Thumb Wars: Ep 51: Keeping Scores: Of Numbers & Reviews, 9.9 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

Ep 51: Keeping Scores: Of Numbers & Reviews

Welcome back to the discussion show where we introduce the debate and you continue it. This week’s topic: Shaun & Robert dig deeper into the review process and debate what game scores really mean.

Thumb Wars is a weekly show hosted/produced by Shaun Kronenfeld dedicated to starting and encouraging dialogue and debate on a wide variety of topics within the video game industry. Look for a new Thumbs Wars every Sunday. Comments, opinions, and thoughts are not only welcome, they are the entire point. Feel free to follow Shaun on Twitter @bigred_13 if you feel so inclined.

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Rating: 9.9/10 (7 votes cast)

Shaun K.

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  1. September 20, 2013 at 03:13am
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    Which is why I think there shouldn’t be a relative grading system. Any system that designates a number as “average”, immediately runs into the problem of, “What average?”

    Average to the reviewer? The reviewer is playing games to review even if they doesn’t want to play them; thus they’ve played both bad and good.

    Average to the reader? What if the reader’s played many more good games; to them average would be a lot better than the reviewer’s.

    Scientifically established average? Some guy or girl collects all designations of games and calculates the average by dividing through the number of games? And this can be found somewhere?

    I suppose the last option produces a most accurate picture but this still runs into the problem that the scoring is variable. If in the next few years more good games are released than bad ones, by that time the average game would be a better game than today’s average game. So today’s score of “average” is no longer reliable to future readers, they would have to translate it to however much lower than average it would have gotten at that time.

    Hence why I always want to see an absolute scale. 6 out of 10 is the first time you have a greater positive designation; so that’s the first passing grade. 7 would be decent, 7.5 to 8 would be good, 8 to 8.5 would be great, 8.5 to 9 would awesome and 9.5 to 10 would be deliriously amazing, all but perfect. Below 6, is ever greater levels of suck.

    Oh, and women having the power in a sexual or potential sexual relationship isn’t a subversion of the normal dynamic, that IS the normal dynamic. Women choose, and men need to compete for women, and better produce enough desirable traits for a woman to deign to even speak with him. That is the way our sexual relations go since the dawn of our species and before it. In fact, in most species, especially those closer to us, that’s the way things work. Bucks don’t have antlers and fight each other with them for the heck of it, but for access to mates.

  2. September 18, 2013 at 04:23am
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    This is a very good topic..
    I myself think that 1-10 rating is not really wide enough so it restricts some reviewers to think what you now talk about. Like what is the difference with 2 games that both have rating of 8/10.
    This is very obvious when you have a rating like 1-5..
    The game magazine that I usually read (called Pelit) has a game rating 1-100. With that kind of rating you can easily say the difference between 81 points and 88 points game.
    Of course in here you also have to know the reviewer to really know what the game is about (which is also why there is the article to read)..
    So no – changing your review scale from 1-10 to 1-100 doesn’t solve everything, but I do think it’s a better scale than 1-10 especially when the lower numbers (1-4) aren’t even never used.
    So in reality 1-10 is almost the same as a 6-10 scale. So it is not really any better than 1-5 scale.

    • September 18, 2013 at 11:32am
      In response to Jukka-Pekka Tuominen
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      But that’s just it: Blistered Thumbs does use the bottom of the scale. At least they did when Angry Joe was running the site. The lower numbers are used for terrible games, and yes, there are some terrible games out there that do deserve the lower numbers. I think what’s happened in recent times is that BT tends not to deal with the terrible games anymore. I think most of the reviews these days focus on titles people actually want to play, and those generally tend to be 5 or above.

  3. September 17, 2013 at 11:39pm
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    Context is indeed everything. Which is why I laugh at any review or person calling the Gigolo missions misogynistic when by their very nature they are the opposite.
    The women call upon the man to do their beck and call, they pay HIM for being with them and giving them presents.
    You’re not “wooing” over women you just met (like most reviews try to portray this mode as) you are appeasing a women that you MUST keep happy because it’s your job.

    Suda games, even if this wasn’t directed by him, they all seem to play off people’s usual expectations of sexuality and gender roles. We’ve all know about GTA and paying prostitutes and that seems perfectly fine with people, GTA can get away with it, because GTA is a big game that none shall dare speak ill of, whilst another game that takes a different look, a different take on the idea and gives the female dominating role and you have to appease her it’s called “sexist”.

    Yeah right.

    Context is EVERYTHING.

