I feel comfortable in the belief that many modern gamers are interested in learning about the quality of the video games before they purchase them. None of us want to shell out some cash only to be hit with a quick trade in and buyer's remorse. This is why we read reviews. However, how many people actually read every line of reviews these days? Those highly detailed paragraphs bear a treasure trove of knowledge, but are that many people slowing down to pick everything up? Well, based on my favourite post-review activity - reading the nasty comments about the score and nothing else - I would have to say no; too many individuals now care more about a number than they do the specifics of what they just 'read.' Hell, one cursory glance at Metacritic usually can tell you whether or not to buy a game...right? We've all been guilty of it at least once (and I'm not humouring you if you tell me otherwise). The time it takes to read a full review isn't always convenient and sometimes you just need a 'yay' or 'nay' while youíre standing in line at your local game store. Unfortunately, I think that's the biggest problem with reviews today.
Humour me the pleasure of making a fairly strong statement: Taking the completely subjective score or rating that someone else assigns to a video game's quality as the be-all-end-all when it comes to your buying habits is incredibly ignorant and extremely lazy. I suppose I should qualify this notion.
Again, we all want to make the 'right' choice when shopping for things that donít come cheap, but shouldn't your buying habits conform to your personal taste? By taking another individual's subjective analysis of a game's quality and conforming to that opinion, you do yourself no favors when it comes to finding the games that tickle your brain. For example, in February of 2010 I read a review of Deadly Premonition which, in the body of the text, acquainted it to a Shenmue killer, mused about its Twin Peaks influences (Twin Peaks was and is still one of my favorite shows), detailed it's Resident Evil 4 gameplay style, and touted it's hilarious sound design, but assigned the game a final score of 2/10. In the mind of this reviewer this game was broken, ugly, and unplayable, but I read all I needed to know in the review. The next day, I purchased Deadly Premonition and have probably completed the game twelve times since. What was interesting about this situation was that I typically agreed with a lot of this guy's reviews and felt as though we had similar tastes. That said, 'similar' does not mean 'exactly the same'. This is an important distinction.
When a reviewer writes about a game's various attributes in the body of the review, the goal isn't necessarily to leverage the final review score. Many, if not most, reviewers are intent on detailing and representing a video game to the best of their ability. They want you to know as much about the experience as possible before you crank out the cash. They also want you to understand their perspective of the experience, not fully adopt it. Final scores are one way to do that, but they're also kind of superfluous providing the reviewer's perspective is adequately explained in the review itself.
The gaming industry has become so predicated on arbitrary number scores, that they have allowed those scores to define a game's worth. It's gotten to the point where Metacritic now dictates whether sequels are made, companies receive their bonuses, or whether games are even purchased. This is a massive problem for a few major reasons: scores lack context (as all values do until you assign worth), there is no uniformity across the board for scoring systems, and every score is completely subjective.
This is why I think scores should be dropped from reviews. We all have placed too much value on what is essentially the oversimplified opinion of another person. As a result, these numbers have been used and abused to hurt the profit margins of our favorite developers, generate internet commentator hatred, and allow what could be a decent game to collect dust on store shelves. All because everyone else told you they didn't like it. When we were little kids, our parents stepped in to take away our toys whenever we started to abuse them. I think it's about time someone stepped in to take away review scores.