I haven't written anything in awhile and wanted to talk about Destiny. Why? Because it seems to be what everyone else is talking about this past month since fall releases don’t pick up until Tuesday with Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Also because a good friend of mine sent me a link to a Machinima video by Inside Gaming Daily titled, “Everyone HATES Destiny?” I watched the video and was very much put off by its content, distributed as a form of “news” when it is actually just yellow journalism.
The title itself is sensationalist and misleading. Everyone largely is representative of reviewers, as the text states “reviewers hate Destiny.” The evidence? A 77 score on Metacritic. Now Metacritic itself is a very complicated subject to talk about, and I will a bit later on. For now, using their logic, I go on Metacritic and see that a 77 is defined as “generally favorable reviews.” So my only assumption is that favorable reviews are the new hate?
As I said before, Machinima and Inside Gaming Daily are forms of yellow journalism, which is ““journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.” All you have to do is scroll through their video feed to see examples of this. They abuse caps lock with words like, BEND, NEW LOCATION, KILLING, WHO’S WINNING, FAILS, GRAPHICS and BIGGEST, in order to create click bait titles worthy of Buzzfeed. This isn’t to say other, actual sites don’t use click bait headlines, but certainly never to the degree used here.
Machinima is not a critical outlet. They are not like GameSpot, IGN, Kotaku or The Escapist. Their main goal is the same as those, profit, but they differ in method. Whereas Machinima produces things for entertainment, you need only look at the innumerable amount of “Top Ten” lists for that, sites such as Kotaku exist to report on gaming news, give out reviews and conduct interviews with developers among their other products.
One point they make in the video is that earlier this year, Kotaku reported on an old contract Activision may have had with Bungie, where if Destiny received a rating of 90 or above on GameRankings they would receive a $2.5 million bonus. Now Kovic and Bruce seem to be insinuating that it is the critics fault that Bungie could be missing out on a very large bonus, although they do note that Bungie is it’s own company still and the contract could and probably has changed. Regardless, this is just an example of a very big problem in the video game business. Publishers holding back money from developers based off of critical reception instead of commercial success.
Kotaku has written at length about this problem, as well as Adam Sessler, whom the creators of the videos poke some fun at. Essentially Metacritic is used as a tool by publishers to hold money hostage from the game makers, who now look to game critics as the beings responsible for their bonus pay. Game critics, whose job it is to critique a game, now have it on their mind that they are holding somebody elses job in their hands when they post an opinion about a game. That is a shitty situation and not right. Publishers should instead do their job and let the consumers decide through purchasing the game whether or not a developer deserves a bonus. After all, the businesses behind video games are marking the games for the market, not for the middle aged reviewers working in cubicles.
Metacritic itself is based off of aggregating scores. Aggregate being defined as “a whole formed by combining several (typically disparate) elements.” That disparate part is very important, since it is defined as, “essentially different in kind, not allowing comparison.” The consequence of that fact is twofold.
One, Metacritic takes all reviews, regardless of their scoring scheme and review scale, and puts them all onto a 100 point system which is then somehow assembles them into the metascore. The problem with this, as Sessler has stated before, is that three stars does not equal a 60 out of 100. If the reviewer wanted to use that scale, he or she would have. Different outlets have different meanings behind their scores. The Escapist has their three star rating mean average. Metacritic takes that and converts it into a 60 alongside IGN’s 6, which is defined as recommendable with a lot of “ifs.” These two scores, numerically equal, have different values behind them! You can’t compare them against each other!
Second, and the video creators make this mistake as well, is that games cannot be compared. You see in the video they bring up how Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3, henceforth referred to as simply Naruto, has the same metascore as Destiny. This is an incorrect idea that Metacritic encourages with its scoring system, the idea that a game from one genre can be placed side by side against a different one and be equally compared. A review, where these numbers originate, is critiquing a game for what it is, what it stands as. Destiny, as an MMOFPS, is the subject of the question, “Does it succeed in what it sets out to do, in what it is?” which is to give the player a big social world in which to shoot things, fill an XP bar and gather better equipment. Naruto, as an anime fighting game, is the subject of the same question, but sets out to do something very different: give you a fighting game full of varied characters to beat up alone or with friends. These two games set out to do different things, and may have achieved them in different ways, but you cannot numerically evaluate the value of Naruto compared to Destiny. Just like last year, when Gone Home had to be talked about alongside Grand Theft Auto V which itself was positioned alongside The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. All very, very different games but forced to be compared with numbers.
Another subject of the video is the divergence in game reviews and game sales, specifically that despite negative reviews, some games still happen to sell a lot of copies. This has always been a part of any industry however, as Transformers is widely groaned at yet manages to pull in millions of dollars. IGD miscited Call of Duty as an example, stating that reviews have been “declining since Black Ops II. However, there has only been one game since Black Ops II, Ghosts, which sits at a 73 on Metacritic (Xbox 360).
There’s no real point to make here. Just because critics are scoring something low, yet it sells high, doesn’t make what they are doing any less necessary, although it’s really not “necessary” in the first place.
One of the worst points the video makes is that reviewers were forced to play Destiny quickly due to only being given a day before release to publish their review, which therefore makes their experience and review inaccurate. First off, every one of the major gaming sites published a review for Destiny on the day of release, despite starting up their characters on Monday when the Australian servers went active. The Escapist had their review up on Thursday, with four other sites, including giant IGN, not posting a review until over a week after release. These people know their job and know how to do it, so it is a bit insulting that IGD insinuates that they didn’t “put themselves in players perspective” when playing the game.
Kovic and Bruce also feel as if the generally favourable reviews mean that they are not allowed to enjoy the game themselves, though this point probably pertains more to internet comments and message boards than the critical reception. If it is indeed based off of internet comments alone, you really shouldn’t care about what a tiny minority of people are shouting out into the vacuum of the internet, as I am doing right now. The comments on the video account for 1.27% of the total viewers, a tiny percentage of those who watched the video. And if it is a cry against the critical reception, they gave the game good scores, and fun is just one factor when considering the merits of a video game. Fun does not equal quality, which is what critics determine, the quality of a piece of media. Movie and music reviews are not based off of the fun factor of watching or listening to them.
You’re yellow journalists, not critics, and the unfortunate truth is that a majority of viewers probably watch IGD and Machinima at large use it as a source of news and take their opinions as informed when in fact they are sensationalists making videos for clicks and not to inform the viewer of all the facts.
In closing, I would like to quote a Rooster Teeth video of Red vs Blue in which they discuss video game reviews.
“Most reviewers offer a numerical scale from one to ten where ten is the highest and one is the lowest. But what do the scores mean? Scores one through six are completely irrelevant because no game ever gets them so that means a game that gets a seven is terrible. Seven is the new zero. Eight is also a terrible game, but a terrible game that probably advertised on the review site. Still very legal. 9.1 is a lousy game as well. 9.2-9.4 are good. 9.5 is great, but there’s nothing above 9.5 except for 10 which is a perfect game and 9.9 which is also a perfect game but the reviewer probably doesn't like the developer because maybe he said something mean to him at a party or something.”