I'm going to take what is a tired and well-trodden topic and hopefully present some kind of new spin on it. This idea may be suggested elsewhere, but I had the thought while I was showering (where I do my best thinking) and thought it might be worth, if nothing else, sharing it with you all.
Pictured: One Brilliant Idea.
I think that this is a topic in which there isn't one clear side that has the upper hand. Instead, I think that when talking about it, one tends to contradict themselves as they go along. Please bear with me.
I find that many people who consider themselves gamers take the review score number way too seriously. If you're reading this, this shouldn't be news. One only has to look at some of Jim's more controversial reviews (you know which ones I mean) and you can see people typing bloody murder about it (Or at least, that's what it looks like if you can decipher the grammar).
To some extent, it's easy to see why. We get very attached to certain things, in this case, and it's easy to cry foul when things don't go our way. It's a childish behavior, but one that manifests itself so often in the video game reviews.
I'm not going to propose doing away with the number system, because let's face it, we need some kind of ranking out there. Instead, I want to propose something to everyone who has ever gotten upset that a game didn't do as well (or as poorly) as they wanted.
Review scores mean different things to different people.
It sounds like a simple concept, but I do think it's one that goes largely ignored in the gamer communities. However, I do think that in different scenarios, gamers do understand this. Despite the best efforts made of any review site to place specifications and criteria on what a "10.0" game is, the scores are always going to be personal to the reviewer.
Why can't scores be personal to the gamer as well?
Honestly, I just needed a picture to break up the text.
Does that make sense? No? Let me explain.
Everyone has their own unique and special idea of what exactly a 10.0 video game is. Same goes for 9.0, 8.0 and so on. And that applies to video game reviewers too. Jim's 10.0 is very different than Jonathan Holmes'. Destructoid's 10.0 is very different from IGN's. And it goes on.
So, why isn't it different for every person as well?
My 10.0 is almost certainly going to be different than yours. And your friend's. And your grandmother's.
And we see evidence of this all the time.
Think about it. Think about that time that you found a game you loved so much you wanted to share it with the world. You wanted your best friend to try that bad, so you loaned it to them and they played. You waited, breath bated, for them to join you in your squeals of excitement. Finally, they finished the game. And their response:
What you love in a video game is not always going to be what your friend loves in a video game. Simple as that. And that's the same thing for game reviewers. The only difference? They get paid for their opinions and have played far more video games than you have. You may tell your friend how wrong he/she is for not liking the game the way you did, but it's their opinion.
And it's the same for reviewers.
"But Ryoma," you're saying, "Aren't there some games that are always considered bad?"
Of course there are. Bad mechanics, poor programming, glitches, and so much more can mar game experiences. However, the level that those problems can bother someone varies from person to person. Example. I hate Fallout 3. I found it to be a glitchy nightmare that cheated me out of a ton of experience points because of shoddy programming. Lots of people love that game and aren't bothered by the glitches. I was.
Therefore, my score of Fallout 3 would be very different than the score other people would give it. I was more bothered by things.
So, game reviews are opinions. And should be treated as such. Seems simple enough.
But shouldn't game reviews also be objective? Can they be?
This is where the dilemma of game reviews manifests itself. Should game reviews, on some level, be objective? To some extent, I believe they can. For example, give me a first-person shooter, and I won't like it. My tastes don't lie in shooters. I'm bad at them, I don't like not seeing my character and so on. However, if I was a video game reviewer assigned to review the next Call of Duty, should I try and understand the view of people who like these kinds of games? Can a person who doesn't like JRPGs be trusted to review them properly?
I don't know the answer to that, actually. I like to believe that those who do reviews professionally have a wide range of video game expertise, and can appreciate other games for what they are, even if the mechanics don't appeal to them directly. It may not be a 10.0 game to them, but they should try to see if the mechanics and ideas present make the game a 10.0 game to a fan of the genre.
But the only way to find out is to read the review. A good, well-written review should address all aspects of a game clear enough so that a person reading it can determine if they will be bothered by the mechanics. In a game such as Disgaea, where level-grinding is a big part of the experience, a reviewer who doesn't appreciate level-grinding should at least mention how it's woven into the game itself so that the reader can determine if the game appeals to them.
Because, after all, every game out there is a 10.0 to someone.
Except maybe E.T.
As I hinted at the start, I don't necessarily have a solution to any of the problems or questions I raise. I just think that gamers should not be hung up too much on the score of a game. Instead, they should read the review, get an idea of the reviewer's thoughts, and then choose for themselves if the game is worth it. You never know until you try.
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