What is the purpose of a product review? A review is a summary that highlights what is good and bad about a product to help make a decision on whether or not that product should be purchased. I also pictured a review score to be a summary of that summary – giving you the basic understanding of what the reviewer thought of that product based on that score. If the score is not enough for you to help you decide whether or not the product is right for you, you can go back into the review and see more detailed information on why he or she gave the product that score. You can then use this information to determine whether or not this particular product is right for you. That’s what I thought a review was, anyway.
Then I started writing reviews for OnlySP.
For the record, I am not blind, nor have I been living under the proverbial rock that I’m sure some people would accuse me of living under after reading the above. I realize that reviews and review scores – for video games in particular – are often sources of heated debate and repeated insults. But why?
I started reviewing for OnlySP because I love video games and I wanted an outlet to share my opinions on those games to the public. In the course of my time here at OnlySP (which, to be clear, hasn’t been very long), I have given my fair share of average-to-below average scores on certain games. This is something that I felt came with the territory. I wasn’t always going to play a game that was a winner, right?
Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was personally attacking every single person that liked the games that I gave a middling score to.
Let me get one thing straight, though: I have yet to give a game a bad score on this website. The lowest score I have given was a 4.5 out of 10 which I gave to Sniper Elite III. I realize, again, that the idea of reviews scores being skewed toward the higher end is not news. There is a stereotype that game reviewers work on a “7 to 10” scale. It became a stereotype, however, because it was often true. Games that would be heavily criticized in text would often not score lower than a 7. I’m sure I could write another whole article about the logic behind the motivation to do that, but that’s not what this particular piece is about.
I wanted to be different with my review scores. After all, there are ten points on a 1 to 10 scale – more if you count half points – so why should we stick to only using the last four? In order to set myself apart, I decided that I would treat review scores like they should logically be treated: a 1 is terrible, a 5 is average, and a 10 is excellent, with the points in between being self-explanatory enough. I came to the decision to do this because I think we have gotten too soft in the way we score games, and I also was following the guidelines that were established on OnlySP itself.
A lot of people didn’t get the memo, however, so when I gave the aforementioned Sniper Elite III a 4.5 – a score indicative of a slightly below average game – people assumed that I thought the game was an unplayable mess. Understandably so, because the game was a full 2.5 points lower than the minimum that they are used to. Basically, I was giving the game a -2.5 in their minds.
The review systems for games have gotten so warped that some people are experiencing a sort of PTSD. One commenter attempted to explain how he or she thought the review system should be:
Well a 6 means that there is something wrong with the game, a 5 menas mediocre, when i see a 4 it usually means the game is a broken buggy disaster.
This one is tough for me to understand. If there is something, anything wrong with a game, it automatically plummets down to a 6. If a game is mediocre, it’s a 5. Anything lower than that is a “broken buggy disaster.” In all fairness, this person did not explain what type of scale he or she is using. Perhaps he or she is reviewing on a 4 to 8 scale.
The following is a comment from the N4G.com posting of the Sniper Elite III review:
I played a little bit of it today, the game looks like Uncharted 3 with a Sniper Rifle, I liked it a lot, definitely not a 4.5, I would give it a score between 8 to 8.5. Solid game and if you like sniping a must play.
I commend this person for not insulting me, but I have to point out how this comment has some flawed logic. A “solid” game to me indicates probably a 6 to me. When I hear the word “solid,” what comes to mind is “better than average.” On a scale of 1 to 10, do you know what’s better than the middle of the road? A 6. Using my scale that I mentioned earlier, an 8 would indicate a really good or potentially great game. But on the scale that people are used to, a solid game probably would be given an 8.
Admittedly, I don’t have that big of a gripe with these comments. In fact, most of the comments I have received, while disagreeing with my opinion, are completely civil. The people giving these comments are just victims of the skewed rating system.
What does bother me, however, is when we get into this territory:
“Gran Tourismo” What a Twat.
This game is ACE. Reviewer doesn’t have a clue.
This is a comment on my review for GRID Autosport and it’s referring to my repeated reference to the game Gran Turismo and how I misspelled it every single time. This mistake was 100% my own fault. When people say “Turismo,” it sounds like they are saying “Tour-ismo,” and when you’re driving around the world in cars, you’re going on a tour, right? To my ignorant brain, this logic made sense. Should I have looked up the spelling afterward? Absolutely. To be honest with you, I don’t know how I’ve gotten this far in life without learning the correct spelling, especially given that video games are my favorite hobby. Having had the mistake pointed out to me, I promptly corrected it and went on with my life.
