Metacritic's founder made a little bit of a stir earlier in the week when he went on the A Jumps B Shoots podcast to discuss a wide variety of topics, one of them being that game reviewers were obligated to "review all the shit," not just good games or those expected to sell well. GamePro followed up for a clarification of his remarks.
""Below-average games are not being reviewed as often as they once were and, partly as a result, critics have not honed their skills at assigning scores from the lower end of their grading scales." Marc Doyle told GamePro. "The question of exactly how bad a game has to be to merit a 1 score instead of 2 on the 10 point scale, for example, is not being contemplated with as much experience, care and precision as the 8 versus 9 consideration."
"Even though enduring a 10-15 hour game that has been thrown together must be an excruciating experience for the game critic, picking that game apart in a review with the degree of care and precision that he or she would employ when reviewing a brilliant AAA game would absolutely help to better define a publication's full scoring scale, making every subsequent score more meaningful," he adds.
Leaving aside our institutional disagreement with assigning scores, I think my reaction to this is, "Of course Metacritic wants reviewers to review more crap. Or more anything. It's more free content for their site."
Yes, film critics have a larger group of lower-score reviews in their histories. That's because, as Doyle understands, it takes much less time and effort to credibly review a bad movie than a bad video game. "They don't have to be in-depth treatments, but taking on this challenge would benefit our industry," he says.
Lowering review standards just to slide in an amusing slam of a game known to be crap before it hits the shelves does more to erode a publication's credibility than to buttress it.
I think publications will continue to keep their own counsel on this. An obvious low-budget title, movie tie-in shovelware, or adolescent lifestyle sims will be judged against how interested the readership really is in buying a game (not just reading a humorous review of a bad one), the amount of time it takes to play and write a review the title, and what else the writer could or should be doing in that time.
Metacritic's desire for free, labor-intensive content to beef up the credibility of a notoriously arbitrary scale will come in somewhere around, oh, last.