  4. September 17, 2013 at 03:57pm
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    I just wanted to say that I appreciate what you guys do, all the time and effort, blood, sweat and tears, everything that goes into your reviews.

    I also can’t help but find it ludicrous the way some people will outright become offended or attack someone just because of the review that they give a game.

    In the end, I’m sure we all agree, all that really matters is whether or not you, the player, enjoyed the game and no review, good or bad, should affect that enjoyment.

    Just have fun!

  5. September 17, 2013 at 03:38pm
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    Part of the reasons people skip to the score on BT is the format. It’s really kinda hard to read the wall of text, particularly when pictures break the stream of text. [/gripe]

    I’ve always thought the olympic medal approach is the best way to grade. The arts aren’t accounting, and the bottom line is more an impression, although I tend to add platinum and dirt just to make the variety clear. By the same token, ideally a game would get two or three reviews from different opinions so you get a round table discussion of the game, but realistically that’s just impossible.

    But really, if you give me a 10/10, I don’t expect perfection. I expect the game to be a genuine must-play. A 1/10 is the reverse: a game no one should ever play, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

  6. September 17, 2013 at 02:29pm
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    here is an interesting question at reviewers, how do they calculate the scoring? To me as an audience and sort of ignorant about how reviews usually work but do most reviewers just pick a number as a scale rather as a numerical value?

    I understand that scoring is just brief summary of a reviewers argument in form of numbers but would it make sense if the scoring weren’t at the end of all reviews and add a brief summary. Just saying as a thought that is.

    As for the reviewers I’m going to say criticize harshly which includes Robert & Shaun. Just to be clear before saying my opinion this basically my assumptions and not to be taking as a complete judgement since I never hang out with them so this may be taken as offence by some.

    I’ll start off with Robert and his Killer is Dead review. I get the low scoring for it’s quality however including your beliefs of what sexism is, which I mean when I say ideals because his view is simple minded and unrealistic, distorts your review and wastes other people’s time reading it. Robert’s job with all respects is reviewing the game AND shove your ethics and morals in people’s faces in the review. Furthermore by calling the game sexist simply because by his argument in No More Heroes the female protagonist is control acceptable while in Killer is Dead is not control is offense makes him a hypocrite which is not different than saying women killing men is fine but men killing women is misogynistic. I can have an argument posted saying 100 reasons why Robert is an idiot on sexism but that is not the point because I’m talking about the review and not social issues.

    Lastly with Shaun and his blind following of EA. To be clear I’m not here to argue that Shaun shouldn’t defend EA which is not the point but the point is him seeing any criticism to him in favor with EA and his review as automatically a hate speech or accusing hims of being bribed by EA. Also the fact is mentioning about not being bribed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune from skeptical criticism. I get EA is like other companies has it’s merits and flaws but Shaun needs to understand that your stance will have to be considered in your reviewing credibility. That is to be taken as criticism and not as an accusation. Moreover saying that reviewing is a form of art and cannot be taken as scientific is nonsense unless you mean scientific as in empirical science and not including social sciences.

  7. September 17, 2013 at 01:50pm
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    Most people don’t give a flying feather, so we have the number system.

  8. September 17, 2013 at 10:07am
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    What about a discussion about Japan game company(i.e Capcom) that are slow changed to western games to make money.

  9. September 17, 2013 at 02:05am
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    As far as I’m concerned, a number score should somewhat reflect the player’s overall experience with the game. A score of 10 should be as nearly perfect as possible; perhaps not entirely flawless, but such that the overall enjoyment allows the reviewer to overlook those flaws. A 10 should be a game by which other games are benchmarked.

    The score should also take into account all relevant aspects of the game, and not just those that stand out. If a game has a compelling story, but the gameplay sucks, the score should reflect that. Or if the gameplay is awesome, but the game has some distracting bugs, that should be reflected too.

    I find that number scores help me to determine which games are of good quality, but I also do my homework. I try to take into consideration what types of games I enjoy, as well as the overall quality of the game in question.

    Bottom line: a number score should reflect the game’s overall quality. But those reading the reviews should focus on whether the game in question is in line with their particular tastes. For example, if you don’t like MFPS’s, then it doesn’t matter if a particular MFPS has a 9/10, you’d still be better off not buying it.

