My personal statement on game scores has been, up till this point, rather ambiguous. I used to occasionally bring up the subject without ever actually giving you the full disclosure about what it means to me, so here is my chance to speak my mind and perhaps shed some light on the whole "issue" of game scores, and an issue there certainly is.
Even despite the fact that I regularly use the system, I oppose the use of numerical scores for a number of reasons:
1) I firmly believe that a complex opinion on a certain subject cannot possibly be represented numerically
2) Scores poorly communicate whether or not the game is actually worth your time
3) They create dependency and only exist for PR purposes and nothing else
4) Scores are often distracting from the reviews themselves
So why am I still using them?
The answer is simple: It's because there isn't a single website on the planet that doesn't use them. If you want to post your reviews to the public then you must utilize the score system. Whether the rating is represented with stars, coins, numbers or scales, it's basically the same system in a different dressing. There is no other way to go, these days.
This would have been fine at least if the media didn't employ the most unprofessional reviewers possible. Now, I'm not exactly a professional by any stretch of the imagination, lest anyone accuse me of elitism, but I can think of several pundits (to say the least) that really use a nice throttling session and a boot in the a** for being absolutely disgraceful. I'm not so much complaining about the scores themselves, but rather their insistence to overlook glaring design flaws because the game appeals to them and no one else, forgetting that their bloody job is to review this game for everyone, not just for themselves.
Now, I never put myself above naming and shaming the people who deserve the boot, so I'm going to do it right now:
http://www.gamespot.com/gone-home/reviews/gone-home-review-6413000/ - Carolyn Petit has been a disgrace to this establishment for quite some time, but her recent review is what tipped it well over the fence for me. I always said that a reviewer has to at least try to be as unbiased as possible, not to mention a semi-competent gamer. So while failing miserably in the latter category, she also recently failed in the former. If you read the review, you'll notice that there is barely any mention of the gameplay, you know - the most important part of the game. Instead, most of the review concentrates on how the story is great, ultimately giving consumers next to no purchasing advice. So I did my research and found out that she strangely omitted the fact that the game is overpriced ($20 on Steam) and incredibly short - clocking at about 2 hours at most.
Look, personal opinion is just that, and you will be hard pressed to argue about it with some people, but there are some aspects of games that are factual and cannot be debated. The game's lack of contents, pricing, bugs, performance issues - all of these things absolutely must be taken into account or at least be mentioned somewhere in your review. Not knowing to enable Vsync when reviewing a game on PC is the kind of rookie mistake I simply refuse to accept from a professional reviewer. It's no wonder this website is the laughing stock of the entire industry.
I'm not even mentioning the stupidity behind giving a game with no gameplay such a high score, but this is the reality of the industry we currently live in. It seems like people are finally realizing that instead of working hard to make a proper game they can instead make a short arty ******* title with zero substance and sell it for an inflated price. Genius. Making games has never been so easy.
Now then, Destructoid. - http://www.destructoid.com/review-mark-of-the-ninja-234567.phtml , otherwise known as the ugly cousin to 4ch*n.
Now don't get me wrong, Mark of The Ninja is actually a pretty good game, but after reading this review you would be left scratching your head as to why it got such a high score, since it's lacking in any true details about the actual game. Again, omitting some of the most important aspects of the game such as length, pricing, game balance... The reviewer also mentioned that the story wasn't very good, so why did it earn a 10/10, then? but the real kicker was the last statement - "Let it stand as the benchmark by which all stealth games are now measured."
If that doesn't show complete and utter lack of experience then I don't know what does. In the reviewer's mind, I guess, the Thief series never even existed. Though I guess I can't complain too much about the 10/10 score in this case. At least the reviewer acknowledges that the gameplay aspect is by far the most important, but that doesn't mean the reviewer it's right.
This brings me to my next point - that 9's and 10's are far too common these days. Such high scores should be reserved only for games that could be considered revolutionary, touting elements that have never been done before or at the very least, have never been done before so well. A game that deserves a "perfect" score is a title that's an immense achievement in every aspect of it's being - a game so colossal and ground breaking that it flattens all the other games in the genre with it's sheer amount of depth (both gameplay and story) , creativity, length, challenge, consistency, sound design, level design, writing, voice acting, graphics, performance, and balance. Then and ONLY then is it worthy of a 10/10 score. I dare you to mention one game in recent years that actually deserves this title.
I'm sick and tired of seeing these scores being thrown away like candy by people who know nothing about this hobby. It does naught but damage and undermine the truly revolutionary games that often gain absolutely no recognition by the public. When I see a professional review posted on your website, you better make damn sure that it's up to bloody standard. And If you're crap at video games and/or have only finished journalist school without any actual experience, I suggest first giving yourself a year or two of internship before jumping into the game reviewing bandwagon.
Sadly, this industry is choke full of crappy, inexperienced "professional" reviewers that I'm not surprised that every other industry is laughing at us. I really hate to say this, but how come movie critics have to master movie history by meticulously watching and scrutinizing every aspect of the major classics of movie making, while game critics are often bums with no education and knowledge of this hobby?
The reality of our situation is much more dire than most people think. As you can see, We have no standards in the game reviewing field. Come to think of it, neither do we have any definitions of what gaming is, or what genres we've got.
Until we fix these problems, we as an industry, are going nowhere.