EGM's Jeremy Parish wrote a blog post [link]
justifying 1UP's 8.0 review of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass [link]
. Mr. Parish did not write the 1UP review, and in fact awarded the game a 9.0 in 1UP's sister publication EGM. However, the score of the game is not important for the purposes of this post; what is important is that Mr. Parish shows that at least some paid game reviewers are apparently not aware why people read reviews. Since I am weary of apologetics in videogame (and movie, and art) criticism, I will pick on Mr. Parish as a representative of the movement. His words are in italics.
Milky's Phantom Hourglass review has just gone online, and within minutes of its posting the Internet was having a collective freakout because OMG 8.0 BIAS CONFIRMED 1UP MONEYHATS BLUGHRHFLGHURGH I know, right? Nerds on the Internet freaking out about someone else's opinion? Totally unexpected.
First, who exactly do you think keeps you in business? If you want to review games for an audience exclusively of videogame "journalists," feel free to try. Let me know how that making money thing goes.
And more about that paycheck. Unlike most others, videogame reviewers are paid to have an opinion. So they will be held to a higher level of accountability for it. They also have a responsibility to be fair and consistent in the application of whatever criteria they use, and the duty to disclose what those criteria are.
But after Twilight Princess, do we really need another by-the-numbers Zelda?
Like this criterion. This is the unstated criterion that seems to inform most game reviews. Rating a game based on its predecessors. What is this, the Academy Awards?
Look, reviewers. You've played a lot of games. I've played a lot of games. But, in a shocking twist of events, some people may have not played those!! Crazy, I know. So if you want to mention that this game is more of the same, do so. But don't take away points based on prior games in the series or by the same developer. I might have some leniency when it comes to a nearly identical sequel on the same platform, but game reviewers should review games, not legacies. Ports, now, feel free to re-rate those by contemporary standards.
Numbers are a stupid, arbitrary relic forced upon perfectly good reviews by the grim circumstances surrounding game "journalism."
Enough with the martyr act. You still don't get it. Maybe, if I were only to buy one game per year, I'd love to sit down and read 20 reviews in-depth (probably only one third of which will actually be worth reading). But what I want from game review numerical scores -- are you sitting down? -- is a way to quickly prioritize which game reviews I will actually read.
If a game gets universal acclaim in Gamerankings
, I read some full reviews for confirmation. If a game gets consistently good scores, I check for dealbreakers. If a game gets mixed reviews, I check out the low-scoring reviews to see if those people are morons. If they are, then I check for dealbreakers. See? It's at least a two-step process, so don't take the number portion lightly. Numbers don't ruin your review, they help to give it context and make it useful to readers who may check more than one source before they buy games.
Dammit. Long post again.