This is such a great article, and I believe every word Tom said. Just because a game gets a low score, doesn't necessarily make it a "bad" game. A game can have a lot of technical flaws, but in the end it can still be a fun game :).
Tom explains why you shouldn't ignore games in the middle of the rating spectrum.
What is it about the number six that causes people to scurry away in fear?
Yesterday, I posted my review for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game NeverDead. To put it bluntly, there are two sections in this game that are so aggravating I had to physically remove myself from their presence lest I smash my controller, television, and everything else of value residing near my desk into millions of pieces. Yet, despite the anger that it caused deep inside me, I actually liked it. In fact, after finishing one version of the game, I gleefully played through the first half on the other system in one sitting. Is it flawed? Oh yes, very much so. But like many games that my colleagues and I give a six to, it's ultimately a lot of fun and definitely worth playing.
We all have limits on how low we're willing to go when it comes to review scores. When a game that I'm interested in gets a six from GameSpot or one of the other sites I frequent, such a score manifests a shred of doubt in my mind. Considering how skewed scores often are--I've seen many jokes about the supposed 7-10 scale reviewers employ--a game has to be close to putrid to crash below that magic threshold, right? Well, yes and no.
Forgive me for just one second. There is a word that GameSpot has banned from its lexicon because its overuse through the years has devalued its impact. However, falling back on an old standby is the easiest way for me to communicate my thoughts. Polish. It's one of those words that encompass an idea so vast that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it means, but I'll give it a try. A game that's considered to be "polished" generally avoids technical pitfalls that can pull you out of the experience. These include visual glitches (collision detection, wonky camera, inhuman animations), presentation snafus (bad lip syncing, lousy voice acting, indecipherable story), or gameplay hindrances (finicky controls, uneven difficulty, severe repetition).
A game has to be close to putrid to crash below that magic threshold, right? Well, yes and no.
For many of us, so much time is spent playing extremely polished games that when we sully our hands with something rough around the edges, it feels downright archaic. "There are standards!" I want to yell at the television. "How can you possibly mess up one of the fundamental qualities of a good game?" In fact, when my temper gets the better of me, I do yell nasty things at these seemingly incomplete games. But, you know what? I would often rather spend time with a work in progress than a big-budget affair that lacks any discernable problems--but also lacks any soul.
Take, for instance, a novel real-time strategy game Kevin VanOrd reviewed last year: Achron. After playing this PC exclusive, you begin to realize how important artificial intelligence and pathfinding are; things you often take for granted. But Achron glossed over these fundamental elements to focus on its one huge innovation: time manipulation. To explain how a match functions in this game would require a Ph.D. in time travel, so I won't bother with the details. But just know that a game out there exists where you can fight your opponent in the past, future, and present all at one time, which actually works like it should. Yes, this is a real thing.
Every game must adhere to a finite budget. And, with limited funding, there is only so much time available to work on core values when you're trying to reinvent the wheel. So, in NeverDead, you can play fetch with a demonic hound using your arm and then detonate your arm to kill an entire pack of the beasts. But, you have to deal with horrible difficulty spikes. Alpha Protocol has an incredibly in-depth and flexible conversation system, but the gameplay is kind of crappy. Flower, Sun, and Rain has imaginatively twisted puzzles, but you get lost every few minutes. These games all offer unique experiences, but you have to put up with a lot of jank. Is the trade-off worth it? Often times, yes.
The fact that so many of these games are worth playing despite their "low" scores (I haven't even mentioned Disney Epic Mickey, Alone in the Dark, Wanted: Weapons of Fate, or many others) shows how tricky it can be to properly rate games. For better or worse, we use scores as an objective measurement of a game's quality. I realize this is a ridiculous statement (objectively analyzing art), but bear with me. When a game is saddled with noteworthy flaws, we have to lower the score in turn; we can't just ignore problems. But because so many games hover around an eight, it's hard to take something drastically lower than that seriously. Ultimately, we have to fight against the perception of what scores mean. Polish, at least in my eyes, is not the most important element of a game. Innovation is what fuels the industry. New ideas are what make me excited to come to work each day.
