What’s the Deal with High Video Game Review Scores?
Ever wondered why video game review scores are generally so high? Why a great movie might hit an 8/10 (or as we now call it, an 80+ on Metacritic) but a great game is guaranteed to be 9 and up? And why games like Star Wars Kinect get away with 5/10 when realistically they deserve closer to a 3 at best (I mean, who hasn’t wondered that – dancing Jedis? who were they kidding)?!
Besides the alarming idea that Star Wars Kinect was ever given a pass mark, expanding on why games generally receive positive scores is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now. There are a lot of misconceptions on why exactly this is, from video game reviewers being paid by game companies to review games (this happens pretty rarely) to game reviewers being given games (this happens all the time and almost never affects the end score, look at my review for Special Forces Team X) to the industry just producing higher quality content than other industries like film (there is no way this is the case).
But what I’ve found to be the most likely reason is something I myself have suffered from: poor time investment.
Not to be the guy whining about having to play videogames (hear me out for a second) but when you get an hour into what you can already tell will be a below average experience (Aliens: Colonial Marines) – it can be pretty damn hard to justify playing another 7 hours of it.
Thinking of it as a movie isn’t really accurate – plenty of people can sit through Twilight, and despite box office profit this doesn't make it anything more than a derivative piece of crap. A game is roughly 4x as long (more like 15x if its an RPG), so it would be more like sitting through the entire Twilight saga in a row.
Can’t picture yourself doing it? Don’t worry, no man can.
So what we end up with at the bottom end of the scale is the worst games that someone could make themselves sit through. The lowest reviews you’ll find are either games which could have been good, but somehow managed to screw it up (Duke Nukem), games which are clearly rip offs which get dragged into the spotlight (the War Z) or games made by big companies for lots of money that still managed to miss the mark (again Aliens: Colonial Marines, also again Duke Nukem).
Translation: If you make a bad game and nobody’s ever heard of you – odds are nobody ever will.
What does this mean to you? It might mean to raise the bar a little. The Dark Knight might be an 8/10 as a movie I can guarantee it would be a 9.5/10 as a game. Equally, just because a game is trending at 7/10 – this doesn’t make it a masterpiece (the last 7/10 I bought was Anarchy Reigns… lets not go there).
Game reviews need to be taken with a bit more salt than the average movie reviewer, user experience brings a lot more to the field and genre comes in to play in a big way – personally I enjoy Naruto fighting games, this doesn't mean I think they are a 10/10 – it’s niche.
One thing I would stop doing (if anyone who reads this is actually listening) is preaching the downfall of the industry just because our bar is in a slightly different position.
Remember: Just because games have a slightly higher average score doesn't make all game reviewers pushovers, it just means we value our time a little more than the average Twilight fan.