The Right To Disagree And The Reasons Why Your Mum Is Wrong

The internet truly has the potential and capacity to bring out the best in us, but all too often I look at the latest news, the juicy new piece of gossip, and all I see are bitterness and anger over something that’s so trivial and subjective that it beggars belief. What’s stuck in my mind most recently are the repeated bad reactions to videogame reviews and their scores.

It’s a trend that started a few years ago, with a frankly bizarre call from some quarters for game reviews to be less opinion based and more (absolutely) objective, but that’s a position that’s inherently flawed. Some things can be reviewed in a purely detached, objective fashion, like the brightness and uniformity of a TV’s backlight or the vibrancy of its colours, videogames just don’t work like that.

No, rather they’re an expression of creativity, whether they come from a single person or a team of hundreds. There is so much that is left open to interpretation by the player as a consequence, and so much that comes down to your individual tastes. If you dislike motorsports, then a new F1 game earning a 6/10 is practically meaningless to you, but coming from the opposite angle, such a judgement can mean an awful lot when it comes from an informed perspective.

Yet people jump to conclusions all too soon and make snap judgements well before a game’s release. Just look at how publicly negative the reaction to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has been, a game where we’ve seen less than three minutes of footage. And yet there are those who think that it’s good and healthy for the series to look for and try out different ideas, regardless of its heritage.

When your opinion as a reviewer diverges from the norm, that can come into conflict with a fan’s preconcieved notions and a sense of loyalty to a corporate entity. It doesn’t even have to diverge in a major way, as we found out a fortnight ago. Videogamer said that Uncharted 4 was a good and strong end to the series when they gave it an 8/10, while IGN’s only real issue was that of a drawn out third act on their way to an 8.8/10 – now a 9.0 after reviewing the multiplayer more fully. Those are good scores, but simply by virtue of not giving the game a 10/10 and finding flaws in it, both received a lot of angry comments from all angles.

When you’re given a degree of anonymity within an echo chamber that can amplify the voices of those who share a similar opinion, it can very easily lead to this toxic atmosphere. It can be easy to laugh some of it off – I used to regularly joke about not knowing how to play Destiny properly, and Videogamer’s “apology” for their Uncharted 4 review is a masterpiece – but that’s never going to solve the root issue.

It’s highlighted almost perfectly by the latest reactionary movement, with a petition on to have a bad review from The Washington Post removed from Metacritic. It ostensibly has noble intentions, with the Metacritic score having dropped from 94 to 93 as a consequence and the unseemly practice of developer pay bonuses being tied to certain aggregate score thresholds. It can just as easily turn from this into calling for a reviewers head, in a metaphorical sense. That’s simply not on, even if they’re laughable attempts to sway a company’s stance and the acts of a small but loud minority.

There is, however, the occasional glimmer of hope. Paradox Interactive’s Stellaris has been well received by a lot of reviewers and by a lot of their fans, but a number of reviews found some rather fundamental failings. In particular, Rowan Kaiser’s 6.3/10 review for IGN found itself in the crossfire from fans who disagreed with the reviewer’s opinion. For a company that prides itself on the communities they can build around their games, that simply wasn’t on for Paradox, who took the quite exceptional step of responding to this negativity.

You should read their statement in full, but they said, “we’d like to go on record and say that we value the freedoms of critics to make any review they see fit. It’s best for the consumer and, ultimately, best for us. Although we may in some cases disagree or be disappointed by a review, this doesn’t detract from the fact that reviewers should have absolute freedom to give their own opinions of a game, free from external duress of any kind.”

Most importantly, they concluded by saying, “We have no hard feelings to Rowan, and we would really appreciate it if others wouldn’t elect to have them on our behalf!” And as I sit here trying to funnel my thoughts into a conclusion of some sort, perhaps this is the best lesson to take away from it all and the one that needs to sink in for this vocal minority. You might disagree with a review, but you shouldn’t let that disagreement boil over into anger, let alone hatred or indeed the dark side.

Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!


  1. Everyone pretty much needs to grow up if they have a problem with other people’s opinions. If that happened, this would all end in an instant.

    • Yes, if I dislike something, I will ignore it, move on, vote with my wallet etc, not complain.

