Reviews are a touchy subject both on and off Destructoid, generating all sorts of discussion, controversy and outrage. In a somewhat fruitless effort to try and curb the endless bitching that surrounds reviews, my predecessor Aaron Linde published Destructoid's first review guide.
As handy as it is, Nick Chester and I got together and discussed updating the manual to reflect the needs of the modern woman. I hope to make this a little more concise and address a few recurring issues that I've noticed when it comes to our reviews. Most importantly of all, we are introducing a brand new scoring scale, offering greater differentiation between numbers and hopefully making scoring a little easier for the review team.
Without further ado, let us be off on our journey then. Please enjoy the brand new Destructoid Review Guide.
The mission is simple -- to use the full ten point scale and be as honest and critical as possible. It's really that easy. We have no hidden agenda, we have no plans to "get" anybody. Do we use personal bias? Of course we do -- a review written without personal bias is a review written by an android or a Vulcan, and we have neither on our staff ... yet. We all have preferences, we all have dislikes. As one of the most personality-led blogs in games media, we don't try and hide our partiality in our writing. This actually helps the reader understand where the writer is coming from.
We try and review games based on what we like or know about most so if, for example, Colette rates Chocobo Cloud Smiles 2: Chocobonkers a 2 out of 10, you know it's got to be bad. You can also look at what each reviewer likes and see how your own personal tastes match up to theirs. If you love indie and art games, then your tastes are probably in line with Reverend Anthony Burch's. You now know to trust his reviews above all else on staff.
That's our aim. Brutally honest reviews from people you know and trust. We're none of us Roger Ebert (thank Christ) -- we're simply gamers who are lucky enough to have a soap box to scream on. If you're on Destructoid, chances are you've gotten to know each of us well, so you know who on staff to trust and who on staff to ignore.
The Scale and how we score:
Introducing the new score legend. This is one of the most useful tools for the review crew, because it makes scoring so much easier. We don't just arbitrarily assign points here on Destructoid. Our scale clearly defines what type of game gets what number. The way we generally score is that we write our review, then simply look down the score sheet to find the definition that best summarizes what our review detailed. We merely then pick whatever number is attached.
Here's the new list:
10 -- Flawless Victory (10s are as close to perfect as you will get in a genre or on a platform. Pure, untarnished videogame ecstasy.)
9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
8 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)
5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
4 -- Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)
3 -- Poor (3s went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice the game has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.)
2 -- Bad (2s are a disaster. Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by glitches, poor design choices or a plethora of other issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.)
1 -- Epic Fail (1s are the lowest of the low. There is no potential, no skill, no depth and no talent. These games have nothing to offer the world, and will die lonely and forgotten.)
As you can see, the bracketed explanation now talks about all games that fall under that score, rather than speak as if it's a single game. This is because that, while including the score summary in our reviews has helped curbed bitching a little, it had the unpleasant side-effect of confusing Metacritic and industry folk who thought they were summaries of each individual review. Not good, so we decided to change that.
Why we use scores in the first place:
This one always comes up, and I want to address it as clearly as possible. There are a number of reasons why we use a score. The main one, of course, is that it's the system Metacritic uses and if we want our reviews to have any kind of influence on the games industry, staying in Metacritic is a good idea. We review for fun on Destructoid, but it would be also nice to think that maybe one day our critique will reach the steel, cold heart of an Ubisoft executive and that person will think "You know what? They're right, Princess Shitty's Big Shitty Wii Exploiting Adventure of Shit wasn't really a very good game at all!"
That will probably never happen, but it's a nice dream.
It's also a fact that scores are what people pay attention to. While you or I may believe that reading a review is the important part, scores do matter in the long run. If they are as unimportant to some of you as you claim, then by all means place a piece of duct tape in a thin strip along the screen so that it covers up the score when you scroll down. Simply ignore it and move on.
If you have any other queries about our scoring system, please go here.
The review crew and how we do bidbiz:
The core review staff consists of Nick Chester, Anthony Burch, Colette Bennett, Dale North, Brad Rice, Jonathan Holmes and Samit Sarkar, as well as myself. Each one is on the crew because they each have different tastes and can cover the vast majority of releases out there. While Dale North is very PS3 and PSP-oriented, for example, Jonathan Holmes is a total Nintendo fanboy who can review most Wii games. It's a staff that compliments each other well.
