This is the story of a man called Stanley. He used to believe that all game reviews should have scores. Look, a reviewer would write, this is the best seven out of ten that I have ever played. And all the other reviewers wrote the same thing, and no one knew why they did this. It was just something that happened and everyone was happy that there was a objective truth that they could all agree on. This was comforting. Stanley always knew when someone had not played the game, because they gave the wrong score.
But then someone told Stanley that because all of the scores were the same, the score was quite irrelevant. In fact, all games were seven out of ten. Every one. So there was no score, really, just a symbol at the end of the review. It might as well been a photo of a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.
And then Stanley had to decide whether he wanted to read more of this article, because if he did not, then he would not know if there was any more to know. At least he had to make a decision.
Stanley stopped thinking about scores. He looked for reviews which had words but no photo of some old bread. But he was shocked to discover that the reviews disagreed. What was he to think? Reviews were opinions that were not his own opinion. How could he know what his own opinion was by reading other opinions? It would be sheer madness to believe such a thing could happen. It would mean that he would never need to play the game because he already had an opinion.
He decided to have an opinion before reading other opinions. That way, he could be sure he had created this opinion himself and not some faceless hack living off the minimum wage praying that a PR firm might hire him out of this terrible lifestyle of writing copy on games he or she found banal, frankly.
The problem with having this opinion is that Stanley became angry with the reviewers who had a different opinion to him. So he took it upon himself to inform wayward reviewers where their opinions had were in error. This all seemed to go terribly well for a good while. Here’s another wrong review, Stanley would think, I will tell him to change things.
Now the reviewers were unhappy being told their opinions were wrong because they still felt such nostalgia for the days they used to give scores and had something that might pass as “authority” in quotes. So they came up with a new plan. They would write about their own lives in the reviews and then declare that their opinion was the true one because the review contained something that actually happened to them. And who could disagree with that? Who would challenge that these things had happened?
Then Stanley became very confused about what part of the review was telling him something about the game. So he began assigning scores to the reviews, to help him decide which reviews were useful. But it was not long before everyone realised Stanley was not scoring their reviews. He was scoring the reviewer’s lives in the reviews.
Everyone liked Stanley’s scores, except the reviewers. What was useful about his scores is that everyone could use them to decide whether they liked the reviewers or not, whether they would have a drink with them in the bar. It became more important to find a reviewer that could be a personal friend. If Stanley gave the reviewer a score on the low end, perhaps a meagre three out of ten, then the reviewer became fair game on Twitter.
The reviewers, still not being paid any money and rather unhappy about the whole scoring thing, decided to assign scores to the people who left comments on their reviews. When the comment agreed with the reviewer, the reviewer gave them a good score. When the comment disagreed, the reviewer gave them a really bad score.
Of course, what the comment writers really wanted was to get a job writing about games for free, which sounded important even if they were slowly starving to death. They wanted to be reviewers and so receiving a low score from a reviewer, even one they did not respect, might hinder their future career prospects. So the comment writers agreed to agree with the reviewers and they turned on Stanley.
And Stanley decided he didn’t want to play games any more.