The Gladitorial Idiocy of Metacritic: Aggregating Game Developers

EDIT – Metacritic has now removed developer scores. I don’t want to overstate things, but I take 100% of the credit for this turn of events.

Last night I had the debatable pleasure of seeing the first episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. This put me into a mild funk since I had made a blood oath to watch at least one more episode: a friend swore on bended knee that it gets considerably less stupid the more you watch. As I pondered this possibility, the over-the-top dreck flickering around the shortest of my short-term memory, I consoled myself that at least for the moment I was spared from the Coliseum, my life’s balance teetering on the thumbs up or thumbs down from the crowd.

That’s when I learned that Metacritic has scores for individual game developers.



It would seem that the Internet aggregators had finally found found us, liquefying our personal worth in order to convert it to precious advertising click-through. I took solace in the fact that my interview process for new engineers was now vastly simpler, reducing our three day process of due diligence to a single Internet search.

So I held my breath, and typed my own name into the search field, anxious to see whether my new AI overlord found me lacking or gloriously adequate.


What the hell?

It was worse than I feared. The computer had erased my minuscule footprint from history itself. In any circumstance this was bad, but in my case it was especially damning since I lack the electric guitar skills to play myself back into existence at my parent’s high-school prom.


I may never see 1985 again.

As it turns out I needn’t have worried, since the real answer is that it just doesn’t work. A friend with over 10 years of experience and half a dozen shipped games is listed with only one title from the middle of his career. Other friends don’t show up at all as in my own case. And Arkane Studios founder and co-creative director Raphael Colontonio is currently in a dead heat with Raphael “Colantomio”, presumably an evil alter ego that secretly enjoys quicktime events.


Damn you Colantooooooomio!

Further investigation shows that all Metacritic gives you when searching for an individual is the aggregate review score for all published games they’ve worked on, failing to consult real experts on personal failings like ex-girlfriends, high-school bullies, and disappointed mothers. And to top if off, it sucks at gathering game credits too.

This is probably because being credited in the game industry is squirrely anyway. Work a single day shy of a full project and you run the risk of being dropped from the list or tossed into the “Special Thanks” trashcan of the credits world.


The Washington Transit Authority rejects your thanks and demands your wallet.

Regardless, most game database sites like Moby Games depend on user entered content to associate developers anyway. For lesser known devs this usually requires them tracking their own data. Considering that the industry traditionally has a lot of “dues paying” involving work on license games (a perfect storm of awful), developers have a lot of incentive to keep a less than complete list.


Did the Chipmunk tell you I worked on that? He’s a goddamn liar.

Of course this hardly matters for Metacritic, because the whole idea is just lame on its face anyway. While measuring a person’s career based on the critical reaction to their products might make sense for the leadership on a project (and then mostly just the creative director), for the rest it’s a goofy insinuation. It would be like rating a film industry technician like a master gaffer based on how hot the sex scenes are in his or her films.


It’s erotic, but the gaffing lacks vision.

This does raise potential questions about the worth of a game developer. How do we judge the success of hardworking individuals that have so much of their destiny handled by those several pay-grades above them? And what about the cavalcade of canceled projects, prototypes, and pitches that act as sink holes for time, talent, and the unacknowledged passion of countless devs? How do we factor in those variables? What is the perfect algorithm for aggregating squandered hope and dreams?

Unfortunately I have no time to address these complexities. I’m too busy on Metacritic looking up my friends and colleagues. It’s a handy tool when passing judgement from my spectator’s seat in the arena, waving my outstretched fist with my thumb pointed firmly down.

Fight, monkeys, fight within the logic-defining forcefield that contains the Metacritic arena!


Mercy is for the weak… and the well-informed.