I suppose it’s both opinion and editorial in this week spot because I’ve realised we’ve never laid out our review scoring policy, and without that I can’t comment on what I see and hear out in the wider gaming blog/site community. So here’s ours:
We have no formal scoring policy – our “marks out of ten” are given based on how we feel once we’ve finished playing, and is not a scientifically calculated formula encompassing longevity, fidelity or how many different costumes your sidekick has.
The trouble with a score is that every game genre is different, every reviewer opinion is different, every reader opinion is different, and every experience is different. The emphasis on the opinion in a write up means that readers focus on that, rather than making their minds up solely on a score, and we hope that our likes/loathes come across and compliment what we’ve given it out of ten. We decided to add scores to our reviews because it does give an instant indicator on whether we recommend it or not; and it’s an internationally recognised format which means if your first language is not the same as ours, and translation programmes are being mischievous, then you’ll still get the gist of whether a game is worth a punt or not.
What prompted me to start writing this is the Destiny release. I’m not commenting on the game, I’ve not played the final release and Roger’s working his way through it for our review later. I’m more interested in the phenomenon I’ve seen over the first week where it seems that reviews have stopped being reviews, and people have been criticised for applying a score. There have been numerous examples where reviews have gone up quickly and the writers have been accused of not giving it a fair chance. Equally, there have been plenty of “in progress” reviews that appear to just be step-by-step rather boring accounts of activities and first impressions without providing any substantial opinion – something that could easily have been done during the alpha and beta.
Addressing those that have been lambasted for daring to score a game they’ve played (and I’m talking only genuine reviews here), why were they being given grief? The weight of expectation on the shoulders of any game shouldn’t prevent people from being able to say what they think about it if they’ve finished it, or even formed that opinion based on a decent amount of game time. If it’s 10 minutes and you’re saying its sh*t, then you should get ignored. If you’ve put in the length of the time it takes to finish the campaign and formed the opinion that it’s not what you were hoping for, then you’re entitled to that view – regardless of whether others agree.
For the other side, stop writing about how you’re preparing for your review and JFDI. Form a view, distill it into fantastically crafted prose and share it with the world. Stop filling page space with anecdotes about how it’s going and what you’re doing in game whilst you “give it the time it needs to be fully appreciated”. Games, particularly big budget, widely appealing affairs, should not need loads of time to before they become enjoyable. They need as much time as it takes to get through the tutorial to be understood, after that it’s a matter of player experience on whether you’re liking it or not. If you’ve not made your mind up after 5 days of playing then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the game. Or the writer.
Ultimately, and this flies in the face of what we do on this site, whether a game is good or not is up to you. Some of the most fun I’ve had with a game has been something not well received. We might have a go every now and again at Aliens: Colonial Marines here, but actually Andy and I really enjoyed the co-op – bugs and all. When you read a review take what you want from it, make your own mind up, and if you’re interested, go and support the developer and publisher.