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Gamasutra - Video Game Scores-Pointless or Pertinent?

by Magerette, 2008-06-07 17:58:44

Gamasutra brings up the long-running topic of how video game review scores impact sales, marketing and game perception, with the often-used "video games aren't toasters" slant, and a somewhat different than usual conclusion.

So what do people want? 

...The average reader (even if they don’t know it) is after a complete objective, scientific comparison between game x and game y with data and statistics and, finally, a numerical point on a linear scale by which they can compare, for example, Mass Effect with Rock Band and see which one is empirically better.

And why do reviews not really give it to them?

Games are experiential and it is impossible to be wholly empirical or objective about them. Game reviewers instead present their experience of the game with, hopefully, lots of reference points and their weight of knowledge behind them. They might make empirical comparisons between game x and game y’s framerates but they will also argue whether they think this in any way effects the experience for better...

...Secondly, games are more than the sum of their parts. You could have a visually astounding videogame with a gut-wrenching soundtrack and astute, nuanced voice acting and it could still be terrible to play and vice versa. Aggregating scores from extrapolated game elements tells you nothing anyone would actually want to know about the game.


All this is not to say that review scores are entirely meaningless or misleading. In fact, they do have a very clearly defined purpose; it’s just that it’s a different purpose to the one that’s widely understood.

Scores have come to represent whether a game over achieves or underachieves on the preview hype that was generated by the publication ahead of its release. As previews in the average video game magazine are so heavily influenced by advertisers (after all, a preview is offering no judgment on the quality of a game, so a magazine/website can print riotously positive spin in it and maintain clear conscience) this weighting of preview coverage sets imbalanced expectations in readers...

...Scores then become a reference to a game’s preceding hype. An 8/10 for a game that was hugely hyped to hobbyist gamers is a punch in the stomach for excited fans...Conversely, an 8/10 for a game nobody cares about is viewed a gross over-generosity.

And that, is why video game review scores are pointless: they often answer a pertinent question that nobody realised they were asking.


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