Going Gold #4: These Go To 11

Going Gold #4: These Go To 11

A perfect ten is not everything it used to be. What's behind the rise and rise of videogame review scores?

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I agree with what you said except the mention of the Orange box, which imo does deserve a perfect score for including 5 of some the best games ever created in such an easily affordable package.

I am not sure I agree, you seem to mix the jubilations of game critics finding gems of "good art" and the review scores.

For example, I would give TF2 a perfect score because it has very few flaws and is in my opinion the best game of it's genre. But that doesn't mean I think it is good art, infact even if the visual design is a superb fit with the game design it doesn't hold a huge amount of aestetic apeal on it's own.

Braid on the other hand (and to a lesser degre Portals) manages to convey high-quality art (not amazing art, but good art) while still being great games.

I think it is important to distinguish between a 10/10 gaming experience and a great art experience in a game, besides, how can you give a numerical value to art? Giving it to entertainment is easy, but art is always relative and personal in a diffirent way. 10s should be a badge of honor, a sign that the game in question is utterly superb.

Skrapt:
I agree with what you said except the mention of the Orange box, which imo does deserve a perfect score for including 5 of some the best games ever created in such an easily affordable package.

2 things:
1. You mean 3 games: Half Life 2 (plus expansions/episodes), Portal, and Team Fortress 2
2. If we're to take "The Orange Box" as a whole, including all of its platforms, I think there may be some console gamers who want to argue with just how "perfect" the setup is/was. I got it on PC, where Valve games are meant to be, and was extremely content. Others, notsomuch.

P.S. The phrase "notsomuch" pops up in my head a lot, and my brain always bridges from that over to "jagshemash" (ie Borat). It is sometimes disorienting, but often quite entertaining.

In my opinion, the Source SDK deserves a perfect 10. Any freeware tools that are that powerful deserve it.

I disagree in a pretty strong way.

You say that good, highly hyped games get good scores universally... But there are quite a few games that weren't super hyped by TV commercials that got great scores, and quite a few advertised games that got flat out bad scores (Sonic games, Mario Party games, Wii play, anyone?)

You focused overly on cynacism of advertised games getting good ratings, as if nothing that's advertised can be good. I also think that your comment about gamer's being easy to please is a bit of an insult to your fanbase. I have pretty discerning taste in games, TYVM. I think gamer's in general ARE fairly critical, but unlike highly advertised summer movies, highly advertised games actually tend to be GOOD. I'm not saying awesome, but when highly advertised movies are getting 50/100s on metacritic, that doesn't mean that highly advertised games have to get 50/100s anyway.

Also, games have a far smaller fanbase to appeal to than movies, so highly advertised games have to be good to attract their fanbases and their sequels advertising budget anyway. I just flat out disagree with this review. Yeah, maybe games scores are going up, but blaming it on all reviewer's being, to be blunt, hype and marketing slaves and gamers all being drooling morons who buy anything that is adverting is as wrong as any opinion or guess can be.

I leave you with one more note: Movie liscenced games. Highly advertised (not a ton, but more than enough on TV), highly sold crap fests (for the most part).

Geoffrey42:

2 things:
1. You mean 3 games: Half Life 2 (plus expansions/episodes), Portal, and Team Fortress 2
2. If we're to take "The Orange Box" as a whole, including all of its platforms, I think there may be some console gamers who want to argue with just how "perfect" the setup is/was. I got it on PC, where Valve games are meant to be, and was extremely content. Others, notsomuch.

I'd count it as five, as it includes Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2. Episode 1 and 2 are a little tricky but I count them as full games considering how soundly they surpass any other FPS's.

The second is a good point, however I say judge games on the platform they are prevalent on, so Valve games on the PC versions, EA Sports games on the console version etc.

sammyfreak:

I think it is important to distinguish between a 10/10 gaming experience and a great art experience in a game, besides, how can you give a numerical value to art? Giving it to entertainment is easy, but art is always relative and personal in a diffirent way. 10s should be a badge of honor, a sign that the game in question is utterly superb.

