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Why are games reviewed like school grades? The whole percentile score baffles me — is a game rated 82% really noticeably better than a game rated 81%? And there seems to be a passing grade: anything rated below 60% is really bad, just like in school. In fact it’s of a 25 points system — from 75 to 95 — because that’s where the vast majority of games lie.
Wouldn’t a 5 stars rating system work better? You don’t really need much more information than whether the reviewer liked the game or not anyway.
I’m guessing the precision of reviews comes from a desire to seem objective and exact. Some magazines and websites even add rating sub-categories, like “graphics” and “sound”, to sound even smarter. Not that their rating in those categories ever varies much, a bad game with great music will still get worse music rating than a great game with bad music.
Games are being rated like word processors, really. They’re evaluated in different categories, then a list of features is made and compared to other similar games to see which are missing. They get bonus points for longer gameplay, but lose some because they’ve got fewer multiplayer modes than the competition. Very few reviewers seem to look at the big picture, they only make a features checklist and then compare to other games.
Can you imagine if movies were reviewed like that? “This movie is 3 hours long, so that’s a plus, but the movie from 3 months ago had 2 more car chases and 3 more explosions, so I rate this movie only 77%.” Everybody would think that this movie critic completely missed the point, yet game reviewers all read like that.
Also, when was the last time you saw game reviewers disagree on the quality of a game? It’s like they all like the same things or something. Movie and book critics vary wildly in opinions, some like titles others dislike, yet all game reviewers rate games the same way…
And that way is to always rate the hyped game well. Spider-man 3 is a highly hyped movie that got panned by critics, but you’d never see that in games. Can you see the next Zelda get a rating lower than 80%? 90% even? I can’t think of an eagerly anticipated game that got panned by critics when it released — at best they get an 85%. Review scores seem to correlate a lot with marketing budget, funny that.
But maybe things have changed lately. For all those reasons I don’t read many reviews these days. I purchase most games through word-of-mouth and by trying the demo — much more reliable than reviews.