I’ve noticed an odd, if slightly worrying, trend in recent years when it comes to reviews; review scores. Or, to be more precise, the reactions to review scores. The thing is, I find them very misconstrue by certain readers, and some of the responses are mind-boggling to say the least! I’ve especially noticed this when it comes to the video games industry.
For example, a new big-budget triple-A game is released, the hype is reaching fever pitch, and the reviews finally start to pour out from media outlets. What happens next? Well, it’s time to see what reviewer x gave it out of 10, of course! In the end it just becomes about numbers, which is really only a fraction of what the the review is about. Sure, it may have some importance, but without reading the said article to give it context, then what’s the bloody point? The meaning is lost in a sea of digits, and the bigger the number is, the “better” the product. It all becomes more grating when sites like Metacritic tally up all these scores, to give it one overall number, one that’s generally regarded as gospel. All that’s being shown is average of all the combined scores, it’s not the be-all and end-all!
When it comes to perceptions of these scores, they are extremely misjudged. Normally, games, albums, films, etc, are rated out of 10, as most know. However, say a game gets a 7 or even a 6 out of 10, a lot of readers perceive that as “awful” and something to be “avoided.” In reality, that’s still above average, so it should be regarded as pretty good! However, these days a title needs at least an 8 to be seen as “good”, and even then in some cases, that’s just not enough.
What’s worse is, some reviewers get hounded if the audience feels their opinion is “too critical”. For this, I’m turning to the infamous incident that was the review of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which appeared in The Washington Post in May of last year. Generally, the game has been regarded as a classic, and one of the best games to own on Playstation 4, if not one of the finest games of all-time (disclaimer; I’ve yet to play an Uncharted game.) It was met with rave reviews throughout, and reached critical acclaim. Apart from the review that was featured in The Washington Post, which gave it 4/10. The masses rallied against the tabloid, calling for the review to be removed, and even boycotting the reviewer himself. The twist? The article was actually a joke. It was a parody that was not meant to be taken seriously. Sadly, disgruntled gamers still threw their toys out the pram for it “tarnishing” the game’s overall metascore on Metacritic. Fyi, it was 95% prior to the review, and the score took it down to 93%.
Herein lies another massive issue, why get so aggravated? After all, it’s easy to disagree with one’s notion, but to outright slander it in such a way is ridiculous. A review is about someone’s personal opinion of the overall product. If they didn’t like the game they played, or didn’t like the sound of the album they heard, or even got bored of the film they watched, it’s their judgement, and they should be allowed to view it accordingly. I admit, it’s fairly easy to come across reviews that are poorly written, but if the point is still there, then is it not still valid? We live in a culture where people expect things to be seen in a certain light, and if someone disagrees with them, then that person is wrong. It’s scary how riled up these groups can get, even banding together, to create so much unneeded drama and hate. This should not be the case, it should be up to the individual to decide how they feel about something they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, it’s easy to disagree, but if someone comes across a hateful opinion of something they love, does that really ruin or change their perspective of it?
I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, I’ve picked out a specific group in this article. After all, as they saying goes, the negative minority always have a louder voice than the positive majority. Also there’s the whole argument of constructive criticism versus mindless rants, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. However, the more I look around, the more this issue seems to be a common theme. I admit, I’ve been guilty of gauging reviews by scores myself in the past, but I’ve waned from that in recent times.
The important thing about a review is the opinion of the writer. If you’re just skipping the entire article, just to see it’s rating, then that’s missing the point entirely. A number isn’t going to tell you how a game plays, how epic an album sounds, or how entertaining a film is, it’s just a number with zero context. I think we’ve reached a point in society now where opinions have become so diverse, so varied, that scores are pretty much obsolete. There’s so many individuals with such varying levels of criteria, that it’s simply impossible to gauge how good something is based on score. Someone’s 8/10 will be completely different to another’s 8/10. With that basis, it just feels like an arbitrary number.
So, to cut a long story short, going forward, I shall no longer be giving review scores in my reviews at Epitome of Epic. I’ll still give an overall verdict at the end of the review, for those of you that see it as “TL;DR”, plus I think an overall summary would be better suited to accompany them. I may do special accolades for things I find incredible, or absolutely awful (can it even be called and ‘accolade’ if it’s awful?), but we’ll see how it goes. It’s time to base things on actual opinions, not numbers.