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Game On or Game Over: Ruining your Metacritic scores!

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Uncharted 4

Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?

Nicholas: As guaranteed as night follows day, any major game release is to be followed (or preceded) by reviews from a barrage of gaming websites and publications. Hell, that’s what we’re here for at Stevivor when we put aside our news coverage, is the delivery of features like this but perhaps more importantly, our reviews of new-release titles. Of course, what also follows when reviews are published for a highly-anticipated title is the reaction from the gamers who read them, and that’s what I wanted to discuss this week.

Neither you, nor I, nor our readers, are unfamiliar to the backlash that has sometimes arisen when a major outlet has scored a AAA title lower that what the fans have expected. Despite the fact that an average game is 5/10, and a 7/10 should indicate that a game is well above-average, it seems that fans aren’t happy if the latest instalment in their favourite franchise isn’t within the 8-9 mark, or as we’ve seen lately, a perfect 10/10 review.

In a time when I’m sure so many of us will scroll through a 1000-word review just to see a numerical value at the end, missing all the intricacies and skipping the effort that went into the creation of that review, a reaction to a single-digit number has never been more volatile, especially from what I’ve seen in the past two weeks.

However, I’d like to ease into the topic this week so I’d like to ask you first what your style is when it comes to reading a review, and also what you aim to achieve from reading/watching one. Are you the kind of person who will scroll from top to bottom, read the score first and then the review or do you prefer to read the body and ignore the number altogether?

doom-choke

Andy: For me it falls into the category of a big fat “it depends”. It really depends on the game/DLC, how much I want it, if I’m unsure about it or if it’s one I haven’t really paid much attention to. If it’s a game (or DLC) I’m really excited about I don’t usually read anything in the body I just look right to the score and move on just in case there are spoilers in the review. If it’s one I’m unsure about I go to the rating first, then back up and read the whole thing. If it’s a game I don’t really care too much about or didn’t pay much pre-release attention to then I go from top to bottom. I’m not really sure why I’ve settled on that being my way of reading reviews and scores but it works for me.

It’s ironic that I only read the scores of games I really want, because the reality is I don’t care about the score. I know it’s hypocritical of me to say this because I write reviews and we are writing these articles for a site that writes a lot of them, but the fact of the matter is review scores don’t matter. Hell, reviews don’t matter if you know you really want the game. You’re going to get it regardless. On the flip-side when it’s a game I’m unsure of or don’t care much about one review doesn’t sway me much. Sure I read them, and if there is a general consensus I give it a bit more weight, then I listen to what my friends say about it and give it a little more weight. Even then though, the only person that truly knows if I like or hate a game is me. The only way I’ll really know either way is if I play it. The only thing that reviews affect are where the game falls in my “to play” list.

To bring this back around though, it never ceases to amaze me how riled up gamers get over review scores. Like you said in regards to scores, gamers have somehow developed this opinion that if the game gets an 8 overall it’s bad. Heaven forbid a reviewer give their favourite franchise anything less than a 9.5. Anything less than that and it’s obvious that the reviewer has no idea what they are talking about and they’re nothing but a hack writer.

You have to wonder what would happen if reviewers just stopped giving scores and relied on the body of their work to convey their opinion of the game. Gamers would have to *gasp* read the entire thing and not rush to judgement based on a single number. The other thing that seems to get lost on those rabid fanboys is that a review is a single person’s opinion based on their experience with the game. The reviewer’s opinion is no more right or wrong than an average gamer’s. Reviewers just happen to have a platform where they can share their opinions with lots of people. What do you think though? Do gamers make too big of deal over reviews? What is it that makes people so blinded by one person’s opinion?

Nicholas: If I speak from personal preference, a review for many can have a significant impact on another person’s decision to buy a game or not. Like you’ve said, putting aside those titles that each gamer knows they’re going to buy because they love the franchise (think me and Need For Speed or you with Fallout), I’m sure there are many gamers who will only purchase a ‘maybe’ game if the review score comes in at 8+. For that reason I can see why some fans are defensive when it comes to a review. While some might be interested in looking at Metacritic or a collection of gaming sites, some might focus solely on their favourite publication.