  10. September 17, 2013 at 01:55am
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    Topic suggestions:
    1. How to get Austin or Johnny to review Bonetown?
    2. Is it time to remove general competency from game reviews/Why has it stuck around this long?
    3. How updates/patching & DLC affect reviews (should scores be reevaluated essentially)

  11. September 17, 2013 at 01:44am
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    I think there is a very relevant debate to be had on about the score of a review even when you agree with the text of the review, but there really is a civil way to do it. Especially considering their is a standard that you score to.

  12. September 17, 2013 at 12:19am
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    As far as im concerned, a proper review does not shove personal opinion or assumptions of who/what a person is for playing a certain game/genre.

    A review should take note of the good points and the bad points in a game and the reviewer themselves should also consider who would enjoy this game even if they themselves are not interested or like the game/genre.

    Though it seems impossible, a good reviewer should learn to enjoy and accept all types of games…doing so will open the path to being a more accurate and trusted reviewer but also a better gamer..maybe even a better person overall.

    • September 17, 2013 at 08:30am
      In response to ChazDragoon
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      So who decides what’s good and what’s bad then? It’s not like there is some gold standard, what someone perceives as good someone else sees it as bad. What you describe as a better gamer or better person is just simply someone without any personal tastes. Taking out personal opinions kind of takes away the whole basis of a review, it’s the only thing a reviewer can give. There is no such thing as objectivity. If you want to be fair then just don’t have the RTS fan who has never played a hack & slash in his live review a hack & slash or the like.

      • September 17, 2013 at 08:02pm
        In response to Futago
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        I will disagree to an extent. While it is impossible to give a 100% objective review, I do think it is possible to review a game with a fair degree of objectivity. One simply has to take into account the overall quality and value of the product, what works well with the game’s genre and what doesn’t, and things like controls, presentation, and such. Granted, a person who plays mostly strategy games might not personally enjoy a hack-n-slash, but if he at least understands how hack-n-slashes should work, then he can still examine whether a particular game of that genre does work. He may not personally like it, but he still should have some idea whether fans of that genre should like it.

        Bottom line: a review may not be 100% objective, but it doesn’t need to be, as long as it is informative.

  13. September 17, 2013 at 12:10am
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    Personally, I rarely ever take reviews as a determining point when looking for video games. Instead, I usually use trailers and actual gameplay videos as a determining point. As funny as it sounds, it’s been working out for me so far. Must be because of the games I’m into.

    Anyway, regarding the reviews themselves, I try not to look at them until after I’ve played the game myself. That way, I at least have my own valid opinion and I get to compare it with the other reviews. At that point, I only look at reviews just to see a different perspective since I already own the games.

    I’ve never been a big fan of scores. I like niche Japanese games and those types of games get bashed on heavily all the time. Even in this very site. I’ve come to expect a much lower score on average from almost every site I go visit. Does this actually speak about the actual quality of the games, I don’t know but it’s something I’ve noticed and live with seeing constantly.

    Kinda off topic, but this is something that I can never stand; yet, I’m starting to notice it more and more with each passing day. If you dislike a game, fine. Different people have different opinions. What I like, you might dislike. The point I start having issues at is when the reviewer/critic starts insulting the people for liking the games they don’t like.

    Shawn, I’m sorry for putting you on the spot, but you’ve been somewhat guilty of this as well. A recent example I remember, while not a review itself, happened in the “Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F” game you covered. Intended or not, you acted like whoever liked this game was creepy and not normal. It’s stuff like that where I start questioning the reviewers credibility. Again, sorry for putting you, Shawn, on the spot.

    Guess what I was trying to say is that a review and its score can be justified by its contents. If the contents turn foul, such as the audience shaming mentioned before, that is when issues start happening.

    • September 17, 2013 at 08:10pm
      In response to shadowmaksim
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      “Anyway, regarding the reviews themselves, I try not to look at them until after I’ve played the game myself. That way, I at least have my own valid opinion and I get to compare it with the other reviews.”

      That’s a great approach, if you’re a professional video game reviewer yourself. However, I am a consumer and not a professional reviewer. As such, I use reviews to get information about games so that I can make an informed purchasing decision. Of course, I don’t buy games based solely on reviews; I also take into consideration my own personal tastes in gaming (or try to), and try to buy games that look fun and interesting. But reviews do play a part in helping me to make that determination. As I said elsewhere, I take the score to simply indicate the quality and value of a particular game, but I look at the review itself to help determine whether it’s the type of game I like to play. (For example, I’d rather play a 7/10 action-RPG than a 9/10 generic MFPS).

  14. September 16, 2013 at 11:35pm
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    This couldn’t have come at a better time with the current GTAV rage on the internet.

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