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The Perfect Score

Video game reviews are the lifeblood of the video game industry. They decide which Article1_web.pngvideo game stands on top and which video game falls down into the dust. The industry uses them to pepper the covers of their games and we even use them as reasons for friends (or strangers) to purchase the video games. A golden review can mean everything. But, I'd like to raise the question, can video games legitimately earn a perfect review score? I don't think they can.

I had a moment of realization a few years ago when I was debating whether or not to buy a particular video game. I decided that, because IGN had given it a perfect score and GameInformer gave it a near perfect score, I should buy it. Well, when I went back to my apartment, and eagerly threw the game into my console of choice and pressed the start button. It only took about two hours before I decided to take the game back to Gamestop and trade it for credit.

I felt unsettled that I played a particular video game because it received such high scores, and not because it interested me on any level. Was it a lack of willpower on my part? Did I foolishly give into a well-laid trap set by the video game industry? Had I blindly buy their products because of all of the accolades it had won?

This thought process began to spiral more and more towards a place of distrust towards reviews. I began to grow frustrated and a little bitter. Maybe even spiteful; not enjoying a video game because it received a near-perfect review score on IGN or GameInformer. And then, I had a moment. An epiphany while I was walking to work: reviews began to unsettle me because I felt that it was not possible to properly assess the gaming experience. It will effect a person individually. Even though I didn't enjoy the video game that I bought at Gamespot, doesn't mean that the person who bought it after me won't enjoy it. I may have given the video game a lower review score, while he may have given it a higher review score. I began to slowly reach the conclusion that a video game cannot legitimately earn a perfect review score. The review will always be flawed due to the inability to properly gauge an individuals gaming experience.

I'm fully prepared to admit that I'm late to the party. But what can be done about it? On the one hand, reviews for video games are wonderful. They lead the blind through the desert, to that one game they seek. But, on the other, they can lead a person away from a game, and could be missing out on a memorable experience. I don't think the answer lies within the reviews themselves, I think it lies within us. The gamers who play these games.

To my knowledge, there is no central "hub" in the age of social networking to air our opinions on a particular video game without it turning into a petty flame war or a he-said-she-said argument. And, up until now, there are many a forum dedicated to video games and our opinions. Even YouTube hosts a great deal of video game reviewers who are simply expressing their opinion. And I think it's fantastic, but I wonder if something more can be done?

But, by the same token, does anything need to be done about it? Are we just content to stay within our chosen cells and post in anonymity on message boards? That's a perfectly fine, viable solution. I'm simply raising the question of, do we place too much emphasis on reviews, and if so, can anything be done to weaken their power?

That's why, after this post goes live, I'm turning this into an all out discussion which will, hopefully, lead us to some viable solutions or alternatives. My goal is to hopefully make our voice louder, or on the same level as, "official" reviewers.

So now, I hand it over to you.

6 Comments

Clayton said:

This is what I use Gamefly for. I've played some stinkers based on experience in the series and reviews: Megaman X7 and X8 anyone? After spending $50 to play then being offered less than $10 trade in the next day I find it's just not worth it. Thank the gaming gods we now can download demos and find out if the game is worth the paid for hype.

Tigershard said:

I would argue that games can and should receive perfect scores. Subjectivity is fine, you can't escape it.

You need to know what you like, and then you need to understand what the reviewer likes and what he has rated in the past. The best way to read reviews is to find a few reviewers you agree with and stick to their reviews when trying to buy a game based off reviews.

For example, I really like FPS games, but I don't care for Call of Duty. I played CoD3 and CoD4 and I never want to play a CoD again. Yet every time a STALKER game comes out I am first in line to buy it. I won't trust a review that gives a CoD game 90+ points, but a reviewer who gives a STALKER game at least 80+ is someone I pay attention to because our preferences seem more attuned.

Decompiled said:

Gamers in general moan more when a game they liked got a bad score than a game they didn't like getting a good score. So we have inflated scores. And publications know that gamers love easy to compare scoring, so they are just giving people what they want.
So that causes Edge to give Grand Theft Auto Liberty City a 10. That game was not a ten for me.

Film review scores agree more across publications, but the reason for this is that film is a linear entertainment experience and video games are not.

I am sure many of use have had games we didn't initially enjoy, but after persevering really enjoyed it in the end. The only partical solution for this is for publishers to greenlight more demos so gamers can makeup their own mind.

Evilvet said:

if you go by one or two reviews than that's not smart shopping. i need a panel of ten pros, and ten from the public commenting for or against the pros.

if you look at gamespot's current top ten games, they are pretty much almost all games we should all have. sure you can usually drop 2 or 3 from that list, but it's just about right.

now i don't have super mario galaxy 2, and it's rated a 10 (besides being a wii bit broke right now) i know i'll love it. i know i can wait till it's $20 as well. take a game like fallout vegas, which is far from a perfect 10, yet i was there at the midnight launch.

i put off red dead rdemption for ages even when my friends all gave it 10's because i remembered red dead revolver. when i finally got it i kicked myself for days for waiting.

i think that reviews that mostly score 6's outta tens aren't gonna be bought by me. generally i don't buy ones under 8 but again those are the overall average. it's rare that i go against the consensus and am correct. 4.5 stars, 9 outta 10, 2 thumbs up are gonna make it appear on my radar.

ultimately it comes down to certain game types i love. any sports games that get 10's are about the only ones i MAY consider, but it has to be mind blowing (except racing games which i count seperate from sports). i just don't really care about sports games.

i've never taken a game back that i felt lied to about, there's been a few games that were rated 9 or higher that i felt maybe were 7.5 or 8, but not like i felt were WAY wrong, just not as excited as all the reviews.

Andrew said:

Metacritic anyone? It's the first place I go because it compiles reviews from loads of sources, and you can easily see the difference between the average critical opinion of the game and the average consumer opinion of the game (and when these don't match, its almost always because theres basically nothing critically worthy about the game but its still great fun).

I still by lots of absolutely rubbish RTS games though. Just because.

smallvizier said:

My first real exposure to reviews came from the Official Dreamcast Magazine, which used a 5-star rating system.

That was great for my understanding of reviews, because it easy to see that 5/5 did not mean a game was perfect - it meant it was bloody good, and wasn't going to let you down.

That's what a perfect score means - that a game knew what it wanted to do, and succeeded with style. That if you were on the fence then you should get your wallet out.

It doesn't mean there'll never be a better game, or even that you're looking at the game of the year. Just - mission accomplished, this one does what is says on the tin (and we love it!).

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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smallvizier on The Perfect Score: My first real exposure to reviews came from the Official Dreamcast Magazine, which used a 5-star rating system. That was...

Andrew on The Perfect Score: Metacritic anyone? It's the first place I go because it compiles reviews from loads of sources, and you can easily...

Evilvet on The Perfect Score: if you go by one or two reviews than that's not smart shopping. i need a panel of ten pros,...

Decompiled on The Perfect Score: Gamers in general moan more when a game they liked got a bad score than a game they didn't like...

Tigershard on The Perfect Score: I would argue that games can and should receive perfect scores. Subjectivity is fine, you can't escape it. You need...

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