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Daily Reaction Asks: Why Are Review Scores so Important?

November 6, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

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Normally, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan can shed light on any subject, but there are a few moments when even they can’t quite comprehend the reasoning behind some actions. With that, they reach out to the fans to explain themselves in a mystery that has been plaguing the industry for over a decade.

Question:

Why are review scores so important to people, and how can you rate a game you haven’t even played through yet?

Dan: Being that I do reviews for both PlayStation LifeStyle and Crave Online, this is a question that I have been wondering for a while, so I figured we would raise it to you, the readers, and see if you could explain it to us. Generally, within minutes of a review being published, there is a good chance that a number of people will debate the merits behind the score, or even sometimes, a random phrase from the text. What this means is that a significant number of people out there have already decided on the value of a product before even getting their hands on it and will argue with someone who has. How is this logical?

From what I can tell, there seems to be a need for fans of certain franchises to get reaffirmation that a product is worthwhile, otherwise they become irate. Should the review process simply be there to tell people that their loved game deserves their adoration? Or should it be there to give a true light to a product despite the influence of its marketing budget?

Given the response from some of the fans, it seems like they want little more than a pat on the head, which makes me wonder, why even bother reading a review in the first place?

Seb: I think that’s life. People rarely ask for someone’s opinion hoping for an honest answer, they want to be reassured, to be told everything is ok.

But, I’ll admit, while I think the idea of disagreeing with the score of a game you haven’t played is rather flawed, sometimes I can understand why it happens. Take Naughty Dog – we don’t know what they’re working on, but we all know that when it’s out the chances are that it’s really, really good. So if a review came out giving it a low score, I’d be highly skeptical, as well as concerned. So, I’d ask questions.

That’s something I’ve seen done by some readers, but sadly not enough. Reviews can be a great place to talk to the reviewer, get to know their tastes, perspective and depth of knowledge. Hell, if s/he hated all previous Naughty Dog games, then the score would make sense.

As someone who runs a site, however, I am always rather conflicted over the idea of a score. When you consider that reviews are personal opinions, from the unique perspective of an individual, a score that may be taken out of context without those caveats does seem odd. The problem is that they should never be taken out of context, and I think a lot of people would be much happier if that was always taken into account. As we’ve discussed countless times before, reviewers generally try to write reviews so that you can work out if its the kind of game you’d like, even if you don’t agree with the writer’s general score.

I don’t want to diminish the value of passion in this industry, or the importance of calling out journalists for sloppy work, but I too share Dan’s bafflement on the anger over some scores.

Why do people get so passionate about review scores? Is it a reviewer’s job to reaffirm your preconceptions? Let us know in the comments, email us at DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net or start a conversation with us at Seb and Dan.