Faith in Numbers

11 02 2009

I found this story  on the Shawn Elliott twitter feed and thought it was worth talking about. The fine people of PSX extreme thought that Edge’s review of Killzone 2 was an abomination.  I don’t think the article is worth a click, so i’ll post a few choice quotes then address the bigger situation.

Killzone 2 got a 7…and as a frame of reference, Let’s Tap for the Wii got an 8

But this is assigning a numerical value to a game that basically says, “it’s good, but there are better titles out there for your money.” This…is…a…lie.

if you’re scoring on a scale of 1 – 10, there’s no way on earth KZ2 gets a 7 in direct comparison to the other products on store shelves.

 

Helghast? More like Stupid-ghast, whos with me?

Who-ghast?

 

The author here saw the value of 7 on Edge and flipped the fuck out.  His rant accuses Edge of deliberately lying to the consumer simply because they think they’re better than everyone, which Edge is not allowed to do to.

Their own review of the game masturbates over the graphics and the audio (scoring an impressive 9.6 and 9.7, while the nebulous gameplay got a 9.8 ) and how the game is crafted so well that you forget you are playing a video game. The immersion is superb, and the A.I. is better than those stupid other games, you know those games? Those games that have the A.I. that’s completely dumb? Or the ones where it’s too hard? Yeah that game, Killzone 2 is better. The reviewer does everything short of using the trifecta of “orders of magnitude”, “paradigm shifting” and “pushing the envelope”.

Edge actually agrees with the PSX review about the game’s technology being amazing, with intelligent A.I. and fun multiplayer. The difference is that Edge says the story is completely derivative and too safe to the point of being boring.  Ben Dutka never once tries to defend this, he needs everyone to know that Killzone 2 is the greatest thing you can spend your money on, seriously.  The focus is entirely on the score here, because a 7 means that it is more good, having more better game than a 6 or less, but should immediately be passed on for an 8 or higher. Edge actually uses this to manipulate it’s loyal readers (which are responsible for their paychecks) by giving a stupid game for the Wii a point higher, so when Joe Whateverthefuck buys Let’s Tap instead, Edge will collectively laugh at how stupid he is. Oh the fun.

The bigger issue is that the Internet has taught us that information can be achieved instantly, and once we have this review in front of us, we need to instantly read how good it is instead of reading all those words, so we look at the number. The number is a grade, which we have been exposed to for years in school. In there, a B in gym and a B in physics are weighed the same, not only with GPA but in our minds, parents demanded a B or C average, regardless of the individual difficulties.  There have been times when i got a C in a class and was thrilled, because that C took 20 hours a week of homework and studying, and i learned a lot, and classes I’ve gotten an A in only taught me how to fake the teacher into thinking i actually cared about Asian philosophy.

Similarly, I spent a good two weeks of my life STRAIGHT playing Spider-Man 2 (the movie tie-in) for the PS2, even though it was a C game, at best. Most of that time was spent with my brother, taking turns with the controller, watching the TV trying to make a particularly cool line between some buildings, or get the best free fall length off the empire state building, or even just hitting all the buoys around Manhattan. The game was the definition of repetitive, with bad random elements and a lame story, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.

Bad movies can be a lot of fun too, my fiancee and I watched Freddy vs Jason more times than i care to mention because it’s so cheesy and horrible that it never stops being funny. Is it a good movie because of this? Not by any traditional measure, but what does “good” mean then? Should I not have had fun with the movie? Should I have perpetually scoffed at it? Is a movie’s worth a combination of story and execution, or is it a measure of how much enjoyment you got out of the experience? All entertainment has the same arguments, and ultimately, there is no “right” way to declare goodness of an item. This is a stark contrast to grades in math class, where an equation has one answer and if you fail to find the answer, you get the problem wrong.  One student’s grade of 87% means he did better than the 74% student, but not as good as the 95% student. Entertainment cannot be looked at this way, is Killzone 2 better than Let’s Tap? Our life experiences have taught us that, if one is assigned a higher number, then it should be better.  Does this mean that all game-buying habits should start with 10-games, then 9, then 8, forcing us to by Killzone 2 after Let’s Tap, which is after Gears of War, which is after Grand Theft Auto 4?

It’s always been ridiculous to me that games were rated on absolute scales, every game I have ever bought has been because of the content of that particular recommendation, whether it’s magazines or a friend. It’s naive to think people are spending $60 on a game based only on a number on some site. Reviewers are not a shining beacon of trust telling us how to spend our money, they merely tell us their experiences about the game, and we decide if we want to spend our money to experience the same thing. They are not telling us how to spend our money, that is for us to decide.

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