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Stop Taking Review Scores Personally

Great news! Nintendo will probably survive even if one reviewer thinks Zelda: Breath of the Wild is just "all right."

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

I'm a middle-aged gentlelady, but when I'm held up against the backdrop of video game history, I'm damn near ancient. I started playing in 1984, and I never stopped. I talk to cashiers who tell me the first game they remember playing is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the N64. You know what? I'm old. I can handle it. Heck, I can own it. I'm happy I've been part of such an important bit of human history since day one (well, close enough).

Nintendo is a Business, Not Your Friend

Nintendo of America fires a Treehouse employee after a lengthy campaign against her.

My first exposure to Internet-based video game fandom happened in 1995, via my school's BBS (I attended a Collegiate Institute, AKA a high school that was on top of techy stuff). Sure, kids paired into Sega and Nintendo camps on the playground, but the [pause for '90s guitar riff] Information Highway added veritable dimensions to game criticism. I could argue with people around the world about the N64's prospects--and I often did. Loudly. Obnoxiously.

That was a long time ago, but the fog of fandom is as thick and toxic as ever on the Internet. So if you allow me to do just one Old Person thing in my life, let me fill my stiff, creaky lungs with air, open my mouth wide (lookit my dentures!), and bellow forth the following:

Video game companies are not your friends. You are not their soldiers. You will not be rewarded for your fervent loyalty or "service."

Alternatively, and more crudely: Calm your tits.

Representatives from the game companies you expend so much energy defending will never appear on your doorstep with money, free stuff, or even a certificate of thanks. In fact, if you get put away for illegal acts connected to attacking people who don't share your views on video games, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft et al will be happy to see you go. They don't want that kind of press stinking up their image.

Since DST and current events have us all feeling grody, I'm foregoing game-themed pictures and offering a selection of cats.

This missive is inspired (sigh) by the fact it took me twenty minutes to access Jim Sterling's review for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Between DDOS attacks and a comment thread that's becoming larger and more vicious than Calamity Ganon, Sterling's site is barely crawling at the time of this writing. The abuse isn't limited to the site, either. Sterling has been dealing with a deluge of death threats on social media for his "terrible" review of Link's latest adventure.

What counts as "terrible?" Sterling complains about the game's weapon degradation, bad voice acting, and inconsistent frame rates, but praises the game's character and imaginative world. He might have gotten away with it, but he committed the grave sin of quantifying his complaints with a number: A dreaded 7 out of 10.

Cry havoc, and let slip the Wolfos of war.

Sane people are aghast at the outrage, and there's been a lot of talk about how Nintendo / Zelda fans are a rabid bunch. I hate to pull a "Not All Fans" here, but it's important to note our reviewer Caty suffered a similar torrent of bile over her "low-scoring" review of Horizon Zero Dawn, a Sony exclusive--and that came with the added benefit of gendered insults.

The original Business Cat. Very responsible-looking, 11/10, would trust with my taxes.

This manner of over-the-top frothing and screaming over review scores (and subsequent fretting over a game's final Metacritic number) is not weighted more on one company, publisher, or system. It's endemic to video games in general. And it's time for it to stop, though I expect saying as much will be as effective as shooting a Nerf gun at a charging rhino.

Still, I need to try. I'm not OK with the fact I live in a world where people in developed countries suffer for lack of food, shelter, and clean water, but game reviewers are receiving death threats because they told the Internet that Zelda's voice actress isn't great.

There's also the sad fact fans of other media usually don't go Three Mile Island when a critic pooh-poohs something they love. Before writing this, I visited Rotten Tomatoes and looked over the reviews for Logan, a hot movie critics and movie-goers alike generally adore. It's currently sitting at a collective 92%--a very high score for a movie, but a number that would be considered quite low for an entry in the Zelda series, but let's not get into that just yet.

Still, there are a few critical outliers for Logan, most notably Rex Reed of the Observer. Reed scores Logan with a 1 out of 4 and calls it a mind-numbing waste of Hugh Jackman's time.

I hit the Googles and Twitter for responses to Reed's criticism. There are certainly some disagreements that range from polite to "go eff yourself," but I didn't detect even a whiff of what Sterling is going through, or what Caty went through (and is still going through). Movie critics certainly deal with their share of weirdoes and fanboys, but I doubt it's to the extent of what game critics endure. And I definitely doubt movie critics are put on the rack for giving a movie a seven out of ten and saying, "This is good, but it has a few notable problems."

"Why are you wasting time being mad on the Internet when you could be playing Zelda RIGHT NOW??"

Handily, I disagree with some of Sterling's criticisms of Breath of the Wild, so let me tutor the Internet on the proper way to react to a review you feel contrary towards. Simply inhale, flex your fingers, sit up straight (posture!), and write: "I disagree with this review, but you bring up some good points. Thanks for writing this."

Easy-peasy.

It needs to be noted that a reviewer who goes against the consensus shouldn't necessarily be congratulated for (ahem) "not [performing fellatio on the publisher of the game in question]." There is nothing in Sterling's review that indicates he's trying to "take Nintendo down a peg" or "open up the sheeple's eyes," or any such twaddle. Breath of the Wild is a stellar game, but it still has flaws. Those flaws happened to grind Sterlings' gears more than they chafed me or Mike. But when lots of people dislike something the world regards as untouchable, it doesn't make that thing any less classic. I don't like Gone with the Wind. I don't like chocolate ice cream. My opinion obviously doesn't lessen the worth of either.

Let's all just try to grow up a little.

Let's all try to be the kind of gamers Satoru Iwata believes we can be.

