Debate: How Do Games Like Journey Outscore Watch Dogs?

Watch Dogs is a bigger, arguably much more ambitious game; how can we compare it to Journey?

Watch Dogs is a bigger, arguably much more ambitious game; how can we compare it to Journey?


Currently, the Metascore for the recently released Watch Dogs is in the low 80s (82 for the PlayStation 4 version, for example). If you’re interested, we’ve already honored Machinima’s excellent analysis.

The average Metacritic score for 2012’s Journey sits at 92. The game went on to win countless awards from multiple sources, both online and internationally. When someone attacks the gaming industry for being too violent and too immature, many core gamers point to Journey as an example of creativity, imagination and even philosophical depth.

For the record, we have several people on our staff who chose Journey as 2012’s Game of the Year. Of those of us who have played Watch Dogs already, none of us would score Ubisoft’s new game higher than Thatgamecompany’s masterpiece.

But is this right?

It was a beautiful experience, from front to back. But is it right to compare it to AAA productions?

It was a beautiful experience, from front to back. But is it right to compare it to AAA productions?

We started talking about this earlier: Should all games be held to the same scoring standard? One could argue that quality is quality, regardless of the size of the budget, or the size of the virtual world in question. Obviously, that argument has merit.

At the same time, one of us made the following point:

What if we took everything into account regarding the developer’s aim and the project as a whole?

Something like Watch Dogs required millions upon millions of dollars, thousands of man hours, and a lot of patience and talent to create. They generated a huge virtual world that, in truth, shouldn’t be compared to Journey. The level of technical achievement is just so different.

Furthermore, smaller indie games like Journey (and for instance, I was just playing Lone Survivor) often don’t even have voice actors, and some don’t have a story at all. The bottom line is that there are fewer factors to consider; fewer aspects of the production that could be flawed.

At this juncture, we refer our readers to a Nintendo editorial where we discussed similar points. Read that if you haven’t already; it’ll give you a better idea of where we’re coming from. Continuing on:

It's such a massive, ambitious game. Should we review it the same way we'd review much smaller titles?

It’s such a massive, ambitious game. Should we review it the same way we’d review much smaller titles?

Many say it isn’t really fair to compare games of today to classics, just because the technological gap is so wide. They say it’s a fool’s errand to qualitatively compare Super Mario Bros. to Grand Theft Auto V. So, shouldn’t we ask the same question concerning indie games? Isn’t it the same situation? Sure, they’re a little more complex and refined than 20-year-old games, but not too much more. In many cases, it’s the goal of the developer to embrace that simplified, retro formula.

If you stop to think about it, does it make sense to evaluate Journey the same way as Watch Dogs? Here’s one question: Take a random person off the street and plant them in front of the TV. Put in one game, then put in the other, and then ask which one they think is better. Wouldn’t they be surprised when you told them that one outscored the other by a full point (92 to about 82)?

These are questions critics often ask themselves, and the argument will continue. We distinctly remember some gamers calling out sources for giving Journey Game of the Year; we’re not saying the game didn’t deserve that accolade but based on how we review games, maybe those naysayers had a point.

6 thoughts on “Debate: How Do Games Like Journey Outscore Watch Dogs?”

I think it really depends on your definition of “quality.” To some, it’s an umbrella term that encompasses everything and there aren’t any qualifying factors that have to be analyzed in different ways.

Other people are more realistic and say that based on the facts, it might be weird to directly compare Journey and Watch Dogs. So if it’s weird to do that, don’t we need separate scoring formulas?

The problem is that there’s really no way to get critics to use the same scale. It would be even more difficult to get them all to use the same SETS of scales.

I do understand the article though: What’s a “9” mean, anyway? Hardcore purists would give something like Chrono Trigger a 10 but is that even remotely accurate if we compare CT to games of today?

Eh, I think you’re over-complicating things a little.

If it’s good, it’s good. A 9 means it’s good, no matter what it is.

But it’s just not that simple. A 9 today is not a 9 from 20 years ago, and that’s the point. You can’t directly compare games from decades ago to games today, because there’s no chance they’d score the same. It just wouldn’t make any sense.

I understand but in my mind, I take all that into consideration. And besides, a 9 is a 9. It may not meet the same criteria and you can’t compare the two games but “good” is still “good.”

It really depends on how you look at it. Some people will never call the old games “good” just because they’re so old-fashioned. If nostalgia isn’t part of the analysis, how can it be “good?”

Others have a different take, obviously. 😉

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