Make Your Philosophy of Game Reviews Known
Esteemed Polygon Reviews Editor, Arthur Gies, created a non-troversey when his score for Borderlands 2 went live today.
I say his "score," because no one seems to have had a problem with the actual substance of his review.
Rather it was the required numerical bookend that caused a stir. Reactions on Twitter and in the comments section range from thoughtful to absurd, to nonsensical. But by now we're use to these kinds of things, or at least should be. It's the nature of the beast, no?
But, as a reader who usually enjoys Arthur's reviews, even when I disagree with them, I would like to propose something for Polygon's Reviews Department (aka Arthur and his minions), once the site is officially launched.
The proposal is this: whenever someone reviews a game for Polygon, whoever they happen to be, require them to have a short post attached to their byline which spells out, in their own words, what their particular philosophy of game reviews is.
Polygon, as the name implies and the editorial team (aka Chris Grant and his minions) have made clear, is an outlet devoted to looking at gaming from many angles. Part of that commitment to pluralism means allowing different perspectives to flourish when it comes to reviewing video games. It means balancing a commitment to broader editorial demands with a commitment to one's own critical insights and beliefs.
For instance, in Arthur's review of Borderlands 2, he appears to value precisely designed and refreshing gameplay over innovation in narrative. He also holds Borderlands 2 to a higher standard than its predecessor, arguing that just being a better version of the first iteration isn't enough to make Borderlands 2 an amazing game.
Now, perhaps Arthur would disagree with my characterization of different parts of his review. I guarantee he probably not only disagrees with many of the interpretations in the comments section, but wonders if they're even talking about the same review that he wrote.
A page dedicated to something like "What informs how Arthur Gies reviews games" certainly wouldn't get rid of all confusion, or prevent all controversy, but at least for most readers it would help give us a sense of where Arthur is coming from when he makes certain judgements. Time is short, and reviews can't be as long as we'd sometimes like them to be. Inevitably then we make arguments about this or that part of a game, without always explaining the more basic assumptions upon which they are based. But something like a "My philosophy of reviews" page would be a way to address those guiding assumptions in more detail.
Polygon already has an outline that indicates loosely what its scores mean and how they are arrived at. But not every reviewer will interpret that scale in the same exact way. To demand that kind of editorial purity would not only be silly, it would also go against the values expressed in the name of the site as well.
So I'm curious, what do the rest of you think?