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Comments 81

  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #1 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    HEY! HEY LOSERS! TONY HAWK IS AT A 98! SUCK ON THAT, DWEEBS! #ActivisionForever

    But yeah Metacritic obsession is dumb. And I mostly see it just with gamers. It would be hilarious if it wasn't tied to death threats and people's well being.Edited March 2017 by NiceGuyNeon
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  • Avatar for yuberus #2 yuberus 3 months ago
    Amen! Can't we all just agree that everyone, regardless of age, is too old for that kind of shit? You'd think someone kicked these raging fanboys and girls' dog.
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  • Avatar for photoboy #3 photoboy 3 months ago
    Personally I found Sterling's review the only one that really matches my own feelings about BotW, although I think he scores it higher than I would. I found it frustrating and just not very fun. Still, it's allowed me to discover Blaster Master Zero which is excelllent!
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  • Avatar for superberg #4 superberg 3 months ago
    I think the game deserves better than 7/10*, but the voice acting isn't great and the weapon breaking mechanic is annoying. I'm loving Breath of the Wild, but it is not above reproach.

    *Can we also agree that video game scoring expectations is outrageous? Why is everything under the top 20 percentile considered utter garbage?
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #5 SargeSmash 3 months ago
    Thank you.

    For the record, I am very much enjoying Zelda, but I can't disagree with any of the flaws he mentions in his review. They simply don't bother me enough. But the groundwork has certainly been laid, just as with prior Zelda games, to be universally lauded, and then beaten to oblivion within a few years.

    @photoboy : Blaster Master Zero is indeed fantastic. I finished it up over the weekend.Edited 2 times. Last edited March 2017 by SargeSmash
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #6 ArugulaZ 3 months ago
    Seven is... wow, a pretty low score. I'm not going to put Sterling's head on a pike for that one, but I would like to hear the rationalization for that.

    I'd like to think rabid fanboyishness is something we all outgrow with time (lord knows I had my own phase) but death threats are kind of hard to justify as a youthful indiscretion. If you wouldn't do it in meatspace, you probably shouldn't do it online.
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  • Avatar for jimlufc #7 jimlufc 3 months ago
    Whilst I agree, it's clear that, in a metacritic world, this "jimquisition" guy has probably made thousands of dollars based on the number of hits his review will have generated.

    One review such as this will lead to hundreds of accounts being created on said site. A new reviewer on a site, charged with increasing the number of hits can achieve this with one controversial review of a big game. Bang. Name made for yourself.

    Are we as readers not allowed to challenge the holier than thou gaming media when something looks suspect?
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #8 Kadrom 3 months ago
    Before I clicked on the article my inner thoughts were "life is too short and I'm too old to care about metascores." Amused to see that Nadia echoed my thoughts in much funnier form. Your point about Logan is well received also. Critics in film are much less effusive and much more biting in their criticism and they are allowed to be. This manchild behavior is endemic (but not systemic--Not All Gamers) to the generation that grew up with video games and it's part of why the industry has struggled to be taken seriously in other critical spaces.

    And those are some good cats, Brent
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  • Avatar for jimlufc #9 jimlufc 3 months ago
    You'd also think that as "professional" appraisers of the work of others, these reviewers would be above getting all upset about being criticised themselves.

    All a bit melodramatic from the "journalists".
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #10 NightingaleXP 3 months ago
    @jimlufc Wow, really?

    Getting upset with death threats is unprofessional?

    Get over yourself, this is ridiculous.
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  • Avatar for jimlufc #11 jimlufc 3 months ago
    Clearly nobody justifies death threats, at least I don't, but gaming sites are more than happy to basically monetise metacritic by using it to drive hits to their sites.

    Using controversial reviews of big name exclusives to make a name for yourself or your site is not exactly beyond the realm of possibility.

    Zelda isn't a 7/10 game, literally nobody thinks it is. And allowing this guy to make lots of money and get loads of free exposure without being allowed to challenge him hurts us as consumers more than anyone else.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #12 nadiaoxford 3 months ago
    @jimlufc DDOS attacks are not valid criticism. Emails declaring "Drink bleach you obese [explicitive]" are not criticism. Comments stating "Eat a bullet or go review a cooking game you stupid [c-word]" are not criticism.

    Someone is over-sensitive in these scenarios, and it maaaaay be the people who've anchored their identity to a game's Metacritic performance.
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  • Avatar for swamped #13 swamped 3 months ago
    I've already commented on this issue, which has sadly persisted the entire time I've participated in both video games and their internet communities, many times, both here and IRL and it almost always falls on deaf ears. As I was told on this very site by another user, assholes are everywhere, gaming culture isn't toxic, and its fans don't treat each other any more poorly than any other subculture. I believe the two incidents cited are pretty solid evidence to the contrary but okay. Some people just can't believe these things are happening until it happens to them.

    But for real, I have so many questions about the voice acting. I can't express how freaked out I was to hear English spoken in a Zelda game. I guess I was expecting Hylian? And why is Zelda British?
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  • Avatar for swamped #14 swamped 3 months ago
    @jimlufc He already addressed this on Twitter. His site doesn't have ads, so the influx of traffic isn't resulting in a fat paycheck. And you can ask any artist how well "exposure" pays.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #15 nadiaoxford 3 months ago
    @jimlufc Also, to my knowledge, Jim monetizes almost exclusively through Patreon. He couldn't monetize a Zelda video even if he wanted to, because Nintendo is notorious for making copyright strikes on their content.

    If anything, he risks income by losing Patreon supporters over thinking of Zelda as a 7 out of 10 game.

    And before it comes up again, there is already one person on this comment thread who thinks Jim scored the game *too high.*
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  • Avatar for playertoo #16 playertoo 3 months ago
    @jimlufc Actually, Jim Sterling is fully funded by Patreon. His income is only generated by donations he is given on a monthly basis. He makes very little from YouTube and no money off his site, which is ad-free. He has nothing to gain from putting a "low" score for a game on his web page.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #17 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 months ago
    Just read his review, and I liked it. I don't agree with all of his points, but some I do, albeit not to the same degree. I can see where he's coming from.

    I don't like broccoli, celery actively repels me, and I just can't eat onions, period. Others do and can, and tend to look at me like I have two heads over it. Fact is, everyone resonates with things differently.

    This reminds me of the time years ago that I dared to suggest Ocarina of Time was not, in fact, a perfect game and the be all to end all. It's just never resonated with me for reasons I still don't even fully grasp myself, but the response I got to that was as if I'd committed the ultimate sin.

