Brice Morrison has published an interesting article about how Metacritic, while being fairly reliable for traditional videogames, seems to be consistently wrong about Nintendo games. Wrong in the sense that the professional criticism does not correlate with the audience appreciation.
The reason for this, as he points out, is that Nintendo is adding two values to their games that are simply not being evaluated by the games press, illustrated by the reviewer’s recurring apology/warning that “this is not a game!” Traditional game reviews look at a combination of aesthetics, design and length. But Nintendo adds to these accessability and peripheral benefit (i.e. the value of the product beyond its entertainment value). And it is exactly these two values that attract new customers to Nintendo’s products, which, as we know, has been the key to success.
This is something that has been a concern of ours ever since we’re on the path (pun intended) towards publishing a commercial game. While our games are nothing like Nintendo’s, we also lean heavily towards exactly the same values that their games add to the mix. We also want our work to be accessible: there is no competition in our games, no stress, no hard rules and the controls are easy. And we want to add “peripheral benefit” in the form of a meaningful artistic experience that we hope enriches the player’s life.
We already know that The Path is going to get low review scores. Simply because its main benefits fall outside of the range of things that game reviewers pay attention to, or can express in a score. We’ve been toying with the idea of asking the reviewers to simply give the game a score of zero. But I don’t know. It seems so arrogant. And I’m still hoping that some day, the games press will open up, or soften up. Perhaps Nintendo will come to the rescue.