I don't even know if entertainment can be judged on a numeric scale.

As for the article, the fact is that high-quality games just aren't scrutinized like they used to be. It's evidence by the scores for Halo 3, which, while a tremendous game with plenty of goodies, simply wasn't as iconic as a game with a perfect score should be.

The other side to the argument is that reviewers are now trying to become less scientific and more subjective in their reviewing, which leads to higher game scores.

milskidasith:
I disagree in a pretty strong way.

You say that good, highly hyped games get good scores universally... But there are quite a few games that weren't super hyped by TV commercials that got great scores, and quite a few advertised games that got flat out bad scores (Sonic games, Mario Party games, Wii play, anyone?)

You focused overly on cynacism of advertised games getting good ratings, as if nothing that's advertised can be good. I also think that your comment about gamer's being easy to please is a bit of an insult to your fanbase. I have pretty discerning taste in games, TYVM. I think gamer's in general ARE fairly critical, but unlike highly advertised summer movies, highly advertised games actually tend to be GOOD. I'm not saying awesome, but when highly advertised movies are getting 50/100s on metacritic, that doesn't mean that highly advertised games have to get 50/100s anyway.

Also, games have a far smaller fanbase to appeal to than movies, so highly advertised games have to be good to attract their fanbases and their sequels advertising budget anyway. I just flat out disagree with this review. Yeah, maybe games scores are going up, but blaming it on all reviewer's being, to be blunt, hype and marketing slaves and gamers all being drooling morons who buy anything that is adverting is as wrong as any opinion or guess can be.

I leave you with one more note: Movie liscenced games. Highly advertised (not a ton, but more than enough on TV), highly sold crap fests (for the most part).

Actualy, gamers are easily pleased, se Nintendo/Blizzard/Halo fans.

He never claims that hype is universal discerning factor when it comes to games, just that it often reflects what kind of score the games will get. Also, conventional marketing and hype in the videogame industry are very diffirent things, Little Big Planet is a hyped game, but I have never seen advertisement for it.

I think a lot of it is to do with the fanboy market for reviews. Sites like gamespot and ign think they may lose readers if they rate a fanboy game like Halo 3 any less than a 10.

Gametrailers was pretty good about giving reviews, though the scores they give are often high, they are never straight 10s across the board and usually are justified quite well.

I don't pay attention to the numbers on game reviews. They can give Sim City 4 7s to 8s but I'll always love that game. The best things about reviews is that they can give you a heads up before you buy. If many reviews in the future for Spore say it's shallower than expected, that may translate into a number, but it's the opinion not the number that I remember when considering a purchase.

sammyfreak:

Actualy, gamers are easily pleased, se Nintendo/Blizzard/Halo fans.

I think that these types of fans are more fanboys, where the nintendo fans can't wait to play the same zelda game over again, same for the next diablo, and next halo. They are going to love the game regardless, and Ward opens with that fact about sports games.

Some things come to mind, in particular the notion of videogames as becoming the standard bearers of 'high art' and how that may influence their reception. It's a muddy area because we generally strive for the medium to gain that recognition but then lambast them when they attain it. I think Susan Sonntag made a good point of how we often let interpretation of art get in the way of what it actually is. In the same way, while I can understand, and to a point enjoy, Hideo Kojima's attempt to make the Metal Gear Solid series into something that transcends mediums, I often think what exactly is the problem with judging the game based on the fact it's about a badass spy with cool moves and engaging gameplay. So, the point does seem muddled to me somewhat since I'm not acquainted with your outlook on videogames - what do you expect from the medium in terms of recognition? And would you criticize Bioshock's content and themes as they are inspired by, and may evoke works of art, or because it's a smart shooter?

Also, there seems to be a mild cynism dripping off the text that doesn't entirely benefit it. We're no doubt past the point where we can recognize game hype, but this isn't always representative of how it may be received by the press. I could single out a game like Fable which, no matter who tries to convince me otherwise, was quite underserving of the scores it received. But then, notice how Too Human, hyped across several home entertaiment systems for years, is being received. Notice how Chris Taylor's latest, Space Siege, is failing nearly everywhere. And it wasn't that long ago that something called Daikatana was spanked to hell.

