Shawn Elliott, former game writer extraordinaire and current game developer at 2K Boston recently asked me, 10 other game reviewers/reporters and "media assassin" Harry Allen to join in an e-mail symposium/debate/exchange about video game reviews.
To kick things off, we'd all write some oh-so-short notes to each other about the relevance of video game review scores (actually, the question was about pre-determining a score before writing a review).
A mere 16,000 or so increasingly acerbic works later, I was still wondering why so many of the people in this exchange were so worked up about scores.
Here's me asking that question (for a second time) to Jeff Gerstmann, N'Gai Croal, Kieron Gillen and many others about halfway through the exchange:
Stephen Totilo, MTV News: Shawn concluded his note with "Is this part of the problem?" I ask again, as I did in my previous note (with slightly different phrasing), what's the problem? Who or what are review scores hurting? N'Gai makes a passionate argument against the damage he sees review scores doing to the discourse about games on some message boards and comment threads. And he pitches a convincing case that such damage obscures the value of the scorers' words. All told, though, that doesn't seem like a whole lot of pain.
But, again, what's the problem? Are quality games not being appreciated because of the existence of review scores? Are quality critics not being read because of the proliferation of scores? Are talented game creators losing their jobs because of review scores? If yes to any of those questions, then would the abolition of scores remedy those situations? If not, I see no more reason for Giant Bomb and IGN to ditch scores than I see them needing to have their reviewers append to their reviews drawings of whatever flower the game they just played makes them think of. Whatever info the readers find useful and edifying, you know?
To the score haters, though, I direct you to Kotaku's reviews for support to your arguments. The mad bloggers there found a way to write reviews that don't use scores but can still somehow be comprehended in the time it takes to tie one's shoes. See their Far Cry 2 review, and, aside from too many puns, it gets the job done: http://kotaku.com/5071946/far-cry-2-review-hurry-boy-its-waiting-there-for-you
Read the whole exchange which is filled with good insights and good arguments over at Shawn's blog. Stay tuned for round two.
And can any of you address my question? What's the problem? Who is really being hurt by review scores? Who is being hurt so much that scores should be dropped?