishers and reviewers. I think I agree with the other posters when they call for a simpler scoring system. "Buy it, Try it or Fry It" being my personal favourite.
But like as the article had mentioned, the person who is best qualified to review a game is the gamer themselves. Not his/friend, not some Yes-man from IGN or the No-man that is Yahtzee at ZP.
While Yahtzee cannot be called a sycophant and award undeservedly high scores, he tends to go the other way and award undeservedly low scores toward games. While Yahtzee knows what HE likes - I don't think he knows what everyone else wants. (And they all look for different things in their games.)
Only the individual gamer knows what he or she likes. Though a reviewer can at least give a summary of the game, offer their recommendation as to try, buy or fry the game. Everything else is in the lap of the gods.
I have thought about this recently. There have been a few games in the last few years that I have thought shouldn't have received as higher scores as they did.
1. Uncharted 2
There are a few reasons for this. As much as I liked it, I don't think I could force myself to play it again. The main thing for me that works against it is it's basically a resuscitation of Uncharted 1. Sure, it's better than most other game stories that have been released but it's basically the same thing again. Another is the gameplay. I'll admit, the cover system is good and whilst I don't personally like regenerative health in such a seemingly realistic game, I'll let it go. The gameplay is repetitive. Apart from the stealth level in India(?), some of the open combat level in Nepal and the enjoyable train level, it was far too similar. Hide behind some convenient (and somewhat similar looking and positioned) cover in every level, shoot the bad guys, run, hide and shoot. Do some climbing that was even easier than the previous games' climbing system. Repeat. Ad nauseum. The puzzles, cutscenes and a few more character interactions are highlights. Check Wikipedia for the other scores. As for PSM3 France giving it 21/20, give me a break. My score: 8/10
2. FarCry 2
I enjoyed the first FarCry. It had relatively open levels despite not losing you in the detail, as it were. FarCry 2 is completely open. Here the repitition lies in the gameplay. Drive from hideout to objective, on the way, encounter enemies, dispatch enemies. Go about completing objective. Return to faction base. Get another fairly dull objective from a forgetable character and on the way, take out baddies in vehicles whose modus operandi never change. They don't gang up, they don't really flank unless they're forced to shift and they're surprisingly accurate shots, considering I'm hiding and can't be seen.
Boring objectives given by boring and forgetable characters of factions that don't stand for anything in a nothing story of a country with no name. Boring.
The buddy system works surprisingly well. Graphics are good. 6.5/10
I just wish I'd read a similar review to my outlines above before purchasing either of those games. I understand that reviewers only have a short turn-around time to complete reviews. This is probably their biggest problem and I get that it's also not their fault. Here in Australia, I think people are especially cautious about making a mistake in purchasing games as they are very expensive here and they know they may not get a good resale from it. PC games are probably worse in this respect, there are patches that can be downloaded and installed which you hope might fix bugs but of course don't improve deep seeded problems like gameplay. Games sellers won't accept a swap on PC games due to restrictions on PC software. You could also sell the games on ebay but there's nothing to guarantee someone will want to buy it at the price you would like to retrieve from its sale.
As for review scores, I think reviewers should base their best scores and reserve their best scores for games they actually believe have the highest replay value and therefore value for money at the end of their review session.
For me a score of 10 would only be justifiable by wanting to return and complete it again. Greg Miller said as much in his video review of ModNation Racers. Everything else is inferior. With developers trying to charge for more and more downloadable content, we should expect more from them. Not just more content for our cash, but better quality over quantity.
If a review can convey to me that it is worth playing again, that's the game I'll shell out dollars for.
Great article, I enjoyed reading this piece.
I can not STAND games reviewers who buy into hype, or, worse, ignore issues in a game with the hopes of consumers supporting their new favourite game. Greg Miller from IGN used to excite me with his positive reviews, but his bias towards any new Playstation IP gets in the way of giving readers any kind of criticism that they can use...especially when his reviews are so often laced with, "honestly, it's not that bad!"
