Fixing a broken machine with broken tools

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Most of us have our own criteria for judging a game. We know what elements we like in our games, we know what developers to trust, we know which genres and franchises we enjoy. For many others however, this instinctual system is less developed or non existent. Many of those people, especially new gamers, turn to sites like IGN and Gametrailers for the last word on games. The problem with this is the system used to review games. It's broken.

Let's break it down. Your average review is about one page to two pages in length, covering as many aspects of the game as possible in the alloted space inevitably culminating in a numeric score (1-5, 1-10, 1- 70,000,471). Of course it's a subjective system, each reviewer having their own biases, but more importantly the numeric score is an arbitrary and misleading system.

What games set the benchmark for a genre? What aspects of a games figure heavily into a review? The closest thing to an elemental review system is the one from Gametrailers. Each review is broken down into design, story, gameplay, and presentation. All this is good, but in the end, they average out the score, defeating the purpose of the segmented review entirely.

The numbers themselves are mostly arbitrary. We all know that a high number is good and a low number is bad but anything between that is more or less a mystery. What makes, for example, "Iron Man" at 5.6 a worse game than "NBA Ballers: Chosen One" at 5.7? The answer is, in all honesty the math and nothing more. The two games aren't comparable in a larger sense because they aren't the same kind of game.

What we need to see, especially as the community grows beyond it's old bounds is a system that judges games within their own genres and without any arbitrary numeric system. Write us an article. Tell us about the game, compare similar gameplay elements to other titles, break it down into categories. Feel free to tell us what you liked and didn't like, what worked and what didn't but don't quantify the experience with a number. It's useless.

Our base is growing. New demographics are playing games. The games are changing, why can't the system we use to review them? This old way of reviewing games doesn't serve the growing community the way it should. Let's get away from the comfortable methods and bring some new tools to the floor.