Games that score a six or--heaven forbid!--a five can still be a lot of fun. I really hope that people (myself included) can look past a score that seems a tad low. The games I have mentioned in this editorial are not for everyone. It's difficult to look past some of their problems because they infect every other part of the game, even the good stuff. But please don't turn up your nose when you see a six plastered at the top of the screen. Who knows? It may turn out to be one of your guilty pleasures.
@Gelugon_baat You're funny, you criticize people in the most hypocritical way I've ever seen in my life! "Crass" right.... Look who's talking! You make this huge effort to polish your words as an attempt to hide your lack of assertiveness. Once again I repeat, I made that compliment before to show you that for me the mass opinions aren't the right ones in most cases, but there's a thin line between people that can see the big picture and crazy people. The more you act like this, I mean, trying to be right and all mighty all the time, the more you cross the line that supports your comments as acceptable ones. You lose time and credibility by being YOU.
@Gelugon_baat hey, despite our difficult conversation here, and the fact that you are too closed to others opinions, I still would like to know your opinion about the last news I read in here, about EA turning off some online services. Please, would you go there to read what I commented... http://www.gamespot.com/features/permanently-unplugged-6367314/
@Gelugon_baat well, I tried to be reasonable, but you just don't turn off the defensive mode giving me those answers. The last thing I said to you was a compliment -.- I have the feeling that you're just trolling instead of trying to get a good discussion! have a nice day.
@Gelugon_baat Yeah, I know Metacritic is part of Gamespot, but your attempt to protect Gamespot is dumb, since the Metascore carefully curate a large group of the world?s most respected critics, assign scores to their reviews, and apply a weighted average to summarize the range of their opinions. The result is a single number that captures the essence of critical opinion in one Metascore, so, that can't be manipulated like Gamespot's single scores. ps: It's funny to see how you're not appreciated in here! Or this is a sign that you are not corrupted by this rotten world, or you have ideas too extreme!
People think this is like school. A 6.0 is considered a "D" when actually it is like a C+/B- (5.0 is C, people). If you are a real gamer, then take a step back and look at what you want to play. Did I ever think that I would get 1000 on Blue Dragon? Hell no, but it ended up happening because it was fun and addictive. 6.0 is not the death of a game. Take the game as a whole rather than a few elements that just should have been cut.
An editorial I can most definitely agree with. Some of my favorite games got average scores, but I still played hundreds of hours on them. I think we all have at least one game we like a lot yet didn't get great review scores, no?
I think GTA 1 (for PC) got a score of around a 6.0 back in 1998? I forget. But still, I play it more often than several modern games that don a score of 8.0 and higher. :|
Sorry... too lazy to read so much. Basicaly, your reviews are affected by some excellent games that you play
@7heDragon No, not editors choice award.. that would just get corrupted like scores now. I doubt most sane people would say to 'pass' up a game for minor flaws like being unpolished. However if a game is crap and has no real redeeming qualities then yeah it deserves to be passed. If a studio consistently releases crap games it deserves to die. Thats how the business world works. Youre only as good as the product you sell. I dont think it would kill 'gems' for being a little subpar. Everyone has the internet now its not like everyone gets their reviews from magazines still. If a game is good people know. Anything would be better than number scores really. Like I said theyre highly individual and people focus on them way too much.
Unlimited Saga... I still can't get past the first 2 hours with out dieing and starting all over... This game deserved what it got. The story might be amazing but unless it was an anime it still deserves what it got. IMO it's worse than E.T.
