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Editor's Corner: Video Game Review Scores Will Never Change

Posted on Tuesday, March 11 @ 16:00:00 PST by

For most gamers, it doesn't matter what the reviewer says if you've already become personally invested in a product like countless Call of Duty fanboys or those that could argue the merits of a PlayStation exclusive against a Nintendo exclusive until everyone else shows Xbox green on their faces.

All my life I've gotten to know my favorite video game reviewers and their tastes through repeated encounters meaning it wasn't until the third or fourth review that I could coorraborate pluses and minuses with a voice on the Internet or in a magazine. The same might be true of movie reviewers, but flick fanatics don't have the same issues gamers have with scores.

That's because video games and movies affect us in totally different ways, both as consumers and critics.

Movies might impart some emotional weight onto the viewer, maybe with the tragic fall of a hero or the vicious defeat of evil, but then you get up, walk out of the theater, and leave the emotions behind too. You can carry those feelings as far as you continue to discuss the film with other viewers, but once you get in the car and go home you tend to move on with your life.

Games give the player so much ownership over the experience that it's impossible to diverge your own reactions from, not just what you've seen on screen and how it relates to life, but the fact that dozens of human beings put thousands of hours into giving you that digital life.

Let's take The Last of Us, for example. Sure, you could watch it like you would a movie. You'll get that chance when Sony releases the live-action film of The Last of Us, but playing it gives you the kind of helpless hopefulness that defines that world.

You feel helpless when you're challeneged by Clickers, but you feel the hopefulness when interacting with Ellie. Waxing between the two took true artistry and by the end you can't help but feel connected with the characters as if you had actually lived it.

Taking the amount of time and effort in developing a game like The Last of Us into account, it's impossible not to have some reverance for the lives of those creators. It's impossible not to say "Wow, there was so much to do and so much to see and I don't think I caught all of it and I wish it never ended but I'm glad it did because I feel so much."

When you consider that the truly awful games go by the wayside and never get attention from press or consumers alike, it's easy to see how Metacritic scores don't hit the red all that often. Movies might tank with critics and still hit it rich at the box office, but games are as much an investment of time as they are of a consumer's money.

No one wants to put themselves in an experience they won't truly love, and reviewers cater to that sensibility. I don't think anyone alive would say "I really wanna sift through sh** with my bare hands for 8-12 hours, just to see what it's like." Reviewers aren't going to spend very much time evaluating a product that asks them to do the same either.

Video game review scores are inherenetly broken when you look at them this way. That score means so little in the face of a thousand words or a major video production or even best of E3 awards. Could any so-called journalist face their peers if they didn't back up their "MUST-PLAY BEST GAME EVEH" E3 award with a glowing 9/10 review? My guess is that most struggle more than they let on.

Recently, at a review event I attended, one of my peers downloaded and booted an entirely different game during a planned lunch break. While many of us were eating and conversing, this reviewer launched into another game and probably ruffled some feathers with the PR folks organizing the event.

This is a disheartening sign of the maturity level in game reviewers throughout the industry, moreso given that this individual is well known in most gaming circles and placed in a position of power at one of the more high-profile web sites out there.

I love video games, but video game review scores will never change unless both consumers and critics learn to look at themselves and the content they consume in a new light.

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