I think the problem is two-sided. One possible reason for high scores is that videogame journalism hasn't, by and large, evolved. Gaming has evolved, many players have matured, many studios are crossing the boundaries of intertextuality in games, but journalists are like a stuck cog in a timepiece. We can argue how every game has its place and time and how, for instance, it would be wrong to dismiss Bioshock as a mere update on System Shock 2. But - for the most part, without meaning to disregard its merits, that's what the game is, an update to a formula we've seen fully develop in the days of Looking Glass Studios and Irrational Games. Again, this doesn't mean the game is bad, but journalists are reviewing it based on the notion that everything before the Xbox was a dark age of gaming where every title was only marginally better than Pong. And they do this because they themselves are mostly new to the genre and games in general, and write for gamers who also are new to the genre and games in general. It's obvious Bioshock resonated strongly with those who never played its predecessors, or anything that strived to present the same design philosophies in the past. But this is worse than revisionism because revisionism may acknowledge key aspects of history before it revises them. This is much more akin to cultural genocide.

Also, forgot to add. The other problem I see comes from scores themselves. I don't agree with them for the purposes of communicating with the readership. By experience, a videogame mag is often bought due to very few factors, chief among them review score and coverage on some game in development or company, possibly even a covermount. But while I don't think anecdotal evidence is the basis for a good argument, I'd be cruising down the street on a Fulda Maybach Exelero if I had an Euro for every time I've seen consumers gloss over a review body and go straight to the score.

Scores are a great tool for reviewers, in the sense where they can use to analyze their own conclusions, forcing them to ask "why would I rate this an 8 and that a 9?". But this is lost on the readership, who generally cannot accept how different games may be and how they are deserving of a certain score. Notice the debacle over at Eurogamer when Metal Gear Solid 4 received an 8 - most criticism came from people who wondered how the game was worse than Halo 3, because Halo 3 received a 9. Nevermind the different platforms, genres and any other factor that might be revelant - all they could see was that Halo 3 was better because of one point of difference.

To put it simply... if a game gets a perfect score and I do not go through 5% of it because it sucks then I do question the reviewer. Granted in some scenarios the liking or disliking of a game does play into the score but if a game has lacking controls, flawed game mechanics and only a good theme and story to back it up then it simply is not perfect but okay or maybe good ( if you have a good day ). I agree with his views that the reviews are becoming ridiculous. And to milskidasith, yes todays mass of gamers ( not the pro gamers, those with taste and high expectations ) swallows any shit and considers it a gods send although it's flawed from one end to the other. Art is one aspect of a game and I rate them only 10% at best in my reviews ( when I make one ). What I look at mainly is
- game mechanics
- controls ( this is damn important and many just ignore it )
- experience ( is the game experience in one go or broken all the time due to bad design choices? )
- hook ( my word. means if the game keeps you playing or if you get fed up of it quickly )
- replay value ( any reason to pick the game up again or is it a one-day fly? )
- sound ( oh yes... many ignore this but sound is a much neglected game property nowadays... neglected in favor of boring graFX )
- graphics ( has to be in to be fair )
I also don't give values but a recommendation ( like recommended for all, worth a try, for fans only or not even for those ). Most reviewers nowadays seem to simply check out the graphics point and if this one is good the game gets perfect. I don't consider this quality work. Reviewing is here to give people an "honest" rundown of the game, it's strength and it's weakness. If you jolt down only on the strength you are nothing more than a Halo/enter-crappy-franchise-here fanboy.

And by the way... Source SDK sucks. Have you ever worked with it snuffler? I unfortunately had to ( for a tool I made ) and it's flawed beyond funny.

