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Now Metacritic can do developers out of bonus pay AND jobs. BioShock studio makes Metascore an application requirement

You're a game dev. You finish a game. It's good. But you lose your project bonus for the sake of one arbitrary percent on an arbitrary scoring system based on the smashing together of a hundred random reviews of varying degrees of professionalism and insight. You're annoyed. You look for another job. You find that you can't even apply, because that same arbitrary, made-up number is now a job requirement.

ARRRRGH!

Metacritic already has a lot to answer for. Franchises can live or die by its random number generator judgements. Studios can flourish or close. By giving suits (what looks like) an easily quantifiable way of determining a game's quality, Metacritic has made uneducated, nuance-free decisions far too easy to justify over recent years, from corporate overlord to game-buying man or woman on the street. So is choosing development staff based on Metascores a great idea? I'm not so sure.

Either way, a recent job advertisement from BioShock developer Irrational Games lists a credit on at least one game with a Metascore of 85% as an application requirement, along with a minimum of three titles completed from pre-production to shipping. Which kind of seems like nonsense to me.

After all, games (at least ones on the scale of the kind of thing Irrational makes) are now huge projects requiring staff numbers in the hundreds. Tying a game's Metascore to the reputation of just one developer is ludicrous. Say, for instance, a great animator went for an Animation Lead position requiring a top-quarter Metacritic rating, but his last few games had Metascores in the 60s due to crap shooting mechanics and boring level design, neither of which was his responsibility. How would that Metascore apply then? There are a lot of great guitarists in shit bands. That doesn't mean you wouldn't want them in your band. 

Of course, there's every chance that these job requirements have been written up by a non-creative HR employee who's never made a game in his life. And thusly there's every chance that the sort of black-and-white stipulations included won't be strictly adhered to once actual game-making folk start weedling through the applicants.

But still, it's got to be mighty demoralising to see this sort of thing appearing in job advert if you're a developer who's already been stung by the industry's increasing obsession with Metacritic. Surely a bit of an unnecessary psychological hurdle before you've even got to the interview?

33 comments

  • winner2 - July 27, 2012 6:33 a.m.

    As long as Levine gets Bioshock Infinite out all super-polished and amazing and such, I couldn't care less what Irrational does with it's other projects.
  • aurko.roy - July 26, 2012 11:45 p.m.

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/bioshock-2-minervas-den They cant even do 85 in all of there titles, what they are hiring for the LEAD or CEO section!!
  • Divine Paladin - July 27, 2012 8:19 a.m.

    Irrational didn't make Bioshock 2.
  • yonderTheGreat - July 26, 2012 8:53 p.m.

    Guys... this is for a Design Lead job, and it only requires *ONE* 85. Yes, it's completely arbitrary, but this is the type of job "requirement" that often gets waved, like a specific type of degree or "4 years experience" for a phenom that only has 3.5 year. They're not hiring a level designer or script writer, this is for a Design Lead. This is a big boy job. It's still a stupid idea, but one you guys are overreacting to.
  • ninjaemperor - July 26, 2012 1:40 p.m.

    I'm going to be honest, I can't see Ken Levine coming up with something like this, he's smart and savvy enough to understand the issues that would relate to using Metacritic in this way. This reeks of corporate interference.
  • sebastianmendoza - July 26, 2012 1:01 p.m.

    I was outraged to see such a beloved developer make a dick move that belonged more in line with EA or Activition, so I went to check the actual listing... and of course it was actually a sensationalist headline rather than the whole truth. They are only asking for that specific requirement on the Design Manager position, and putting it under that context, I believe it makes perfect sense; we are not talking about any position, we are talking about one of the pillars of game as a whole. It should be expected to require a person who has demostrated in general that they can achieve a higher level on game making.
  • bash street kid - July 26, 2012 11:55 a.m.

    It could open up the door to a dash more bribery and manipulation.. after all if a percentage point is worth it's weight in wonga? How much do game reviewers get paid these days? I just checked and Vanquish has a metacritic score of 84% (ps3) - so it wouldn't count. It's by far one of the more memorable games in an extensive collection. If this practice becomes the norm; a decrease in interesting, controversial and experimental titles. A proliferation of focus grouped, play-it-safe, please the crowd blockbusters. I have to say it does sounds less than ideal. Though I'd be willing to hear some opposing views.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - July 26, 2012 11:15 a.m.

    Metacritic is a tool, one that can be helpful and one that can be misused. I find it useful when making my purchasing decisions but the ultimate decision is still mine. Publishers are certainly abusing Metacritic but that in entirely the fault of publishers and the developers who let them get away with it. This reminds me of Phil Fish putting out Fez with glaring technical problems. So he puts out his one free patch and that introduced even more technical problems. So Phil Fish got 2 chances to get it right yet failed, now he goes out and blames Microsoft for his personal failure to put out a stable game. That is the same scenario being painted by this article. Developers know going into their project if a Metacritic average will be used to determine if they get bonuses or not. If developers don't like that then they can work it out with the publishers, not complain about it AFTER agreeing to it. Plus, the vast majority of games are made without there being any bonus provisions in the contract, and it isn't as if the developers don't get paid for making the game, they just might not get paid above and beyond what they already pocketed by hitting their milestones. TL;DR Publishers shouldn't tie bonuses (or employment opportunities) to Metacritic, developers should grow a pair and demand that they don't want Metacritic-based bonuses in their contract if they don't want them, Metacritic isn't the problem just the companies abusing it are. Many gamers find it a valuable source of information.
  • Memph - July 26, 2012 10:51 a.m.

