Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Legacy of the average

The video game market has been invaded by a mighty power: Anonymous points scores. Portals like Metacritic calculated from the critics numbers mean. They determine the success of a game, trade discounts, paying the developers - and even stock prices.

"How could only get so far?" Just as the British video game journalist Patrick Garrett, who operates the news site VG247, ask the meantime many of his colleagues. How could it happen so much that writers are treated with hostility when they give a score, in the opinion of players is not high enough? How could it happen that are now being made not only the sales of games, but also the income of the developers of these numbers depend on?

The first answer to these questions means
Metacritic is a website, online since 2001, which basically makes only one thing: She gathers evaluations of various publications, trade journals, online portals and blogs, credited them into numbers between 0 and 100 and forms from a mean value. Metacritic is a German equivalent to Critify, and internationally there are a number of sites like offering a similar service. Even sites like, which specializes in films use a similar model. But Metacritic is the heavyweight, literally the benchmark in the business with point values.

Is not the average, does the trade discounts

The aim of the aggregators rating: Consumers can then see at a glance how games but also movies, television series and music resonate with critics. This in itself is not objectionable. The problem seems, however, that many customers seem to look only at this number.

And not only they but also the manufacturers of games journalists and analysts. Metacritic, a number can affect the share price of companies. Activision had three years ago about the find, as the long awaited game "Spiderman 3" and got many low valuations, the stock fell by five percent. In the opposite case, the stock price of Take 2 rose by twenty percent after the action game "Bioshock" received high ratings.

Analysts such as working for Wedbush Michael Pachter draw for the assessment of the company Metacritic values. This also has implications for the company itself: Developers get a bonus when you play exceeds a certain number, buyers from major retail chains order to Metacritic score and ask for discounts if this slips under a certain limit. Absurd when you consider that this value is based on the subjective perception of reviewers.

All squint at the numbers only

That it could have happened is, however, not only on Metacritic, but also on the way, such as video games in professional journals and Web sites are evaluated: with numbers. Tables have always absurd, the magazine creators thought up in the last ten years. Sophisticated graphics and technology will be tested there, the fun in curves over the duration of the game is measured, acted as if a game is objectively measured, the gaming experience for all people equally.

Comparable to a test of a toaster or a washing machine - and even then people still have their likes and dislikes. Numbers were the most important means to describe the quality of a game, texts are often limited to short to describe the story and gameplay elements. It has therefore raised its readers, such as former editor-Star Game, Christian Schmidt wrote in a recent essay for SPIEGEL ONLINE .

These readers now behave accordingly. Accost, if their favorite game a bad rating in their opinion, gets to insult, threaten and sometimes the authors and do not even seem to try to read the accompanying text. For journalists, so grows the pressure, just do not deviate too far from the mean, because they know that your readers will immediately dig out the Metacritic number. Thus, the side affects in turn reviewers.

The American journalist Jim Sterling of Destructoid the web page periodically try to resist the pressure of awards for technical underground games like "Deadly Premonition" a perfect score and watscht the critic's favorite "Heavy Rain" from. Understandable when one reads his texts, in a pure comparison of the scores but little understood. Sterling takes a thick skin. After his 'Heavy Rain' review was a letter writer expressed his hope that Sterling's family "should burn in hell."
Long ago, manufacturers Metacritic take advantage of their PR work. They give out test pattern only to journalists, which they know that they like the genre or the franchise. The first assessments that feed into Metacritic should be high, which sets the following, under pressure. Conversely, this also works: A game that gets low ratings at first, other journalists may be tempted to forgive themselves low grades. And titles that literally split the critics come in averaging system inevitably gone rather poorly. Possibly because the well-founded praise be offset by the negative votes.

There is a deadlock, in which the industry is going. She has become dependent on numbers that can actually describe only one: not whether the person who forgives them, had fun or play. From this they made a system in which all squint at the numbers only. At the same time they turn in a spiral, in which only scores will be considered acceptable, which are above 85 percent. This is about a grade 2 + comparable. But here you can with a 2 - to fail already.

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