You guys are thinking like me on the review scores thing, it seems. I shouldn’t be surprised. Like Alex, I too tend to go by peer recommendation rather than review scores. Sure, I’ve written my share of reviews in my time, but I’ve always tried to get the “essence” of the review across in my text. Whether or not anyone actually READ it is another matter. I know the guys at Trendy certainly appreciated my complimentary review of Dungeon Defenders, however — a quote from me is still visible on Steam, even if the review it’s from is no longer with us. *sniff*

A 5 star scale is all very well and good until you start getting into half-stars. Then you may as well just be scoring out of 10. I never quite saw the point of that.

I like the idea of Kotaku’s new scoring system, and where I’m working at Inside Social Games right now, we’re experimenting with a similar system. As a more business- rather than consumer-oriented site, however, the focus of the reviews is very different — rather than saying whether a game is worth playing from a “fun” perspective, we look at whether or not the game is likely to be successful in attracting users, convincing them to part with their money and retaining those users over a long period. Our “Play”, “Wait”, “Skip” ratings tell other developers whether or not the game is worth taking a look at (usually to pinch ideas, sadly), worth waiting a little while until it’s a bit more “finished” or worth skipping over entirely — not necessarily because it’s crap, but because it obviously hasn’t thought out what it’s doing.

There’s no reason such an approach shouldn’t work for consumer reviews — though that said, even we run into the issue where we don’t all like the same things. I would consider Katawa Shoujo an essential “Play”, for example, while Feen (sorry to put words in your mouth, sir!) would probably consider it a “Skip”.

Here’s a few things I’d like to see more of, though most outlets are either too busy (or at least believe themselves too busy) to do anything like this:

  • Ditch the traditional review and post two (or more) editorials offering contrasting viewpoints on a game. This idea came to me after I saw someone on Twitter ranting about IGN giving Modern Warfare 3 a high score in its review, then posting an editorial from MitchyD criticising it for all its bullshit. Had the review been an editorial piece without a score, person in question would have found it much more acceptable for there to be varying viewpoints. I don’t necessarily agree with his arguments, but I think this could be a really interesting approach to reviewing games, and a sort of extension of RPS’ excellent Wot I Think series.
  • More specialist press. Video games are already considered specialist press, but as I’ve said previously, I don’t think that’s enough any more. “Gamer” is such a meaningless term, because it covers everything from the fratboys who play nothing but CoD and Madden to weirdos like me who play cripple porn. Reviewers don’t specialise at the moment, largely because outlets tend to have limited staff and lots of titles to review. I’d much rather see sites that focus on specific genres of gaming — like, say, film magazines do — and really show they know what they’re talking about rather than this net-casting that goes on now. IGN, Gamespot et al could focus on the big-name games, while smaller outlets could focus on, say, specific genres, platforms… you get the idea. This already happens to a certain degree on an enthusiast basis, but it’s a nice dream to see it on a commercial scale, I think. I somehow doubt it will happen any time soon, however.
  • More experiential writing about games. There are so many different ways you can write about a game these days, given the medium’s depth, complexity and diversity. You can write about personal experiences like I’ve been doing on my blog about Katawa Shoujo. You can write a first-person narrative of what your character went through in a game, like a blog post I did on System Shock once that I now can’t find. Anything but “THE GRAPHICS ARE GOOD THE SOUND IS GOOD I LIKE THE GAMEPLAY”, basically.