    And I think this was before Metacritic was even a thing, or they'd just started. Gamerankings was the gauge at the time, and you can believe I cackled with glee as Super Mario Galaxy dethroned it as the highest ranked game.
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  • Avatar for jimlufc #18 jimlufc 3 months ago
    However he "monetises" he still makes money by critiquing the work of others. Pretending that underscoring this game won't result in him gaining respect, exposure and financial support from rabid Sony fans who are fed of all this Zelda hype is naive.

    I don't know whether he did or didn't do it, all I do know is that metacritic allows people to make loads of money and very well known through one outlier review score.

    The idea that one bad egg won't exploit this for personal gain is too far fetched for me.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #19 riderkicker 3 months ago
    I would review FF15 lower than FF13, because if I had to use a review score, I'd have to apply an average number after measuring all the "factors" including graphics and operational stability. But I like the former so much more than the latter for a variety of things that can only be expressed through an impassioned essay. Scores don't mean much anymore, especially when most copies of a game are bought through a weekend release window. You think a 7 would bring down a multi-million dollar game? Sometimes it does, but most of the time, the publisher is laughing their way to the bank because they sold their allotment and trolls are pooping their pants over quibbling.

    I have not seen Jim's review yet, but hey, he might have legitimate criticisms or what not. This could just be a stunt or something. Who cares? People still gonna buy Breath of the Wild bc it's a Nintendo game. Ask me in several years about the game if we fondly remember it or say it's mediocre like Skyward Sword. (That's in my backlog!)
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  • Avatar for Barelyhomosapien #20 Barelyhomosapien 3 months ago
    I've spent 40 hours with botw, so far and i am not quite sure how i feel about it. It's never truly blown me away and i agree with Jim's points that certain features just... get in the way.

    There are times I've stepped away from it and felt relieved, I'm now actively railroading myself to the conclusion so i can say "I'm done with this" without the guilt of not having finished it.

    But i also know it's a great game and I've basically only played it and nothing else since it came out, which is rare these days.

    Also the voice acting is horrendous and i cant believe people are happy to have that voice for Zelda as a thing that exsists

    7/10 sounds right, Ocarina it ain't but definitely better than twilight.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #21 nadiaoxford 3 months ago
    @jimlufc Games writing isn't the Thunderdome you appear to have it pegged as. I've written for more sites than I can count, and not a single one ever came close to suggesting we should low-ball review scores (!!!!SEVEN OUT OF TEN IS NOT LOW!!!!) for the sake of clicks. Putting aside how immoral that is and, believe it or not most editors and writers still have moral standards, it's a dumb strategy. Contrary to belief, sites don't want clicks nearly as much as they want dedicated readers who will visit daily and read several articles. Pitchfork mobs don't do anything of the sort.

    Reviewers are human beings. They don't relish in the personal attacks that follow a controversial review. People want to believe game reviewers are part of a massive ongoing scandal to cozy up to publishers, or "fish for clicks" (the accusations change according to the accusers' needs), but I'm sorry to tell you Jim didn't think Zelda is worth higher than a seven.

    Sorry for the boring answer, but it really IS that simple.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #22 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @riderkicker

    Skyward Sword: not mediocre, actually really great!

    You: bust it out of that backlog!

    Me: good job!
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  • Avatar for jimlufc #23 jimlufc 3 months ago
    I can see what you're saying.

    But the reality is that gaming sites are happy to use metacritic to generate traffic and seem to be happy enough to reduce their thoughts on a game to a single digit number.

    They're playing the commercial game all the time so it's not a huge leap from that to using a review to make a name for yourself. Like has been said before, gamers tend to be a tribal bunch so anyone generating an angry mob is likely to have also gained a lot of new fans too.
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  • Avatar for manoffeeling #24 manoffeeling 3 months ago
    I mean, honestly, videogame reviewers should be pretty glad if anybody cares enough to comment on their reviews at all, right? I'm not even interested enough to click on the link to that guy's review, so it's like...would he, or any reviewer, prefer to just be completely ignored?Edited March 2017 by manoffeeling
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  • Avatar for descent303 #25 descent303 3 months ago
    @nadiaoxford ""Drink bleach you obese [explicitive]" are not criticism. Comments stating "Eat a bullet or go review a cooking game you stupid [c-word]" are not criticism."

    They're also not death threats. Saying you hope someone dies is not nice, but it's not a threat. Ayaan Hirsi Ali gets death threats, Jim Sterling gets DDOSD. I agree with you broadly that people should tone it back a bit, and thoroughly agree with the sentiment that reviewers can give "good" games bad scores (or not perfect in this case) for very legitimate reasons. I am a bit sick of everyone claiming that their life is in danger because someone tells them to eff off and die though.
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #26 StrwbrryJams 3 months ago
    I'd love to see the industry do away with scores in general. I feel that they rarely add to the writing.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #27 SuperShinobi 3 months ago
    I like to think that the people at video game companies at least indirectly love us gamers, even though they know few of us personally. Many of them are and have been gamers themselves, love games, think that they are awesome and hence have chosen gaming as their career. It's this love of video games that binds us. That's true especially on the game development side of things. And as artists, they care about how their work is received critically - it's definitely not all about the money. Even some of the execs are genuinely pretty passionate about gaming, like Shu Yoshida or Phil Spencer for example.

    Sometimes you can really feel the love, like during the 2015 E3 conference of dreams, when Sony announced The Last Guardian and Shenmue 3 for the PS4. Both insignificant games from a commercial perspective, maybe even games that don't make sense from a profit perspective, but hugely significant from a Playstation fan perspective, from an artistic perspective and from the perspective of gaming history.

    So I definitely want to dispute the notion that there is no love involved between gamers and game companies / game creators. To avoid making my post overlong, I'll only briefly touch on the subject of disagreeing with reviewers. I think disagreeing with civilized comments should definitely be allowed, but obviously insults and other kinds of attacks should be off-limits.

