7th Generation Gaming Woes: Inflated Review Scores/Journalistic Integrity
The gaming landscape; the gaming culture, if you will, has blossomed from its humble beginnings. This lucrative industry has transformed considerably since the very simple early years of the Magnavox Odyssey. As much as our beloved medium has grown over the past 40 years or so it still has issues that have existed since the beginning and will continue to exist for as long as human-kind is suckered into believing its illusion of “freedom”, “free will”, and “self worth” with democratic/capitalist ways of life.
I apologize for my brief little paroxysm of political and ideological viewpoints. I will try to abstain from being so intrusive throughout the rest of this article as this is about video games and not my own selfish way of getting my views across on societal issues.
Anyways, video game journalists have only recently begun giving out inflated review scores this console generation. It has gotten to the point of folly that journalistic integrity has been compromised and the industry as a united whole has become a laughing stock in respect to how it handles certain things.
Any man or woman with a modicum of intelligence can tell you the downward spiral we are facing is disheartening for the industry if it wishes to be taken as seriously on a professional level as writers for other medium such as critics of movies or music. Some people don’t fully understand the implications at hand.
The issue of inflated review scores is actually quite fascinating for the most ardent fans of this “nerdy” culture. I trace the roots of the issue with the Sony PlayStation. I know. Some of you may be confounded by this but here me out first. How big was the gaming industry in the 1970′s? How big was it in the 1980′s? How big was the NES? How big was the SNES? No matter what questions you ask about our industry, the answer is likely to be big, but not quite reaching mainstream acceptance or popularity.
Some purists may actually prefer being part of a more niche market, but they fail to realize if the market was more niche, less companies would be so bent on making video games. Less resources would also be spent on making sure the final product is polished to perfection.
The release of the Sony PlayStation on September 9, 1995 in North America saw one of the biggest strides we made in improving awareness and social relevance of our past-time. After the release of the PS1 it was suddenly acceptable in the social consciousness to be a grown adult playing video games. It was even considered cool in some cases; a huge leap from the prior generation of consoles.
Sony also had a brilliant PR team at the team that attracted children, teenagers, and adults all with a single theme of advertising. Their secret that’s not really a secret is their target audience of nineteen year old people. The mentality is that young kids really want to be nineteen and grown adults wish they were nineteen again.
Moving forward, this culture is overflowing with publications that review games. I feel many of the most popular publications such as IGN and Gamespot are to be un-trusted. Journalistic integrity, and moral integrity as well, seems to be lost on these people. I remember the fiasco at Gamespot several years ago involving Jeff Gerstmann.
For the uninitiated, Jeff Gerstmann was a reviewer at Gamespot. Excuse me if I fudge up the details a bit, but the basic idea should come across. Around the time of release of Kane and Lynch:Dead Men, Eidos Interactive had a lot of advertising space on the site. When it came time for the review, Jeff Gerstmann awarded the game a 6.0/10 and harshly criticized the graphics, controls, characters, and dialogue in his video review. He consistently called it in ugly game in all respects. He was then fired.
Many people fell for the initial statement that I can’t recall at the moment released by Eidos and Gamespot. Recently, however, it was officially revealed by Gerstmann himself that his departure was a byproduct of the negative review. This in itself is a horrific thought. Are people supposed to fall prey to this triteness? We must unite and grow a pair of metaphorical testicals to overthrow these larger corporations from their pedestals.
I am not a “stupid” person. I am not gullible. Refusing to accept this is a step towards recovery. Far too many avid users of these websites are too entranced by the community aspects. When asked what they think about reviews and whether they should be re-examined, many of these users emit apathy about the subject matter. These fools have succumbed to the control of the big corporations because they believe they can’t change anything about game reviews’ policies.
If no one challenges the higher authority then the higher authority wins this war by default. We need to band together and fight for journalistic integrity. I myself am appalled by these sorts of fiascoes. I would never in my life give into pressure from editors or bribery from publishers or developers. I am a man with integrity and I intend to keep it.
I also feel many websites are biased towards certain game series and demographics. I will not mention any names, but there was a certain website that received an extensive amount of flak for giving Uncharted 2: Among Thieves a score of 9.3/10. Normally this would be filed under inflated reviews, but the negativity against the website wasn’t about the score itself. After all, a 9.3 is an amazing score anyone should be proud of achieving. The real problem came from the sites score of that game compared to Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2 which ended up scoring a 9.5/10.
A civilized person with a modicum of civility will tell you reviews are opinions and nothing to be enraged over. It’s true that critics, myself included, try to remain as objective as possible but subjectivity will still remain prevalent. The site really dropped the ball when it came to giving reasoning behind the 9.3 score. The reviewer stated that Uncharted was unoriginal and unoriginal games do not deserve a score of higher than 9.3. Although I disagree with that statement(I believe a game should be scored on how well made it is and an unoriginal game does deserve a perfect score if every aspect of it is superb) I can learn to accept his ideal. If that statement is to believed then why would Modern Warfare 2 score a 9.5?