@coop36 No, not the buy, rent or pass... thats even worse, for jesus sake, who would buy a game with pass written on it? people do still buy a game with 5 or 4 if they like(take me with dynasty warriors for instance), if it had 'pass' on it they would never buy and it would end up killing some jewels that were good but not properly polished... In my particular opinion notes shouldnt be given, explain the game in a review, and if the reviewer think the game REALLY deserves to be bought put the Editor's Choice award. This way companies wouldn't die because they got bad scores on their games, they would die if the game is crap.
i grab games that i like. i see reviews just to know the game better but gamespot's scores dont mean a thing to me. after all, the best games are the ones with lower scores. the ones with higher notes are crap for everyone, but guess what, im not everyone.
I usually stick with games that are 8. but If i'm curious I'll check the game out on youtube before trying it myself. I like to study games, so that's why. Even so, most of those games are 7 or 7.5. Regardless, there are plenty of famous games I don't like, such as MW2 and DragonAge. It all eventually comes down to what I find to be most creative, enjoyable, and what gives me a unique, lasting experience.
@Gelugon_baat 'read this article' of course not, I always post my comments without knowing what is being talked about...
I do admit that I get put off by some games lower than 8.0 in ratings, but it is my fault for being so picky. I have tried some and was pleasantly surprised how wrong I was!
Maybe you should go backto that tilt system Gamespot used to have. Feel like it was designed for situations like this. Maybe tilt could be a score of it own. Or, we could all just read the reviews :)
For the record, it foolish for reviewers to just give out 9 and 10's. Gamespot tries to do this but ultimately messes up by giving wrong ratings to look harsh. Take a look at IGN. The 10 was given to Uncharted 3, Skyward Sword and Infinity Blade 2 in 2011. That is preposterous. Only one of those games deserves a 9! I know, I know... games are getting better and more refined, but shouldn't video game review standards go up as well? Makes sense right? Lesson: Reviewers have to be harder on games. Unless the devs are paying you off, there is no reason to simply hand out a 9 or 10 because the graphics were nice or the inventory system is pretty. While I don't particularly like Tom as a reviewer, I agree with his opinion here.
Before the 2000's it wasnt a big deal for games to get 6-7 ratings. Now getting below an 8 is basically a deathblow and people will say its a bargain bin game. Imo the reviewers are to blame for handing out 9s and 10's now like its going out of style. Also the rumors of 'corrupted' reviews and companies supposedly paying for good reviews doesnt help add legitimacy. I think scores should be abandoned.. instead replaced by a 'buy, rent, or pass' system. Scores are irrelevant and individual to one person.
@Gelugon_baat "P.S. I ignore numbers, by the way. Scores are for the lazy or dyslexic." Unquestionably there's more information in a page-long review than a single number can convey; Alpha Protocol to me is a telling example of a game featuring an interesting review not matching the pretty bad score...
There are two aspects coming into mind when reading this tentative rehabilitation regarding the lower numbers on GS rating scale: first, some of GS' reviewers want to (retrospectively) justify the sometimes quite unduly low scores they give certain video games; secondly, along with this there seems to be an interest to give any of the scale's 19 grades the meaning they might or could have had without the last years' hypertrophying of the higher scores engendering many false expectations about game ratings --or their quality-- in response. Whilst the second aspect seems reasonable if not imperative, there are however two more objections to make: downward revising the scale is possible only if the other magazines and websites dedicated to video games apply this idea parallelly, otherwise it introduces an awkward distortion into the whole system; furthermore, the reviewers using the (revised) rating system are to apply it themselves consistently: it seems odd when a single game receives a 9+ score all of a sudden from the hands of a reviewer generally more than stingy with spending his points... Presently, however, there is still the usual disparity between the absolute and the relative that applies with a 6.0 being less 'fair' when relying to other comparable scores/games.
Gamespot always gives the Monster Hunter games 6 and 7's,yet I play them more then games that get 9's and 10's. Just goes to show,dont trust a number.
