Metacritic’s Influence On The Gaming Industry
Any gamer worth his or her salt knows about Metacritic, the portal that aggregates scores from various review websites, and people, and gives it a numerical value. The site focuses on games, movies, TV shows and DVDs.
The first time I discovered Metacritic, I thought that it was the best things since sliced cheese. A place where you could get review scores from all over the internet condensed and aggregated into a single website, it really could not get any better. When people started to voiced their concerns by saying that these scores would have influence over the creative and business side of the gaming industry, I laughed at them.
I thought that everyone would have realized by now that the Metacritic score lacked any scientific value and that a bad score does not necessarily add up — in most cases — to a bad game. Not to mention that it does not impact on a person’s enjoyment of a game. But a new, disturbing trend, has recently reared its ugly head. Developer’s bonuses are starting to get attached to Metacritic scores. Now don’t get me wrong, having some sort of barometer whereby a developer gets a bonus depending on review scores is great idea, but using a website such as Metacritic is definitely a bad idea. There are many reasons why using Metacritic scores as a way of giving out incentives is a bad idea.
Firstly, not every magazine, site or game journalist has the same ethical and professional standard. Referring back to my previous article, game reviews, just another sales pitch, I talk about various reviewers and the standards they keep.
Secondly, reviews are just personal opinions and should be considered as “an opinion by a single person” as it contains their own likes and dislikes, which won’t always fall in line with that of your own.
Then, last but not least — and I am sure I am going to get flack for this — game journalists are just over glorified gamers who do not know anything about the reality of game development.
Personally, in most cases I find scoring games arbitrarily to be an outdated concept. It is the game itself that tells you whether you will enjoy it or not, hence we have demos. There are plenty of high scoring games that I did not like, and plenty of bad, low scoring games that I enjoyed tremendously. I am sure this is true for many other gamers too.
The latest Metacritc debacle comes from the studio that brought us BioShock 1 and 2, Irrational Games. A few weeks ago, a recent job advertisement from Irrational Games stated that applicants should have received credit on at least one game with a Metascore of 85% or higher, along with a minimum of three titles completed from start to finish.
This issue is one of the more depressing ones in recent history, where Obsidian lost a bonus for getting a review score of 84% is probably the worst. In the Obsidian story, developers needed an 85% average on Metacritic for Fallout: New Vegas, else they would have to lay off some people because of a clause in their employment contract. If these sort of practices become the norm, we will definitely see a decrease in interesting, controversial and experimental titles, and an increase in play-it-safe please-the-crowd blockbusters. It could also open up the door for more bribery and manipulation, because let’s be honest, game journalism has already fallen victim to bribery and score tampering.
Yes, Metacritic is a tool. Although it can be helpful, it can also be misused — pretty much like everything in life that is controlled by people. Game developer studios are most certainly abusing Metacritic for their own means, and while it might not be Metacritic’s fault, if games unite they can say no to such bad business practises. This issue affects the gaming industry and it affects the games we play. It is definitely not a healthy trend, either.
In the end, the industry is dependent on gamers for money, and by airing our opinions and closing our wallets when needed, we can change how things are done.