    As for MetaCritic, it's become kind of important, as it's the only hope that we have for any kind of objectivity in judging a game's quality. Without review aggregators like MetaCritic, it's all just individual opinions or individual reviews, which often vary wildly from person to person. Sales are an unreliable indicator of quality too - as when Viewtiful Joe and Okami flopped commercially.Edited March 2017 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #28 nadiaoxford 3 months ago
    @swamped I'd love to know why the voice acting in Nintendo's games is so inconsistent. Like, BOTW isn't BAD in any regard, and I think Zelda's "downcast" performance is fitting, given everything she goes through. But the voice actors in Fire Emblem Awakening are excellent (the meeting between Lucina and Chrom still gets me), and BOTW doesn't reach that bar.

    You'd think Nintendo would want to maintain that standard with one of their biggest game releases in ages. I dunno!
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #29 nadiaoxford 3 months ago
    @SuperShinobi This is a fair assessment. I definitely agree individual people take a lot of pride in the games they work on, and I don't envision CEOs sitting on a pile of money and laughing at us. There's a corporate side to games, of course, but there's also a human side ... and I don't think either side is a big fan of these fandom wars. ;P
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  • Avatar for manoffeeling #30 manoffeeling 3 months ago
    @SuperShinobi I think it's sort of folly to look at an aggregate score and decide, this is a good game, and I should play it. Like with this whole topic: BotW is ALMOST universally considered a great game, but to this guy Jim, it's just a 7. Finding reviewers with subjective opinions with whom you're likely to agree is worth more than an "objective" score that might not really mean anything to you.
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  • Avatar for Robozot #31 Robozot 3 months ago
    The thing to accept about the online gaming community is how amazingly conformist it can be. Relative to other subcultures it seems highly subservient to brand identities, is deeply insecure about its self worth, and prey to a massive groupthink.

    This metacritic kerfuffle and the crazy comments about the HZD review confirm this - step out of line and you may well be punished.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #32 Roto13 3 months ago
    FUN FACT: On Metacritic's green/yellow/red scale for positive/mixed/negative reviews for movies, yellow/mixed is between 40 and 60. For games, it's between 50 and 74, because nobody uses the lower half of the scale when reviewing games. To gamers, anything less than an 8 might as well be a 4 or a 5.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #33 Roto13 3 months ago
    @nadiaoxford Everyone in BotW is some somewhere between 1/5 and 1/2 British and it's super weird to me.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #34 LBD_Nytetrayn 3 months ago
    @jimlufc "The idea that one bad egg won't exploit this for personal gain is too far fetched for me."

    I think that just because someone has a differing/lower opinion of something than the majority means they're a bad egg is far fetched as well.

    And before you say that isn't what you're saying, it really kind of is when there's only one specimen to speak of and you make it sound like because there aren't other lower scores, it has to be him.
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #35 presidentcamacho 3 months ago
    Hell hath no fury like a scorned nerd with an internet connection.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #36 link6616 3 months ago
    A lot of people bring up the voice acting...

    Maybe I've played too many games with poor voice acting... but it all seems really solid? The voices all communicate the characters well, appropriately passionate. There is a part of me that wonder's if the issues are with use of non american voices as most non american/japanese voice casts seem to consistently get rated lower it seems...

    Although that's far off the topic of this article.
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  • Avatar for NightingaleXP #37 NightingaleXP 3 months ago
    @link6616 I dunno how I'd describe Mipha's voice, exactly, but "passionate" ain't it >>

    I more or less agree with you otherwise, though.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #38 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @link6616 I don't mind the voice acting either. I think it's fine. It's not exactly award winning, but I also don't notice it in a negative way. I think it's fine. Maybe people are expecting more than fine from a game where everything else is amazing?
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #39 WiIIyTheAntelope 3 months ago
    @superberg Because all the sites don't actually rate on a 1-10 scale, in reality it's a 7-10 scale. With 7 being average and anything below that getting reserved for utterly broken or unplayable trash.

    As for Jim, I generally like his reviews, but he's been tending towards doing outrageous things, and then complaining about people complaining about his wacky stunts for a long time. It doesn't shock me that he's at the center of this.
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  • Avatar for patrickchaffin87 #40 patrickchaffin87 3 months ago
    "It's currently sitting at a collective 92%--a very high score for a movie, but a number that would be considered quite low for an entry in the Zelda series, but let's not get into that just yet."

    Ok but yeah, let's get into that. I find it fascinating that while all other media reviews tend to use the whole scale, most (not all, notablly US Gamer, well done you) game reviewers only use 5-10 or the equivalent. It's so silly. Because games have both an artistic and mechanical portion, it's almost like scores less than 5 are saved for games that are unplayable. That by merely being something that can be experienced from beginning to end automatically gets a game a 5.

    Oh well. I find it fascinating, but ultimately useless. If I'm on the fence about a game, I'll check reviews, mainly from people I trust. Otherwise, if I want to get Persona 5 for example, probably no amount of mediocre reviews would keep me away from it.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #41 link6616 3 months ago
    @NightingaleXP "appropriately passionate" was my choice of phrase. I don't know, Sidon struck me as the odd man out in being a passionate Zora. So, I felt Mipha's passive flowyiness worked with the character for the little time we spend with her.

    (side note Sidon will be a formative crush for many people growing up on Breath of the Wild)
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #42 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    I agree with the overall sentiment of this article. It'd be nice if people would just stop being jerks... if they'd just realize that it's not constructive to unleash your anger in immature tirades or DDOS attacks. It'd be nice if people realized that dissenting opinions are normal and healthy. But simply saying this won't change anything, unfortunately. On the internet especially, people will continue to be jerks as long as they have that shield of anonymity.

    So what do we do about this? There's not much we can do, directly. You can go after the people who DDOSes, and death threats can be reported to Twitter. But angry comments and tweets are just part of being on the internet, unfortunately.

    So why don't we see the same thing in film criticism? Well we do, but it tends to be on a smaller scale. You'll still see a lot of negativity in comments sections, but huge backlashes against a single critic are pretty uncommon. For one thing I think film criticism tends to be bolder. Dissent is very common among film critics. There's practically no movie with universal 100% praise, and you often see a wide spread of review scores. People are just used to their favorite movies being trashed by critics, it's normal. And for that reason, you never see a huge outcry over a single review because people are just too used to it. Dissenting reviews tend to get lost in the shuffle.

