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 Understanding Reviews

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IceMan
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PostSubject: Understanding Reviews   Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:17 am

1) When comparing scores and average scores for two or more versions of the same game (for example, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of something), seeing one being higher and another lower does not necessarily mean one is a better version than the other. Differences in scores can come down to combinations of A) different reviewers covering different versions of the game, B) different review sources between versions (one site may have reviewed one version and not the other), and C) different number of total reviews contributing to the overall average.

2) Yes, reviews are just some guy's opinion, but it's an educated one and, at least generally, is a relatively unbiased, impartial one. Professional reviewers have developed a good judgment when it comes to telling the good from the bad. We can compare any given game to other games of its kind and judge whether it is better, roughly equal to, or worse than other available games. We can judge various aspects of the game rather than just sitting around making biased judgments on whether or not we personally liked the game. For this reason, you can look at a list of fifty review scores for a certain game and see relatively little variation between them, because while not an exact science we can get a pretty good grasp on how good or terrible a game is.

3) The reason a single game can get a range of reviews, sometimes as much as thirty percentage points between the highest and lowest scores, is two-fold.
A) Different sources grade games differently. Some use a five-point scale, some grade with letters, others use a more precise ten-point scale, some get even more specific and break it down to half points, and a few get as detailed as a hundred-point scoring system. These make for quite a bit of variation in scoring precision. A five-point system can jump twenty percentage points between one score and the next, meaning that dropping from five to four points is a drop from 100% to 80%, with nothing in between.
B) While we can get a pretty good ballpark grasp on how a game stacks up against the competition, this still isn't a perfect science. We can't just use a tape measure or weighing scale to gauge the quality of a game. This imperfection obviously gives us some variation between one review score and the next. However, often a game will still get scores lumped fairly close together, perhaps within ten or fifteen percentage points. Sometimes it's just one or two odd-balls that really fall far from most of the others.

4) Video game scores don't work like scores you got in grade school. Seventy-some or eighty percent is not "average" for a video game such as it might have been when you were in class. Sixty-percent, give or take, is not "failure" for a video game such as it would be in school. Video games are not scored by how many math problems they solved correctly on a test, how many state capitols they can remember, or how well they can conjugate verbs. In school we judge versus what we figure a typical, average Joe might do, and we allow some variation above and below that, and we feel that an average person would answer the majority of questions on a test correctly or otherwise score the majority of available credit for whatever the educational task might be. In video game reviews, average is 50%. You don't get into "bad" or "terrible" until you drop quite a bit below that.

5) A professional reviewer will not judge a game based on whether or not he personally liked it, but rather based on how much it did well versus how much it fowled up. This means that a reviewer shouldn't be giving a low score to a football game just because he isn't interested in football games. It means he isn't going to be giving outstanding scores to a shooter just because he loves shooters. Joe Sixpack would do that, but a serious gaming journalist will not. This is why professional reviews are worth so much more than your buddy's opinion. Case in point: I dislike Gran Turismo games or Metal Gear Solid games, but I can still respect them for what they do well. Their quality does not depend on whether or not they appeal to me personally, and this is how a professional journalist would also approach reviews.

6) Because of the variation in review scores that I have previously covered above, a better way of considering review scores is not to look at individual scores from individual sources, but rather at overall averages based on dozens of scores. This average will give a much better picture of a game's quality than an individual review could, as you could just happen to look at one of the highest or one of the lowest marks given to the game in question. Averages eliminate that potential inaccuracy.

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PostSubject: Re: Understanding Reviews   Sat Jun 21, 2008 9:55 am

You make good points.
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PostSubject: Re: Understanding Reviews   Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:43 am

IceMan wrote:
Case in point: I dislike Gran Turismo games or Metal Gear Solid games....

I'd just like to say that I no longer dislike Gran Turismo. In fact, I highly anticipate the arrival of the full GT5.

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