I stopped listening to reviews a long time ago, I only look at the now to laugh at how biased they are. The Splinter Hell HD Trilogy got a 6.0 and they complained about the framerate making the game nearly unplayable - BULLSH*T, the framerate might hiccup for a second at the most
Whatever GS. It cracks me up they throw out these 6.0s out and they know its going to effect people's minds on that game.. So all of the sudden this dude comes out and writes a long essay about how we should not overlook 6.0 rated games. So then why the heck do you throw out scores then? Just write out a detailed review and let the gamer decide instead of throwing out scores and screwing with the game makers. People are like sheep... Anything below a certain number and they wont touch it.
Sometimes I think it would be better just to drop the entire number rating system and change it to "Horrible" "Bearable" "Good" "Great" and "Super: GOTY worthy" Horrible obviously being where the game brings zero enjoyment, is horribly broken, and a waste of money no matter the price. Bearable is when the game brings some enjoyment, probably still broken in one way or another but is playable from start to end without too many problems, is only worth the price if found in bargain bin. Good is when the game brings alot of enjoyment and you find that you have great difficulty putting down the controller for anything, might have a few technical problems (glitches, game freezes, controls don't feel quite right, etc), might actually be worth buying near if not right at the usual retail price. Great is just the same as good, except for that it has few to no technical issues unless you are being nit picky, is well worth whatever price the game launches with. The only thing keeping it from being "Super: GOTY worthy" is that it is missing that certain 'charm.' Super: GOTY Worthy is when the game is too much fun, has zero to almost no flaws (or if it does, the flaws are easy to ignore unless you are being nit picky), is most certainly worth whatever price is launches with (in fact it might even be worth more than that), and has that certain 'charm' that makes you hold up this game as being better than all the rest.
i won't buy a 6.0 for the simple fact i don't have enough money to buy anything but triple a titles.
Well, sometimes i think GS was so weird. Actually, games lower than 8.0 are still fun and worthy to play. Many of them are very good! And some of games higher than 8.0 are very stupid! Just follow your heart, not the mark.
@ilikepandas I think you just missed my point. Nor am I the only person who's played that "low" rated game for hundreds of hours. I'll repeat myself for you... Not one persons opinion is something to be set in stone. Lets go back to the MH example. GS gives MH Unite a 6.5. Where GS gives a 6.5... 1up on the other hand gives the game an A rating. Now... If reviewers have this special eye for details like you say, something you seem to believe us common folk lack, then why is it that even reviewers come to a difference of opinion? Is one more credible than the other? If so who decides that? But MH is not what the discussion is about. The discussion is about "6.0" if I'm not mistaken. And again... If I'm not mistaken... GS is trying to say 6.0 is not something to be considered as "eating ****".
Easy solution: Do away with numerical ratings, and just focus on a well-written, accurate, and in-depth review.
@teskee 4444 I fully agree with you, it felt more of a solid rating instead of a .0 or a .5, do you know why they decided to just change the rating? Was it laziness? Or was it because they didn't think that a few tenths made a difference?
Two days later, Tom gives a 3/10 review to a classic 20+ year old arcade beat 'em up port. Bravo. Your job exists SPECIFICALLY to review games for us, you knob. Those little numbers you seem to be pleading us to ignore are the very reason you're not currently mopping up nondescript stains of gruesome off the tiled bathroom floors of an Arbys. Without those numbers, any and all justification for your own questionable employment/job title becomes moot. Are you actually admitting that Gamespot is paying you to haphazardly attach trivial digits to games they specifically give you to review? He's an idea: If a game is worth playing...give it a GOOD review. Saves you the trouble of having to repeatedly make an ass out of yourself afterwords (see: this ridiculous editorial).
There's only really two problems I have with lower rated games. A game might be fun but lacking polish. In that case, I don't think it's necessarily worth the price tag that a fun and polished game gets at $60. Secondly, I only have so much time to play games. I want to play the best games first, THEN play other games. I've got nothing against bad ratings or anything. I've liked quite a few games that people didn't like. I remember being the first person to play a lot of crappy games and then seeing them become rather successful franchises. But I've grown up since then too and don't have the time I had to play every game that came out (and certainly not with the volume of games these days).
