Why I said no to numbers!

by on February 28, 2015



                When I
was younger I thought that scoring games using a numeric table is the way to
go, as it could be easy to separate the scoring by categories like: graphics, story,
gameplay, feeling, sound and multiplayer (if it is the case). The average from
all the categories will result in the game’s final score.
But with time I realized that this system was far from being
perfect and in reality it was misshaping the games into better or worse
(usually better when it comes to AAA titles). So when I started this blog, at
first, I didn’t want to use any scoring, but as I thought this through and listened
to the suggestions I received from some of my blog readers I started using a
pros and cons system for my reviews.
Before I would start explaining why
I think pros and cons is a superior way to rate a game, I want to talk a bit
more why the numbers, which should never lie, are not telling the truth in this
matter.
Splitting the maximum score a video
game can get into a number of categories and scoring each of them individually accordingly
with the game’s performance in that respective area to then make a total score
out of it sounds great, in reality things are more complex than that. The
genres of games should be treated differently as some things might be more important
for a genre than the others.
From the time this industry was
growing each genre focused to improve in different aspects, the end result
being a game with some features greater than others. The players got used with
this inequality as no game can be perfect (I wonder why so many games get 10/10
from professional journalists), but it can be extremely good in its respective
field. A good comparison can be made between classic RPGs (not action RPGs) and
shooters or action games. Those who wanted advanced technology with better
graphics and physics know that shooters and action games usually deliver these
features to a great extent. The players who wanted storytelling, dialogues and
a complex character progression always turned to RPGs. A fan of standard RPGs
doesn’t usually expect mind blowing graphics, but does want a captivating story
full of mystery and choices with an impact in the evolution of the game (I
don’t say RPGs should look terrible!). Based on this it is safe to say that for
an RPG the graphics shouldn’t be evaluated in the same way as those of an FPS,
but the story should be more important (a mix of the two is a real challenge) and
this leads to a selective way of scoring video game. The complexity of this
goes so far that it could take me pages full of walls of text to describe the
way I look at a scoring system including every particularity for each type of
game and the subjective opinion of those who play them.
So I will give one example as it is pretty explanatory.
                Metacritic
is, apparently, the new standard for video games performance with developers
having terms in their contracts including this website. When I look at the
scores I see incredibly high ratings and knowing how many issues those games
had and still have it bothers me as I feel that we are lied to.
For example:
                Before
I start talking about this example, I have to say that I consider this game the
most overrated video game of all times and I might be biased when I talk about
it, even so it doesn’t mean that what I’m saying about it might not be true.
                The
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open world action RPG released in 2011 on aPC,
Xbox 360 and PS3. It has a Metascore of 94/100 as an average from 34 critics’
reviews. Breaking down this game in categories and analyzing them, things might
not look so good.
Skyrim is an open world game with a 1st person/3rd
person camera that puts an accent on immersion through exploration and what
should be visually stunning areas. For the year 2011 Skyrim looks quite poor
(The Witcher 2 puts it to shame), some of the textures have horribly low
resolution and even after the release of HD textures pack, it is still not up
to 2011 PC standards. The game doesn’t have DX11 support and the optimization was
terrible with high CPU usage in some areas for no apparent reason. Many players
might argue that Skyrim looks amazing, they should keep in mind that good
looking landscapes don’t necessarily mean good graphics and the quality of
graphics stands in the technology used.
                Skyrim
is an action RPG and for this genre the story, dialogues and character
progression are important, yet this game follows the same pattern as the
previous titles in the series (which weren’t that great either when it comes to
story), but dumbs down everything. There is little to no impact visible from
the player’s actions in the world and no matter the order in which things are
solved, the end result is always the same.
The gameplay is a huge factor in any game, since it is tied
to the complexity of the game and its fun factor. This game gets repetitive at
the speed of light, completing the first dungeon in the game is like seeing most
the dungeons in the game since they all have the same pattern. Skyrim’s combat
is dull and unappealing, based only on directed swings, block and spells
casting. The UI for PC is exactly the same as the one on the consoles and it
lacks in functionality with moments when the mouse cursor doesn’t even work
properly. All these things put together affect the gamepaly and enjoyment quite
a lot (at least they did for me). Some would say that the game is saved by the
mods, but when this game was launched and got the scores from journalists, it
didn’t have any mods, not to mention that mods are not part of the original
game and should not be treated as a big part of a review.
While Skyrim does well on sound effects and the feeling of
exploration and has mods support which can help a lot with replayabilty and the
problems of the game, the scoring it gets can’t be justified. How much should
this game lose for the gameplay problems, the outdated graphics and the questionable
story? I don’t even have to do some calculation to realize how major those
features are to such a game and how they should affect the score in a negative
way.
Yet the numbers of Metacritic make Skyrim one of the best
video game of all times, but what about all the problems mentioned above, are
those problems worth only -0.6 of its final score? A similar argument can be
made for Bioshock Infinite and many other games, but I picked this one because
it is easier to point out things. If the math and numbers shouldn’t lie, where
is the problem?
Do critics overlook things or the scoring system doesn’t
actually make justice in many cases? Reviews should have the subjective input
of the writer, but to what extent?
                I don’t
have a proper answer to this question (I might have, but it is not that pleasant),
but I do have what I can call a solution to the problem itself: let’s not take
for granted the scores for games and actually read and watch videos about them to
make an informed purchase.
                When it
comes to my reviews I follow a pattern that I developed since my article about
Company of Heroes 2 and I use it even today with some minor improvements. I’m
not saying that I’m a good writer or critique, just that the way I choose not to
give a score to video games because it can be misleading, but rather present
the pros and cons of the reviewed game.
                 The way I write my reviews is specifically
designed to serve the system I use for scoring games. Each one of my reviews
starts with an introduction that is related to the game, either by talking
about the franchise, genre, universe or various other things. The continuation
is the introduction to the game, where I talk a little about the release, the
studio that made it and sometimes details about development and after this the
real review starts with: story, gameplay, multiplayer (if it is the case),
graphics, sound and the ending for the article with my overall impression
(always in this order).  While this might
be predictable and makes it harder to have the article written cursively while
following a set order, it does work perfectly with the pros and cons that are
always at the bottom of the review.
It is like a TLDR segment that underlines the good and the
bad of every title. If someone wants to know more, they can always go to that
portion of the article and usually find details in abundance
The subjective way we look at games, makes the overall
experience of a video game different from one individual to another. Only you,
as the player, know what you want most from a game and what is important for
you and what you can overlook. So looking at a short version of what might be
good or bad into a game can help someone make an impression if they are
interested in that particular game leading to more research about what they
found.
                The
score might end up being a lie, for many reasons, and nobody wants to buy a
game that they do not enjoy. But enjoying something doesn’t necessarily mean that
it is good.
As an ending note I would like to say something that is repeatedly said to most of the gamers I had contact with: It
is nothing wrong to have fun in a bad game, but it is something wrong to say
that a bad game is good.

Almost perfect!

Nodrim