Review Ratings Are Bad! So We’re Using Them!

This is interesting.

It’s an editorial in which The Escapist’s Russ Pitts weakly tries to justify why the site has finally capitulated in using a star/numerical rating system for reviews…

…and then spends the bulk of the article making a vehement case why ratings are bad, horrid things.

No skin off my nose whether Escapist uses ratings or not, but this explanation is just plain weird.  It’s not a clear explanation why they’re doing it, but more of an apology that they have to (for some reason) and an attempt to solidify their position as Rating Haters.  I kind of got a mental image of a guy bludgeoning another guy to death, all the while shouting “This is wrong!  Murder is abhorrent!  I shouldn’t be doing this!  You all agree, this is an evil action!”

Well, yeah, we agree, but you’re still doing it, so it kind of negates everything you’re saying.

As a probably-only-interesting-to-me postscript, my personal disdain for ratings — shared by my friends — is why our cult movie review site Mutant Reviewers has always had a spot in each review for a rating, in which we’ve (usually) never given it a serious rating whatsoever.

8 thoughts on “Review Ratings Are Bad! So We’re Using Them!

  1. Dril February 10, 2010 / 3:21 am

    I like ratings a lot; they give you a clear, numerical value of what the reviewer thinks of the game, and that’s basically all I want to know. Sure, if it’s PC Gamer, I read the reviews as well in full because quite frankly they write them so well, but normally all I want is a quick number score, and a list of pros and cons so that I can compare two things in a matter of seconds.

    Also, I hate it when people say “ohhhhhh but number scores suck because everything gets between 65% and 85%.” Well yeah? And? That’s the average score, and since average, by definition, is the category that most items will fall into, most of the things reviewed are going to get between 65% and 85%.

  2. Slurms February 10, 2010 / 6:15 am

    It’s a sucky situation though. On one hand you have reviewers, who would much rather never give a game any formal “score” and let their words do the talking. Then you have a majority of players who don’t take the time to read reviews, and just look at aggregate scores.

    Seems that there was a demand on the Escapist, and they are meeting it with supply.

  3. Regis February 10, 2010 / 8:00 am

    A straight “go buy” or “don’t buy” works for me, but I find scores to be also nice when you gather them all into a metascore to find out what reviewers *really* think about the game.

    Now they way the came to the individual score is usually BS, but it gives a hint.

  4. Wumpus February 10, 2010 / 9:04 am

    I loathe ratings because they give me a quick number score which I can read in a manner of seconds. Which is to say, they don’t contain enough information to tell me a damn thing, and those seconds I spend reading the numbers are wasted.

    Me: So, how is Bioshock 2?

    Metacritic: 89

    Me: Uh, OK, does it successfully capture the atmosphere of the original?

    Metacritic: 89

    Me: How’s the story? Is it set before the first one or after?

    Metacritic: 89

    Me: What are the multiplayer options?

    Metacritic: 89

    Me: Fine, I’ll read the reviews then.

    Scores just don’t contain any actionable information. A Madden game could get 100% on Metacritic and I still wouldn’t buy it, but some game on XBLA could get 50% and I still might pick it up if people say it’s interesting. It all depends. Which is why I always head to some reliable message boards populated by people whose tastes I know instead of heading to Metacritic.

  5. GuiguiBob February 10, 2010 / 10:51 am

    I agree Wumpus. My complain about the 65%-85% range it doesn’t tell you anything else than average game, you might like it or you might not it depends. If I don’t have much time to read a review I like bullet point to tell me things like

    Talkalot the RPG 3 : The return of the conversation tree
    +Good Writing
    +Interesting combat mechanics
    -Stereotypical characters
    -Buggy as hell

    I’m sure this tells you a lot more about the game than 75%

  6. Ferrel February 10, 2010 / 11:09 am

    When I do ratings I give gnolls! Good or bad, you got gnolls! 25 gnolls is great but having any gnolls is pretty good too!

  7. xXJayeDuBXx February 10, 2010 / 11:37 am

    I have written a few reviews for a site that requires a score, and personally I don’t have a problem with it. Once I finish a review I then give it a score based on the tone of the article.

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