Lets talk game reviews and scores, cause everyone loves a bit of drama right??
So, everyone knows my (and a lot of other peoples) views on IGN, they’re garbage. So this makes writing this article painful and unusual, as I’m writing in their defence *checks to see if the sky has fallen*
Paradox’s new game Stellaris launched the other day, and as you’d expect there was a review from IGN. The review was actually (for once) actually pretty solid and I found what Rowan wrote to be straight to the point and insightful, not the usual trash we get on IGN.
At the end he gave his rating of 6.3, which in the ‘real world’ is a ‘OK’ or ‘better than average’ rating. Given his comments and issues with the game I’m actually not surprised he gave that rating. And if what he’s said is true (which it seems to be according to Paradox), then I can understand why he gave the game that rating.
Now you’d think that would be the end of it wouldn’t you? However the fans of Paradox took offence to this and made a stink over it, which normally wouldn’t mean much; but it got so bad that Paradox ended up coming out to defend the low score and Rowan’s post in general:
We very rarely (if at all) comment on individual reviews. We feel that we should be involved only up to the point of showing/providing our game to reviewers and then allowing them to have a free hand with their articles from there. However, unfortunately in this case it seems we should make some comment on Rowan Kaiser’s recent review of Stellaris; or more accurately, the reception of it.
Firstly we’d like to address Rowan’s suitability to review the game. Contrary to a lot of opinions we’ve seen posted, Rowan is a very logical choice by IGN. Although, yes, we would disagree with the lower-than-liked score that he eventually awarded us, he does have experience of our previous titles and has over the years provided his professional opinion on those, too. It would make sense that IGN would make use of his experience to review Stellaris.
The second and perhaps the most important topic is a supposed conspiracy suggesting that Rowan would have a personal vendetta against us or our games due to his/our relationship with other game critics. This is categorically NOT the case. Those named in said conspiracy (including Rowan) are professionals in their field and we are absolutely confident that such feelings would never colour review content.
Finally, we’d like to go on record and say that we value the freedoms of critics to make any review they see fit. It’s best for the consumer and, ultimately, best for us. Although we may in some cases disagree or be disappointed by a review, this doesn’t detract from the fact that reviewers should have absolute freedom to give their own opinions of a game, free from external duress of any kind.
We have no hard feelings to Rowan, and we would really appreciate it if others wouldn’t elect to have them on our behalf! You can likely count on seeing Rowan’s name on reviews of our games in the future, for better or worse. We trust his integrity absolutely and he will certainly receive review code from us in the future.
As I see it the problem here is the score, and this is a issue throughout the industry, scores are a cancer destroying the ability of reviewers to review games effectively.
Now, I personally feel IGN are the main instigator of these issues, with their false reviews rating games 9+ almost constantly. What this has done is artificially moved the goal posts for reviews. On a scale of 1-10, 1 should be the worst game ever made, 5 should be average, and 10 the best game created by the gaming gods.
However because IGN (and others) use a dodgy rating system the number of games we see as 9.8 or such has drastically increased, these are essentially 10’s. Their refusal to rate games lower than 7 (usually) has resulted in, as I said, a shifting of the goal posts. As such these days in reviews, 7 seems to be the new 1, 8 the new 5 and 9 the new 10.
What a load of crap. Seriously, when will people realise that scores are not indicative of anything other than the reviewers personal view point to the game. Or in the case of IGN, the amount paid by the publisher (looking at you IGN First).
Look over Rowan’s review of Stellaris, it’s well written and covers all his joys and pains in playing over 50hours of the game. He highlights everything he felt was wrong and how it went south, and finally wraps it all up with a nice conclusion.
Frankly it’s a great post, one that surprises me since it’s on IGN. However, and this is the key point that people frequently (especially here) seem to have forgotten. It’s his opinion on the game. It’s his experience of the game.
And that’s why scores are wrong, scores are not based on opinion or experience, they’re based on logic and box ticking; opinions are not logical.
If Rowan had left of the score, and just left the review as it stands, with the little TL:DR box at the end, I think most people wouldn’t have been so overly dramatic. Rather they’d have looked at what he said and then at what they feel about the game, and looked at where and why there were differences.
Slapping a score on the game immediately meant that the fans of Paradox felt that he was
attacking the game and publisher, there was even claims of some mad conspiracy theory going on between reviewers (probably true in IGN….just not this time!)
As an industry we need to move away from scoring games, and let the writing of the reviewer tell the story. If their writing is good, then someone who reads it will be able to see all the issues they might encounter in a game, and thus reach their own conclusion on it. For those that don’t like reading long reviews, a simple blurb box at the end with highlights, like the one above, can do much the same, in a more limited way.
Sadly this isn’t the first drama storm like this recently, intact it all struck another review site, VideoGamer.com did a review of Uncharted 4, which criticised the game a little bit, but still gave it an 8/10. Things got so bad over that they did an apology post, which I highly recommend you read, if only for the hilarity and sarcasm.
As things stand right now gaming journalism is on it’s death bed. Sites like IGN are killing the industry with it’s fake reviews, and click baited posts. Yet the fans are just as bad with their violent outbursts against people who criticise the game/publisher they love.
People point to YouTube and Steam Reviews as the ‘saviour’ and ignore the fact that YouTube is even more corrupt that mainstream media, to the point where it laws had to be brought in forcing YT’s to clearly show when their opinion has been paid for. You can hardly take someone’s view as ‘honest’ when they’ve taken a $10k paycheque and a promise not to say anything critical of the game.
Steam Reviews are just as bad, as they tend to get flooded by people minutes after a game releases either calling it the greatest thing since moses parted the sea, or the worst thing since god mad man! if thats not bad enough the number of posts from people with computer issues they blame on games is ridiculous, though some of those are warranted; most are from idiots.
We need a mainstream media doing reviews and posts within a framework, because thats the best way to get information on games. We need sites like IGN (and I cant stress how much saying that pains me!!), but we need them to do the job they were started to do. In other words they need to go back to their roots and stop being corporate shills!
Will this happen, probably not. Sooner or later we’re likely to see the death of gaming journalism and then things will turn wild for a while. Hopefully we’ll weather that storm an come out the other side!