    • That’s your opinion.

      • I see what you did there. Smart arse. :D

  2. Metacritic. It averages reviews done on different scales. Those at the extreme ends of the reviews then stick out (mainly the bottom end), and attract attention.

    But then you can argue that Metacritic is useful as it should cancel extremes out. I also don’t have any realistic better way than it is now.

    I would say user scores are more representative but that’s potentially open to more abuse. If Metacritic user reviews required verification that you have actually played the game, then that would be great.

    At the end of the day it’s folly because you are qualitatively reviewing a game, then giving it a quantitative number. That’s where the disagreements come from really. But I don’t think you can give a 100 point check sheet to give it a score.

    • I’ve noticed a few sites have stopped putting scores at the end of their reviews, maybe it’s the way of the future…?

      • Only problem there is, everyone starts inventing scores based on the review, but out of 3. The reviews basically just come down to “yes”, “no” or “maybe”.

  3. Obviously, the first thing I do when I read a review and it only gets 8/10 is think “Why does this person think it’s so shit? Who do I complain to? Nobody? Fine. Can I whine about it on the internet instead?”

    As for that Stellaris case, they gave it 6.3. Which is a sort of “above average, worth it if you like that sort of thing”. But everyone’s favourite internet hate group got all upset because of some paranoid conspiracy theory bollocks. Or because the score was different or something. It’s all about ethics in everyone fiddling the scores to all be the same.

    • From what I have read, most of the negative opinions of stellaris are from people who played a lot of Paradox’s previous games and object to this games more “newbie” friendly approach (as someone who has bounced off their other games repeatedly and am loving this game, I have nothing but praise for it)..

      Interestingly, the negative posts on it all seem to contain the belief that it will get better, mostly because Paradox spend years supporting and improving their games..

  4. The thing is, a bad review can seriously damage sales and potentially kill a franchise before it even has a chance. So yes, if you feel a review is unjust I can totally understand the need to call them out.

    Sure it’s only one persons opinion but that person isn’t posting their thoughts on their personal twitter feed. When they post that review they represent the company that employs them. And if that company has a large presence in the gaming industry their opinions can be highly influential in determining whether a game succeeds or not. It’s very rare you hear anyone say ‘John Smiths review was absolutely scathing.’ You hear, ‘IGN/Eurogamer/Polywhatever’ gave it a bad review… ‘I was really looking forward to it as well.’

    You could say this is an issue with the individual putting their faith on one review or in one reviewer, but the fact is this happens an awful lot. The number of times I see comments like ‘5/10? Think I’ll wait for a price drop!’ … ‘6/10? Damn I wanted this to be good!’ … ‘7/10? Pre-order cancelled!’. Whether they do cancel their pre-order or not is another question but the fact is a large number of gamers use reviews as a buying guide. If you can only afford to buy one game are you going to buy the game IGN gave a score of 6/10 or the one they gave 9/10?

    • Reviews are important, but they’re far from the be all and end all of someone deciding to be a videogame. You, as someone who’s invested enough to comment on a website, will have certain reviewers and sites that you trust, but I’d also warrant that you go to multiple websites and sample a number of opinions. That’s exactly what Metacritic was set up to do, as well.

      They do hold weight, but don’t forget that there are many, many, many more who don’t read them. There’s millions and millions who, yeah they might check a review or two, but will also base a lot of their purchases off word of mouth, what their friends are playing, what happens to be on sale on Steam…

      One 4/10 review in a sea of 9s and 10s isn’t going to register as a sales blip, let alone a couple of “good” reviews.

      • TL:DR

        If you base your purchase from one or two reviews (and nothing else), you need locking up. :-)

      • When I was younger the only gaming site I read was IGN. They were and maybe even still are the most popular gaming site on the net. Back then, a bad review from them would have put me off a game if I was on the fence.

        I rent most of my games this gen so I don’t really care for review scores myself. I play whatever I want and if I don’t like it I don’t mind because it didn’t cost me any more than I’m already paying for my monthy sub.

