David Braben Wants Metacritic for Game Reviewers

To reward a job that offers "little glory."

Posted by Staff
David Braben Wants Metacritic for Game Reviewers
Frontier boss David Braben has suggested that there should be a Metacritic service for computer game reviewers.

The man behind Kinectimals made his conclusion after noticing that reviewers tend to ignore or unfairly rate games that aren't suited to their publication's target audience.

"Most reviews are targeted at what are often called ‘core’ gamers; people like us that follow games avidly, and are very experienced at playing them. Most reviewers and developers fall into this camp themselves, as do the readerships of most gaming websites and print press," Braben wrote in an opinion piece on Develop.

"And so, entirely reasonably, those reviewers aim their reviews accordingly.

"A problem starts to occur when the audiences’ tastes differ significantly from the reviewer’s – or developer’s – own tastes," he adds. "This is becoming more of an issue as our industry matures to include a great many people outside this group – particularly so if the group targeted is not just this ‘core’."

Braben noted that this kind of thinking on the reviewer's behalf is fine if his audience matches their work, "but for a review on TV, on a website for kids and adults or in the mainstream media, it does not." Although to be fair, we highly doubt a review of a kid's game on a kid's website is going to result in the writer wishing it was Call of Duty.

The art of reviewing games is just as difficult as making them, Braben argues, and that the ability to remain "consistent" should be rewarded. "Most reviewers are excellent at what they do, and it is a very hard job with, frankly, little glory. As an industry, there is something we could do to recognise this – effectively a Metacritic for reviewers," he writes.

Although he stresses that his intention isn't to influence reviewers, "if there were a system that tracked reviews by reviewer, not by publication, then hopefully this could reinforce the position of ‘star’ reviewers in particular sectors, which I think would be a very good thing for all concerned."

What do you reckon, readers?


miacid 10 Feb 2011 12:00
I think this would be a great idea, kinda of like something I suggested on here a while back.

That it would be good to easily see which other games a reviewer has reviewed and scored, that way if you've since played these games it will be a good way of comparing your own views that those of the reviewer.
Tim Smith 10 Feb 2011 17:52
miacid wrote:
I think this would be a great idea, kinda of like something I suggested on here a while back.

That it would be good to easily see which other games a reviewer has reviewed and scored, that way if you've since played these games it will be a good way of comparing your own views that those of the reviewer.

As an old man, I remember that I would find the reviewers I enjoyed and benefited from by reading their reviews over a period and making my mind up about whether I generally agreed with their view of a product and also whether I enjoyed their writing.

I'm unclear who a MetaCritic style view of reviewers would actually work. Would, for example, my name be included based on reviews I've written since 1989? Or would we have a year Zero? Would a reviewer's name appear alongside his or her average score given? Would this be broken down by genre? Or would it simply be a general Tim gives on average 80% scores?

Maybe I'm too close to the subject, but I see this proposition as being one that would drive reviewers into worrying about their Metacritic rating rather than worry about whether they are answering one simple question:

"Is this game worth my readers' time and money?"

I'd welcome other opinions of course.


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miacid 11 Feb 2011 09:31
As I tend to read reviews from mainly websites or magazines, I don't often remember the previous reviews a person has written or even know the name of the person in some cases.

I'm not in a place to go into the semantics of how a system like this would be setup, all I'm really interested in is trying to determine if the reviewer has the same take on games as I do.

I tend to play mainly FPSs, driving and 3rd person games but for example I prefer Battlefield to COD, Blur to NFS: Hot Pursuit and Batman to Assassins Creed.

So if a new driving game comes out and gets reviewed I can easily look back over the reviewers previous reviews and see how they rated Blur and NFS: HP, thus allowing me to better understand the reviewers taste and take on games I've already played.
Svend Joscelyne 11 Feb 2011 09:48
I'm not sure.

Again, maybe I'm a bit close - but wouldn't a reader sticking to the same reviewer because they have the same tastes be kind of like preaching to the converted? I remember recommending (not in a review, mind you, in passing) a game that ended up being bloody terrible to a friend of mine who had similar tastes. If that friend had listened to a dissenting view from someone else, perhaps he would have had a better idea of things.

Having a favourite reviewer is one thing, and I get that, but relying on one's opinion because they like the same things as you and they may also be a fan of this particular game sort of smacks of sheltering to me, a bit.

There is something to be said about community in relation to reviewers though, and how the community's opinion of a game stack up against the 'credited' published review. Something I've been thinking about.
miacid 11 Feb 2011 12:38
I wasn't thinking in terms of favourite reviewer as I like most people (I'd imagine) read multiple reviews for a game, especially if they're planning on buying it.

And I agree you'll get people that will favour COD over Battlefield for example and this will be reflected in how they review a new release in this series (no matter how good they are at reviewing).

So if I was reading a review for say Battlefield 3, different reviewers would pick up different points as being good, bad, what ever, I'd like the option to look back and the reviews these guys gave BF:BC2 and COD: MW2, so I can see what they said about these games (as I've completed both and played them on-line). I'm not so worried about their review score but more what they wrote about. This would then hopefully give me a better insight into what they look for when reviewing a game, so I can apply my own weighting to different parts of the review.

After reading the article from Marc Doyle I can agree with what he's saying about not wanting to penalise a good reviewer who happened to give a highly rated game by other reviews a lower score.

I'd just want to know why and look back at his other reviews and see how many of them I've played and if his views matched mine.

So the metacritic idea might not be the best way of putting it forward, I was thinking more of my earlier suggestion that I'm yet to see on the site 6~)

If this could be linked in with a global database of all reviewers I think we'd be on our way to getting something everyone could benefit from.
Spinface 14 Feb 2011 10:35
I don't think this is a bad idea at all. I'm far more likely to try a film/book/comic/whatever based on the recommendation of someone whose taste is similar to my own. Why wouldn't I? I'm actually far more inclined to take on the opinion of someone I know personally in those areas than I am the opinion of a reviewer, precisely because I know their tastes and I don't have time to research the preferences of critics.

It's different for games because I review them for a living, but putting information at the reader's fingertips about the reviewer in any field brings them closer to that sense of being able to trust their views.

If you agree with my opinion of Arkham Asylum, it only makes sense that you're more likely to trust my review of Arkham City.

I certainly share some of Tim's concerns about how a 'metacritic' of reviewers would work, but in principle a reviewer database seems like a solid enough idea.

Similarly, reading outside of reviewers who share your preferences can lead to some good finds on occasion, but there's a good chance that you have your pre-established preferences for a reason - you've tried different stuff and learned what your taste runs to.
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