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.


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?

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.