My apoligies for posting a gaming-related article, but the content of the editorial is as relevant for the world of gaming as it is for the world of hardware. It's no secret I'm not too happy with the way certain so-called "hardware review sites" are dealing with awards (see: "[RANT] How to make sure your awards/reviews are totally meaningless: Hardwareheaven.net" thread") and it's clear similar thoughts come up elsewhere too.
The first rule laid down to any new writer looking to publish a piece of work online should be this: do not take some of the comments to heart. It’s a briefing that everyone who writes regularly for the Internet has to go through.
That’s no slight against commenters, rather the odd one or two who, er, take things to a more extreme level. Most comments, particularly related to video games, are of the harmless variety. Some are even revelatory; containing unknown embellishments that spark off meaningful debate among the readership. This is a very good thing.
Yet, for as wonderful and varied as article comments are, it’s the negative ones which catch the eye. One or two aggressive disagreements can quickly turn a peaceful feed into a raging flame war and in the latter half of 2011, one special flavour of murderous rage began to draw particular attention.
Newshound Pat Garratt believes that Metacritic itself is partially to blame for inflated review scores. He argues that a “need for very high Metacritic marks has led to a culture where games that carry sub-9 scores are no longer seen as true hits.' It’s a badly kept secret that big development studios reward their staff with bonuses for high ratings on Metacritic. This ethos filters down to PR representatives, who increase the pressure on reviewers to overstate their scores.
I’m inclined to agree with Pat. Most gaming outlets operate in a symbiotic relationship with publishers. Journalists rely on them for access to preview content and review discs, while publishers depend on the reliable marketing push a positive review will garner. This back-and-forth has lead to a culture in which it is considered de rigueur to award good games a nine or ten.