Clint Hocking has a solution for a particularly vexing problem. The Ubisoft Creative Director says game review scores have been artificially inflated over the years, thanks in large part to the use of the 100-point scoring system. The fix? All game critics should switch to a five-star system instead.
According to Hocking, who has developed games like Splinter Cell and Far Cry 2, 35 of the 100 current top-rated games (as tracked by an aggregate site) were released after 2001. That presents a skewed view of the industry's history and points toward a recent inflation of sorts in game reviews, Hocking argues. During a panel at the Game Developers Conference, Hocking compared the situation to that of the wine industry, where the 100-point rating system has created the so-called "cult of 90-plus."
After wine critic Robert M. Parker introduced the 100-point rating system to the wine industry, wines soon began to be divided into two distinct categories: those that received scores of 90 or higher and those that did not. Hocking read a quote from another noted wine critic who distinctly divided wines along those lines, even claiming there was an important and mysterious difference between a wine that received a score of, say, 89 percent and a wine that was blessed with a score of 90.
"I like a glass of wine as much as the next guy, especially if it has gin in it," Hocking archly noted. But he called that 89/90 distinction ridiculous, and warned that the sentiment is already creeping into the world of gaming.
His solution is to move to a five-star system that would theoretically remove the point-by-point score inflation he believes is happening in game criticism. Hocking's theory is that game critics are under pressure to keep up with improvements in the game industry by gradually tacking percentage points -- or fractions of points, or pluses and minuses, etc. -- to review scores over time, causing score inflation. Hocking compared this to grade inflation that affects high schools and universities.
So what do you think? Is the 100-point (or decimal based 1-10 scale) creating an inflationary environment for videogame review scores? Or are those slivers of distinction an important tool for gaming consumers to use when comparing titles? And would moving the industry toward a five-star system solve the problem, or would aggregate sites simply convert that data into the equivalent of a 100-point scale, thus re-creating the problem? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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