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Aug 16 / Mike

Writes Like A…

Whilst I love Eurogamer, the site’s just too cluttered for me to read on a regular basis. Whenever I do go over there for a review or otherwise, it’s always the comment threads that leave me most entertained. My favourite kind of comment is one that seems more prevalent at EG than anywhere else.

“Good review. Reads like a 7 though.”

So I went to find just how prevalent these things are. Cue small amount of programming…

The Numbers

I wrote a tiny web script that would run over every reviewer on the EG staff, and look at their most recent 300 reviews. It grabbed every comment and did some (very rough) guesswork as to how often these things come up. Here are some NUMBERS labelled with WORDS representing what I found:

There’s a whole load of ones with two or fewer – in fact, there’s a “Reads like a…” comment for every ten reviews on Eurogamer, which is a fairly high proportion. And that ignores all the ones I’ll have missed out because they used wording my quite simple script didn’t pick up.

Here’s some details on the writers too. Our top five, by total number of disputes:

And sorted again, the top five by disputes per review:

Some Words On The Numbers

First of all, the data is really shaky. I didn’t do this very rigorously, and anyone looking at my source code will be able to point out a ton of mistakes made in gathering the data. But it’s here as a guideline, just to look at and perhaps provoke further looks by more dedicated people.

Secondly, this isn’t meant to be a reflection on those writers named above. In terms of the top five by total disputes, two of them have over 300 reviews (making them long-standing writers at EG) and another two – Ellie Gibson and Simon Parkin – are reviewers that people love to discuss and argue with. Naturally, these people are going to garner more of these comments than others. In Christian Donlan’s case, he was just in the wrong game at the wrong time – the game which ended up topping the list of disputes-per-game, Mirror’s Edge.

The type of comment I searched for irritates me – and I would think others – because it has no real purpose. Ignoring for a second the fact that scoring systems are a dubious way of estimating a game’s worth, the idea that a bystander would be able to better make that conversion from the words of the review to the numbers of the score is absurd. When I used to write the odd review for Pocket Gamer, the difference between a 6 and a 7 could come down to which side of the bed I woke up that morning, or whether I liked the colours in the menu screen. The review is the opinion. The score is the shoeboxing, the categorisation. It’s an afterthought, a bad habit we can’t drop.

That’s a discussion for a more verbose time, I feel. I hope the numbers were vaguely interesting. The raw data is available here.

The Code Behind The Numbers And Words

So I finally found a Python HTML scraping library that really works. If you’re looking for one too, try BeautifulSoup. It’s fantastic. My source code can be found here; it’s messy, but it’s there. Running it on a MacBook with a reasonable connection, it still took a couple of hours to chew through all those reviews. Feel free to modify it and run it yourself.


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  1. Anton Gully / Aug 22 2010

    “The type of comment I searched for irritates me – and I would think others – because it has no real purpose.”

    Your irritation irritates me. I’ve done my own share of mental marking-down after reading reviews.

    “the idea that a bystander would be able to better make that conversion from the words of the review to the numbers of the score is absurd”

    If we didn’t have a games journalism culture that’s morally bankrupt and funded by games developers, you might have a point. Often the words in the review are a not particularly subtle clue that even though the game has just gotten a 80+ score it’s not actually very good.

    BTW, if you’re going to do the nerdy numbers thing, the least you could do is include a pie chart. Doesn’t even need to relate to anything, it’s just expected.

  2. Mike / Aug 22 2010

    It’s common practice for editorial to subtly change a game’s score if they think the review and the score are seriously incongruous. But among the comments I colleceted, I frequently had people suggesting opposite alterations to a score – scoring it both up and down.

    Scoring is hard, because you are attempting to blend several different feelings about a game into one number. ARMA 2 is one of the least playable games I have ever owned because of its horrendous performance and bug issues. But it’s also one of the best I’ve ever owned, because of the amazing moments it offered. If I mentioned both of those in a review, does that make it a 7 or an 8? Some will see the bugs and mark it down; others will see the heroic moments and mark it up.

    It’s a lose-lose situation. Yet scoring still works as a convenient shorthand about a game’s quality; something which I’m going to look into next.

  3. frymaster / Aug 22 2010

    The thing is, people add up the numbers differently. The reviewer talks about all aspects of the game and, because the publisher has some bullshit requirement for a score, puts his interpretation of a score there. If someone else, reading the review, would add up the parts differently, that’s not necessarily an indication that the score has been pimped and the review is trying to “get the real score in under the radar”; that’s merely an indication that the reader has different views about the importance of the different elements of the game, and so would add them up differently.

    So, basically, get rid of scores in reviews. Sorted 😉

  4. DrGonzo / Aug 22 2010

    I’ve actually stopped reading Eurogamer because of their reviews. I find that they are becoming a lot like Edge. For example, Kane and Lynch is an excellent game imo, yet the generic blandness of Gears of War gets a higher score.

    I guess in my opinion originality and a good story are more deserving of a high score than polished blandness like Gears of War or Uncharted.

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