Almost since I started playing video games and began reading reviews I’ve had a problem with the rating systems being used. The first magazine I read actually seemed to somewhat fair rating, giving scores in graphics, sound, documentation, interface and game play value. A really good game could still end up with a 3.7/5 average rating. Even though I’m against scoring systems when it comes to games overall, if you want to rate games, at least have a system that makes sense.
In the early 90s I started seeing the trend towards a really inflated rating system, where anything below 70/10 was worthless, 70-80 could be OK, if you had nothing else to play in that genre, 80-90 was average and all the good games got 95+. A lot of the games that have since, become real classics got 98%. One game even received a score of 99/100: Sid Meier’s Civilization. While this game was one of the best games ever made, a 99% score on any game is just ridiculous. Does this mean, no game can ever be better? Or does it mean that this is just the best game for it’s time? If so, what time span do you use? How much better is a 99/100 game one year later? I Even think some magazine gave a Zelda game 11/10. This goes to show the scoring system is flawed. When I read a review, I want to know the good and bad things about a game, not some simplified score that might vary from reviewer to reviewer. Also, I person might be biased towards or against something, and this will affect the final score. Of course bias will affect the entire review, even if there’s no score given, but at least you have to read the full review to form your own opinion, and you, in turn won’t be biased by the score, before reading a single word.
When I first got access to the Internet, I found a gaming site called gamesdomain.com. I thought back then, and still think, that they had some of the best reviews I’ve ever seen. They ware very detailed with a conclusion, and a pros and cons section at the end, with no scores. Unfortunately, that site doesn’t exist anymore, and I’ve yet to find a site that writes reviews in a similar way.
Today, the most popular video game websites uses scores to rate games, and these scores can make or break any game. I use meta critics from time to time, but only to get a general idea about what users and critics think about a game, then I usually end up reading some forums and watching a video or two before I decide weather I want to spend money on a game or not. Meta critics uses some weighted average for critics reviews, no one really knows the algorithms, but I assume bigger websites are more important than small ones. The user average score, while it sounds like a great idea it really isn’t. I’m looking at three unnamed game right now that have sold millions of copies for the PC. These are all Tripple A titles. Let’s call them Game A, B and C.
Game A came out late last year, It has a Meta score of 88 (critics’ reviews) and a user score of 3.2. Game B came out early this year and has a meta score of 89, and a user score of 4.3. Game C also came out this year with a Meta score of 88 and a user score of 3.8.
Now let’s look at three games that I wouldn’t consider triple A titles.
Game A came out in 2009 and has a Meta score of 73 and a user score of 8.0. Game B came out last year and has a Meta score of 85 and a user score of 7.8. Game C also came out last year, has a Meta score of 86, and a user score of 8.4
So, what does these numbers tell me, as a consumer? Well, not much apparently, except that I should be very sceptical about triple A titles with high Meta scores, or are the users all wrong about these games? Another thing to draw from this is that production costs doesn’t seem to matter that much, in fact, it seems like users like the cheaper games more, or do they just have higher expectations from the high budget titles?
Reading some of the user reviews I find some 0s and 10s in there, which is completely ridiculous. I’ve played video games for 25 years, and I honestly don’t think I would give a 0 to any game I’ve ever played, maybe one or two 10s but I’ve yet to play the perfect game, so I doubt it. Having said that, even if I take away the 0s a few of the games would still score low on the user score. The high Meta score together with the low user score, also raises some suspicions that the popular gaming sites are biased towards big publishers Like EA and Activision/Blizzard.
In conclusion, these scores don’t tell me much and should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve played a few of the above games myself, and if I had to score them, they would all fall between 5 and 8, however, my score is pointless. Browsing thorough some of the user reviews of the games I’ve played I see people giving a game a 0 after having tried the game for 15 minutes, and without even understanding the game. How much weight should I put into such a review, and should it even be listed and included in the overall score?
All I want is an honest, thorough review without the big score at the top that gives me preconceptions about a game, before reading the first sentence, and this is something that is really difficult to find today.