Editor's Corner: A Website Doesn't Give Out Review Scores, A Writer Does
Posted on Tuesday, April 29 @ 17:37:04 Eastern by Nicholas Tan
"Polygon gave The Last of Us a 7.5."
"GameRevolution gave Titanfall a 3/5."
"Destructoid gave Assassin's Creed 2 a 4.5 out of 10."
"Gamespot gave Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a 6/10."
Statements like these litter the Internet, usually followed by lots of vitriol, confusion, and hatred. Now, we all know the truth, or at least I hope we do: It's not the website that hands out a score; it's the reviewer.
But of course, the issue is complicated, and simplifying the situation, like the sentences above, don't complete the picture. These statements are just meant to be hurtful by lumping everyone together or are meant just to be lazy... because Internet comments. Now unless a website's review is made by one specific person all or nearly all of the time, like Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation, it would be silly to equate one reviewer's opinion with those of the site's entire stable of reviewers.
There's certainly a partial responsibility for any one review to represent the site as best as that person can. Still, if we showed a list of review scores from a group of people, like how the Japanese magazine Famitsu has a table of scores from four people or how other sites sometimes have second opinions, it would show that even a bunch of reviewers from the same place don't necessarily agree. I would have given certain games a higher or lower score, as much as anyone else would compared to their friend's or some stranger's scores for video games. We're not robots.
Now as head editors, Anthony, Daniel and I certainly have a say when it comes to a review. If the tone of the review doesn't match the grade, if there's a logical fallacy, if an important fact has been dismissed, something like that, we will address it and have the ability to talk with the reviewer and alter the score accordingly. Worst case scenario, the piece just isn't a strong enough piece to be posted. This is all the "editor" part of the job.
However, we also believe in freedom of speech and just because one of us disagrees greatly with an opinion doesn't mean that an argument isn't valid so long as it's backed up by strong arguments. I mean, that's how it's supposed to work. Apart from extreme circumstances, you don't want us censoring opinions due to our mushy feelings. We stand by the score given by one of our fellow reviewers even if we disagree.
So saying that a website, instead of a writer, gave some game a certain score means something more insidious: that something happened behind the scenes, corruption no less, where the senior staff members collectively altered someone's work. Of course, I'm not saying that all sites are infallible and the idea of an advertiser forcing the hand of a website doesn't happen or hasn't happened before.
What I can say is that as far as GameRevolution is concerned, that has not happened and if any company tries to drive our reviews one way or another, we end the conversation right then and there. In fact, that just pisses us off. So don't even try it. We will either end up being angry or choose not to post a review at all (because if there's anything worse than a negative review, it's NO review). Neither one is a good idea.
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