The latest chapter in the long melodrama that is Metacritic’s dysfunctional relationship with the video games medium came to a swift end last night. The review-aggregating site announced the end of their Career Score feature, which had been assigning an average score to prominent developers based on the scores of games they’d worked on. The statement from Metacritic Games Editor Marc Doyle (posted on the site’s blog yesterday) asserts that the career scores came about as part of an effort to build a comprehensive database of game creators.
Wanting to build a database of game-makers is fine and dandy, but the whole Career Score fiasco reached a new plateau of wrongheadedness. It illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how games are made, how careers are grown, and how talent develops.
In his role as writer, Ken Levine couldn’t have influenced Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich as much as he did BioShock, where he served as creative director. Under Metacritic’s system, both scores affect his career average equally.
It’s possible–hell, probable, even–that Peter Molyneux learned tons more about narrative and player agency in the three years between Black & White and the first Fable game. They’re different kinds of games, too: One’s a real-time strategy game, and the other’s a third-person RPG/action hybrid. But again, the scores don’t reflect that.
What Metacritic’s individual Career Scores also don’t reflect is that it takes a team to build a game (excepting single-developer indie titles). The AI programming, art direction, sound design, like all the other component parts that make up a game, are each singular disciplines that require unique expertise. While one person can lead the charge and become the face of the whole project, it’s misleading to grade the end result as the efforts of one person.
One veteran developer I spoke to a while back and well before any of this happened likened making big triple-A games to steering a battleship. One person may be at the helm, but the big boat doesn’t turn unless everyone knows their roles. This latest misstep just underscores (pun intended) the failings of making Metacritic the unofficial “official” arbiter of a game’s creative worth or success.
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