Saturday, August 27, 2011

Grade Inflation and Reviews

While it was an awesome game, did it really deserve all
those accolades? San Andreas was a better experience.
Have you ever wondered why reviews in general tend to give higher scores than they used to? The reason why is because of a term used in academia called Grade Inflation. In academic terms, it is when better grades are given for comparable work over a given period of time. To apply it to anime, manga, video games, even movie reviews, it is when higher scores are given to a similar quality level of product. A video game that might get a score of 75% in the past is now being given a score of 85% now. I will explore grade inflation in how anime, manga, and video games are being rated now and I will give my readers some strategies to deal with grade inflation in modern reviews.

Why is grade inflation happening?

Part of the reason why grade inflation happens is because we the audience demand it. When it comes to a review of the newest anime, manga, or video game, people in general would base decisions on the number given at the end of the review. The companies are realizing the importance of these scores are the basis of many purchases. A famous example was when a western company (who shall be not named) said that they will base bonuses based on the Metacritic aggregate score on the game. This puts pressure on the gaming news outlets to be more gentle when scoring the game because a really bad score will not put them on the bad side of a video game company. This means that they will stop getting free review copies, they will be shut out of exclusive invite-only events, and they will have less access to the developers who make the game.

Not exactly a darling of
the western press
Since this happens quite often, in general the gaming press (and others) seem to rate games from a 75-100 scale, with only the truly horrendous games or games that don't really fit the accepted gaming culture are being put out of this range. Exhibit 1, most of the scores given to Hyperdimension Neptunia. I felt that it was a flawed game, but once you looked past those flaws you got to play a pretty darn awesome game. It was a great game, but because it didn't fit into accepted western standards of gaming is it considered "Below Average." There are many anime, manga, and video games that get highers scores than they would have in the past. I would parade some example out there, but there will definitely be some disagree on what I consider truly average compared to other people out there. As seen with Neptunia, there are games that I love that people in general would not like. Another reason why reviews are starting to have grade inflation is because of sites that aggregate reviews. When a person can go on sites that aggregate reviews into one portal, the reviews that stick out tend to get interesting reactions. It is a traditional Japanese saying "the nail that sticks out has to be hammered down." It is the same thing when it comes to aggregate sites, when you have a list of reviewers giving high scores, the score that doesn't tow the line is the one that people will jump on. There will be ad hominem attacks that would attack the reviewer's credibility or question whether they really played the same game. In our culture we value individuality, as long as you follow everyone else.

How to deal with Grade Inflation?

There are a myriad of strategies to deal with grade inflation, I am only giving you strategies. Your mileage may vary and you are more than welcome to send me suggestions to counteract this.

Compare Scoring Within Website: One of the easiest ways to counteract grade inflation in reviews is to look at reviews done by the same author on another game that you are familiar with. From your personal experiences give a numerical rating on the scale used by the website and see what they would review. Once you figured out a standard deviation that you are comfortable with, that is the true score of the website. I figured out that in general Game Trailers would add 1.2 more points than how I would score a certain genre, and they would underscore Japanese RPG's by .6 points. To get the true score I would just get whatever they rate, and add or subtract to determine what the "real" score is that is closer to how I see things.

Don't even bother looking at the letter grade/score: What I do on my blog (and in Inside AX) is that I do not even put a grade or score on my review. The reason is because I do not want people to skip over the review and read the score. The most important aspect of the review is not the final score, it is the content of the review. The content of the review will determine the writer's bias, their personal experience, and what they value and do not value. Review score at the end doesn't mean anything unless you read the review with the intent of analyzing whether the review gives pertinent information that you as a reader value.

In the end, it is all about the reader. Do some research and determine what level of grade inflation that this review site uses. Grade inflation is happening in reviews, so it is up to you to find out what is the "real" score so that you wont be fooled by the biased scale.

1 comment:

Rich$Con said...

What grade and score would you give Sam's love life?