The Uselessness of Game Reviews

As a reviewer of mainly Japanese RPGs, I am in constant search of the perfect role-playing experience, and while a few titles have come close, I have yet to find one, largely because I tend to find flaws, deep or shallow, in the various aspects of these games that the average “mainstream” videogame review tends to overlook. As an autistic adult, I tend to look at videogames in a far different perspective than the undoubtedly-neurotypical vocal majority of “official” videogame reviewers have. Therefore, I believe that those gamers on the autism spectrum will have more in common with Yours Truly than the average neurotypical gamer.

One point of debate is review scores, with different gaming sites and magazines utilizing different and similar systems, from A to F to 1 to 10 to 1 to 5 to 1 to 100. A subpoint is what reviewers consider to be “average” among these spectrums, which in school grading would be a C letter grade or 70% in numerical grading. Other sites consider 5, 50, or 3 to be average, and the clash of review scales in terms of what sites consider average completely distorts aggregate data on review sites such as GameRankings. Another nitpick is that even if a score falls in the middle of a site’s scale, GameRankings might not necessarily count the score as a percentile accurately, for instance, translating a 3/5 to 60% instead of 50% or a 2.5/5 to 50% instead of 40%, again somewhat skewing average scores.

A more serious point of debate is the logic, or in most other instances, illogic, behind review scores. A few reviewers tend to go overboard with scores, sometimes giving the lowest score to an aspect of a game that has some redeeming qualities or the highest possible score that may have a major flaw or too. The lowest score, in this reviewer’s opinion, means that there is absolutely no redeeming aspect in one part of a game, and a perfect score means there is absolutely nothing wrong with a certain part of a game. Then there are cases where reviewers give certain scores without properly justifying them, for instance giving an 8/10 to an aspect and failing utterly to explain what, if anything, holds that aspect from perfection, thus leaving players in the dark on what to expect of that area when playing a game.

Yet another conversation point is exactly what constitutes a “flaw” in a certain aspect of a videogame. Here the personal biases of a player come into effect, for instance, with some reviewers preferring hard games and others preferring easy games, and thus deducting points if a game is too easy, or, in a rarer case, if a game is too hard. Because an easier game tends to be more playable, in this reviewer’s opinion, he tends to deduct points for unnecessary difficulty in gameplay, and typical rewards more points for adjustable difficulty so everyone can be happy in the end. Most reviews, as far as I have seen, tend to miss the point entirely when it comes to pinpointing flaws in a game’s design; for instance, I am among the very few reviewers to point out the half-assed turn order meter in battles in the Xenosaga trilogy, which run out of icons and refill instead of being neverending like in Final Fantasy X.

There is also the issue of untrustworthiness in mainstream videogame reviews. Since “official” reviewers tend to have a lot of games to play and are typically expected to have written a review by the day a game sees its release, there is the strong likelihood that these reviewers don’t actually complete the games they review. Doing so, in this reviewer’s opinion, is akin to reviewing a movie based on the opening credits or a book based on its prologue. The only way to critique a game’s quality is to have at least played it until the ending credits, since there are certain things that one could overlook without finishing a game such as spikes in difficulty, problems with a game’s narrative, and so forth. Granted, reviewing a game without having finished it is somewhat acceptable as long as the reviewer actually admits in a disclaimer after their review that they didn’t finish the game they reviewed, which I am happy to say I do whenever I can’t stomach a game enough to complete it.

In the end, why are these issues important? Because one of the chief reasons for the existence of videogame reviews is to serve as feedback to the developers on what they accomplished well in a game’s design and where they could improve. Sadly, different tastes in gameplay and reviewer biases (and I will admit that I myself am biased as a game reviewer, in what direction, that’s for you to figure out) completely distort mainstream gaming opinion, and it is a must for reviewers to accurately critique flaws in a game’s design, or else, developers will continue to churn out crap or repeat serious mistakes without actually fixing what’s wrong with their games.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License