Are reviewers gamers too?

Are reviewers gamers too?

OPINION

Despite the fact that we’re both batting for the same team, it sometimes seems like game reviewers and gamers are at odds with each other. I’ve seen gamers calling out reviewers as sell-outs or liars, reviewers calling gamers whiny and immature and game publishers calling both uninformed or confused. Are we really that different?

This brings us to the next big part of our exploration. If reviewers aren’t any different than non-reviewers in terms of what they look for and value in a game, why is there often times such a huge gap between the average reviewer score for a game and the average player score? To me, it comes down to a few basic points: many players post reviews after either only playing a small portion of the game or only selected modes, some players feel urged to give ‘extreme’ scores to have an impact or have their voice heard, and sometimes players let external factors (things that shouldn’t factor in a game’s actual score) influence their decision. But first, let’s look at a phenomenon that I’ve seen pop up, quite frequently, as of late. Users posting review scores on averaging sites, such as Metacritic or others, without having actually played most of the game. While reviewers may not always complete the full game before reviewing, everyone that I know at least gets far enough emerged that they know nothing new or surprising will come up (in terms of not only working through the campaign, but testing all the different modes offered). Contrarily, while researching for this article, I noticed a staggering number of comments along the lines of playing for an hour or two, or trying one mode, giving up, and slapping a 0/10 rating on the game. For example, let’s look at an excerpt from a Metacritic review of Batman: Arkham City (9.4 critic rating, 8.4 user) from user Rampant Android who rated the game a 3:
[Arkham] City is a sandbox game, with a story that is confusing from the get go, and I have no investment in. I've played 3 hours of the game, and I'm selling it off tomorrow. I don't see any point to playing this.
Clearly there are multiple issues with this review (and many like it across this and many other games). Arkham City, specifically, as a long game that doesn’t really come into its own for a few hours. There’s a lot of set up in the beginning, the map becomes more open as you go, and the story doesn’t really start to actually come together until a bit later. Reviewing the game based on three hours of play is simply not an effective way to convey a true assessment of the game.

Secondly, the very nature of sites such as Metacritic, that averages reviews, makes it very difficult to make an impact on the overall score. For most reviewers working for various websites, this isn’t a problem. This is because the metascore (the rating a title gets, being an average of the submitted ratings) isn’t what they’re trying to impact. Reviewers write reviews to be published on their respective gaming magazines, where they are viewed and valued on their own merit. The metascore is simply a secondary place where the score can contribute to an outside resource for people, meaning that most reviewers aren’t bothered by the fact that their score may not carry much weight on the overall average. User reviews on these sites are a bit different. These reviews or ratings only exist on the average site. Therefore I think that a lot of people give extreme scores (0s or 10s) just so that they can have the most impact on the overall score. If a gamer believes a game to be a 5 out of 10, but the metascore is a 9 out of ten, entering a score of 0 instead of 5 will carry the most weight in moving the user average to where the reviewer really thinks it should be. It’s an unfortunate side effect, native to a system that can make user reviews very confusing for people looking to them for legitimate information, as it’s not uncommon to see numerous 0s and 10s listed right next to each other when in all likelihood neither extreme really meant it.