Bar Banter: Why Game A is Better than Game B
There seems to be some culture/movement in entertainment, but we will mostly focus on gaming, that wants to justify one’s opinions. Sometimes even before a person has gotten their hands on a product! This behavior tends to pop up a lot when reviews start to get posted online. I will NEVER defend video game “journalism” as it stands right now, and I personally believe the review scale is broken, but that is a subject for another day. What really irks me though is this notion that game scores are comparable.
We’ve all gone to school before, and I’m sure we’ve all gotten graded on our performances. Whether it is a numerical scale or a alphabetical one or a combination of the two. So if I told you I got an A in Math and a C in English, what would that tell you about the courses? For most normal people, nothing! It would probably lead you to believe that I’m a better math student than an English one, but even that is a baseless assumption. What if it was remedial math and advanced Shakespearen literature? The point is even though both grades are on the same scale (alphabetical), the final grade tells you nothing about the course or really anything about my performance in school.
Why is it then, the first thing that happens when a video game review is posted is searching for other reviews either from the website/publication, the reviewer or similar genres. And usually without doing anything more than looking at the final score, we begin to have all sorts of rants and raves fill up the internet.
“I can’t believe they gave game A a 10 in graphics, but game B only a 9.9 it looks so much better.”
“Really Game B has a better story than Game A? I don’t think so!”
“I can’t believe they say Game A is the best game on the console, but it scored lower than Game B!”
Those are just blanket statement, though I would be lying if I did say they weren’t based on actual comments I read in regards to games released in the past year! The fact of the matter is game reviewing doesn’t exist in a bubble. What was a 10 2 months ago, may not be considered a 10 today. Hell, what was a 10 last week may not be considered a 10 this week. That’s how fast things change. New games, new ideas, new levels are achieved at a rapid pace. There’s no way to get a uniformed system that allows for a clear progression of quality because honestly it doesn’t exist.
Even taking games from the same series may yield wildly different results. Perhaps, the 2nd game did something remarkable, but in the 2 years between sequels has become commonplace or maybe it builds on the strength of the last game without really adding anything new to the formula. Do you grade it up because it is just as good as the last one but doesn’t really re-invent the wheel or do you grade it down because it plays it safe?
And of course that plays into the fact that different games come with different baggage. Let’s take The Legend of Zelda series and Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. I’m assuming most have heard of the former, and maybe some know of the latter, but it isn’t a huge name. So when Spyro releases this year it doesn’t have as many expectations tied to it. On the reverse side is the Legend of Zelda, which comes with this baggage that it has to be new and exciting and different to warrant getting high reviews, not because it has to be a good game but because it has to be an amazing game to fit into the franchise. So if Spryro averages 9s when it releases and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword averages 9s when it releases, they mean two completely different things, and more than likely will get two vastly different reactions.
End of the day, because I realize this is getting long-winded, there’s no way to compare review scores. Even if you were to line up perfectly and get the same reviewer, reviewing the same genre, on the same platform and released the same day there’s no way to say that Game A is better than Game B based on a score. And that’s all I want gamers to take away from this, stop bitching and moaning about your soon to be favorite game not getting the respect it deserves based on a random number!