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The Crisis Unfolding in Game Reviews

Gamingtodaynews1b - The Crisis Unfolding in Game Reviews
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There's a TLDR at the bottom of the post

The Situation

Among the myriad of issues that have surrounded Cyberpunk since its launch, an important conversation was lost amidst the forest of bugs and crash reports. That discussion is centered on the period of time between the lifting of the review embargo and the game's release to the general public. What we saw in that four day stretch is an extremely concerning trend of judging a game's quality and is actively harming the manner in which players decide if a game is worth their time.

On games, the internet as a whole, and certainly within the CDPR offices, there was a singular focus on the review scores in the aggregate, and what individual reviews meant for the game's overall review score. Excited players were furious at the fact that some reviewers were tarnishing Cyberpunk's Metacritic page, lowering its rank from an all-time perch it deserved. And even CDPR
cdpr developers bonus review score metacritic - The Crisis Unfolding in Game Reviews

had tied bonuses to the game's reception across the market as a whole.

A very similar "incident" occurred following the release of Breath of the Wild, when Jim Sterling gave the game a
7/10 review, lowering its Metacritic score from a 98 to a 97. What I found odd at the time, and what occurred with Cyberpunk most recently, was an attack not on the review itself, but on its impact to the games' aggregate scores.


The Problem

As a huge fan of Ocarina of Time, I admit it is validating and a common tactic when comparing games to point to that coveted top spot of the Metacritic all-time list. It is an argument ender, a way of proving my thought is unanimously correct. Zelda is the best ever, see?

And while an aggregate review score can be valuable in generalizing a game's reception, it is utterly worthless for an individual player in determining if a game will be an experience they can connect with or not.

The quantity of video game reviews has grown exponentially throughout the last 20+ years. In the past, there were a small number of organizations publishing gaming related content at all. An aggregated collection of reviews was a valuable manner for players to see how all these known publications felt about different types of games.

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This has simply not translated to today's landscape, and is a relic of a simpler and smaller industry. There are thousands of reviews for AAA titles today, and generally speaking most of them are basically worthless to an individual player.

Recognizing that this is glorified screaming into the void, it still needs to be said that the way in which game review content is viewed and consumed by players needs to change. It is actively harming the manner in which games are developed, and the way players receive them.


So where do we go from here?

The solution is obvious, but also difficult to mentally accept. Understand how you connect with games, what mechanics you tend to like, the genres you can't stand or simply do not like. Map that understanding to voices that reflect your own. Find the reviewers who share your likes and dislikes and focus on their thoughts and opinions.

Metacritic can be a reference point, but it is not descriptive. A 97 overall score means nothing if the player and reviewers are at odds. One man's 6/10 is another man's masterpiece. Metacritic scores are basically baskets full of apples and oranges, with a magic number floating above it all.

I bring this up now in fear of this trend continuing downward. The tone of review threads here on reddit and on any other online forum is so singularly focused on where a game stacks up in the all-time ranking list, and less and less about how an individual may connect with it. Gamer's must not be afraid of a 72 Metacritic score or feel compelled to purchase because of a 97.

And most of all, developers should certainly not be aiming to please the game review landscape as a whole, as that is nearly impossible. That is how you end up with a game as scope-creep impacted as Cyberpunk, with hundreds of half-fleshed-out systems aiming to please everyone in an attempt to hit that all-important 90 Metacritic benchmark.


TLDR: The extreme focus on aggregate review scores is harming the way in which games are discussed, received, and developed. Players must learn to focus on the reviewers who reflect their own thoughts and playstyles while understanding quality voices will exist with different perspective, and developers must create with a singular, complete vision in mind and not design for widespread aggregated acceptance.

Am I the only one who believes this to be a trend? Or am I simply too caught up in the examples I listed to see that this isn't the case.

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