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Interesting news from Computer Gaming World

February 27th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

This thread on my favorite gaming discussion forum contains the announcement from CGW Editor Jeff Green that the April CGW will not have star ratings for the games being reviewed. And no, it doesn’t appear to be an April Fool’s joke. Though I wouldn’t be surprised.

Assuming this isn’t some elaborate joke, Green says that one of the motivating factors was the number of PR calls about the scores that a recently reviewed game had received, but this way out of those calls is not likely to be very popular with that audience.

I understand the appeal of the no-rating review. As a writer, I’d like to think that my words are more important than the numerical tag I append – usually at the very end of a writing session. For all the pretended accuracy of PCGamer’s hundred point scale, I find it very hard to put a number to a feeling that a game like US Casino gives me. Even a mostly good one will often have enough wrong with it to push it down to a three star (“good”) score, though the negatives are what will stick with the reader longer. So why not just leave it all up to nuance and text? The few reviews I have on this site are not scored, and I have no intention of doing so. Is there anything positive to said about ratings?

For one thing, print reviews are often very brief. Brief is fine for very good games. Brief is perfect for very bad games. But brief does not do nuance well. A hundred words of “a little bit this and a little bit that” usually comes of sounding wishy-washy. But if you hit only the stuff you like about a game, the text will come off sounding more laudatory than you really feel about a game. Likewise with the negative. Just as the text gives the numbers context, so the numbers can give very brief text numbers.

Second, I don’t read everything. I can’t. (Well, I can in a magazine, I suppose. But I usually don’t.) And if the game is in a genre that I don’t have a lot of knowledge about or interest in, the five or four star scores are bright, neon lights saying “Look at me, stupid!” If the reviewed title is an obscure casual game, it’s even more important to draw me in with an eye-catching score.

If this is a genuine experiment, I’m all in favor of it. On balance, I prefer text to scores, especially in an enthusiast press that has such a wide range of reviewing systems and ideas of what an average score is. Anything that encourages readers to actually read is a step forward. But it’s not all positives. And I think that Green’s readers will be a little shocked.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • steve

    I think it’s worth nothing it’s the “April” issue. If it’s still there in the May issue, we’ll have something to discuss.

    Or will we? Aside from editors, who cares? Readers will hate it, and if it’s just to avoid PR, stop reviewing games. Which readers will also hate.

    If you have an online site, you could diminish reviews for timeliness, just like everyone has done with news. Focus more on long and interesting features.

    I do love the idea that people are making a big deal over “3-page reviews,” as if that’s some gold standard of depth and quality.

    Bah, whatever. This issue only ranks a 65% on the 70-90 scale.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Well, I noted that it could be an April Fool’s joke, but it’s not very funny if it is. I’ll take ads from Schadenfreude Interactive any day.

    Readers would probably hate this for any number of reasons. And it is true that CGW’s partnership with 1up could free them to do stuff that they usually can’t.

    I think this issue is a 75 on the 70-90 scale.

  • steve

    There’s nothing readers hate more than, “For more detailed reviews, check out our website.” (Did it, they hated it.)

    You quickly learn that people read your magazine because, hey, they like your magazine. And they read websites because, hey, it’s free. And rarely the twain shall meet. Or something.

    I think your review of the issue is flawed; you clearly don’t know enough about the situation. Either that or you’re biased.

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  • steve

    “I just visited your site for the first time and felt compelled to contact you and congratulate you on your handiwork! Great site & fantastic theme! Please add further information.”

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    The fact that you read almost every day is all the validation I need, big guy.