Why Do Gamers Continue to Whine About Metacritic?

We don’t get it. The complaints just seem…backward.

Metacritic, GameRankings and other such sites have helped to deliver video games into the world of mainstream entertainment, and as such, have added legitimacy to the world of gaming analysis. We at VGRHQ seek to take the next step, but we acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of previous great ideas.

We seek to combat those who simply don’t understand why sites like Metacritic are important.

The "Metacritic age" is often chastised...but why?

The “Metacritic age” is often chastised…but why?

First and foremost, it’s what so many gamers wanted. They wanted to see critics get some recognition; they wanted a place to go where they could see all the great reviews in one spot. They wanted a database that represented the industry in an unbiased way, and presented the consumer with a series of cleared and confirmed sources.

“Metacritic is bad for the industry”

The staff here at VGRHQ can’t count how many times they’ve heard that phrase in the past decade or so. And to date, none of us have been able to figure out why our fellow gamers say it.

The arguments don’t hold any water: For instance, some say that Metacritic puts the emphasis on scores rather than text, thereby reducing the hard work of critics to a simple number. What sense does that make? All the reviews counted by Metacritic are linked to the full-text review. And besides, we were obsessed with review scores before Metacritic and GameRankings came along, trust us on that.

As a parallel point, is Rotten Tomatoes bad for the film industry? Simply rounding up all the scores awarded by legitimate sources isn’t an inherently evil thing; it’s all in how we interpret it.

How we interpret something dictates the influence.

How we interpret something dictates the influence.

Then there are the conspiracy theories, which state that Metacritic is on the take by big publishers and the biggest sources, mysteriously giving preference to higher review scores for certain games, and lower review scores for other games.  Yeah, that’s what they’re doing over there: Giggling maliciously and trying to find ways to mislead the reader.

Here’s an interesting read from IGN author Keza MacDonald. We wanted to stop reading at- “None of the following is necessarily the fault of Metacritic itself, nor the people who run it. ” However, we kept at it, and found an argument saying that these aggregate scores were having a negative impact on publishers and developers.

The author contends that publishers and game makers in general are too obsessed with Metascores, thereby dictating future projects. We say that a publisher seeking to make a game better seems perfectly logical. The “influence” is huge, admittedly, but there’s a reason why most of the best-rated games on Metacritic are also some of the best-selling.

Consumers aren’t all idiots. Contending that Metacritic has too much influence is implying that consumers really are easily led morons. Just because a game scores high doesn’t mean the reader will mindlessly shell out his or her cash, nor does it mean that person will completely ignore the texts of reviews. It also implies that opinions can’t be quantified, which is only true to a certain extent.

So often accused of...what?

So often accused of…what?

It’s one of our biggest pet peeves here at VGRHQ: The idea that a review is “all opinion.” While there are always subjective elements to any review of a form of entertainment, there are also aspects that require a knowledgeable mind. It’s the comparison, the context, and the overall expertise that allows one to properly analyze a game. The assembled critics at this site could pen a review of a music album but as we’re not all experts in that field, we wouldn’t recommend our analyses over the reviews in Rolling Stone.

Metacritic isn’t “bad for the industry.” GameRankings isn’t, either. Any influence such sites have is enforced by the readers/consumers, and that’s that. At its core, a site like Metacritic is not inherently bad and in fact, it isn’t inherently good, either. It is what it is: A database, and a perfectly sensible one at that.

The fact that it has helped to vault this industry into the limelight shouldn’t undervalued, either. We want gaming to continue to grow and as such, sites like Metacritic and our own humble VGRHQ will assist the forward progress.

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