    Contrast that to game criticism where very often the scale only goes from 7-10, and high profile games are treated as if they are entitled to at least an 8. What's amazing about the backlash against Jim's review is that it's over a 7/10. A 7!! Just imagine if he'd give it a 6!! This ought to tell you something about how gamers' expectations of review scores are different from movie-goers.

    So if you want my (unconventional) opinion, the real antidote to this problem is more honestly. More brutal honesty. If you as a reviewer do not like a game, don't use kid gloves. Never feel like a game is entitled to at least an 8 / 10 just because the budget was big, or the graphics are amazing. Don't be afraid to give it the score you feel it deserves, even if it's a 2 / 10. Let's start using the whole scale, and let's start being harsher. Let's embrace dissent and make negative reviews normal. I think what you'll see is that huge backlashes like this will start to die down, contrary to what you might expect.

    But that's just me!Edited March 2017 by brionfoulke91
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  • Avatar for PaladinCecilftw #43 PaladinCecilftw 3 months ago
    It stings perhaps...but when has a game not received some form of ya know "did I just see what I think I did?", game writing ? I would say no game has ever really been beyond some form of reproach. This criticism was going to manifest *somehow*. Knowing that, why get worked up? You were enjoying it before, right? Granted, games have always seemed to be a "communal activity" (let's just say that), with people's opinions tied to, even back in the day, that of the critics and the reverse. But. There's gotta be a line of demarcation, right? If you put so much stock into criticism, especially when it appears arbitrary (as this does), well you're just sucking the fun out of the game are you not?Edited 5 times. Last edited March 2017 by PaladinCecilftw
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  • Avatar for Glowei #44 Glowei 3 months ago
    7/10 isn't low, but gamers by and large often think they have glorious golden assholes and their $60 is somehow so special that anything that isn't 10/10 is utter shit and worth becoming the worst of humanity to advocate.
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  • Avatar for Glowei #45 Glowei 3 months ago
    @link6616 Sidon is basically the closest to a sexy dream boat beyond Link we'll ever get in the series. So we'll ride the wave until it jumps the shark.
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  • Avatar for Glowei #46 Glowei 3 months ago
    @swamped It's very common in Japanese culture, when translating certain levels of "honorific" tone, verbiage, and poise, to associate it with medieval and European dialect. They likely felt that a British voice for Zelda added the contrast that felt like royalty.

    For example, this is why Frog, in Chrono Trigger, had an obvious "old English" accent while most other characters from the same era didn't. Even though the time period aspect made it an obvious choice, his role as a "knight" asserted a certain level of respectful words in his dialog that needed to stand out, but don't translate well.Edited March 2017 by Glowei
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  • Avatar for Glowei #47 Glowei 3 months ago
    @PaladinCecilftw

    I feel the fact that two people have the power to mutate a score that otherwise unanimous represents a much bigger problem than whether or not the game deserved their reviews.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #48 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    @Glowei No I disagree, I think the problem is the opposite: review scores are much too unanimous. There should be more variation and dissent. Look at Rotten Tomatoes... it's incredibly rare for movies to get 100%. Very few even get in the 90s.

    The fact that game reviews tend to only use the 7-10 part of the score is because traditionally game reviewers tended to be a bit too on the safe side. I think we need to encourage them to ignore pressure from various sources and just gives scores they honestly feel are right. Harshness and dissent should be praised!
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  • Avatar for Glowei #49 Glowei 3 months ago
    @brionfoulke91 I can respect that you feel that way, but I don't agree. I feel they try to be contrary for the sole merit of it. They don't feel like edifying reviews. Praising people just for saying the opposite of others is a pretty bad system, in my opinion.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #50 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    @nadiaoxford Great article Nadia. It all feels a bit hopeless sometimes, but its definitely worth trying to change minds now and then. And of course, your work (and everyone else on the site) is really highly valued by the vast majority of your readers. So thanks!
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #51 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    @Glowei I understand what you're saying. We don't want them to be contrary just to get attention. That doesn't lead to honest reviews. I agree with that.

    However, think about it from another perspective. Isn't it odd that that reviewers all tend to agree with each other? You see a lot more disparate points of view in film critics, and other media. If you talk to normal people, you see a big variety of points of view. Even with a really awesome new game like Zelda, I've already talked to multiple people who it doesn't appeal to. There's multiple of them in this very comments thread. I don't think those people are lying, or just trying to be contrary.

    I think the lock-step nature of game reviewers is a sign that they are not being totally honest. It's a sign they're caving into various forms of pressure. This creates an environment where a reviewer can be a lone voice of dissent and get attention for it. But imagine if everyone were honest and review scores were more varied. Then a review like Jim's wouldn't stand out as much, and there'd be less controversy. Then there'd be no reason to be contrary just for the sake of getting attention, because you wouldn't really get attention to it.
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  • Avatar for repeater #52 repeater 3 months ago
    Great article, Nadia! It's a sad and crazy thing a piece like this even NEEDS to be written, but here we are.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #53 Modern-Clix 3 months ago
    Great article, Nadia! I agree entirely. This type of attitude is awful, as we witnessed on this very site with the Horizon review.

    It's just a waste of energy to be honest. It's video games. It's a fun hobby, not serious serious business.

    I disagree with Jim Sterling's review. Honestly, in general I have a lot of problems with Jim Sterling. To me, he is at the other extreme of the enthusiasts. He is a reactionary man child who loves the sound of his own voice, filled with pretentious self indulangence, and is apt to throw childish tantrums. In other words, if NeoGaf had a baby, it would be Jim Sterling in all of its own hyperbolic glory.

    But guess what? I don't like his personality and think he is an asshole (as evident by his follow up video that he already had conveniently ready), but you know what? That is why I don't watch his videos or go to his site. Simple, right?! I don't get worked up about it. I choose to not engage and move on. Jim Sterling is just a person and no one should behave that way towards someone else.

