*These opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of any of my fellow journalists at Load The Game*
Review scores have been a hot topic in the gaming community for quite a while now, but have seemed to explode in social media over the past few months. With the popularity of video game journalism and content creators on YouTube, the issue of the necessity of review scores has spread like wildfire. I’ve heard some people say that scores are necessary because there are many people who refuse to sit and read an in-depth review of a game, and instead want a score that they can glance at before making a purchase. On the other hand, I’ve heard that scores are damaging to journalistic content because they invalidate the opinion of the journalist in the sense that someone will criticize them for their score without actually reading the reasoning behind it. Reviews have become less about personal opinion, and more about appealing to the masses. My goal with this investigation was to attempt to come to a clear conclusion on whether or not review scores were not only necessary, but practical as well.
As stated above, there are many who swear by review scores and argue their necessity as tools for consumers to use to make smart purchases. The review scores provide these consumers with a number that they can understand and use to sway their decision in one way or another to purchase a title. There are many people who are not interested in the actual written review, and only skip to the bottom for the summary and score that the game in question was given. While the summary can be very useful to recap an article, it cannot always be said that the reader isn’t missing out on important information that they would have received had they read the entire article. For an example, I like to use Cliff Notes. Although you may have had the Cliff Notes for Romeo & Juliet back in high school, you would not have been able to write a literary analysis on the book as you did not read the entire thing and missed out on much of the mood, theme, and important dialogue that takes place in the full story. Therefore, while I can understand why review scores can be helpful to those short on time or who have trouble focusing on long articles, I must say that the full article is a necessity if you want to understand and grasp the full opinion of the journalist who is doing the reviewing.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those who believe that review scores should be completely outlawed. They believe that scores are extremely harmful to the community, and that they provide no positive benefit whatsoever when it comes to consumer choice. The opinions that are contained in the writing are what the consumer should be focusing on instead of worrying about an x/10 waiting at the end of the page. This group believes that review scores are only sources of criticism from the community. It could be argued that those who are leaving negative feedback and rude comments are the younger crowd who are not interested in reading the article and only care about the score. However, I find this to be a bit absurd because the age of the consumer does not determine their passion for gaming, and I’m sure there are many teenagers who love reading in-depth review content and could care less about review scores. It can most definitely be said that the opinions of the journalist are the most important things, bar none, when it comes to critical content.
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the basics of the argument on review scores, I would like to insert my own opinion into the mix. Review scores can never replace the written words of the critic. The information that you can receive from a thousand or more word review cannot be compared to the two or three sentence summary and score at the bottom of the page. If you skip the actual critique, you may miss out on the anecdotes, specifics, bugs, or any other important things that the journalist was attempting to share with you. I believe that if you skip the article to view only the score, you are doing yourself a large disservice as a consumer, and to be honest, you are not being a smart consumer. Spending $60 on a game at full price is nothing to sneeze at, and the product should be thoroughly researched to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth. Even if money was no object, it is imperative that we support only good games, as the more we purchase broken, boring games, the more we will find ourselves surrounded by nothing but. It has been said before by TotalBiscuit, and I definitely agree, that the reason for the outcry when a game gets a low score is the need for validation. A consumer does not want to feel like they made a mistake in purchasing a product, so they will defend their purchase to the bitter end. However, this can be easily avoided by doing the proper research before making a purchase, instead of just looking at one or two review scores on your favorite websites. Reading articles, watching gameplay, waiting for trusted reviewers to release their opinions, these are all ways to become a smarter consumer and to make sure that you aren’t left with an inferior product at the end of the day.
Finally, the biggest issue that I have with review scores is the inconsistency of the score. What is a 5 out of 10? Is that a good game, a bad game, an okay game? What is a 3 out of 5? Why use stars to represent the numbers? The lack of a consistent review scoring system is dragging our community down in a huge way. I must say that until we can agree on a universal review system, scores cannot be trusted and cannot be viewed as anything other than some numbers at the bottom of an article. I’ve seen many games get a 6 out of 10 and be fantastic, not only in my own opinion but in the opinions of many others as well. Then I’ve seen the opposite end of the spectrum where games get a 9 and are buggy, boring tromps through a generic environment with little to no interactivity whatsoever. The scoring inconsistency, however, is solved by the fact that the reviewer’s opinion is right there on the page for you to read. You can get into their head and understand their though process as they were playing through the game. There is no longer a need to wonder what a 6 is if you read the article, as you can clearly understand their likes and dislikes of a particular title. Maybe the game was very short, or too long, and this affected the score heavily. However, the people who could care less about game length would understand that the score was low for that reason and maybe they would find that they really enjoyed the game because they weren’t as worried about the length. This would affect the review score for them in a big way, and is also one of the biggest reasons for making sure that we are reading multiple reviews on games that interest us. Everyone has their own opinion, but reading and comprehending all of the opinions and then forming your own is the key to making smart purchases, which is the goal of our community as a whole. If we continue to support only the good games, we can encourage developers to put more focus on making better games, and possibly deter publishers from pushing early releases at the risk of a great profit loss. All in all, I think that review scores are an unnecessary part of critical content. However, I do not believe that they should be completely removed from articles, because they may be helpful to certain people. My only advice to everyone who uses review content to steer purchases is to read the entire article before you form your opinion on a game. We are the consumers and we have the responsibility of making smart purchases. As long as we do so, the industry will thrive, and we will be able to continue enjoying our favorite hobby.
How do you feel about review scores? Are they helpful to you when deciding to purchase a game?