I’m a mediocre gamer, by any measures, but that does not defy the fact that I love playing games. Great games, only. With my very limited time and budget, I must to be very selective about the games I play. For a very long time, Metacritic is my to-go website to check if I should play a game – and I set my rules rather high: anything less than 80 is a big no-no. Less than 85 is a no, unless it’s a sequel of a game I loved so much (so I can see how the story turned out to be). More than 85 is “I’ll think about it” (when it comes with a very tempting discount, I might make up my mind). A game of at least 90 Metacritic score will be in my short list (but not necessary in my playing list). A game of at least 95 Metacritic means “must try” for me. I might not love it, but a game with such reviews must have something I like about.
However, overtime, I did realize what MetaCritic is really meant to be, and why reviews can be full of sh*t.
Game reviews, as almost other content in the Internet, include the post you are reading, are opinions. It’s opinion, just like you and me, but the only thing that makes critics stand out is professionalism.
But that’s not something I’ve seen in many reviews which are listed on Metacritic.
You can either love, or hate a game. You can talk about it, openly, it’s your rights! But if you want to help your readers decide if they should buy or play the game, based on your judgement, you have to be fair. Your opinions have to be as objective as possible. Of course, there is no such thing as “true objective” in reviews, but yours should have a reasonable amount in them.
Unfortunately, in this area of internet, clicks and views are everything. More views mean more ads impressions, ads clicks, and that mean more money.
The best known trick for clicks, is of course, controversial opinion.
Metacritic has a fairly easy review policy. The only measurable criteria is you have to have at least 30 reviews in your website, and you have to review fairly regularly. All other criteria about ethical or professionalism are indeed subjective. And that are being heavily abused.
Less known websites have been using that tactic to draw attention to their website. By giving a highly anticipated game an unreasonable low score, they create the controversy. People will urge to visit their websites to comment on the absurd review, or even sharing the reviews so their friends can attack them.
Who is benefiting? Do you have to guess?
Let’s talk about the infamous Washington Post’s Uncharted 4: A thief end review. Of 113 reviews averaging 93/100, they gave them 2/5 (equivalent to 40/100).
Or the slightly less infamous, USGamer’s Horizon: Zero Dawn review: 5/10 for a game which is otherwise rated 89/100.
Can you imagine it?
And Washington Post is not the only one. GameCritics, another less known site, has jumped in a gave the game a 50/100.
You can be harsh – that’s what famous magazine like Edge is known for – but you also need to be fair. You can criticize a game as much as you like, as long as the criticism is objective – why don’t you like it, and what it can have done better. When you bash a game because it’s not your taste, you become biased. The said review from WP was even disagreed by their staff
I’ve never disagreed more with a piece of content on our website as I have with this. haha
The worst thing is this kind of shaggy tactic is not per review. Some sites are known to use it systematically, hoping to attract more clicks to the website:
GameCritics is just slightly better:
You see the pattern here? Well, you can expect those websites will, more often than not, give the lowest scores to a highly anticipated game, so their reviews become more visible and attract more clicks. People would go their and bash their review, like they themselves did with the game. In the end, who’s getting the benefits here?
Metacritic has changed the way we look at reviews. Before Metacritic, it’s more difficult to get a fairly balance, objective views of the game. But the good deed of Metacritic is being abused and if they don’t do anything to fight that, they will soon obsolete themselves.