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Deconstructing Game Review Structure 47

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the apples-oranges-and-pixels dept.
Recently there has been a lot of division on the topic of game review structure. Kotaku has an interesting summary of recent commentary, including a piece by GameSetWatch's Simon Parkin and the Taipei Gamer blog. "Except, of course, video games don't work in the same way as toasters or digital cameras. Sure, they have mathematical elements and measurable mechanics and it's possible to compare the number of polygons between this one and that and spin out ten thousand graphs detailing how two specimens compare. But, unlike with the Canon EOS400D, I would have no idea at the end of those 25 pages which game was better or where they would sit on the 'true' scale of quality."
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Deconstructing Game Review Structure

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  • by Ajaxamander (646536) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:49PM (#23714423) Homepage
    And that's why such a comparison would be pointless.
    • Remember, "quantifiable" and "subjective" are neither opposites nor mutually exclusive. You can have a quantifiable metric that may vary from person to person, but is still measurable and can thus give a solid indication of how you may react to a game. What quantifiable "fun" metric am I talking about? Well think about what is both fun and measurable and I think you'll see the obvious answer: I'm talking about orgasms.

      And no, pleasuring yourself (or having someone else do it -- ha!) while playing doesn'
      • Only orgasms resulting from the game itself counts. As you can see, this is a completely quantifiable measure, and while the result is certainly subjective, its measure is not (well, for males, it can be a little iffy with females).

        This only applies when you're talking about binomial distributions (ie: Either Yes/No, On/Off, Orgasm/No Orgasm).

        Your reasoning is flawed because the enjoyment of a game is on several levels, and part of the enjoyment of a game is based on your personal interest/involvement - For example, Final Fantasy Fanboys love Final Fantasy Games. Even when they're crap (FF8), there are still a lot of people who love it, simply because of the FF designation. It has to do with personal commitment and involvement with

        • by Chris Burke (6130)
          This only applies when you're talking about binomial distributions (ie: Either Yes/No, On/Off, Orgasm/No Orgasm).

          Well Orgasm/No Orgasm is what I'm talking about, so yes, I'm glad we agree that my scoring system is quantifiable.

          For example, Final Fantasy Fanboys love Final Fantasy Games. Even when they're crap (FF8), there are still a lot of people who love it, simply because of the FF designation.

          Did they love it to the point of spontaneous ejaculation? No? Then it scores a Zero on the Burke Scale.

          The sy
          • by mooingyak (720677)
            I checked out this article just see if anyone complained about the usage of 'deconstruction'. This discussion is somewhat outside of what I had anticipated. Also, I've never played Rez, and now I'm scared to.
            • by Chris Burke (6130)
              Also, I've never played Rez, and now I'm scared to.

              Rez comes with a rather unique accessory, called the "Trance Vibrator". You can figure out the rest. :)
        • by trdrstv (986999)

          This only applies when you're talking about binomial distributions (ie: Either Yes/No, On/Off, Orgasm/No Orgasm).

          EVERYTHING can be broken down to a binomial distribution. Let's take the 1-10 scale for something different... Women. You can throw out the "She's a 7, or she's a 9" argument, because the criteria is personal (not universally agreed upon) and it always boils down to a "Yes/No" question anyway.

        • Even when they're crap (FF8)...
          Excuse me... not to start a flame war, but I believe you misspelled "FF9". ;)
        • by ezzzD55J (697465)

          This only applies when you're talking about binomial distributions (ie: Either Yes/No, On/Off, Orgasm/No Orgasm).
          Huh, do you know what a binomial distribution is? Either you don't or I don't.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)


      No, you can't quantify fun, but you can qunatify a lot of what about a game makes it fun to most people and allow them to draw conclusions based on that information. Such things include:

      1) Interface, controls, information provided in-game and the customization of each.
      2) Graphics levels and relative speed comparable to other established games.
      3) Complexity and depth of levels/missions.
      4) Polish - the presence (or lack of) bugs.
      5) Length of play and difficulty compared to other established title
      • by Omestes (471991)
        But these aren't universal metrics, so you can't make a raw score that would actually indicate the objective quality of the game.

        For instance, I have a friend that plays WoW on the minimum graphics setting, not because of hardware limitations, but because "he justs like pixels". Sometimes I like games with really simple controls (like Diablo II). Sometimes, as well, I like really simple game play (Tetris).