One of my favourite reviewers hails from Eurogamer.net, Mr. Oli Welsh. I find Eurogamer's reviews to be less taken with staying within defined categories, choosing instead to talk about a game at length; I rarely see any "graphics: good, writing: poor, gameplay: decent, score: 8" on that site
The reminds me of something a History lecturer in college once told me. He was asked to review an academic History book for a Journal. The book was completely dire, with no redeeming features and his review reflected that. He sent it off and it was returned with a note asking could he not find something positive to say, to which he replied the type was nicely printed.
The review was never printed and therefore the book never reviewed in that journal.
Now if a nobody Academic has the weight to cause a respected Scholarly Journal to act like that, can you imagine the pressure felt when the product being reviewed is made by the people who pay your wages?
I have long since left behind caring about score. Music, movies, video games, or wine. It's all just useless numbers that might as well be $ out of * to my eye.
I read the reviews, I see upon them which the people who wrote it liked, disliked, thought took away from the game, or improved upon the genre for it's attempt or use. It's all opinion and I must always remember that, but it gives a good idea of what the game is like. As long as they have actually finished the game that is.
If a "final summary review" for those who can't be bothered to read the reviews, then Screw Attack's "Buy It, Rent It, F it" Kotaku's pluses and minuses is the way to go. Perhaps even naming a few games in the same genre that the reviewer liked and didn't like just to give some clarity on their P.O.V. would aid as well.
I give this article a solid 4.9 and the comments an 89. I won't mention the top end of the scales I used, to add more confusion.
This reminds me of Uncharted 2... or well a review of Uncharted 2 which got fans screaming.
the site gamer.no, which is a very good Norwegian game site, gave Uncharted 2 a 7/10 rating. Which got a LOT of attention around the web. People claiming they were only giving it a bad score to get people to come and read their site.
But for those of us that frequently read gamer.no (its written in Norwegian BTW) will know that a 7/10 rating is actually a GOOD game, in the sense that "You will probably have a GOOD time playing this"
The site eden have a little link that explains what each grade means.
But in a world which is like how this article explains it, and where people couldn't read what the review said everyone jumped to the conclusion that the reviewer didn't like the game.
But when 10/10 is reserved for games that has to "...move the reviewer in such a way that he could only dream about..." and a 9/10 is considered to be "..a game people will be remembering a long time..." a 7/10 doesn't sound so bad does it?
PS: and to be frank Uncharted 2 was by no means a game we will remember for a long time, nor did it do anything radical new ;)
Although the graphics was amazing and earns a 10/10 in my book :D
I think I'm seeing the problem here. We're far too engrossed in subjectivism. And for now I don't see a way out. Consider this part from the article: "Hope lies with intelligent writers, the reviewers to whom Orwell refers as "people who really cared for the art of the novel ... people interested in technique and still more interested in discovering what a book is about." We're unlikely to ever again see a gaming collective with ideals as just and righteous as Amiga Power: "We loved good games, regardless of their advertising budgets."
Good games? But your definition of what's good differs from anothers, therefore it's all meaningless! Death to reviews, death to any notion of quality!
I'm not really looking forward to that. This whole industry has had the phrase "in my opinion" plastered on it so much I could barf. For instance, there's the way reviewers award a lot of points based on technical aspects, like the resolution of graphics or how bug-free the product is. What else can they say? Every other category involves the dreaded "opinion", that elusive, slippery thing that no one agrees on and invites scorn. Why can't the idea be made that liking something doesn't translate into that something being good? I think it'd be far easier to admit that you like crappy things, rather than saying that there really aren't crappy things and anyone who says otherwise is just being oppressive.
For example, I didn't really like Shadow of the Colossus. I found the controls too wobbly, the story lacking any kind of filling or detail, and for the life of me couldn't see anything redeemable about the creatures whom only existed to sluggishly slog around and attempt, rather feebly, to kill what opposed them. And yet, I exclude myself from any serious criticism of the game because I'm aware that the problem rests solely on me.
But maybe I'm just old-fashioned. Quality is an antiquated concept, now it's just whatever happens to arouse your fancy; where the fondest dreams for a reviewer is a carbon-copy of yourself so that you can find an opinion you "truly resonate with".
