Sunday, May 6, 2018

The dilemma of bad games reviewed as good ones

You have played several video games in a franchise, and they have been great. And a new game in the series is coming out, and the reviews are great! Or perhaps a known developer company is making a brand new game, and it's widely hyped and has tons of positive reviews. You can't wait to get to play it.

So it finally comes out, and you purchase it, you start playing it and... hmm... while the beginning might have felt somewhat interesting, a few hours into the game it's just... a bit on the boring side. Ok, maybe it's just a temporary hiccup, and the game will become more interesting just around the corner. You keep playing for a few hours more and... it's just getting more and more boring, and perhaps even frustrating. You can't really understand what all those raving reviews were talking about. It might not be that the game outright sucks and is utter trash, but... it's just boring, or uninteresting, or frustrating... or all of the above. So much so that you lose interest in it completely and just stop playing it, even before having advanced even a quarter in the main story.

Well, that was quite a waste of money, wasn't it? You might have played the game for something like 5 hours, so there's no refunding it, or anything. You are stuck with it.

How were you fooled into buying this game? The reviews. You just believed the reviews. You believed the often completely deceptive Metacritic score (which I have written about before.) This becomes especially apparent when the critic score is wildly different from the user reviews score. For a recent example:


Those numbers mean, effectively, a professional critic average score of 84%, and a user score of 55%. (In the latter case it effectively means that about half of people hated the game. Which is quite a lot.)

I played Fallout: New Vegas for 60 hours. It was a very good game. I played Fallout 4 for 5 hours. It was a complete waste of money. I was fooled by all the positive reviews.

There is no recourse against this. And the dilemma is, should there be? It's not an easy question.

If you to to a movie theater, start watching a movie, and after half an hour you walk out, should you be able to demand your money back? There is no easy answer to this.

If you buy a 600-page book, read 200 pages of it, and don't like it, should you be able to get a refund? If you buy a 40-page comic book, read the first 10 pages, and don't like it, should you be able to get a refund? If you go to a restaurant, eat a quarter of your meal and don't like it, should you get a refund?

None of those are easy questions. Arguments could be presented in both directions. It becomes even more complicated when you were fooled to make the purchase by third-party reviewers who might not have been directly affiliated with the company at all (perhaps.)

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