The topic of this article comes in the wake of EuroGamer’s decision to remove review scores, opting instead to use a recommendation-based system; however, the question of whether or not products of art and media should be reviewed from a totally objective, arithmetic-based system is one which can be applied across the board, to games, books and movies alike.
On the one hand, I understand the necessity of review scores: many people read reviews as a kind of buying guide; a letter grade or rating out of ten is a shorthand way of deciding what to spend their time and money on. It doesn’t help that newspapers and magazines don’t offer the necessary amount of space for larger, more nuanced reviews, meaning a simpler and more streamlined approach is required.
On the other hand, they can be incredibly restrictive. Let’s say you’re browsing Metacritic and you see a game that is rated 7/10. What does that mean, exactly? Is it really saying that the critic has played the game and examined its every single facet and nuance – including but not limited to gameplay mechanics, story, multiplayer, graphics, theme, genre, entertainment value, target audience and authorial intent – and then proceeded to deduce a numerical value that weighs up all these factors in a fair and unbiased way for every single person reading? How does the reviewer’s personal taste come into it, and is it really possible to be completely objective?
I am hesitant about bringing the “subjectivity” argument into this, as it’s just one small step from that to “Well, reviews are completely pointless because it’s all opinion”, which is ridiculous and just as reductive as the idea that critics are the absolute authority on art. There has to be a compromise, and there has to be a conversation.
At the moment, games are in an interesting and dynamic place. The medium has exploded into cultural consciousness in the past couple of decades, but other than a few things here and there, there hasn’t yet been any major critical and/or academic response as there has been with literature, theatre and film. There is still this (misguided) mentality that games are just a quaint hobby for younger people who should have better things to do with their lives. If we want this opinion to change (and we do, because games can be as awesome as any other kind of art), then the critical landscape needs to change. Reviews can’t just be buying guides; they need to be doors into new ways of thinking. So I’m on board with Eurogamer’s decision. They’ve decided that the conversation is worth more than the assignment of worth – and that’s always a good start.
What’s your view on game reviews? Should they be based on a point system, or a recommendation-based system? Do you feel Exeposé should follow the example of EuroGamer?
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