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March 25th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Gamerankings is an interesting site for more than the obvious reasons. Yes, it is cool to be able to see which games are reviewed by the most people and which get the best scores. I like to check the average review scores from particular sites or magazines to see which publications are the most out of sync with general critical opinion. Of course, I also like checking out my own reviews and where they stack-up compared to my peers.

My favorite part of Gamerankings though is the voting/review system. Lots of sites have these. Metacritic and Gamespot both have user review sections, for instance, but the Gamerankings one is my personal favorite. All of these user vote/review sections are a nice peek into the black heart of gamers. Especially those who have axes to grind against particular games, publishers, or popular hits.

Take the user votes for Rome: Total War. At this writing, 22 people have given this game a 1 out of 10. That’s more people than have given it a 7. More than the 2s, 3s, and 4s added together.

Not everyone is going to like Rome – especially historical purists who want every game to mimic what actually happened. But there is no way that it is a 1 out of 10. If Rome is a 1 – the worst score possible – what does it take to be a 10? Clearly, many of these votes are backlash votes against a game that a lot of people love and a lot of critics raved about. On a number of game forums devoted to the development of other ancient themed games, you see these people talking about how Low Budget Rome Game X will be better than Rome because…well it’s rarely clear why. None of these 1 voters write user reviews, of course, because to try to argue why Rome is one of the worst games ever made would make you look crazy.

I’m not trying to argue that everyone should like the same games. If you don’t enjoy Rome it’s no skin off my nose. But you can’t play it and not appreciate that it achieves what it sets out to achieve. Give it a 4 or a 5, or at least defend your 1.

Some people, of course, see the world of games in black and white. A game is either good or not – the old thumbs up/thumbs down approach to gaming. There is nothing wrong with this, and if enough people take the ten point scale seriously, these Siskels and Eberts don’t do anyone’s overall score any harm. But if you look at this particular guy’s votes, a curious trend appears. All of the Age of Empires games get thumbs down. All of the Paradox games get thumbs down. Cossacks II gets thumbs down and it’s not even out yet. In fact, most of the scores seem to based on little more than whether the game was popular or not and who published it.

I don’t mean to single this guy out, but he is symptomatic of a breed of gamer who hates something that others like, especially if it is from a company that has disappointed them before. Part of this is the “I’m too cool for…” syndrome. For example, I have a good friend who refused to see Titanic on principle – it was popular therefore he had no interest. We all know people like this. They are too hip to buy into what others like. If the masses embrace it, something must be wrong with it.

In the strategy game arena, these are the people who hate all RTS games and want more TBS. They want more historical accuracy and more options at the same time. They want realism and customization and tanks that have armor the right thickness. These are the “more strategic than thou” people who believe that if a strategy game is a hit with the masses, it must be both shallow and unfulfilling.

RTS is, of course, more realistic than TBS, but the contradiction doesn’t bother them because it’s not about being right. It’s about showing how different the “real” strategy gamer is from the crowd.

Check any random strategy game forum, or better yet, one devoted to a marginal game or minor hit. You will find no end of posts raving about how if you like this game, you are smarter than the average strategy gamer. Spartan players are better than the yahoos who are buying up Rome. If you can’t figure out the Byzantine interface of Victoria, the problem is with you and your desire to play a “click-fest.” (BTW, can we retire this word? I’m not even sure what it means, besides implying that if you use the mouse a lot you must be a loser.)

To end at the beginning, here is my user history at Gamerankings. I try to be as fair in my scores and reviews here as I do in places I publish. Make what you will of them.


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