The question that has to be asked is, why do fans care what their game is scored if they themselves disagree or if they themselves are getting it regardless? What baffles the mind in this situation, that if IGN rates a game like Uncharted 4 a 5/10, but you’re still loving the game, then who cares what they think? Unless you’re the developers/publishers where I can see how they’ll be personally invested in the success of their product, from a consumer point of view, how is someone else’s opinion of a game you’re enjoying important?

On that note, I’d like to delve into the meat of the topic that I’d like to discuss this week. Above we’ve both questioned why fans take the review scores of different publications so seriously, and this really came to a head last week when there were two separate occasions of petitions being raised for individual review scores to be pulled from Metacritic because they affected the game’s average rating – one for Uncharted 4 and one for Doom.

In the case of the Uncharted 4 example, the petition link was shared by Troy Baker, the voice behind supporting character Sam Drake. There’s also been instances of hate and abuse being slandered by fans of these franchises towards the writers of these reviews. What is your take on the very existence of these petitions? Is it just a bit of harmless fun that is unfortunately taken too far by some gamers, or do you think it’s a reflection on the immaturity of some sectors of the gaming community?

Uncharted 4 MP

Andy: With all due respect to gamers, those who make games, publish them and write about them… people just need to get over themselves. Let’s remove games as part of this topic for a second. These two idiotic petitions boil down to someone trying to tell someone else that their opinion is wrong. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of opinion is: “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something: what someone thinks about a particular thing.” Seriously, that’s a perfect example for what we are talking about here.

There is no-one that should be able to dictate what opinion I (or others) can have. Furthermore, these two petitions are really a form of censorship. “I don’t like what you say about my favourite game, so I demand it be removed.” Bullshit, get over yourself. Maybe I should start a petition to have every review that rates Doom an 8 or above removed because I don’t like the game. I’d never do that because I understand that an opinion is just that. It’s the view of one person on something. There is no right or wrong about an opinion. In fact, these petitions are opinions on someone’s opinion.

There is a great deal of irony in the wording of the Uncharted petition as well. Towards the end of the petition it says “A review is not about what you think a game is , it’s about what a game is.” Um… what? That’s exactly what a review is. It is what I think it is, and my experience with it. If you don’t like the opinion of a reviewer move on, don’t come back and read more of their stuff. The funny thing with these petitions is they are actually getting more people to read the review, and generate ad revenue to the outlets.

I don’t know if it’s so much the immaturity of the gaming community, rather I think it has more to do with overall society and when people are pseudo-offended at something if they bitch enough they will find someone on their side. Then they get a mob-type mentality and they convince themselves they are right. Imagine when they are in a review process at their job and their supervisor gives them an unfavourable review, do they complain about it to a higher up and ask that it be removed from their personnel file? Probably not. Just a few years ago you were known for your amazing rants on Twitter, so I have to ask what’s your opinion on these petitions? (Just know that if I don’t like your opinion I will petition Steve to remove it from this article. I hear that’s the thing to do now-a-days).

Nicholas: My ultimate opinion on these reviews is – what a whole lot of effort for something so nonsensical. It boggles the mind how someone can spend the time reading a review, find it annoying that the score brings the average review rating down, and then puts effort into going to another website, creating a petition and sharing it with their friends for them to jump on the bandwagon and have it ultimately gain traction. All for what, too? Hell, there are times when I can’t be bothered doing things that I get paid for, let alone something that will bring me no gain whatsoever. It’s completely ridiculous that someone would go to that effort.

You’ve talked about the fact that reviews are nothing more than an opinion – at times you’d like to think a well-thought and presented opinion – but an opinion nonetheless. I think that’s where we’re getting hung up unnecessarily when it comes to reading a review. When someone writes a review they are at best giving their assessment of the game – key word being “their”. It isn’t representative of all reviewers nor all gamers, and we shouldn’t consider it as such. Sure, there may be some writers who carve a niche for themselves in a particular genre so they might have greater knowledge and history than the next, but really, it boils down to the fact it’s all what one person thinks of the product.

