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What would be the most “objective” way to rate/review a game?

I was browsing through Steam and came across a review where someone had 150+ hours in a game and they chose to "Not Recommend" because of an achievement bug.

Now, everyone has a right to their opinion about a game. But I found this a bit odd because achievements aren't game breaking features and the person clearly put enough hours in the game so I assume they enjoyed it. In my opinion saying you don't recommend a game you spent 150+ hours in because of a non-game-breaking bug is a bit harsh. But that's not what this post is about, let's just leave that as a difference in opinion.

This got me thinking though: Is there a way to more objectively "rate" a game. Don't get me wrong, someone's emotional/personal opinion about a game can be valid. The problem, I think, is that reviews are not calibrated. Someone's 1/10 is another person's 6/10, etc. And I get it, that's fine.

Metacritic is a decent proxy but it's still just a combination of opinions. What if there was something more objective (e.g. not requiring human opinion)?

The first thought that came to mind is "number of hours played". For example, if on Steam I could see that on average 90% of people played 100+ hours in the game I could be fairly confident that the game is decent, regardless of those people's opinions.

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But of course this has flaws too. Some games are more grindy than others, so more hours doesn't mean it's better. Also multiplayer games won't fit because the hours spent there are completely disproportional (for example I have 2K+ hours in TF2 but "only" 100 in Into the Breach and I wouldn't say that one is better than the other, I like them both equally).

So maybe we can calibrate. If we stick to single player games, maybe we can find out who actually completed the game, and figure out how many hours that took on average. This would give us a calibrated per-game baseline for what the "Average" time is to beat the game. Then we can use this time to gauge what percentage of the game people played before abandoning. For example if the game takes approx. 50 hours to complete and 90% of people only played it for 30 minutes, then you know there's something wrong. It could be a bug, or the game is too hard, or too boring. Again this can be flawed too so I'm not saying this is a perfect system, I'm just trying to spark a conversation.

"Hours played" is definitely not a perfect benchmark. But in my experience at least it tends to correlate to the games I liked the most. For example if I sort my Steam library by hours played I can clearly see my favorite games at the top, so it's a pretty good proxy for the games I'd rate highest. And it's far less subjective than any review I could write because hours don't lie.

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I guess my thinking is if you're going to spend your precious time playing a game then chances are you like the game. I'm sure there are exceptions of people who play games they hate but I'd hope that is the minority.

I'm not saying human-written reviews aren't useful. They definitely help us figure out what the game is really like. But I think adding another more objective metric could be useful too.

Anyway, I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this. Do you look at reviews before buying a game? Do you prefer seeing a score/rating? A simple recommend/not-recommend? Do you think more objective metrics could have a place?


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