OpenCritic And Where Review Scores Are Today

The appearance of an attempt at competition for Metacritic in the form of OpenCritic (remember GameRankings and GameStats?) has sort of ignited a new discussion on video game reviews and review scores, if only a small one. I actually don’t check reviews extremely often anymore but that doesn’t mean I think they’re useless. I just like to think of them in a way that in my opinion better defines the situation at hand than what most people have been saying about them.

I think I’m going to use this opportunity to let out a thought I’ve had on review scores for a little while. One of the biggest complaints I see is that everyone seems to be working on a sort of 70-100 scale, that every big game that comes out pretty much never gets below a 70, and that anything below a 70 may as well be a zero. In my opinion, even though this is technically displayed as a 100-point scale it has effectively turned into a four-point scale. Well, possibly a five-point scale but mostly a four-point scale. When you think of it like that it actually doesn’t become that different from how some film reviews give ratings of between zero and four stars.

I would put it like this: Anything below a 70/100 is like getting one star — it’s a game you shouldn’t even bother with. A score in the 70’s is like two stars — average, maybe check the game out if the specific franchise or genre is something you’re really into. Scores in the 80’s are basically three stars, indicating a great game you should give a chance if you have the time. A 90 or above indicates to me four out of four stars and a highly recommended purchase. Games that get the two extremes of the scale — a 100 score or below a 60, I’m not even sure where they’d fit. Some places like IGN, Famitsu, or GameSpot give out 100’s so rarely it’s sort of like a special “greatest of all time” badge.

I know a lot of people don’t like review scores at all and to be honest when writing a review I kind of prefer not having to pin a whole experience down to a number. Sometimes I scroll through scores if I don’t have a lot of time but if I’m seriously considering getting a game I’m going to actually read multiple reviews.

If you look at OpenCritic’s FAQ it actually says it doesn’t just aggregate reviews with scores, which is nice. It seems to be trying to counter Metacritic by not doing the things people don’t like Metacritic for doing, offering more transparency in the aggregation process. The biggest reason to dislike Metacritic though is because it’s gained so much power that actual game producers and companies make creative decisions based on its numbers. It’s reached a point where those numbers affect the pay of the people who work on games.

The most advertised feature of OpenCritic seems to be how it lets readers customize their experiences by listing what publications they trust and want to appear when they check the site. I’d personally prefer it let me pick which specific writers I want to give a certain amount of weight. A publication isn’t a person but a group of writers with different opinions, and that staff is always changing. It’s probably difficult however to constantly scan bylines or otherwise keep track of where writers go.

I’ve been told that a lot of people really only give Steam reviews weight these days. It could be because they’re right there in the client when you’re shopping for games, but I think it might also be a combination of not having scores and being from a collective of average consumers.


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