I think the problem is that certain aspects of the game are being evaluated differently and used as a compensation chip. If a game has an excellent multiplayer mode and a god awful story, it's somehow still the equivalent of a game with a mediocre multiplayer and story just because it doesn't bore or thrill. What critics have to consider, expect, and respond to has evolved and been compounded.

Decades ago, fun and innovation were the selling points of a game. A reviewer only had two simple categories to consider, and that was it. Now you have to consider fun, innovation, story, gameplay, mutliplayer, downloadble content, extras, secrets, replay value, easter eggs, and God help you if the game's a sequel because then you have to compare it to it's siblings. The press and the fanbase certainly influence how a critic is expected to receive the game (in video games more than any other medium), but if you don't go with the flow, you're seen as blasphemous.

I personally think that Xplay has the best system for rating games because a perfect score by them doesn't mean the game is perfect, it just means the game gets their strongest recommendation. Terrible, Passable, Good, Great, Excellent is all the nuance they need to get the job done, and it works wonderfully.

Odjin:
And by the way... Source SDK sucks. Have you ever worked with it snuffler? I unfortunately had to ( for a tool I made ) and it's flawed beyond funny.

I've been working with Hammer since before the Source SDK, and when the SDK did come out I started working with that too. So maybe I'm just biased because I never bothered to use anything else, but I find the learning curve for the SDK very simple and easy.

sammyfreak:

milskidasith:
I disagree in a pretty strong way.

You say that good, highly hyped games get good scores universally... But there are quite a few games that weren't super hyped by TV commercials that got great scores, and quite a few advertised games that got flat out bad scores (Sonic games, Mario Party games, Wii play, anyone?)

You focused overly on cynacism of advertised games getting good ratings, as if nothing that's advertised can be good. I also think that your comment about gamer's being easy to please is a bit of an insult to your fanbase. I have pretty discerning taste in games, TYVM. I think gamer's in general ARE fairly critical, but unlike highly advertised summer movies, highly advertised games actually tend to be GOOD. I'm not saying awesome, but when highly advertised movies are getting 50/100s on metacritic, that doesn't mean that highly advertised games have to get 50/100s anyway.

Also, games have a far smaller fanbase to appeal to than movies, so highly advertised games have to be good to attract their fanbases and their sequels advertising budget anyway. I just flat out disagree with this review. Yeah, maybe games scores are going up, but blaming it on all reviewer's being, to be blunt, hype and marketing slaves and gamers all being drooling morons who buy anything that is adverting is as wrong as any opinion or guess can be.

I leave you with one more note: Movie liscenced games. Highly advertised (not a ton, but more than enough on TV), highly sold crap fests (for the most part).

Actualy, gamers are easily pleased, se Nintendo/Blizzard/Halo fans.

He never claims that hype is universal discerning factor when it comes to games, just that it often reflects what kind of score the games will get. Also, conventional marketing and hype in the videogame industry are very diffirent things, Little Big Planet is a hyped game, but I have never seen advertisement for it.

As others have said, people who give those games their seal of "best game evar!" are either fanboys or have a lot of fun modding Halo 3 maps.

Also, he claims that it reflects the score, but he, if I remember correctly, interchanged "marketing" and "hype" in his article quite often. If he had only said hype, then yeah, I could agree with him more, but he did mention marketing, if I recall correctly.

Another example for my pile of "examples of super hyped games or super good games that aren't super good/hyped": Too human was hugely hyped, but seems to be getting decidedly mediocre reviews

Skrapt:
I agree with what you said except the mention of the Orange box, which imo does deserve a perfect score for including 5 of some the best games ever created in such an easily affordable package.

hey is Team Fortress 2 really that great. I mean, does it rival halo 3 or COD 4's multiplayer, or id it just a nice add-on to portal and Half-life? What would you give it on a scale of one to ten, ten being awesome but not perfect? And don't say an eleven out of ten.

But much more worrying to me than the escalating trend among review scores is the trend claimed by Christian Ward that bonusses and even jobs/livelihoods are being placed on the line by publishers who value the review score. Noone here has had anything to say about that so far, but it's far, far more disconcerting for me to hear that than "game review scores going up, but game quality not going up proportionately".

