Computer Gaming World: De-starred
TomChick - News - 02/27/06 - Link

The cat is out of the bag that Computer Gaming World is dropping review scores in favor of longer and more in-depth articles. And, predictably, there is a wide range of reactions.

Firstly, I think it's important to understand something CGW editor Jeff Green and editor Andrew Pfister have said, but perhaps not vehemently enough: the idea is that will do the conventional review, which will appear online, and CGW will do more extended coverage to complement that review. Ziff-Davis isn't abandoning ratings (unfortunately…especially since 1up insists on using the 7-9 scale), but is instead using its print pub to take a different approach.

But more importantly, for those of you dismayed at the announcement, I have to wonder why you're so enamored of your ratings. I can understand a guy like Stardock's Brad Wardell, who's concerned about the commercial implications of the decision: when a respected voice like CGW is removed from sites that aggregate score, then sites that aggregate scores will be less meaningful. To which I say, it's about fucking time.

I'm all for aggregate sites if that's how you want to make your decisions. When you go to the multiplex this weekend, let Rotten Tomatoes do the thinking for you. Have fun at Eight Below. I'm sure it's heart-warming.

So if Gamerankings is how you choose the games you buy, then you deserve Perfect Dark (82%) over Kameo (81%). Black (78.3%) should be just your speed, while the really shrewd America's Army: Rise of Soldier (69.5%) will likely be lost on you. To people like you, there's no point trying something utterly genius like Fatal Frame III (80%) when you could be playing Resident Evil 4 (96.1%), which is nearly one fifth better. Personally, I couldn't care less if you miss out on the clever and sharply designed Eve of Destruction (73.5%) because you're busy with glib pap like Burnout 3 (93.6%). I don't recommend you bother with the unexpected gems I've found like Chibi-Robo (75%), Romancing Saga (64%), Killer 7 (77%), or Romance of the Three Kingdoms X (70.2%).

Math won't help you understand these things, which is a fact lost on so many of the people who write about games, many of whom don't even have the basest appreciation for what words mean, much less how to use them well. Math is easy. It's words that are hard.

And what hurts the industry more than whether CGW’s review is figured into is the proliferation of the same dull poorly-written-by-template coverage. Games are still very much juvenile toys, built by stupid boys to appeal to stupid boys. As a form of entertainment (not art...we don't even have to go there), if we want to grow up and play ball with other forms of entertainment, then we need to start being created -- and regarded -- differently. Reviews of movies, books, television, and music don't have to play this inane numbers game. I’m looking forward to a time when we’re treated just as earnestly, without being reduced to a commodity that you can gauge on a scale of 7-9, as if there were a benchmark for "fun".

So if you have a love of this hobby that calls for a bit more analysis, creative consideration, and articulation than it's currently getting -- which is to say next to none at all -- then the first step is to force guys like me who write about games to step away from the 7.9s vs 8.1s, away from the non-critical dull review formats that drive what passes for game reviewing, and into something different that requires, you know, actually making, like, a point? So many of us are writers who can’t even write, working for readers who don’t even read.

So I welcome any effort at a different approach. This is what Computer Games Magazine has been trying with its text-intensive approach; this is what I try to do for the editors who trust me at Yahoo and Gamespy; this is something I've experimented with for nearly ten years with short fiction like Shoot Club and for five years with Bruce Geryk in Computer Gaming World’s Tom vs. Bruce columns; this is what CGW seems to moving towards with their decision to let the math fall away: examining the experience of this unique form of entertainment in a way that insists -- like movies, television, books, and music -- we are above mere numbers.

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