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IGN recently posted an article on the rationale of giving perfect scores to games they review. I thought it was a well written article and covered some things that I’ve gone through here. One quote strikes me in particular.

It’s possible that there are journalists out there – pros and amateurs both – who are prepared to deliver a 10 one day, and so they’re mooning over their unused statement like it’s a dragon’s egg.

That was me, back in the day. I’ve run this site for six years now and I’ve given exactly two perfect scores out: Grand Theft Auto 4 for the Xbox 360 back in ’08 and Portal 2 for PC this year (looking back, GTA4 may have been the most overrated game I’ve done). Before giving that first 10/10 (our scoring system in 2008) I was looking for a game that I thought earned that prestigious score. GTA 4 was such a well done, well polished game that I felt I’d finally found ‘the one.’ Once I gave out my first one, it actually became easier to consider it for future reviews. Some games that have come very close to a perfect score include Oblivion (too many bugs, didn’t like the Oblivion dimension at all), Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2 (just a few nagging issues holding them back), Skyrim (too many bugs, like Oblivion) and Team Fortress 2 (seemed shy on content).

Since the site revamp in February this year we’re have two scoring systems. Our first was the one you’ll through most of the site, a 5 star system. I liked it for it’s simplicity but I disliked having only 10 points (half stars) to work with. I’ve since gone to a 100% rating to give me 20 rating points (5% increments) but it could still be improved. The fact is that all rating systems are unique and in the end somewhat arbitrary. People just rank things. Everyone does. Everybody has a hierarchy of things to like or don’t like, and can probably put them in an order of some sort. The game reviewing community would do well to find a way to come to a common score that can be easily compared. Metacritic does a good job of aspiring to this, but it doesn’t include all scores, particularly from small reviewers like us here at AAGH.

In the end, game reviews are allot about finding a reviewer you trust or can relate to. If you – like many – think reviews in general are corrupt/wrong/stupid, then please, do your own. Write your own reviews. Many people think that way so there must be a market there. I try to relate to the average gamer, the one who’s a hardcore dedicated gamer but isn’t obsessed with perfection. Busy? Like games, but don’t have time for them all? Not a completionist? You’ll fit right in here. Everyone else? You’re just as welcome.

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2 Responses to Weighing in on the Great Review Debate

  • Ever notice how even the crappiest of movies has a “This is explosive and awesome!” review quoted on the DVD/BluRay box? It will be a sad day when the gaming industry catches that bug. For now, I avoid gaming magazines altogether and most of the big-time gaming review sites. Usually the gems are in honest smaller sites and actual customer reviews on Amazon or eBay. If you can recognize an intelligent reviewer, you can get a good idea of if you want to spend your hard earned money on a game.

    This also applies heavily to the gameplay value equation. I find that many “less than perfect” games are actually really awesome and worth it when they can be had for cheap. For example: Blood Drive for X-box 360 was a game I was looking forward to. It premiered for the average new game cost of $50 with lukewarm reviews at best. I waited it out and approximately three months later picked it up on eBay for $20. The flaws are glaring, but overall it is not a bad game for my investment of $20.

    I think that one of the biggest challenges for game reviewers is fully taking into account the value of a game based on how rewarded the consumer would feel about the investment.

  • powerrave

    Alien Probe pretty much already said it. I’ve done a few reviews in the past and can say that’s it’s not as easy as it may seem. But with the gaming magazines and those big review sites, it just seems so wrong.
    Another thing that always counts is the personal taste of an individual. I think that with small sites like this, people get more of a view of what game they are really looking at then one of those huge sites or any gaming magazine.

    If you don’t mind me posting this here, these are some reviews I once did. I did more but these are the only one’s that I can consider to be decent to some extend.

    http://www.tales-of-war.com/t153-dirt2
    http://www.tales-of-war.com/t243-vector-td
    http://www.tales-of-war.com/t229-medarot-ds-kabuto-and-kuwagata-version
    Opinions would be nice, but you don’t have to look.