      • I find myself with a desire to buy some games and not others, sometimes it’s hype and sometimes it’s love of a series or format. I only visit TSA, I can’t be arsed with the aggressive communities or insincere writing I have found on other games sites. So lock me up :) My point is that I trust the writers here and they can give me a genuine opinion about whether the game I want is crap or not, then I consider how much money and time I have going spare, then I decide whether or not to buy a game. It’s worked pretty well these last seven years!

  5. That Washington post review for uncharted 4 is incomprehensible as the reviewer makes very few accurate points about the game and some have said that the review borders on satire. If that reviewer though was doing a review for quarter to three in which their scales are; hated it, didn’t like it, thought it was okay, yeah I liked this, OMG it’s awesome. That scale allows for the personal view of the reviewer. Having a score attached means that the review is subject to scoring patterns. Also, the review didn’t have a score. It was only when metacritic asked for it was it given 4/10. Financial and personal gains are made from review scores. He has every right to have his opinion as does every reviewer but only if they are credible and worthy. As bad as he is though, some of the IGN reviews are just as bad containing very few positives or negatives then getting wildly fluctuating scores. Little big planet 3 and alien isolation come to mind as well as any call of duty especially ghosts. Eeh, we all have an opinion and we all need to make each other eat it, digest it and consume one another until they conform.

    • That Alien Isolation review was baaaad. Too scary. Too hard. 6/10. Err yeah, it’s Alien not Mario you big doofus.

      Not liking a particular genre is obviously going to affect your opinion of the game. I couldn’t write a review of FIFA for this reason.

  6. i swear on my life, i saw somebody, despite stating they’d never played either game, hating the fact that Lucy O’Brien only gave Uncharted an 8.8 and gave Rise of the Tomb Raider a higher score.

    of course most of the complaints about Lucy’s review boiled down to “she’s a feminist so she should be sacked”

    those complaints that didn’t concern themselves mostly with her gender, well half were accusations of clickbait, and the other half were accusations of some form of bribery.

    all this over a couple of bloody percentage points.

    and then Troy Baker weighs in on this Post review thing, supporting removing the review from metacritic because he doesn’t like it.
    and also allegedly making some transphobic comment on tiwtter and then deleting it.
    apparently not a first for him.
    i say allegedly, because i didn’t see the tweet, though several people mentioned it, and then there was the lengthy apology, which seemed a bit much just for supporting this petition.

    • To be fair Rise of the Tomb Raider was absolutely mediocre (imo).

      • but i would assume you came to that opinion by actually playing the game though.

  7. i admit i am shallow when it comes to reviews.
    i tend to go straight to the score first and read the blurb after.
    but not all that shines is gold.
    take uncharted 4 for instance.
    its raking in high 9’s and 10’s across the board.
    but at its heart its just a glossy version of all uncharted of yester year.
    don’t be fooled by the dazzling lights and shiny looks.
    there are a ton of game busting bugs still in there and i have had to restart sections a few times.
    and then on the flip side homefront is taking a beating and scoring badly.
    i loved the 1st homefront and even that was shite.
    i guess its all down to a matter of taste at the end of the day.

  8. Someone needs to build something a bit more clever than Metacritic, which just takes all the scores and weights them according to some mysterious formula to give the result (it’s not just an average of all the scores)

    Take the review scores along with your own personal scores for anything you care to rate. Adjust review scores to give more weight to reviewers you previously agree with. Factor in other people who agree with your scores and give more weight to their opinions. Even take into account what sort of games you previously liked. Like JRPGs? That 6/10 goes up to a 7.

    It’d be complicated, but probably not as complicated as you might think. Netflix does a good job of something similar, with users put into a surprisingly small set of categories. It’s just sometimes funny seeing it recommend something with 1 star and then finding out it’s actually quite good and having to rate it as 4 or 5 stars.

    • Opencritic tries to do a lot of that modularity, but even Metacritic is weighted somehow.

  9. But is anyone reviewing metacritic? I’d give it a 7/10.. or maybe a 3/5 .. or a “Yes, but with a few caveats”.

  10. Reviewing games is, for the most part, really quite quite hard and not much fun. The Firewatch review was a particular headache for me, and I must stress we don’t take this sort of thing lightly. It’s actually quite a relief when the embargo passes and I can go and check out other reviews and see if they have the same sort of opinions.

Comments are now closed for this post.