Typically, when readers yell about how twisted and broken the gaming criticism industry is, I often take time to speak up and suggest otherwise. Sure, there’s some funny business when it comes to blacklisting outlets, requesting higher scores and running ad content alongside review coverage; but, taken as a whole, most gaming writers aren’t swayed by publishers when it comes time to grade titles.
That said, whenever Metacritic is involved in the process, I get a little wary. I hate Metacritic. As an idea and basic tool, it’s fine. It’s nice to have a score aggregate that makes shopping for games a little easier and more direct for consumers. As a metric system for the gaming world? It’s broken.
Every site uses a different system for scores. A 9.5 on IGN, for instance, does not equal a 9.5 for us. In the eyes of Metacritic, though, those numbers are exactly the same.
The scary thing? Gaming companies hire and fire full staffs of developers and PR based entirely on Metacritic performance. I can speak personally of an instance where one marketing team asked a site I was with to raise our score for their game. The reasoning behind their request? A higher score from us would bring up the Metacritic rating enough to earn their team a nice bonus.
Metacritic is scary.
The latest bit of problematic Metacritic usage stems from BioShock Infinite‘s development house’s job seeking process. The folks at Irrational Games (no matter how much I love them) have posted a job advert for a Design Manager position. One line from the list of requirements reads like so:
Credit on at least one game with an 85+ Average Meta Critic Review Score.
I don’t know if you can hear my loud, aggravated sighing from wherever you are right now, but please understand that it’s happening.
Why? I know that Metacritic is a broken system with an awkward metric. To hire a staff member based on one statistic from an aggregate site that can’t possibly control score fudging is absurd to me.
What say you, herd members?