Halo 3: 10.
Super Mario Galaxy: 10.
Grand Theft Auto IV: 11.
And now, Metal Gear Solid: 10.
Is it just me or have a lot of really high review scores been awarded lately? Have these games all deserved their 10s? Doubtless, there will be those who argue against these scores, and those who argue for them. Such is the nature of the internet, democracy at its finest. (Or worst?) But this is beside the point. And the point is, there have been a lot of good games in the last two years. This console generation has seen the rise of gaming as a universal medium. GTA IV smashed entertainment sales records for every entertainment medium. And despite a few holdouts in the media – as well as a few people who are just plain batshit fucking crazy – gaming is a pretty accepted form of entertainment these days. And developers are hard at working making really fucking good games for lots and lots of people to enjoy.
So, why these ruminations on the state of the industry, you might ask. Well, it has to do with reviews. Hence the scores at the top. Gaming has clearly entered some sort of renaissance. Games are doing things we never could have predicted 10 years ago, the stories have gotten better, as well as the way we tell them. The graphics have improved to the point where realism is as common as realism in real life. Which is to say, really real. But really (last one, I promise) what has changed the most is gameplay. Games are more engaging, in new ways. Players are openly encouraged to create their own maps, multiplayer is expected in just about every game released, character customization has reached insane levels of detail, whereas the customization of yesteryear was simply what color to make your character’s shirt.
So, with this new age upon us, one must look to the past and consider the future. Are we judging games fairly anymore? It seems every new game is “ground breaking” or “raising the bar” these days. The bar has been raised so much in the last two years, I’m beginning to think there are some steroids being shared amongst the proverbial jumpers.
But has the bar been raised for reviews?
Take a moment to think that over. Take your time. Especially you dyslexic kids, I know it takes you a while longer. Ok, ready for my answer? Sure? Ok.
And therein lies the fault of the 10-point (or 5 star, or 100 point or 9.3 or 42 or the goddamn Richter scale if you want) review system. It is outdated. It no longer properly captures how good a game is when so many games are just way too fucking good.
Take a moment to think back to the game that started you down this path. We all have one. For me, it was Contra. First game (along with Mario Bros & Duck Hunt) I got. Now look how far we’ve come.
Contra. To Grand Theft Auto 4. Yea. Bit of a difference, eh?
So, in a medium that is changing so rapidly (movies added sound, then color, then… well, that was about it for new ideas in 80 years. Now they’re just rehashing old ones) and so much, do not reviews, by necessity, need to change? Has the bar been raised so much and so fast that we don’t know where it is any more?
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internet, let me make my closing statements and let me make them brief. We have entered a new age. One of acceptance. One of glory. But also one in which we need to rethink not only how we play, but how we judge the quality of what we play. We must raise the bar for bar raising.
Thank you for your time. I hope you find the reading interesting, your fridge full of beer, and your Xbox sans red ring.