Unless I failed elementary grade math, I’m certain 9.5 is higher than 9.3 and I also know that Modern Warfare 2 is no less unoriginal than Uncharted 2. Why then does this unoriginal game deserve a higher than 9.3 score if the same reviewer said 9.3 is the max score unoriginal games deserve. Some of you readers may be thinking it is trivial to get worked up over a minute score difference. Two tenths of point is no big deal. I understand that. The main point of contention is the principle of not sticking by your word. Modern Warfare 2 was unoriginal so it did not deserve that higher than 9.3 score, according to that reviewer’s words. He clearly showed bias towards the Call of Duty series.
I also remember the fiasco in late 2011 in which another site gave out 3 perfect scores within a short time frame. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Infinity Blade 2, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. I can not speak for Skyward Sword, but have critics really lost site of what their role is?
A good critic is a person that looks at a product coming in from a neutral point of view. You can be a fan of a series or loathe it, but do not let that hate or love paint your preconceptions of the game you are about to review. Also make sure to look at each and every aspect of the game and be as objective as possible. State the facts first and foremost. After that, move on to how well you believe each element is treated, but don’t let personal bias blind you. The best example I can provide is when looking at multiplayer for a game such as Battlefield 3. You might find Battlefield 3 boring and would love to say it is bad multiplayer because it is missing the fun factor, but where is the actual constructive criticism? Fun is subjective so what is fun to someone might be boring to someone else. Instead, look at how balanced it is. Look at how much skill it takes. If it has a leveling system, is there a natural progression that isn’t too much of a grind but also doesn’t make leveling up too easy? If it has all these things then you should ideally praise the multiplayer in a review because those are all the makings of a well-made multiplayer experience regardless of if you find it boring or not.
Leaving in an opinion is also crucial because you can not remain objective on everything. An example is maybe the story of anything. Some people might find characters endearing while others might find them unappealing and devoid of any semblance of humanity. Some people might fall in love with witty writing while another finds the game unfunny.
I have not read the Uncharted 3 review in quite some time, but I vaguely remember the video review and you can tell by the tone of his voice the man is in love with the game and refuses to say anything negative about it. He came across as a fanboy in that video review and he comes across as a general Sony fanboy in many of the videos I have seen him in.
Might he be a cool or funny person to be with? Maybe, but as a video game journalist he really doesn’t seem up to the task of giving us a good name.
Back to the three games. They all received perfect scores within a two month period in 2011. More than 1 perfect score per month is unacceptable. I know the site doesn’t categorize a 10 as a perfect game and I don’t categorize a 5 on our humble site as a perfect game either. Regardless of that, scores of such a magnitude should be treated with respect.
Games should only be deserving of these “perfect” scores when they are absolute masterpieces of their genre. They elevate games beyond the norm. These games must raise the bar for future games to come. They must shatter the preconceived notions of what you expect. 10/10′s and 5/5′s should be handed out rarely. I honestly can not think of a single game I have played in all my years of gaming that deserved the coveted score aside from one; MAYBE two.
The aforementioned unnamed website needs to re-evaluate its scoring system and hire less biased critics. More game sites need to walk a fine line between harshness and “non-harshness?” for lack of a better term.
Another major industry issue concerning me is inflated review scores. We already established the prior site was way overblown with the scores it gave to those three games. I wish the idea of inflated scores was a small thing, but it is actually an industry-wide problem. Practically all gaming publications hand out 9′s and 10′s. They also occasionally dole out 8′s. Anything below an 8 for major titles with tons of publicity and ad space behind them is a rarity. So many good games get a 9 and above. So many game ranging from mediocre to awful score in the 8 and 7′s range.
It seems like the industry shuns the idea of anything that isn’t triple A gold. This inflated-ness leads to many consumers believing that anything below an 8 is trash. Their ideology is probably if they have been playing games all generation that receive 8-10 scores that they have thought were sub-par, then that must mean anything below an 8 sucks.
I can log onto a random site that gives a game a score of 7-7.9 and the comments are filled with people trashing the game. A recent example is IGN awarding TERA a 6.5 which is an above average score. It approaches being good. With that in mind, the top rated comment under the review is:
“i knew this game would be…*puts on shades* TERAble!!!
This user was clearly trying to make a clever pun bashing the game, but the major flaw in his plan is 6.5 is not terrible. Thanks to the plague that is the inflated review score this man honestly believes that scores like this are terrible or bad. There are several other instances of this crap, however I would be here all day dissecting every single bothersome comment on every single review of a less than great game.
Our industry is still growing and we early workers in this field must combat the oppressiveness and tear down anyone harming our industry. I hope my fellow gamers that have a true passion for the medium try to extirpate the issues of journalistic integrity/inflated review scores in any way possible. Every small bit of help is appreciated. The only role I will play to refuse to be a pawn in this game and stick by my views when reviewing games. I won’t give in and fall prey to anything. I would sooner pursue a career in fast food places than give up my morals for the sake of gaining hits or attracting controversy.
Screw video game journalism. Screw the gaming community that allows this crap to happen. Screw the 7th generation of gaming. My next installment of 7th Generation gaming woes will either be about xenophobic gamers or greedy companies.