Monday, November 14, 2011

Numbering subjectivity

Anjin from Bullet Points has a great post up about review scores. He quotes several reviews of the same game, complaining about the same weakness in that game, and then notes how different the review scores are. Quote: "What is funny about all of these reviews, and several others that I looked at was that they all agreed about what they liked and did not like about Uncharted 3. What they differed on was the degree to which that swayed their opinion of the game. There are several 100 point scores on Metacritic, several in the 80s, and then there is Tom Chick with his 40. A 40 has the same problems with the game as everyone else, but could not overlook those problems like nearly everyone else."

I found that interesting because this weekend I had a similar impression when listening to various commenters talking about Skyrim. Some people really liked the game (to the point where they got aggressive towards people not playing it. Apparently that sort of behavior isn't limited to MMORPGs.). Others were unimpressed. But I don't think that people disagreed about actual facts, it was only that their overall impression was swayed to different degrees by those facts.

Fact is that Skyrim has a control system with the cursor fixed in the middle of the screen. Fact is that it is a console port, inheriting both textures and a control scheme that isn't optimized for keyboard and mouse from the console version. The difference is that some people think that the game is so great that they don't mind these problems, while for others they are game killers. One reader suggested that if Skyrim caused me video game nausea, I should drug myself with seasickness pills to be able to play, because otherwise I would miss a decade-defining game. Another reader called it "a potentially amazing title... ruined by horrendous animations (npcs/monsters) and an absolutely stupid and crappy inventory system (direct port from consoles, requires WASD keys)." I do think people agree what are the strengths and weaknesses of the game, they just assign very different scores to them.

Personally I think these are perfect examples of why I don't give review scores on my blog. I just say what I like and dislike about a game. That still gets some of the fans upset ("How dare you to talk about a weakness of my favorite game!!!"), but I think it would be a lot worse if I gave a low score. Some problems I might have with a game *are* extremely personal, with motion sickness being an example, and really shouldn't keep anybody else who doesn't have the same problem from buying that game. It would be extremely unfair if I gave a low review score to a game just because its camera system makes me puke. However I insist on my right to chose not to play a game that makes me puke.

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