Now, does having misspelled “Turismo” make my opinion somehow invalid? I would argue that it doesn’t. Every critique I gave the game was based on the experiences that I had with it. They were problems that I thought were worth mentioning to people who may be on the fence as to whether or not they should buy the game. I did not lie or exaggerate anything about my experience with the game and I gave the score based on what I felt best matched the review text.
Most importantly, does that spelling mistake somehow mean that I am a slang term for a vagina? I’m being literal for comic effect here, but it is a valid question. Does that spelling mistake warrant the insult that I received? Absolutely not. This person was somehow offended that I gave a game that he or she liked a score lower than he or she would have wanted and he or she is using any piece of ammunition that he or she can to devalue my opinion. “Look guys! He spelled ‘Turismo’ wrong! That means everything he said is wrong! Don’t listen to this guy! Grid Autosport is great!” And this is all from me giving the game a score of 5.5, which I have mentioned is a slightly above average score.
This is the larger issue that I want to talk about, and it’s something that has been bugging me for years, and it raises an important question: Who the hell cares what other people think of a game? If you like GRID Autosport, great! I didn’t really care for it all that much. Guess what? We can coexist on this planet together, I promise you. I don’t think any less of you for having a different opinion than my own. I do think less of you for insulting a complete stranger anonymously on the internet for misspelling a word, but that’s because you’re a bad person, not because your opinion differs from mine!
And that really is the problem, isn’t it? If I had given GRID Autosport a 9 or a 10, that person wouldn’t have said anything. It was the fact that his or her feeling were genuinely hurt because his or her game wasn’t perceived as the masterpiece that he or she saw it as. The same goes with Sniper Elite III, or any other games that I reviewed that have a negative comment on them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the review for a game that I quite liked, Shovel Knight, is completely void of any comments because I gave it an 8.5. I evidently pleased the Comment Section Gods by giving a game a positive score.
So, why is it that people get all butt-hurt when their game of choice doesn’t get the score they think it deserves? The answer to this question has been theorized a number of times. It’s possible that people want justification for the purchase that they already made. I can understand that the idea of wasting $50-60 sucks, so when you’ve got people telling you that you shouldn’t have spent that money, it could be perceived as people insulting your intelligence. “Ha! That game sucks, you idiot! Why would you spend money on that garbage?”
Another answer that is related is that people just don’t like to be wrong. Whenever someone has a difference of opinion to someone else, they try to prove their point. Some are more capable of proving their point better than others (for example, calling someone a “twat” is not an effective strategy), but it’s kind of the same line of thinking.
Perhaps misery loves company? “I bought this crappy game and now all must suffer! I will insult everybody until they feel super horrible about themselves!” As someone who doesn’t really give a crap what people think (I will still review your crappy game with a low score regardless of what you say to me), this just seems more sad than anything else.
I think my favorite theory is that the internet, as a whole, largely sucks. People have no trouble bullying complete strangers in extremely harsh ways due to the anonymity that the mask of a computer screen gives them. Very rarely do you come face-to-face with a bona fide jerk. Yeah, you’ll run into them every now and again, but considering the vast number of people you see in your day-to-day life, the ratio is firmly in the favor of people genuinely sticking to their own business. But the internet’s population is largely comprised of people who would sooner lower your self-esteem by insulting your physical characteristics than accept that their opinion isn’t the end all-be all, especially when they know that you can’t do anything about it and you don’t actually know their true identity.
So what can we do about this? This isn’t necessarily a new topic – it has been covered by many different people over the years – but the problem doesn’t seem to be going away. Some people say to just ignore it and it will go away on its own. They say if you engage them then you are just giving them what they want. Well, that sucks. To someone like me, I could ignore them all day. I don’t really care what people say about me. However, there are people out there that are genuinely affected by this sort of attacking; Are you saying we should just sit by and watch as people legitimately hurt others?
As I said, this isn’t a new topic, and I don’t think I covered this in a new or particularly helpful way, but I feel like it’s a discussion we need to be having more often than we are. I think it was about time that somebody brought it back up, I just hope that someday it won’t be necessary to bring it up.