Combining this added responsibility to the critic (for it is a responsibility, if an unsolicited or even unnoticed one) with industry friendship... what else did anyone expect? Of course the scores'll go up. We want more games, which means we need game devs, which means we need higher scores.

PONAGE999:

Skrapt:
I agree with what you said except the mention of the Orange box, which imo does deserve a perfect score for including 5 of some the best games ever created in such an easily affordable package.

hey is Team Fortress 2 really that great. I mean, does it rival halo 3 or COD 4's multiplayer, or id it just a nice add-on to portal and Half-life? What would you give it on a scale of one to ten, ten being awesome but not perfect? And don't say an eleven out of ten.

Mate, it's a whole 'nother thread (that we've already had). Buuuuut... should be a free weekend this weekend to celebrate the Heavy update. Go grab Steam, and try it out.

And if you don't want to do that, then yes, it's worth the $20 they charge for it. I've given it much more of my time than I have Halo 3, which I regard highly. Hell, I bought a 360 mainly so I could have Halo 3, and TF2 has consumed more of my time. But, as I said in my above post, you need to try it yourself.

My mother went to the doctor recently, as it had been about six months since her last checkup, and her and her Doctor started talking about various things. As it was, the doctor was talking about a book he was reading, and my mother happened to be reading the same book (Pillars of Earth). There was sort of an awkward silence when she said this; I assume that my doctor had not thought my mother intelligent enough to comprehend a book like that. My mother then said that she didn't really like the book, and that she thought it had a tad bit of a stiffy for itself. The doctor said it couldn't be that bad, because it was getting pretty good reviews.

Now here's the problem; are the people who are judging the book judging it by it's own merits, by what they expected it to be, or by how good it is compared to the rest of the genres? What's more, if it is a terrible book, does that mean all books like it are terrible?

The same can be applied to games. How are the people judging it? Is Halo considered so good, despite the fact that it's so mediocre, because practically every other FPS is terrible? Does Super Smash Bros. Brawl get such high marks because it exceeds expectations? Does Half-Life continuously get extraordinary marks because it continues to be one of the best games there has ever been?

I dunno, and I apologize for that. The way I see it, you just have to decide for yourself. If I think a game's suited to my tastes, then I'll buy it. If not, even if it's the best game there has ever been and will cure cancer, I'll pass it over.

Articles like this are why I stick around here...

Anyways, I believe numerical reviews somewhat silly, just read the actual content of the review and judge for yourself. Worse comes to worse there are usually demos, or a suckerfriend of yours that'll buy it.

Fenixius:
Combining this added responsibility to the critic (for it is a responsibility, if an unsolicited or even unnoticed one) with industry friendship...

Responsability? To whom? In what ways is a videogame journalist responsible for incorrect or biased information in contrast to a 'standard' journalist? There is no public trust to serve. There is no standard to obey to. A 10/10 review based on a lack of knowledge or unmitigated fanboysm is not considered as damning as a reporter who may give false information to viewers or readers. We simply do not expect, and do not enforce, the same kind of integrity on videogame journalists.

The main problem with game scores is easily explained: They are worth nothin'.

Just think about the following facts:

.) Magazines make most of their incomes by selling advertisment space. Selling prices wouldn't even cover the costs. Magazines are financially dependent on the ads paid by game publishers, and all ads in gaming magazines are game ads paid by publishers. You don't bite the hand the feeds you.

.) Exclusive material is one of the biggest sellings points of magazines. If you have something exclusive, you sell more copies and that makes your ad-space worth more money. But publishers give away exclusive material only if certain demands are met: It has to be a cover-story, and the rating has to be at least X, otherwise the printing license will be revoked. This method is pretty standard.

.) One case, where Sony has sued a magazine for an action for injunction (because of a mediocre rating) has been made public. Who knows how many similar law suits remain unknown to us?

