Quality of Gaming

I got an email this morning about Bill Harris’s latest blog on the game industry. This one pertains to review scores:

http://dubiousquality.blogspot.com/2008/03/hens-teeth-and-85-review-rating.html

What is interesting about the infamous “7 to 9” score is that, according to the article, only 7% of games actually average more than an 8.5 out of 10.

Whether or not game review scores are better, I think games are as good as they’ve ever been right now. People just don’t accept crappy or frustrating products. Aside from genre issues (the death of flight sims for example) game design and execution is as good as its ever been.

Imagine dropping Assassin’s Creed onto people’s computers in 1997.

It’s Bill Harris. Phil Harris is actually called Harrison and just left Sony. :)

Regarding the blog post, as a fan of Genji and Dynasty Warriors I’m extremely reluctant to assign any significance whatsoever to review scores. On top of that, Harris himself not long ago wrote a guest post on N’Gai Croal’s blog about good & popular casual games for Nintendo systems getting terrible reviews. So I’m not sure why he comes back here and simply says 85% on GameRankings equals high quality. If we want some intersubjective measure to judge the quality of a game I’d rather look at sales figures.

That´s a surprising result.

When I read Bill´s blog entry I wondered how reliable the data basis for his analysis is. Did he check if or how Metacritic weights review sources and how scores different from the 1-100 scale are converted?

He did kind of address that in this paragraph:

There are a ton of ways to slice this data, and I’m sure the results would look different if I chose 80+ instead of 85+ as the cutoff point. It’s just that every game I saw on that 85+ list that I’ve played, even if it wasn’t my kind of game, had a degree of quality that I wouldn’t dispute. In the 80-85 range, though, I didn’t feel that way.

In other words, these are the indisputably high quality games, before you start getting into more subjective territory, like the Genji or Dynasty Warriors games, which obviously are some people’s cup of tea, but are viewed by others, like myself, as having really poor gameplay. In a similar vein, one of my own favorite games from last year was Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, but that wasn’t as fun for everyone, as has been discussed here several times, and probably fell below even the disputable territory with regards to the quality of the game.

The significance is you have weird taste in games. Given that I liked XIII more than Half-life 2, you’re not the only one. And do we even have to mention BobJustBob’s favorites? :-)

Consistently high (or low) scores represent a general consensus within the game reviewing community as to the merits (or lack thereof) of a given title - period. It’s not useless, but it’s also not the end-all and be-all of metrics. There will always be outliers: games which have ardent fans, yet the reviewing community as a whole does not hold in high regard.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure what Bill’s post is trying to prove other than very good games don’t happen very often, which is a “duh!” kind of revelation.

On top of that, Harris himself not long ago wrote a guest post on N’Gai Croal’s blog about good & popular casual games for Nintendo systems getting terrible reviews. So I’m not sure why he comes back here and simply says 85% on GameRankings equals high quality.

IIRC, Bill’s point there was that most game reviewers are biased towards the traditional mainstays of gaming and their reviews of quirky casual games - which are popular among casual gamers but generally considered too simplistic or easy by the entrenched hardcore gamers - betray that bias. Basically he was saying “normal” people like different games than we nerds do. :-)