    Also, guess what? At the same time Jim is looking for reactionary behavior because he himself is reactionary, so by trolling him in such a way, you're just fueling his fire. So everybody chill. Best way to say you disagree outside of CIVIL discourse? Ignore him. Simple.

    I know the type of writing and criticism I want, and that is why I love this site, which is filled with nuanced essays, both serious and humorous, by a diverse group of people.

    Video games, am I right?!
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  • Avatar for TerryDonnyJrSr #54 TerryDonnyJrSr 3 months ago
    Is there a more baseless threat than the internet death threat? Just ignore them or atleast don't go public with them, it just provokes those idiots further. I never understood why people do that.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #55 yuberus 3 months ago
    @TerryDonnyJrSr Most people do ignore them, but that's not like it makes them go away or wear down your psyche. Functionally I'm not sure it makes a difference how much shit gets slung at you whether or not you publicly shame the people making these comments or not.

    And internet threats are only baseless until they aren't. The past couple months should probably have made that clear, if all the mass shootings over the past few years didn't.
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #56 kingaelfric 3 months ago
    @Glowei You say that "I feel the fact that two people have the power to mutate a score that otherwise unanimous represents a much bigger problem than whether or not the game deserved their reviews."

    Surely that's a problem of Metacritic, rather than the actual reviewers? I find the argument that people should be constrained in their writing because they might have adverse effects upon an aggregating metric to be tough to buy. Thanks.
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  • Avatar for superberg #57 superberg 3 months ago
    @WiIIyTheAntelope But that scale is off, and leaves far too much room for trash. If 1-6 are all entirely unplayable garbage, the scale is actually 6 through 10, or logically, 1 through 5.

    1 - bad
    2 - bad
    3 - bad
    4 - bad
    5 - bad
    6 - bad
    7 - okay
    8 - good
    9 - great
    10 - amazing

    See that? 1-5 are all wastes. Hence my argument: the scale is useless. If 1 - 6 all mean the same thing, they can easily use the same number. If it's an issue of gaming metacritic, well, that's a sad state of the industry, as films don't get held to the same standard. A 77-rated game is an abysmal failure. A 77-rated film is still well-regarded: Logan, The Princess Bride, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, for example.Edited March 2017 by superberg
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #58 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @Modern-Clix preach. I hate Jim Sterling too. But that's why I don't read or watch his stuff. I dislike a lot of the gaming press honestly, but there are so many of them that once you find the ones you like you don't have to pay attention to the other 97, you just have the 2 or 3 you like.

    It sucks that people react with insults and death threats to people but there's also a reason why I stick to the same handful of sites: lots of voices out there and I don't need to hear or respect them all.
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  • Avatar for dnard410 #59 dnard410 3 months ago
    @Modern-Clix, funny you say that. I hadn't read or watched any of Jim's stuff before reading this article, but I'm actually finding him to be surprisingly fair in his reviews. When he likes something, he positively gushes. Even when he gives a game a poor review, like BotW or Last Guardian, he seems to go out of his way to emphasize positives.

    Totally agree with @ brionfoulke91. Jim's use of the rating scale also seems more appropriate than what most reviewers use. Jim seems perfectly willing to score a "good" game an 7 because he acknowledges that it isn't perfect (and he does find plenty of things to like about BotW). I appreciate that not everybody jumps on board the hype train. In fact, before BotW came out, I remarked to a friend that Zelda games always get ridiculous high scores from reviewers, so it's best to wait for the hype to die down before evaluating the game. I read a lot of comments basically implying that the game was entitled to at least a 9 because it was a Zelda or Nintendo game. Remember how many reviewers claimed Skyward Sword was a masterpiece? Nowadays, the consensus seems to be that it was a serious misstep.Edited March 2017 by dnard410
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  • Avatar for TernBird #60 TernBird 3 months ago
    All this really makes me miss EGM's review scale. It was 1 - 10, but 5 was 'average'--a game that was neither technically impressive nor technically lacking. But that drove people up the wall. People flocked to GameInformer's nonsense where a 7 was an average because a 7 was like a C grade, and everything under that was varying degrees of dreadful. It always struck me as some games journalists not having a good eye for criticism above "THIS RUNS UNREAL ENGINE", though I want to underline that this doesn't invalidate their opinion of a game. Just means they lack the ability to voice it coherently, that's a skill.

    But, uh, yeah. Zelda. Woof. What a mess this is. Crap like this is why I basically cringe every time I look at gaming culture. People only look to gaming as an artform when it bolsters their own ego (i.e., "Bioshock Infinite gave me FEEEELZ"), not when it requires actual self-examination ("Dude, Bioshock Infinite is just a game, just play it and don't think about it!"). I can't abide by that, and I hate that some gamers want that.

    I studied journalism. I may not have worked in games journalism at any point, but I have worked in two seperate publications. It really pisses me off that gamers think journalists are out to get them, because what do they think EA is going to do when they're completely unchecked? You won't suddenly be able to have sex with Veronika Silvstead, Playmate of the Year, because Polygon is dead. Xbone would've gotten away with its ridiculous DRM if journalists hadn't raised a stink about it. But nope, our golden goose of a game has been tarnished by someone voicing an opinion--gotta kill the entire industry so we can just glurge on content. That's what the medium is all about!

    It's the most tiresome thing, and people build these most ridiculous, elaborate conspiracies just to avoid believing that maybe there are some flaws to their beloved game and that's okay because not everything is perfect.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #61 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @dnard410 I think part of it is a tone or attitude that draws or repels people. I can't stand Jim. But give me anything written by Jeremy Parish and I read it over twice and I still don't know how to respond to him sometimes other than "that was great, thank you!"

    I don't like Jim Sterling as a critic, but hate the people insulting him or making death threats. No one should deal with that. There's room for all sorts of criticism. There are nearly 90 reviews for Breath of the Wild and I've read 3 of them: USgamer, Time, Glixel. I can't stand Kotaku, GameSpot, IGN and so many other places. But that's the beauty of having so many options: you pick the ones you like and stick with them.
    @TernBird mentioned missing the EGM scale, and it's funny because I still follow all of those guys on Twitter even if they aren't critiquing games anymore: they're the voices I want to hear most.