'Orwell stipulates that "it would have to be an obscure paper, for the publishers would not advertise in it." Unfortunately, he does not address how such a publication would secure funding and this leaves our situation looking rather bleak.'
How about government funding?
I'm pretty sure any reviews on NRK (the government funded TV-channel here in Norway) will be rather reliable.
A lovely article but it, and Orwell (sorry, George), missed one crucial thing about publishing.
Publishing has always been driven by advertising, not the other way round. Since reviewing relies on publication to reach the reader, reviewing is at the mercy of advertising.
Creating a publication has a price tag and that cost is almost entirely borne by advertising. Someone has to pay to set up the printing press, ink the letters, buy the paper, run the whole thing, and ferry it out to market. (Need the modern equivalent? Okay. Someone has to buy the servers, run the software, rent the office, pay the staff, and lease the bandwidth.) Who pays this price? Advertisers, people who pay to have their voices heard in praise of their product or service. It was true in the heyday of newspapers, magazines, and pulp-and-paper books and it is true now. If you ever want to know whose opinion you are reading, look at the advertising it's placed next to or who owns the publisher. That should give you a rough idea of the amount of spin you'll get and where it will spin towards.
I love scoring. You know why? Because it exists to help the reviewer express an opinion faithful to his experience as opposed to a canned one that will appease the advertiser.
Think about it. A reviewer picks up a mediocre game and sees it for what it is: mediocre. She sits down, writes a review that points out the flaws and strengths, and then attaches an eight out of ten to the review. The eight ensures that the advertiser, who wants the game to sell well, will be happy with the review and not pull funding from the publisher. If the score was a six, the advertiser would be outraged. "How dare the reviewer tell people the game is anything less than good? We'll fix them! We'll give our advertising money to a reviewer and publication that give good reviews, ones that will make the public buy what we're selling." But that eight leaves the reviewer's words untouched, which is all to the good.
The score is a smokescreen, folks. It's there for those who are too lazy to read the actual review or who don't credit the review with any actual meaning. And for parting the lazy with their money, it works just fine for advertisers. It's a nice, bite-sized, useless bit of data to throw at the public that was tailored specifically for that purpose. The actual review, the expression of opinion and critique of the game that takes up four pages or ten thousand words or however much space the reviewer needs, should have no influence on the score beyond the barest of margins.
Scores exist to protect the reviewer. More power to 'em, say I. Let there be two scores, let there be a thermometer, let there be a horribly drawn critter in the corner of the page that mutates depending on the number on its chest if it keeps the advertisers at bay and lets the reviewer continue to express himself freely.
Well, I think the main fault lies not just with the reviewers, but readers as well. Reviewers have found that to encourage people to read their work, they have to format it in such a way as to make it as easy and light to read as possible. The whole score thing is for the lazy assholes who can't be bothered to pay attention. Blame readers too for making journalism simplistic and sensationalist; it is the only kind they will promote.
The score is a smokescreen, folks.
Scores exist to protect the reviewer.
This is an elaborate theory and does have some real life examples (I can recall Eurogamer's review of Dragon Age (PC) saying it was "sorely lacking in the things that make a truly great role-playing game, or any game for that matter: vision, inspiration, soul": 8/10,) but it's a bad system if you ever want to see better games.
Publishers actively use metacritic as a factor in whether a game will get a sequel/whether the developers will get to make another game. If we allow too many 'this game is shit ... 8/10' stealth reviews, then the volume of rubbish games will either continue or get worse. Plus, this still devalues all the titles which REALLY get an 8, 9 or 10.
I am a big fan of Orwell, and I must say I'm surprised when people are pissed about the scores for certain games they liked, sure X-Play only gave L4D2 and AC2 4/5 where as both L4D and AC got 5/5, but will that stop just about everybody who's ever played the games to sing it's praises and insist that the sequel is superior, of course not. I hate when people bash review writers for giving a game a supposedly "wrong" score, especially when the number that is all they look at AND they enjoyed the game because in that case THE WRITER'S OPINION IS IRRELEVANT TO THEIR ABILITY TO ENJOY THE GAME IN QUESTION!