An Open Letter to All Game Critics

Dear Reviewer,

First, let me say that I’m incredibly appreciative of the work that you’ve done over the years. Your criticism has been very useful for myself and many others. Now, though, I would like to offer criticism to you as a critic. You’ve done a great job, but you can always do it better. Please accept this constructive criticism from one who is most certainly not qualified to give it, but will give it all the same.

Don’t try to separate a game into its component parts.

We’ve all seen the reviews that give a rating to each dimension of a game: the presentation, the gameplay, the story, etc. Sometimes these websites or publications do not clarify the differences between the facets of the games they are reviewing. For example, IGN, while being a website I hold in the highest regard, does not clarify the difference between Presentation and Graphics, two aspects to which they assign a unique score, even in their guide to their review scale. Ultimately, possible confusion aside, this strategy is a flawed one at times, as many games are much more than the sum of their parts. Can you, as a reviewer, really encompass the experience you had in a game by scoring it on its component parts and averaging those scores? I don’t think so.  I am merely asking you as a reviewer to not try and generalize the criteria for reviewing each game, as each game is a unique experience, and deserves unique treatment as such.

Use your entire review scale and if not, define it clearly.

How many times have you, the reviewer, ever given a game a 6/10? A 7/10? Probably very often. And what does your review scale guide saw a 6 or a 7 is equivalent to? Good or above average. I see. Were these games really that good or above average? One of the most common plagues of video game reviews is not using the entire scale. Too many games get an “above average” rating, when in truth, they are merely mediocre. The problem is that improper use of the review scale makes it easy to make “above average” the new “mediocre”. One example of a website doing it the right way it Eurogamer, who is very deliberate in assigning scores that truly reflect the experience of the reviewer. If Eurogamer gives a game a 6/10, such as Game of Thrones, they truly believe that this game is above average.

This issue of abusing the review scale would not be an issue at all if some websites and publications were better at defining their review scale. Both Eurogamer and IGN do a good job of defining what a particular rating means to them, and what it should communicate to the reader. Other websites do not clarify as well, and consequently make it harder to believe that their score of 7/10 is meant to mean “mediocre”. If your review scale defines a 7/10, 3/5 stars, 65%, or a similar rating as being mediocre, make this very clear to the reader. This is all I ask.

In summary, I am merely asking that you, the reviewer, reviews games based on feeling and experience more than as a sum of its component parts and technical qualities. Also, make an effort to properly define your scale, and then utilize the entire scale when appropriate. These changes will give you as the reviewer more credibility, and make me more likely to look to you when wondering what to spend my hard-earned money on.



Trevor Hinkle

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