The latest episode of the GameCritics.com podcast is up, in which myself, Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, and Tim Spaeth discuss the finer points of review writing. There was a brief talk at the beginning about the number of reviews we had each written, which got me thinking about the numbers following everything I've written thus far for the site. I've only been writing game reviews for two years, so I figured that I'd better start tracking the data now rather than later when it would be much more difficult. Using Excel and some SQL sorcery I tallied up each game I've reviewed for GameCritics and the score I gave it. The results were a little surprising. Now, for the benefit of the world at large, I will share those results and what I think they had to say about my writing.
First, some disclaimers. These are my stats only, and do not reflect the views of anyone else at GameCritics. I counted both official reviews and second/third opinions, so not all of the scores will be posted on Metacritic. For the score compilations I round down the .5 scores, I.E. 6.5 counts as a 6. Now for the fun stuff. Shall we?
My overall score breakdown is as follows:
I've written a total of 36 reviews since I began writing for GameCritics in March of 2009. It didn't seem like that much at first, only coming out to 1.5 reviews per month. For contrast, Brad Gallaway has cranked out close to 500 reviews, coming out to around 4 per month. I suppose this means I'm...selective? Lazy? Slow? I do tend to only review games that interest me rather than try to get time in with every major release, so I suppose it's a combination of the above. However, let's go with "Selective". That sounds better. It also explains some of the subsequent findings.
My average score is a 7.5, and my most common score in is the 8 range. This is somewhat surprising, given the number of times I've harped on the prevalent 7-10 score scale prevalent in most mainstream review publications. However, I think my selectivity has something to do with this. As I said, I usually only play games I think I'll like, so if I actually played a broader spectrum of games I imagine the average would be lower.
In that same vein, only 4 games to this point have incurred my wrath to the point that they came in below the like/do not like threshold of 5. Heavy Rain, Singularity, Dragon Age Origins: Witch Hunt, and Hydrophobia all sucked hard enough for me to turn to the bottom half of the scale. The reviews themselves do an adequate (if my ill-informed blathering can be called adequate) job explaining the reasoning behind the score, so I won't go into details, but these four games I think tell me what I don't like to see in games.
Heavy Rain was a story-driven game with a terrible story, so I seem to be a stickler for narrative. I called out Singularity for having a dull game world, so I apparently like vivid, memorable levels that can even act as a character in and of themselves. Dragon Age Origins: Witch Hunt was a shallow experience that would have been better suited being in a larger game, so I don't like small tack-on adventures from DLC. Hydrophobia was just complete garbage in every way, so.......I don't like complete garbage I guess.
When I started collecting all this information, I was expecting to find quite a few reviews from my early days that I would want to take back. To my pleasant surprise I find myself only wanting to walk back one of them-my Prince of Persia review from way back when I was still a provisional member of GameCritics. Again I won't go into the gory details, but I think I was just too kind to it. My present thoughts of the game are mostly negative, despite the good parts I describe in the review. While I don't think anything I said was outright wrong, I let the "easy-death" aspect overshadow the game's numerous other problems when I shouldn't have. Looking back, I'd say it deserves a 5 instead of the 8 I gave it. Bygones are bygones though. Critics, and people in general, should own up to their mistakes, and I made one in my evaluation of Prince of Persia. Sorry. My bad.
So how will this affect my writing going forward? I honestly don't know. Awareness of our habits, regardless of what they are, always changes the perception we have of ourselves. If anything at all I'm hoping this knowledge makes me a better critic. And who knows? When I can look back at 10 years' worth of reviews maybe I won't have changed at all.