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Bill Murphy: Forget the Scores

Column By William Murphy on January 13, 2012

It’s really not an easy task reviewing a game.  I mean, we spend hours scouring the thing and then are asked to condense the entire experience down into a few thousand words (no small task with an MMO), and to top it off the general rule of critiquing a form of media is to “rate it”, as if some number is going to be the end all and be all of a product’s value.  Ask any reviewer, ask anyone here on the site, and they’re likely to tell you that a score doesn’t matter.  And yet, we’re held to these numbers as the standard of how we review things.  What I’m getting at doesn’t mean scores on our reviews are going away anytime soon. Rather, what I’m going to ask of you all is to try ignoring the numbers until you read the words.  And we’re going to help with that.

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CHANGES TO OUR REVIEW DISPLAY

One of the ways in which we’re going to fight this tendency to only look at a score on reviews is to change the way our reviews are displayed when reading them.  The Game List and all its glory will remain, but instead of clicking a review link on our home page when it’s featured, and immediately being shown a score we will be moving the scores and pluses and minuses to the end of the review.  Do I think this will stop people from just reading the score? Not likely.  But at least we’ll be doing our part to have you read the content before commenting on whether the score is just.

THE GOOD AND BAD MUST BE WRITTEN

Additionally, I want to stress this: when you read all reviews on this site we will try to give you examples of the ups and downs of each game as it pertains to the seven categories we review by.  So in each section you will see mention of positive and negative aspects of the game.  Still, the score associated with this category at the end of the review is indicative of the overall experience… not some written-in-stone creed that you all must conform to.  With our words we’ll be trying to give you a full-bodied review, and the numbers will always serve as a “bite-sized version” for the impatient.

IN THE END, IT’S ABOUT THE CONTENT

In the end, when you read one of our reviews, whether you find yourself in agreement with it or completely baffled by it, the ultimate goal will be that the content of the review is how we arrived at the score.  We will make mistakes, we will err, and our opinions may not always jive with everyone else’s.  But please rest assured that we’re merely trying to give you our honest view point on any game.  And we truly do welcome you to give your own in our User Reviews section of the site, which will also be getting more exposure in 2012. 

It’s not just here that scores should be looked at as a mere “measuring tool” either, it’s everywhere.  In all forms of criticism.  A Thumbs-Up from Ebert doesn’t mean you’re going to like a movie without a doubt, and an 8/10 from us doesn’t mean the game’s without fault.  It merely means we found it good enough to deserve a B-Grade in the school of MMOs.  And you won’t always agree with our grading methods.  Some teachers in school for me were always harder graders than others, and I can’t be alone there.  But ultimately, it’s my hope that you’ll read a review on this site, learn about the game’s features and use our opinion of those features to judge whether a title is worth your time and money. 

For those of you who read this whole thing, I give myself a 7/10… at least I passed.

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