        Polish, I'd agree, might be universal, since bugs are never desirable.

        Length of play is subjective to
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:00PM (#23714595)
    Just look at the difference between how users score games compared to how reviewers score games and you will see a problem. Grand Theft Auto 4 has a reviewer average of 97.4%/97.3% on the PS3/XBox 360 yet users give it an average score of 79%/83% ... In contrast a game like Mario Kart Wii has a reviewer average of 81.9% and users give it an average score of 96%

    I'm not saying that GTA4 is a worse game than Mario Kart Wii, but it is clear that the reviewers are not giving scores which reflect the experience of gamers who own the game ...

    (Note: all scores from Gamerankings.com)
    • by faloi (738831) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:15PM (#23714815)
      More importantly, I have to know how a reviewer really rated other games that I like. As the article points out, some metrics are easily measurable. Others are not. If I read a review of a RTS from a person that hates the genre, they're low review might be meaningless. Alternately, if they love the game, it might be an indication that the game reviewed is so good I can't pass it up. Or that the reviewer got a bunch of swag for reviewing the game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      I've seen a lot of games get low scores just based on one aspect of the game. Possibly some aspect that the gamer doesn't even care about. I've seen a ratings breakdown like Controls=95% , Replay Value = 95%, Enjoyment=95%, Graphics=85%. And then the final rating ends up being around 85%. In some ways that makes sense. If the control is really bad, it's going to affect everything about the game. If the graphics aren't quite as good as they could be, then most of the time, it doesn't affect the game t
      • by trdrstv (986999)

        I've seen a lot of games get low scores just based on one aspect of the game. Possibly some aspect that the gamer doesn't even care about. I've seen a ratings breakdown like Controls=95% , Replay Value = 95%, Enjoyment=95%, Graphics=85%. And then the final rating ends up being around 85%. In some ways that makes sense.

        Sure, and the reverse is also true. Some times you might have everything rate an 85% and have the final score being a 90%, because of the synergy involved. "The only exceptional part is how all these things came together to make a better game stronger impact."

    • by oracle128 (899787)
      In the same vein, reviews are generally going to be relative to other games on the same platform. So if there are 5 games on a console G1-G7, and G1 is bad but G2-G7 are REALLy bad, then G1 is going to get a pretty decent score because there's nothing better than it on the platform.

      This is what gets me with some review sites where they have specific staff covering specific platforms 100% of the time - the scores are going to be relative to the other games on their designated platform.
    • Neverwinter Nights 2 has a Metacritic score of 82, but most players didn't like it. After the release, there were 2-3 times as many negative comments on the forums than positive ones, and the Metacritic user score is 5.2.

      On the other hand, there are lots of incompetent people around, which can distort user scores. For instance, one Metacritic user review for GTA4 with a score of 4 says that "this game is totally over rated all GTA games are the same they are boring with the same missions over and over again
  • The gaming, movie, music, and art press issued a statement today. "We realize now that people have been looking for an objective reviewing standard," read the statement. "We apologize for not noticing earlier, but since they have buying our review magazines and visiting our review websites for decades now, we thought they happy with our reviews. A blog entry on a website "kotaku" has changed all that. We are now retiring en masse. All non-objective reviews will cease immediately. We apologize for wast
  • A good review is one that agrees with me. Like everything else, it revolves exclusively around my wants, tastes, and desires. Everything that fails to revolve around me, including every other human being who existed before my birth and will exist after my death, is completely irrelevant.

    A good review must be score by how much the author represented the right way of thinking about the game (i.e. my way of thinking about the game).

  • Description (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <[enderandrew] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:39PM (#23715257) Homepage Journal
    How is a game all that quantifiable?

    I'm sick of seeing perfect 10 after perfect 10 review. Not only do I know these are absolutely worthless in regards to objectivity, but very few reviews explain what gameplay is like on a very specific scale.

    A good description allows me to decide how much I might enjoy that game. After all, we all enjoy different things.
    • I agree. I don't want the author's opinion. I want the facts about the game. I want to know whether or not I should bother to even rent it, let alone buy it. A good review will give me this information (along with the author's opinion).
    • by trdrstv (986999)

      A good description allows me to decide how much I might enjoy that game. After all, we all enjoy different things.

      I'm not sure if you noticed, but there are large sections of text either directly above, or directly below the score. This text typically describes the game.