.) A gaming journalist has to do at least one review (possibly multiple) each month. And there are lots of other tasks in this job next to playing, so pure playing time per title comes down to just some days in sum. Shinig graphics are esay to judge within just half an hour... To really get down to the core of the gameplay mechanics of a game, you'd need much more playing time.

.) And there's that "going with the hype" like already mentioned before. To a certain extend those journalist are surely influenced by what they think their readers want to read. P.ex. no magazine can afford to piss off all World of Warcraft fans among their readers...

And if you want to know what happens, when a developer tries to stay independent, and does not get all that magazine pushing from a publisher: Take a look at flagship studios.

I tend to ignore reviews for major franchise release titles (that arnt gimmiky tie-ins) because I know the score is likely to be undeservedly high & the actual review article full of reasons why it doesnt deserve that high score. Its Just the way it is.

Games like bioshock are going to be put on pointless pedestals by "gaming art" conniseurs simply because theres so little out there with a big budget/hype for them to get excited about. I dont believe anyone goes into the games creation industry wanting to be an "artist"; so its no surprise that the few games that can actually be called "art" get jumped on by ppl who believe computer games are more then fun time wasters.

That said; I think the high reviews have done one bad thing for gaming. the many perfect scores of 10; coupled with constant negative-media attention & rabid defence by gamers; means GTA IV is now the game the whole industtry seems to be measured by. What joy; a game that is about gratuitous sex, violence & dodgy story is now the first thing ppl in & out of the gaming community seem to bring up when the words "games" are mentioned. In my opinion, GTA IV got its score because the community thought if it wasnt perfect it wouldnt justify to them all the attention it was getting from ppl outside the gaming world.

Well, two cents time why not.

1) All cynicism and nostalgia aside, it does seem that we're in an accellarating golden-age-vortex of video games. The good ones really are getting "better" every year, for a given value of "good". It's true that Doom can be said to be "better" than Halo 3, but only in the kind of narrow/limited definition of "good" that appeals to people like... well, me. I know that Halo 3 is botoxed averageness, but it really is far "better" than Doom.

2) A pox on reviews that give scores to feed the herd. If you enjoy it, play it.

So. Much. Text. On. Thread.

Logan Frederick:
I don't even know if entertainment can be judged on a numeric scale.

Indeed, I think it's pretty clear that in at least some respects it cannot.

Classic example in recent weeks: Soul Calibur IV. If you are a player who has both a taste for fighting games and the ability to play them to a high level then this game has a far, far higher value to you that to a random gamer.

Of course in that particular case there's no problem. The fact that it's firmly planted in the middle of a well-known genre makes assessments easier. Same with Halo III. But what about when something genuinely new comes out? How should titles like Spore be reviewed?

Nothing new...

Review scores are plain useless - the attempt to boil down the various attributes of a game to an objective value is bound to fail.
It can work if you know that the reviewer has similar tastes as yourself, but even then it can only be a rough indicator.

I stopped looking at those long before i stopped buying games mags at all, which was ...dunno about 8 years ago.

Online reviews are even worse, because of the large flux of reviewers most sites seem to have.

"Try before buy" is the only sensible method, i think.

snv:

"Try before buy" is the only sensible method, i think.

If only u could rent PC games :-)

Reviews probably don't make a difference, anyway. A hyped-up game will sell like gangbusters even with mediocre reviews (Too Human), while other games will make a relatively much smaller splash with glowing reviews (Psychonauts). This isn't a rule, it's a possibility that's shown itself as commonplace in the market. It seems that people decide whether or not they'll love a game the second it's announced or they see a trailer (Honestly, what Gears of War owner will not get the sequel).

Several times recently I've read declarations from gaming journalists about how jaded they are, and quite frankly, it doesn't hold up. They are a generally excitable bunch. It's not even enough to report on how wonderful a game is, they also have to report on how everyone else is getting excited to. Telling us about the latest comics, fan art, cakes, songs, and papercrafts based on whatever the latest thing is. The increased prevalence of perfect scores isn't helping your case any either.

 

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