N3 got a pretty low rating on here I remember, I didn't buy it when it came out because of that. I later got it for around 5 or so bucks, I did play it and it wasn't that bad, there were a lot of problems for the game, and it was definitely a 6/10 kinda game, but it still wasn't bad. Those are games that you can still enjoy despite many problems, anything lower though is probably not acceptable for me.
Well I think the same stands true the other way around. I've played a few games that were 9.0 that I wasn't to stellar on...
Thing about low review scores is that ultimately you can't accurately judge a game until you've played it for a while. Skyrim for example, is littered with bugs and technical issues and although most reviews mention that, I didn't realize the scale of that until the entire bottom floor of Solitude was missing completely. I mean it wasn't there, and the NPCs were standing on the terrain beneath floor. Also, every single time I'm an a horse, the game freezes every 3 minutes, for ten seconds. No one mentioned just how bad it was, and the game got a 9.0 or something. So yeah, review scores from 1 single site could mean absolutely nothing for you, and if you're going to spend upto $60 for a game, you'd better do your research.
Do i play mediocre games? Yes I do. Do I buy them at $60? No I don't. It will just be a fews months or years down the road before the game gets played.
Dynasty Warriors is my guilty pleasure it always gets around 6, but i still have spent huge amounts of my gaming time on them, and i enjoyed it to.
I've got a list of games I watch out for on most of the systems out this gen. Some I'm hyped up for others look interesting and I'm willing to keep an eye on them. Those that fall into the latter category, I look at reviews from many websites. If it does well, I MIGHT check it out in the future if it's on sale or used. If the game bombs (7 and below or any equivalent), I will drop that game in a heartbeat. Too many games come out so close together to try or buy every game on the market. Of course, these rules of mine are not written in stone. There have been games that I'm hyped for but was disappointed in them and did not buy them. There have been games that scored well that I did not want to buy. The lesson to take away from this long message is that: Time AND Money are finite, therefore prioritizing what you want to play and when is important. Reviews are just one of the tools that help me do that.
@Gelugon_baat See, there you go again. I never said you are annoying, I just said why people think you are, yet you must immediately get all defensive hiding behind degenerating sarcasm as if I've done you any harm. And yes, I was poked many times in the past, because I speak up my mind with no regard for what people will think of it mostly, but most of those who respond to me either agree with me, argue with my points of view, or swear at me to infinity. I never really got questioned by anyone as to my motives to do so. You intrigued me enough to be interested in yours. BTW that is somewhat of a compliment. And you're right. You don't go around calling people annoying. You just mock their intelligence.
Good one Thomas!! Now please explain why a broken game like Skyrim still got a 9/10 in GS, not to mention a GOTY. To be objective with art can be ridiculous indeed but quality is instead very much measurable. And Skyrim is a mess, so much that the whole experience gets totally frustrating with time. On the other side the technically perfect Final Fantasy games can get a score as low as 7.5. Is FF XIII-2 too easy? it could be. At least one doesn't slice air as in Skyrim. From that point of view another great one, Dark Souls, deserves a perfect 10. Not because it is hard, because the fighting is incredibly well implemented. Because of the story? Huh? Again, did you play Skyrim? The main story is a joke. Where is the objectivity? Following your meter for 6/10 games skyrim doesn't deserve more than a 7. But it could well fit in the 6 area as well. So what's going on?
@TomMcShea @Kevin-V @carolynmichelle With so many readers failing to recognize the meaning behind a score, why not have the rating meaning in large letters and the score in small ones, at least on the review page? Seems that would go a long ways towards salving the angst with readers who are unhappy with the score, even though they may actually agree with the score's/rating's meaning as described on the Game Rating System page (http://www.gamespot.com/misc/reviewguidelines.html).
@TomMcShea, True, and I agree with your article. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII got a 6.0 and I loved that game, although it was far from perfect. There are some enjoyable games rated 6.0 or lower.