    I think we find the tone and attitude from people we like the most and gravitate towards them. Jeremy Parish isn't here at USgamer anymore but I ended up loving the crew assembled here and read their content as often as I can.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #62 SargeSmash 3 months ago
    @dnard410 : I still think Skyward Sword is fantastic, actually. It's a very different game than Breath of the Wild, but is very fun in its own dungeon-centric way.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #63 NiceGuyNeon 3 months ago
    @SargeSmash LOOOOOOVE Skyward Sword. Ancient Cistern, Lanayru Sandsea, Koloktos, Ghirahim, best characterization in the series.

    Skyward Sword embodies the hero's journey better than any Zelda. It shows Link's struggles as he rises up to become the hero. He isn't just the chosen one, he has to earn it more than in any other game in the series.

    Breath of the Wild is fantastic but you don't experience that journey in-game like in Skyward Sword. That game is it's own kind of awesome.
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  • Avatar for Modern-Clix #64 Modern-Clix 3 months ago
    I think personally BoTW is great, and disagree with Jim. But as I have said before, I'm too busy enjoying the game to care what he thinks about it. It is whatever to me.

    Also, it was not even a poor score.

    I will be honest, I am a huge Zelda fan and I was actually worried up until launch weekend that I wasn't going to like it because I'm a traditional Zelda person. It was a delightful surprise to me. My favorite in the series are Wind Waker, Between Worlds, and Majora's Mask, so this was a radical shake up to me leading up to it and hell, even now when I play it.

    I just don't like open world games like other people do. Closest I came to was Skyrim and I played Skyrim for over 40 hours and still it never warmed up to me like it did other people.

    But this game clicked for me. And I think the reason you are seeing a lot of love for this game is that it is clicking with people who normally hate those types of games. So once I'm done with Zelda I'm going to give the Remastered edition of Skyrim a go (and I bought it in January despite having it on PS3 and giving up on it).
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  • Avatar for dnard410 #65 dnard410 3 months ago
    @NiceGuyNeon, I've only read the reviews on the website, not watched the videos, so maybe there's something about Jim's tone that doesn't come through in his written reviews. I agree that he's certainly no Jeremy Parish, but he also seems eminently, if brutally, fair in his reviews.
    @SargeSmash, I'm sure some people do like Skyward Sword, but they seem to be in the minority nowadays. I personally felt burned by all the positive Skyward Sword reviews. I bought the game for Wii and was excited by all the 10/10 reviews, but it turned out to be one of my worst gaming experiences ever. Nowadays it seems like most gaming sites - including USG - consider SS to be one of the worst of the 3D Zelda games. That quick turn in popular perception of a game certainly isn't what you'd expect for a game that upon release got a 93 on metacritic at the time of release. I'm waiting at least another 6 months to see how critics really feel about BotW once the hype dies down.
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  • Avatar for Thad #66 Thad 3 months ago
    @jimlufc: Are you under the impression that bandwidth is free? Because, fun fact, a guy who has just had his site DDOSed has *not* actually made money at it; in fact, he's just *lost* what is probably a considerable amount.

    Additionally, how many Patreon subscribers do you suppose he's picking up while, you know, his website is down?
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  • Avatar for swamped #67 swamped 3 months ago
    @nadiaoxford Yeah I think this is a good way to put it. It seems inferior by comparison, not so much in a vacuum. My voice acting standards are pretty low having lived through 90s anime dubs but the quality has improved so vastly across the board that it's easy to feel spoiled now.
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  • Avatar for swamped #68 swamped 3 months ago
    @Glowei Wow, I did not know that. That's really interesting. I thought a little further about it and realized this is also something that's done in US adaptations of fantasy works. I.e. all the fantasy races in LOTR and GOT speak with British accents too. So it does make sense in that context.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #69 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    It would also be nice if people didn't take scores so seriously, because what actually matters in a review is information contained within. But we do have to accept the reality that scores do matter to people. A lot of people.

    Whether they matter or not, review scores aren't a problem in and of themselves. The only problem is if they're not honest. The idea of assigning a number towards your feeling to a game is not a bad idea, but if it's skewed by community pressure then it defeats it's own purpose. That's why I say that we need to encourage more reviewers to be bold, and review the game with the scores they honestly feel it deserves. That can only be good for the gaming community.

    And that doesn't mean we can't get angry about it if we disagree, or criticize. Criticism can be a positive thing. If a review score gets us talking about the game and expressing out own opinions, that's healthy. But we just need to keep in mind that there's room for different opinions.

    That goes both ways. Readers, even if you're criticizing a review, be respectful. That helps your criticism will carry more weight anyway. And don't take it too personally that reviewers aren't always gonna give scores you don't like. Reviewers, whenever you give a score whether it's popular or unpopular, do your best to be informed and articulate it well, and maybe be a little ready to back up your opinion. Or take corrections if it's appropriate. A little bit of controversy over your review is also okay and can be a healthy thing if it's encouraging discussion in the community. But above all that, don't be discouraged if you get negative feedback on your review. Your responsibility first and foremost is to be honest, not to cave to pressure! And as long as you're doing that, you're doing the right thing. Keep it up!
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  • Avatar for TernBird #70 TernBird 3 months ago
    @brionfoulke91 This makes a lot of sense.

    Like, look at Earthbound. Nobody would deny that the Earthbound experience is profound and emotional. But actually playing Earthbound? Not so much. Outside of the rolling pedometer HP bars, the game itself is rather bare-bones and tiresome (with some unfair difficulty curves early on). It's still a very well-crafted game, but one that's more fun to experience than play.

    How the high-flying Hades do you summarize that in a numerical value? How CAN you?

    My thoughts once again turn to 1Up.com. Once the writing was on the wall for them, they forewent scored reviews. The last review posted on that site, IIRC, was Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon Rising. No score, just a long diatribe written up on how it felt to play that game that said way more than any score did.

    But nope, gamers need that number to feel good about the merchandise they invested in because.... *shrug*.

