A damning take on Metacritic, and how review scores hurt games

A damning take on Metacritic, and how review scores hurt games

I've tried to avoid giving video games scores in the course of my career, but my ability to do so is less an issue of strength of character and more due to the fact that I've written for publications with wide readerships and powerful names. Giving games numbered scores, and being included on Metacritic, offers smaller outlets increased readership and more pull with publishers. It's easier to get review games, you get treated well by publishers, and it can even make booking E3 appointments easier.

When you have power over that number, you're powerful. It's an incredibly hard thing to avoid when you're trying to grow your readership.

Kotaku's in-depth look at Metacritic, how it's used in the industry, and its negative effect on the game industry is damning in a number of ways. I actually use Metacritic as a list of reviews to read, but I also know how popular the site has become for someone looking for a straight score. The approach is problematic in a number of ways, and Kotaku lists them all. It's well-researched, well-argued, and well worth your time.

The arguments from Metacritic itself are interesting. Their argument that how people use the data is up to them makes sense, but it's hard to ignore that the end result is a system that can be gamed, and can lead to poor design choices and shady behavior. I've often been tempted by numbered systems, and from a business perspective they offer a ton of upsides for publications, but this is a game I just don't want to play.