      • And that text often reads "This game is twelve shades of awesome!" as opposed to adequately describing gameplay mechanics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TitusC3v5 (608284)
      Tycho and Gabe [penny-arcade.com] have a pretty good idea about why you're seeing so many 10s...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phrogman (80473)

      There are a few factors at work in a game review - and I speak as someone who wrote dozens of them for a now defunct website

      • Most reviewers have only a short bit of time to actually play the game in question, prior to quickly writing up a review for publication and then heading to the next one. I am sure they try to put in all the time they can but its often not possible when your editor wants it *now*.
      • Most websites (and undoubtedly magazines) want to be able to continue to review new games. if they diss
      • How can one be objective about how enjoyable a game is? A reviewer IS supposed to mix somewhat "objective" values like graphics, and ultimately note how much THEY liked playing the game. How exactly would one write an objective (something that is always true irrelevant to humans views) review anyways?
        • by Phrogman (80473)
          Well of course it all has to come down to the opinion of the author, but they can try to look at things in a dispassionate way.

          I can write that "Pirates of the Burning Sea is an MMORPG game that is very oriented towards PvP gameplay, and much less suited to those who don't enjoy player versus player content in their online gaming. While it is possible to play the game without engaging in PvP you will find yourself waiting for a port to leave contention quite frequently, and this will disrupt your gameplay.
  • Differences (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Monday June 09, 2008 @04:48PM (#23715391) Journal
    There are certain aspects of a game that are "objective" and some that aren't. Design flaws and low skill ceilings often don't impact the short-term enjoyment of a game, but can make it worthless for long-term play. Mario Kart Wii is a perfect example of this. While skilled players will beat unskilled players nearly every time on Wi-Fi, the item chaos makes high level play worthless on Wi-Fi. (High level play is still quite good on the same console with items set on "strategic" or turned off, of course.)
    This is a pretty straightforward analysis, and while it's hard to be 100% objective, it's fairly straightforward to say that the game's design minimizes the small skill gaps and thus replay value is minimized due to the fact that getting better and better at the game has diminishing returns. There's just no point in getting that extra hundredth of a second every lap when you lose 3-5 seconds to a blue shell.

    The things that can't be quantified are the problem- is FF7's materia system better than FF8's junction system? That's purely personal preference. You can't go "well, this one requires more skill than the other" or "this one has more replayability" or whatever; because they're fairly similar in those respects and you can't really make a distinction between the two.

    But anyone can see that Final Fantasy whatever is a better game than Super Barbie Movie License Cash-In 93 on the Game Boy. The huge, huge difference makes it plain.

    I would say that it's probably easier to just lump games into "utter trash", "below average", "average", "above average", and "genre-defining"; and maybe have 2 categories- one for firstplay and one for long-term play.
    Gran Turismo 4, for instance, is genre-defining and has excellent long term playability.
    Mario Kart Wii is above average when you first play it, but the long term playability is lacking.
    • Re:Differences (Score:4, Insightful)

      by analog_line (465182) on Monday June 09, 2008 @07:20PM (#23717315)
      The problem is that the parameters of your objective analysis are subjectively chosen. At least in the Mario Kart example, the number of people who bought Mario Kart that care about hundredth-of-a-second times in direct online competition is vanishingly small in comparison to the number of people who like to just get online and drive around and have some fun. For that kind of competition there is the world-wide time trial rankings, but "serious" online competition ability just isn't even on the radar screen of people who get online to throw colored shells at other people. It's fun, it isn't serious, no one cares that my Mario Kart ranking is pathetic, and I can crush the hopes and dreams of people with the mighty blue shell because I'm so bad I get it very often. I've never owned any Gran Turismo game, because it would just sit on my shelf forever. Its infinite complexity, customizability, and realism wasted on someone that just doesn't give a crap.

      The defining characteristic in the accuracy of a review is point of view intersection between the reviewer and the reader. That's it. That's all that matters. Take the time to know your reviewer and you will never go wrong. I read just about every review I can find for every game I have, and I write lots of reviews (unpublished save for 1 or 2 at gamefaqs) as a writing exercise and because I'm an opinionated SOB (one of these days I'll get around to starting my own review site, or try to get some part time work at an established one). Lots of times I have to wonder whether I am playing the same game as some of these people. I'm sure I am, but it really boils down to the fact that people look for different things in games, and everyone has their red lines, and they're all different to one degree or another.
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by JoshJ (1009085)
        Well sure, that's why I said Mario Kart is quite fun in the short-term. Eventually, you're going to get tired of random cruising around and being a mediocre player- there are only 32 tracks after all- and you're either going to make the effort to get really good at the game or you're going to drop it and play something else and only pick the game up ever again when your friends come over and you're partying.
        If you try to get *really good* at Mario Kart and put in that sort of effort, you're going to get dis
        • If you try to get *really good* at Mario Kart and put in that sort of effort, you're going to get disappointed because even a second or so of improvement is negligible against the power of a blue shell.

