Metacritic is a handy one-stop site that tallies up video game and movie reviews from numerous sources. The average score that’s awarded to each game gives careful buyers a general idea of what’s worth spending money on, and what should be avoided by everybody except individuals with a fetish for throwing away money.
But those average scores tend to be too generalized according to some critics of Metacritic (get it?). Metacritic ratings can make or break a game at retail, as people tend to glance at the average score without reading any accompanying text and therefore don’t take the review in context. This can create some friction between publishers, developers, and game reviewers, friction that’s aggravated by the unfortunate tendency for the gaming community regard titles rated lower than 80% to be critical failures.
So some developers are understandably uneasy about Metacritic’s latest project: Ranking individual video game developers based on their accumulated project scores.
There are already some notable discrepancies. “I have an 86 on Metacritic and Miyamoto has an 80,” Cliffy B tweeted on March 26. “This is bulls**t. Someone needs to stop this crap before it goes too far.”
CliffyB’s irritation is warranted. Reducing a developer to a number is deplorable, and a cheap means of stirring up message board drama–something the game community is not in short supply of. It also does an enormous disservice to the creative teams that work with devs and make the magic happen.
But there’s a small lesson to be learned here, too. Games developers rarely garner the acclaim of movie directors, book authors, or actors, but their work deserves widespread recognition. Thousands of people lined up on March 27 to pick up a Nintendo 3DS, but only a tiny percentage of those customers know that the lineage of the 3DS is ultimately owed to the man who developed the Game Boy and the Game & Watch series of games, Gunpei Yokoi. Likewise, any ten-year-old can tell you who Mario is, but if you ask them who made Mario, you’re probably going to get a blank stare in return.
In short, veteran game developers deserve celebration and recognition. That doesn’t include stamping a number on them and throwing them onto a site to battle one another like virtual pitbulls.