Why petitions to censor reviews are holding back the video game industry

An obsession is sweeping across the gaming community quicker than a zombie infection. Scores for reviews are nothing new, and while they are a controversial method of rating video games, they have never before enraged gamers to such an extent that they have taken action. Suddenly, two separate petitions are gaining momentum as gamers campaign to have controversial reviews of Uncharted 4 and Doom removed from Metacritic to clean their almost perfect records. This is a worrying sign, as the voice of the masses threatens to silence critics and gamers who are not so prepared to jump onto the bandwagon.

It all started with Uncharted 4. The developer Naughty Dog boasts an impressive record, with their previous three games (not including remasters or collections) all scoring above 90 on the review aggregate site Metacritic. Uncharted 4 launched earlier this month and continues Naughty Dog’s astounding record with universal acclaim. With jaw-dropping visuals, a heartfelt story and solid gameplay, it’s no surprise that Uncharted 4 is receiving such positive reception. Even we at The Game Bolt awarded Uncharted 4 the Seal of Approval, which is our highest score possible, but that doesn’t mean that we will reject someone for having a differing opinion. Yet, when The Washington Post gave Uncharted 4 a negative review, everyone lost their mind.

Uncharted 4 is loved by most, but not by Washington Post

Dimitris Xorikos started a petition on Change.org to remove Washington Post’s review of Uncharted 4 so it will once again have a flawless record. While Washington Post never actually gave Uncharted 4 a score, Metacritic assumed it to be a 4 out of 10 from the negativity of the review. This isn’t the most accurate of scoring systems (which alone says a lot) and Metacritic has arguably given a generous score with the review’s final line reading “ ‘A Thief’s End’ is less a conclusion to Nathan Drake’s story than an affirmation of the inconclusive wreck it has always been.” While this is certainly not an opinion we agree with, it doesn’t mean that we believe their opinion to be any less valid than anyone else’s. However, it appears Dimitris Xorikos does not share our opinion  as he wrote:

“This guy doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously by big, crucial sites like Metacritic. It harms the flawless reputation of the game for absolutely no reason. A review is not about what you think a game is, it’s about what a game is.”

This statement assumes that the “flawless reputation” of a game is more sacred than the right to freedom of speech. Of course, as he points out, reviews from any publication should be executed with professionalism and expertise, but his assertion that a review is not about “what you think a game is” but “about what a game is” couldn’t be any further from the truth. A review without opinion only contains fact, and is thus impossible to score. In fact, a review is all about opinion, as without it, it would only be a list of specifications and features.

Gamers are becoming over-obsessed with numerical scores on sites such as Metacritic

However, while every person should be entitled to an opinion, it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it. If you do disagree with their review, then it might affect your view of Washington Post. That isn’t a problem, but as soon as there are attempts made to filter out reviews that you disagree with, then you are heading into dangerous territory. Silencing the voices that differ from the general consensus will only feed a culture that oppresses healthy debate within the gaming community.

It has been suggested that the negative review from Washington Post was actually satire, as people point towards a separate review on their site as evidence, which actually gives Uncharted 4 a positive review (although it is admittedly written by the Press Association rather than the writers at Washington Post). While it would make sense to remove Washington Post’s score from Metacritic if it is indeed a satire, it doesn’t give the angry mob any excuse for such behavior. Firstly, there is no indication that they had prior knowledge that this was a satire and secondly, there is no confirmation whether it was a satire rather than an authentic review. Yet the petition currently stands at 8900 signatures, and more worryingly, the mentality of controlling the filter of reviews on Metacritic seems to have spread, as a new petition emerged regarding Doom.

Doom has received universal acclaim from critics, yet this isn’t enough for some fans

IGN’s review of Doom has also been met with backlash as Ivan Kovalev set up a petition on Change.org to have it removed from Metacritic. This case is more alarming than the previous, firstly because the review was actually well written and shows no lack of knowledge, and secondly, because IGN didn’t actually give Doom a negative score, with a 7.1 out of 10. While the argument against a numerical scoring system is justified, there is no rationalization to block a review simply because you don’t agree with it. It’s worrying to think that this mentality could spread and fester within the gaming community.

This obsession with numerical scores shows that a large segment of the gaming community only cares about the reputation of a game and not about the larger scope of the industry. We should be discussing how Uncharted 4’s visuals could improve storytelling, or whether Doom’s SnapMap could revolutionise online multiplayer. Instead, we’re bickering over a numerical value. If we should take anything from the Washington Post review, we should be discussing the merit of their point whether the lack of realism in a story is important in an era where storytelling has matured. Yet the discussion remains fixated on whether Uncharted 4 deserves a score of 93 or 95.

Uncharted 4 was ground-breaking for the detail of its characters

Video games are subjective, as is every other form of art. The world’s population does not share the same favourite book, film or television show, so why should this differ from video games? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that freedom of expression should be cherished more than a numerical score on an aggregation site. The sad truth is that the gaming industry is still in its adolescence, and such bigotry is holding it back from becoming a respected form of art. Only when gamers can look past the numerical figure and see that every opinion contributes to the wider discussion can the industry come of age and be respected by its peers.

Ryan Jones is a writer for The Game Bolt. Being a Welshman doesn’t mean he only has sheep in his heart, as he loves film, tv and video games. Follow him on Twitter.