          Depends which version of online competition. I agree, for the normal online race mode, there isn't much point in trying to go for the best raw time (especially when it's more effective to run in 2nd place and let your opponent eat the blue shells until the end). That said, if you want serious high level tim

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ren.Tamek (898017)
      "Design flaws and low skill ceilings often don't impact the short-term enjoyment of a game, but can make it worthless for long-term play. Mario Kart Wii is a perfect example of this. ... There's just no point in getting that extra hundredth of a second every lap when you lose 3-5 seconds to a blue shell."

      Not so! It's very tempting to be dismissive of MK Wii because you have been blue shelled out of first so often. But Mario Kart operates on exactly the same principle that all luck moderated games do - they

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by JoshJ (1009085)
        But that very concept of being "accessible" by giving the weaker players a higher chance than they "deserve" to win via random events is exactly what I'm talking about! It's a conscious design choice that increases short-term enjoyment of the game but utterly nukes the long-term playability.
        • by Ren.Tamek (898017)
          That's an interesting opinion, and I can certainly see that you don't find it very fun. But people still play Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 all the time. I own neither, and I played both very recently at different peoples houses. The way I see it, making a game accessible can only make the game more vibrant in the long term, as new players can become competent enough to have fun very quickly, and can compete with a chance against veterans, even if they won't be able to win the majority of races.

          The le

  • Whatever good game review structure might be, this [largeprimenumbers.com] isn't it.

    Rob
    • by spir0 (319821)
      I feel dumber after having read the first few sentences of that.
    • by leoboiko (462141)

      Haha disregard that, that one is just perfect. Tim's reviews of Metal Gear Solid 2 [insertcredit.com] and Mother 2 [largeprimenumbers.com] blew my mind. After reading those, I gave up mainstream game media altogether.

      In this corner of the net a lot of people have been experimenting with alternative game review forms for a long time. Some fun sites for starters are:

      • selectbutton [selectbutton.net] forums
      • insertcredit [insertcredit.com] news, of which I'm a humble very occasional contributor
      • gamer's quarter [gamersquarter.com] magazine, which I reviewed in a vaguely gamer's quarter style here [gamersquarter.com]
      • act [actionbutton.net]
      • by Pluvius (734915)
        The MGS2 review is one of his most tolerable, I'll grant, simply because it's actually about the game (sort of) and doesn't ramble on and on for twenty thousand words. Though he apparently didn't get the memo that splitting your review up into a bunch of one-sentence paragraphs doesn't really lend any dramatic weight to it.

        The Mother 2 review, on the other hand, is more of Tim's typical tedious and pretentious shit.

        Rob
  • who still reads game reviews? we all know that the magazines are all biased. They give good and bad reviews depending on who crosses their palms with more money or more free games.

    games that are absolute rubbish get good reviews because the publishers were good to the reviewers or parent company. the number one goal of game review mags and sites is to help sell games.

    the only people I still see reading traditional game reviews are kids and n00bs who don't know any better.

    I published a magazine a couple of y
  • I've been writing game reviews for about seven years now (shameless plug: game-over.net), and as a writer and a reader I think that game reviews do have merit. If you want someone to tell you if a game is fun or not, you're using reviews the wrong way. What a game review can tell you, especially if you read a lot of them, it what a game is like to play, drawing useful comparisons to other games that you may have played and may or may not have liked. It is also possible to find a reviewer who in general l
  • Game reviewing is pretty straight forward. A lot of people would assume it's based on things like fun factor, aesthetics, controls, etc. This is actually not the case.
    There are effectively two factors involved in game reviewing; bribes, and repercussions.

    The video card and big gaming companies give a lot of bribes to the game reviewers, so things like graphics and big blockbuster titles are given good reviews regardless. Repercussions are taken into consideration based on on which company produced the game

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