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A response to "review controversies"

Dear Mr. Jim Sterling, you are an opinionated man. This is fine; so are we all. Most of us, however, have the good grace to hide it when in the public sector. We may go around insulting the (insert political party here) in the comfort of our own homes, but we don't rate speeches as "That candidate was Republican; he seemed to be a good speaker, but his points were all wrong. 4/10." To do so would be dishonest - not to yourself, but to your readers.

What I find most telling is this: While your score for The Witcher 2 is 2.8 points (more than 25%) below the Metacritic average, your score for MW3 is anywhere from 0.7 (for the console versions) to 1.5 points above said average for the PC version. In fact, they (Witcher 2 PC, CoD console) have the same Metacritic average! You should not have reviewed these games - or at least, you should not have reviewed them alone. A team effort from a variety of viewpoints might well balance your off-kilter opinions.

We go in to a review, Mr. Sterling, looking for a recommendation: "Will I, the consumer, like this game?" When we get instead "Mr. Sterling didn't like this game," it doesn't tell us very much. When your long editorial on what exactly you thought of it is compressed into a single vector, and that averaged together with dozens more from around the world, your review is even more meaningless - reduced to a single word of opinion: BAD or GOOD. And as this is the standard format in which the user will experience your journalistic efforts, good sir, any subtlety you may have meant, any admission that you just weren't right for this game is completely lost. All there is is that single, wrong score.

Yes, I said wrong. Not wrong for you, Mr. Sterling, but wrong for a review. Call of Duty isn't a 9.5, no matter how much you liked it. The Witcher 2 is not a 6.0. Not in a context larger than your personal experience.

For a site purportedly providing reviews to help potential customers decide to buy the game, having scores so out-of-line with public opinion (you know, the opinion of those you're trying to advise) is dangerous at best. It's not just "the one guy who sees it for what it is" - it's a systematic slant in your opinions, and may well render you rather unsuitable to review these games. It's like assigning a hardcore PC gamer (with an all-consuming interest in the latest graphics tech) to review Wii games, while giving PC strategy games to a soccer mom who's never played anything not involving avian trebuchets to review. It's quite obvious they're not the target audience - just as it's quite obvious where your own gaming interests intersect the games you're reviewing.

Posting what you personally thought of a game in numeric or text form is perfectly acceptable - when you're an average metacritic user. It's even expected (although not truly acceptable) to try to weight the average according to what you want it to be - to post a dissenting opinion in hopes that the lump sum of them all will be weighted in your direction. When you're expected to review the game in general, however, it is not. Certainly, you can state that the game wasn't for you - but when the numeric score at the end, or the words within, reflect more your personal quibbles than the quality of the work in question, something has gone horribly wrong with the review process.

Let me restate that: It's not about whether you liked the game or not. It's about whether it was any good. If you cannot see through "I like" to "Others will like," what are you doing reviewing games?
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About omicron1one of us since 11:42 PM on 11.13.2008

I'm an amateur programmer. I have a heckuva lot of games (probably over 1000). I have no free time.