Should Games Media Get Rid of Review Scores?
About a week ago, the review embargo lifted for a little game called Uncharted 4. And while the game was very well received by reviewers, a little website called IGN received a lot of hate from fans because it gave a relatively low score to the game. That score (which was a review in progress which is subject to change from the final score) was an 8.8, a score which means “great” on the IGN review scale. The same score that most developers would kill for their game to have is the same score that people are upset about. As a lover of the gaming industry and a person who enjoys ingesting content such as rankings, lists, and comparisons, I love review scores. That is why it is painful for me to even say this, but when it comes down to it, the review score in games media is unnecessary and in many ways destructive.
When searching for a review for a book, movie, game, or any form of media, the first thing that we often look for is that number that tells us all we need to know about how the reviewer feels about that particular product. That number doesn’t tell us anything. That number doesn’t give context about how the reviewer feels about that type of product. That number doesn’t tell us exactly what the reviewer like or dislike about what they are reviewing. All that number really communicates to the reader is how the reviewer thinks the quality of what they are reviewing matches up with a scale. This is the definition of arbitrary. The review score is just one part of a review, however we treat it like the whole review.
The reality of game reviews is that the number is one of the least important parts when it comes to gauging the quality of the game. I haven’t played Uncharted 4 yet, but I can guess that if I were to play it and give it a score, it would score around a seven. This is because I didn’t really enjoy the first three games all that much. I’m not the biggest fan of cover shooters or the climbing aspects in games like Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed. When looking at a number this is impossible to know. When reading an actual review it becomes quite clear.
The multiplayer mode in The Last of Us is fun, but in my opinion is entirely ruined by micro-transactions and pay-to-win aspects that spoil the competitive nature. I would still score The Last of Us a ten out of ten. There are examples of this that can be applied to many games. There are aspects of games that you can forgive because other aspects are so good and vice versa. We often forget that there is a human who is writing the review that we are reading and humans are not computers. We are not fully objective. We have biases. We have preferences. The actual review is where we can go to figure out exactly what the reviewer disliked and judge for ourselves whether we may have the same sentiment. I don’t like the platforming parts in Uncharted, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t love them. Those are preferences.
It is obvious to me that if IGN didn’t use review scores, nobody would be upset about the Uncharted 4 review. The reality of the matter is that we gravitate towards only the score and hence, make snap judgments based on it. What is worse is that we get upset over what is overall somebody’s opinion. This is why games media should look into doing away with review scores. What we have to say is more important than the assumptions people have to make based on a number.
This piece was written by Blessing Adeoye. You can find Blessing on the internet either getting into dance battles or analyzing game culture for the purpose of making the world a better place at @blessingjr on the Twittersphere.