Controversy brewing over integrity of reviews

Posted November 30th, 2007 at 2:27 am


In a story that has quickly picked up steam as it could demonstrate the current state of video game journalism, Gamespot editor Jeff Gerstmann has been fired. The apparent reason is the score of 6.0 that he had recently given to Kane and Lynch. Advertising for K&L has been prominently featured all over the Gamespot website and Eidos, the publisher of the game, was not pleased and threatened to pull their campaign. The final decision would’ve been made by parent company CNET which handles the advertising and employment for the sites they own.

CNET controls several gaming websites in addition to Gamespot such as GameFAQs, SportsGamer, Game Rankings and Metacritic.

I’ve always felt that reviews were inherently flawed which is why I’ll only post up my thoughts on games and I don’t assign them a score. This topic is something I’ve written about in the past. The scoring is completely arbitrary and the scale generally includes numbers that will never be used. Previews for games will tout the features and improvements and then the review will come and either the positivity continues or it’ll be like those previews never existed as they rip into the game. Many reviewers before even playing the final copy will have an idea of what they are going to score it. As much as I like College Hoops 2K8, there is something wrong when in their review 1Up calls it the best college basketball game of the year when March Madness was still several weeks away. I wonder if MM will be receiving a lower review score than CH?

Reviews are critical to media sites because they generate revenue through advertising. Scores are necessary because of the influence the site holds along with being included in Game Rankings/Metacritic. Sites aren’t approved until they have a certain level of traffic and number of reviews completed. Once they are in their game scores become more important meaning the gaming companies will want to do what they can to positively influence them. That doesn’t necessarily mean leaning on them for certain scores, but it could simply be offering them exclusive content. Once the sites begin receiving those things their hits go up and along with it their advertising revenue.

While this is an important issue in general, I don’t really see this as much of a problem in relation to sports games. Generally (whether right or wrong) the games are compared to the previous year’s version and the competition. There is a base score they work from and a level that they won’t go any higher than. This generation of games haven’t received abnormally high scores. If anything they’ve been pretty hard on the games ranging from the fives to the high eights. And in the end most consumers who buy the games every year aren’t very influenced by the scores unless the consensus is abnormally low or high.

Regardless it just goes to show how little consideration should be given to reviews. Outside influences certainly are present in many cases. In the end they should just be considered as one person’s opinion. That will include any biases they may have. Everyone has some form of them, otherwise they wouldn’t be opinions. Despite the low regard that reviews should be held in it is definitely concerning to hear of such a story and see how money can influence not just individuals but the entire industry.