    Personally, I mostly find scoring games arbitrarily to be an outmoded concept. It's the words that tell you how good a game is or if it's for you. There's plenty of 'good' scoring games that I don't like and plenty of 'bad', low scoring games that I've loved and played to death - and i'm sure this is the same for many other folks. I reckon reviewers seriously need to heed this more and stop 'final judgement' of people's work by just slapping a number on it. How would you like it eh? It not only shits on the developers, but undermines the whole art of informatively reviewing a game.
  • Gazanator101 - July 26, 2012 10 a.m.

    The whole 'Fallout: New Vegas not getting their bonus cut' thing was a complete joke - one percent off?! Metacritic should not have this kind of power, Obsidian are a great company and F:NV was one of my favourite RPGS from the last couple of years, despite the bugs it was excellent. I hope this doesn't happen to any other game developer who tries their hardest when developing their games. The film and music industries don't use it, so why should we?
  • Karenthian - July 26, 2012 1:14 p.m.

    No company with any amount of sense would base bonuses on a metacritic score. Metacritic is stupid, I really do hate it (an entire game in a single number? f'off) however it's only as stupid as the people who use it for... well anything.
  • oryanbelt - July 26, 2012 9:07 a.m.

    Game scores don't mean shit in video games half the time. Yeah it gives you an idea of how well executed the game was made, but there are other factors to consider on whether a game was good or not other than a scaling system. Not to mention they should consider the overall worth of the game in the long run. Whether it was a franchise title (Madden), a movie tie in title (see any super hero game), or any big name/innovative title they were apart of. Seeing what the particular person worked on throw their portfolio and knowing what they excelled at is a much more reasonable way to hire a person for a team than saying no to them at the get go because of a number. See the new Kingdom Hearts game for the 3DS. It got a 77 based upon 17 critics and they are just gonna ignore anybody from that team when they made the next game in a long and popular series such as Kingdom Hearts. Then you have the small time, phone app titles getting 90's and above and your telling me that the people who made those games are more worthy to have a job on a team than people who have worked on AAA titles for a series like KH just cause of a score? I'm not saying that smart phone games are horrible in any shape or form, but its ridiculous that AAA titles and smart phone games should be compared to each other like that.
  • oryanbelt - July 26, 2012 9:09 a.m.

    *scoring system not scaling system :P
  • oryanbelt - July 26, 2012 9:12 a.m.

    *threw not throw. Man its hard to spell check stuff in this small text box >_>
  • overlorduk - July 26, 2012 11:31 a.m.

    Through not threw :P
  • overlorduk - July 26, 2012 11:37 a.m.

    Damn, I'm doing it now. Through not throw :)
  • HeavyTank - July 26, 2012 8:05 a.m.

    Wow.That's like not accepting actors for leading roles if they never starred in a movie with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of X or higher. This is so ridiculous I can't wrap my brain around it. So how does one start?You can't get into a big game company if you're talented as fuck but don't have any high-scoring games under your belt? The consequence is going to be that reviewers are going to be even more untrustworthy because now devs have an actual reason to try to bribe them to give their games a higher score...
  • ParagonT - July 26, 2012 8:03 a.m.

    I think metacritic is okay in the industry. It's not Metacritic's fault that these companies and lead employers use the site as a basis of employment or pay. Besides, in a time where it's getting harder and harder to find less-biased and sellout review sites, it's pretty okay in my books. Misleading at times, yes, but never the less. It's up for the consumer to infer and have a good grasp of media literacy to weave through the blatant marketing tactics in order to find useful information. The way I do that is to visit multiple sites in order to have a more clear view of the game. Metacritic is one of them, although most of the scores are ten's or zero's there can be some hidden truth to each.
  • HeavyTank - July 26, 2012 8:13 a.m.

    I don't think anyone's directly blaming MC here. I mean, if you had a review average site and they told you your averages are now the yardstick for game companies you'd be happy as hell, because it means that you get a lot of bonus traffic. The user review section is...uh..not completely trustworthy, to use an euphemism, but that's not what they're looking at in this case, so nobody cares. And AAA titles often have bloated review scores (*cough* Call of Duty *cough*), but it's still a decent system if you actually have a brain and check gameplay videos, ask your friends etc. before buying a game. However, the videogame industry itself using this number as something that can affect people's jobs (and therefore their lives) is dumb beyond comprehension.
  • ParagonT - July 26, 2012 8:35 a.m.

    Do I think it's right? No way in hell, but as SeaSpider said below, this isn't the only time or instance that this happens. It sucks, but it happens. Not to say I approve of or condone these behaviors, but the only way to really have a say in otherwise is a lawsuit, or people to stop buying their games and let their voice be heard. Will either probably happen? Very slim chance. Let alone do anything. Review sites are at most times (not all) targeted by the marketing teams of these game publishers and marketeers that basically turns many review sites into puppets. So really, your choosing the better of two possible evils. Users who most likely are ignorant, fanboyant (made that up), and honest about their feelings compared to reviewers who can be getting payed by marketing/dishonest, more well versed, and still be fanboyant. So I wouldn't necessarily call Metacritic completely untrustworthy in the user section, its just that you have to find the truth within the overly emotional users. Good or bad.

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