Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

EVE, the Third Best PC Game of All Time?

So PC Gamer ran  a poll, asking for the best PC game of all time. (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.) The results are, of course, preposterous. EVE Online is apparently the third best PC game of all time, only beaten by Half-Life 2 and Fallout 3. World of Warcraft as the most popular MMO ever only clocks in at number ten. Other really odd placements include Wurm Online (say what?) at number 20, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory at number 15, World of Warcraft’s second expansion Wrath of the Lich King 72 places ahead of its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, and Garry’s Mod ahead of The Secret of Monkey Island.

Now, creating such a list properly is utterly difficult because it is almost impossible to find good actual criteria for it. Sales would be an easy one, popularity another one. Quality would be harder to do, but we could assume for the sake of argument that review scores reflect that quality. PC Gamer doesn’t even attempt to narrow this down. What we have here is a popularity contest (as any poll is) with unclear parameters.

EVE Online might be a good niche game. But surely not the third best game of all time?

If I was asked to make such a list, I would have quite a few questions to fire back. Do you mean best game in the absolute sense or at its time? And what does best even mean? Is a game good if it appeals to many people or is it good if it appeals to some people a lot? I hesitate to use popular as a synonym for good, because often times niche products that suit me are much much better than mass market products. On the other hand though, you will almost always find someone who likes a game (unless you are talking about, say, ET), but clearly not all games are equal in quality. So popularity does play a role somewhere in the decision making.

Then the question is how you deal with series and expansions and such. Civilization IV is by pretty much all standards the absolute better game than the original Civilization, but I would argue that the original was the better game for its time. And can you really separate World of Warcraft from its expansions? They are an integral part of the game and only a minority of WoW players doesn’t own them. Playing WoW today absolutely means playing Wrath of the Lich King.

If you really want to make such a list and do it right, you need to be absolutely firm on all these positions. And when you open that list up to a vote, make sure that all voters are seeing it from the same side as well. I’m sure that all those people who voted Modern Warfare 2 on 6th place did so because that is the game they currently like most, not because it is really that good. Metacritic has it in 200th place for the PC, which feels a lot more appropriate.

Metacritic aggregates game review scores for an overview of critical acclaim.

Speaking of metacritic, that site is, to me, the most reliable measurement for video game quality out there. I don’t agree with all the ratings and game reviewers are often wrong too, but aggregating review scores is at least a reliable method for comparison. A game that’s higher on metacritic’s list is a game that is generally considered better by critics. Allowing mere users to determine the scores seems like a doomed attempt to begin with. If you want that information, go check the sales charts instead.

Thinking about it, I get more meaningful information out of such a list whipped up by some blogger on a whim than this atrocity by PC Gamer. At least with the blogger I know that I’m getting personal opinion and bias and can judge the list based on that. The PC Gamer thing might as well have been created by drawing video game names from a hat.

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