When we look at the very existence of these petitions to begin with, do you believe it’s all due to the fact these review scores exist? Sites like Stevivor clearly state what each number on the scale represents, so a 7/10 means something more than merely “above average”. Despite this though, do you think scores cause more damage than good? Alternatively, is there anything missing from reviews that you think would prevent backlash like this occurring, or it’s just something we can’t avoid online when everyone has a platform to tell people exactly what’s on their mind?

doom-cyberdemon

Andy: If I had it my way reviews would not include a numerical score. It would be the body of the review, pros, cons and nothing else. You even mentioned at the very start about how some people skip right to the number and then get bent out of shape without reading why the reviewer rated it as they did. I don’t think there is necessarily something missing from reviews, because we then get back into the area of telling someone that their opinion is wrong or flawed and I’m not comfortable doing that.

I honestly don’t think there is anything anyone can do to prevent or curb this type of thing right now. Sadly, it seems to be the age we live in where if someone doesn’t agree with someone else’s opinion they scream at the top of their lungs. It honestly reminds me of young grade school kids screaming at each other because they want to be right. Yet, no one takes the time to sit back and say “I respect your opinion, here’s mine, and we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Maybe that’s where things are going wrong here is that the people have no respect for other, especially if the others have an opinion that differs from theirs. Instead we want to force our opinion onto someone else and to hell with whatever anyone else thinks.

A great personal example for me is the game Brink. Man, that game got a lot of hate and was the recipient of some pretty brutal reviews – but I had a lot of fun with it. Was it genre defining? No. Did it have super amazing graphics? No. Did it have a super in-depth story? No. Did I enjoy the crap out of it? Yes. Did I get my $60 out of it? Yes and then some. Does that mean that the people who didn’t like it are wrong? Absolutely not. I don’t see why games are any different than other mediums like movies, restaurants, cars, etc.

What do you think though. Am I right boiling this down to a simple respect thing and some people feeling like their opinion is the only possible opinion and every other opinion is wrong? What is so wrong about agreeing to disagree and moving on? Do we just live in an asshat world where everyone has to be a jerk to everyone else?

Nicholas: I think the crux of this issue lies solely in the fact that the internet gives everyone a platform to voice their thoughts, and the fact of the matter is, some people just shouldn’t have that option. Yes, everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but for me that doesn’t mean that opinion is correct and nor does it mean that everyone has to hear it. When we see these petitions, to me, they just scream of the cries of people who should shut up and put up, but sadly there’s no filter on the internet for situations like this.

To put a wrap on this week’s article, and perhaps in an ironic finish, has there been a time where you’ve read a review that praised the game, but which turned out to be quite the opposite when you yourself played it? You gave the example of Brink above on how your experience was positive compared to what reviewers discussed, but how about the other way around?

Uncharted 4

Andy: Oh absolutely, just off the top of my head Dark Souls, Borderlands the Prequel and Grand Theft Auto V are all games that received some pretty amazing reviews, yet after I played them, some longer than others, I just didn’t care for. That’s not to say they are bad games, it’s just to say that particular game for whatever reason didn’t gel with what I like. Does that mean all those reviewers are wrong in their reviews? Absolutely not. Does that mean I am wrong in my opinion of those games? Nope, not that either.

You’re absolutely right that the internet gives people an avenue to be heard, but there are examples all around the world – not just in gaming – where people protest what they see is an injustice. Even without the internet these types of things still exist, but certainly the internet gives people a much broader audience. The wider the audience the better chance they have of finding someone that agrees with them. Then you can really get the ball rolling and fight against the huge injustice of a simple numerical number and eschew the thousand-plus words of the actual review, because that makes total sense.

Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this. This whole petition craze is stupid. The petitions don’t mean anything nor does getting 5,000 or 10,000 signatures. No matter what you think of yourself your petition doesn’t mean squat. So what if someone doesn’t like a game as much as you, it’s their opinion. It’s also why there are so many options out there to play. Yes I’m a reviewer, but always before that I’m a gamer. I play games to have fun, find new experiences and pass the time. Personally, I’d rather spend my time playing the games than bitch and moan about someone else’s opinion of it. My time is valuable, I’d rather spend it doing what I want and enjoying myself than defending something that doesn’t need to be defended.

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.