People within the gaming industry rely heavily on video-game reviews, whether it’s for advertising and promotional purposes, or for the sake of providing information to gamers. Reviews have the power to inform & aid consumers in making their purchasing decisions. Reviews also have the capacity to have a negative impact on the industry. The detriment lies in the actual metrics many outlets adopt. Let’s take a look at a very common scenario: a game that gets a 9.4 vs one that gets a 9.5. Both games in their own merit are considered excellent games, worthy of both your time, and money. Which one of these games are more deserving of your energy? Naturally, numbers will tell you that 9.5 is a greater number than 9.4. Your average consumer is more inclined to make a decision based on that without seeking any more context as to why one title has .1 more points than another. And more conversely, it may not be the best option for said consumer (especially considering, there are often more than one person reviewing games per outlet.) Another detriment to game review metrics is the question is raises; “What score makes a title worthy of your money?” A game that is anything between a 6-7 could mean it’s worthy of your time, but not your money to one review site, while elsewhere, it could also mean it’s worthy of both. That is both confusing and counter intuitive towards achieving the goal of providing consumers with the information they’re actually looking for.
Let’s take a look at the opposite of that spectrum: A game like “Ride to Hell: Retribution. Without sounding like a broken record from the video in this article, Ride To Hell Retribution is a prime example of a product that is essentially one of the worst games to ever grace the PS3, 360, and PC. It has a metacritic of 1/5 stars, and a 16. Eurogamer gave the game a 20 out of 100, while Gamespot gave it a 10 out of 100. Overall, the game is regarded as a “please stay away from this game, don’t touch it with a 10 ft pole”, and yet there’s a 10 point difference between those two review scores. Every site has a different way of measuring scores, and take into consideration individual elements of the game to quantify the quality of the product. In the end, how useful is that 10 pt gap between those opinions? What purpose does it serve in helping someone make a decision on whether or not they should purchase, or even try this game out? In this instance, the answer is nothing- It exists because people like to put numbers next to things, and in the end it’s really just not very helpful for anyone (except maybe those developers who love to slap “80/100 review scores!” on their marketing material)
Review scores also don’t factor in the time in which the game is released. Reviews are all relative to the other games that are out at the time of conception, and experiences vary depending on your own life experiences. How can you put a number on that? If you played Metal Gear Solid when it came out, vs now, you’d say “the graphics are terrible, the controls are clunky, the sound effects are dated, and the camera system needs work”. Despite this however, this game is still, to this day, considered a masterpiece by many gamers (and retains a metacritic of 94). Should the game get the same number score today as it did when it came out? Is the original score it received relevant to how we look at games now? More often than not, the answer is no. Is it still a fantastic game, and should you still buy it? You bet your sweet a– Getting a little excited here.
In closing, I propose a more contextual ranking system that both informs gamers and consumers simply and concisely. At the moment, most websites and media outlets have adopted a number based scoring system, (1-5 number or star scale, or 1-10 number scale). What I have started using is more in line with the way we look critically at games, and favors the gamer and consumer, more so than our current system. The scores I give out are based on whether a game is deserving of your money and/or time. Pass, as the name suggests, is for a game that you should pass on, or should stay as far away from as possible. Rent is for a game that you should at least try if you’re a fan of a particular IP or style of gaming. Buy is for a game that has qualities that make it worthy of both money and time. This is for a game that warrants that hefty price tag, and offers value to gamers. Must Buy is for titles that are undeniable gaming gems, and should be experienced by as many people as possible, whether you are big into gaming, or are fairly casual. It’s a game that sets the bar high, or goes above and beyond a conventionally “good” game. I hope we can all move towards a system more aligned with this kind of thinking. And with that, I leave you with this: The very first Black Oni Video Game Review (Dragon’s Crown).