    When people look back on the fandom boom of the '10s, there's going to have to be a lot of discussion of the shallow materialism and consumerism disguised as emotional significance.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #71 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    @TernBird Well I don't really agree with what you're saying about Earthbound, I think it holds up brilliantly in every aspect. But that also goes to my point that dissenting opinions exist for every game, even classics. I even know a guy who doesn't like Chrono Trigger. So it's not hard to believe people can dislike the new Zelda.

    But to your main point: how to take the totality of your experience with a game and assign it a number? Certainly it seems ludicrous to do so, on it's face. But review scores are demanded by the public, so it's the job of a reviewer is to do so, and to explain in depth why they gave it that score. This seems arbitrary in itself, but I believe it can be productive. The number itself doesn't matter; what matters is the information that comes from that score. And in having to put thought into that number, and thought into explaining it and defending it, it forces the reviewers to self-examine their own feelings and to try to explain it. And that's where the true value of the review comes from: self examination. The better we understand why a reviewer feels a certain way, the more useful the review. Even if we disagree with the reviewer, if their point of view is well defended then we ultimately come away from it enriched.Edited March 2017 by brionfoulke91
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  • Avatar for dnard410 #72 dnard410 3 months ago
    @brionfoulke91, I mostly agree about review scores, but find them helpful for two reasons. First, I sometimes use them to gauge if I should buy a game that I'm interested in without getting into too many spoilers. For example, I am tempted to buy Mass Effect: Andromeda and like the ME series. I'm not going to read reviews that might spoil the game. However, if the game consistently gets 5/10s from reviewers I trust, I might not buy the game on Day One.

    Numerical scores also make it a bit easier to compare reviewers across games. A review about Dark Souls is probably going to be very different from a review about Portal because they're different games, but a number score can at least be compared as a measure of how much the person playing enjoyed the game.

    Now, of course, the content of the review is more important than the number, and numbers can't replace well written reviews, but I don't think we should get rid of numbers completely. Rather, I'd like to see reviewers actually use the full spectrum of the numerical scale so the numbers actually mean something.
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  • Avatar for duvjones #73 duvjones 3 months ago
    @superberg "*Can we also agree that video game scoring expectations is outrageous? Why is everything under the top 20 percentile considered utter garbage?"

    That has been a LONG standing discussion among gaming review/news outlets for a while now. I doubt that usgamer has never had that talk about it's own system, but that said, I personally consider subjective reviews to defined by a number score to be a farce. You can't put a definitive number value on something that varies so wildly from review to review.
    That is what I think anyway.
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #74 Vonlenska 3 months ago
    I still can't load Jim Sterling's review. I mean, I'm sure it's cached somewhere and I could look at that, but I'm not a fan of Sterling generally, I'm just sort of curious both to read a more critical review and curious to see when I can even load that review.

    I've always found numeric rating scales and the at times terrifying mob-action temper tantrums they inspire when only marginally lower than "100% 10/10 ***** Perfect" pretty ridiculous, too. Art is never going to reach a unanimous consensus on how "good" a thing is on any given arbitrary scale. Every work has strengths and flaws, and it's more interesting to talk about both of those than to relegate everything to discussion-and-criticism-free extremes of "THE BEST EVER" and "UTTER GARBAGE."
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #75 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    @duvjones You CAN put a number on them. Just gotta remember that the number is just as subjective as the words and opinions. As an expression of how the reviewer felt, a rating can be interesting for various reasons.
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  • Avatar for Mixingmetaphorsoup #76 Mixingmetaphorsoup 3 months ago
    100/10 I agree completely. The only problem, of course, is that if someone is insane enough to send death threats and DDOS a reviewer, they're probably not going to listen to reason.
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  • Avatar for Belderiver #77 Belderiver 3 months ago
    The recent comments on USG's Horizon review really opened my eyes to this problem. I realized that I had gotten angry and reacted the same way to negative reviews in the past, and I honestly don't know why. It's misguided to think that a negative review of a game will tarnish your experience in any way.

    Also, the obsession with Metacritic scores is baffling to me. BotW is sitting at 97 right now. That's an amazing score for a game, but people are upset because it's not at 98?
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #78 brionfoulke91 3 months ago
    @Mixingmetaphorsoup It's not even so much that they're "insane," as much as they are probably assuming they won't get caught. Anonymity brings out the worst in people.
    @Belderiver Well, what gets me passionate enough to criticize a review is when I'm worried that review scores will legitimately effect that game's future. With ZHD or Zelda, one or two negative reviews aren't gonna hurt it's bottom line at all. With some more niche or indiegames that maybe aren't getting the attention they deserve, (like the really good Yokai Watch games, for example) a negative review and a weak metacritic score can be fatal. That's when I get passionate and I get a little up in arms about a review, especially if I feel it's unfair.
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  • Avatar for MyNameIsMe #79 MyNameIsMe 3 months ago
    Deleted March 2017 by MyNameIsMe
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  • Avatar for Belderiver #80 Belderiver 3 months ago
    @brionfoulke91 Fair enough. I can understand where you're coming from on niche/indie titles.
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  • Avatar for duvjones #81 duvjones 3 months ago
    @brionfoulke91
    The problem that I have with that is that once you put a number to something, it looks, by the nature of most numbers, definitive.

    It doesn't matter if it a percentage, fractional, or whole number. Once you have a value assigned, it tends to stick.
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  • Avatar for spikerules1980 #82 spikerules1980 2 months ago
    To be honest his opinion is as valid as everyone else's, but that doesn't make his scored opinion right. It's just his opinion, and in my humble opinion the score he gave the game does not reflect the criticism he gave the game in his text.

    Even the review sites that dislike the weapons mechanic universally agree it is in no way a deal breaker and certainly not a reason to dock 3 points off the score.

    He seems to have a invalid reason for the number. Does that mean he should be getting death threats and abuse? Heck no, but the DDOS is pretty funny. Not sure how this keeps happening to him. It's happened before so you'd think he Ltd pay for more stringent measures to protect his site? But then again this is good publicity for him...
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