We have a document which I set up each month detailing the next few weeks of reviews. My core team has access to the document and are able to claim reviews for themselves and arrange our ever-popular multi-author reviews. Once the core team is assigned, we also get the rest of the staff on board. So far it's a system that's worked and should ensure that our coverage becomes more extensive and timely in the future.
Why are reviews late and why do you bother?
Reviews are often "late," and that can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I'm reviewing a game and, while currently in England, have to deal with a later release date. We don't always get review copies either, so our reviewers sometimes pay out of pocket on the day of release.
While we're always working to improve that, it can have its benefits -- getting free releases is nice, but it's not something we've found we need. Our reviews have remained popular in spite of swiftness, and that means we don't need review copies. Since they are not a total necessity, we are under no obligation to appease publishers. We don't sign clandestine contracts to ensure we have the "first" review. I know of one publisher who was unsatisfied with a Dtoid review and decided to take its ball and go home -- that's fine. We got on just fine without that company's support beforehand, and we can continue to succeed without it now.
Another benefit is that we don't rush our reviews. When asked, I only have one answer to the question "when do you want this review done?" The answer simply is "when it's done." While I don't feel total completion of a videogame is either necessary or always practical, I do feel that the reviewer must be completely comfortable in their knowledge of a game before committing digital pen to digital paper. If that means a review has to be out by a week, two weeks or even a month, that's fine.
Why did you bother writing this review? It's weeks late!
A very simple answer to this: We did it because we wanted to. We love talking about games, we love being critical about games, and we love people discussing our thoughts about games. What more reason could you really need? Besides which, I have often found reviews of old games helpful in getting an idea of what a title I may have missed is about. Hopefully, when we get a reviews database up and running, we can be just as helpful to latecomers.
You gave Too Human a 2 and Pirates vs. Ninjas a 3. Why?!?!?!?
Games can be very difficult to compare to each other, and I don't think it's wise to do so. My predecessor stated that our reviews are not meant to be directly compared to each other. I think that in terms of games of a similar genre, our reviews can be comparable. However, if you're trying to compare the score of a big-budget retail game to a small-time downloadable title, I think your sense of perspective is off.
I disagree with your reviews. Why are you so bad at writing reviews?
Thank you. Please refer to this picture of a California sea lion for all further issues you have regarding our reviews:
I hope that helps!
BioShock got a high score during a BioShock ad campaign, and Castle Crashers got a high score with Dtoid staff names in the credits. Are you dirty sellouts?
Mr. Destructoid was in Eternity's Child and its creator, Luc Bernard, is a friend of mine. We all saw what happened there.
No, we're not dirty sellouts. I have never agreed to anything with a publisher concerning the content of my reviews, and if anybody on the review crew had done so, they wouldn't be writing reviews again. To reiterate an earlier point -- Destructoid became as big as it did without help from industry folk. We're not terrified of losing support if we piss somebody off. They'll just have to suck it up, won't they?
Do you deliberately assign low scores for controversy's sake?
Secret tip: We don't like talking shit about videogames, really. Okay, maybe sometimes if a game is absolutely awful, it can be cathartic and satisfying to critically maul it, but honestly, we'd rather be able to talk about how a game is awesomebiscuits and strawberry kisses instead. As already stated, we have a scoring system in place that makes the body of the review the deciding factor in the number we use -- it's not arbitrary.
We don't need controversy. It can be fun when it happens, but it's not something we require, and accusing us of courting it on purpose with low scores is a very immature charge. We really don't find it all that rewarding to read a hundred poorly-written run-on sentences describing about how we "suck at reviews" and "can't write for shit" because we dared to give a game you like a low score, so no. No we don't do it on purpose. We have better things to do than upset five people at N4G.
Do you like me? Yes/No.
And that should be everything. We may periodically update this page, and shall be linking to it in all reviews as usual. If you have any further questions or suggestions, by all means share them with the class. I hope this is helpful, or at least entertaining, to those who have an interest in our reviews.
Now, I'm off to deliberately give a game a 1/10 for pageviews LOLZORZ!