Vertical Slice Games (VSG) is home to the MetaMeter, a video game rating system that is designed to be a measurement of quality video games. The MetaMeter is compiled by aggregating reviews from over two hundred professional video game critics, both small and large alike, and producing an aggregated score that reflects critic consensus – specifically, the percentage of positive reviews.
When consumers decide whether or not to buy a game, they face a binary purchasing decision, one that is not aided by a traditional scoring system. And so, the MetaMeter aggregates critic reviews in order to produce a single recommendation (Play It or Skip It) based on the earned MetaMeter Score. Learn more about VSG’s history and the MetaMeter Score on our About page.
The internet is home to hundreds of professional and amateur gaming websites, covering everything from breaking news to scored (and unscored) game reviews. There are also a few review aggregators – like Metacritic – that produces aggregated scores. While these alternatives provide some utility, they are also fatally flawed.
Am utter lack of transparency is rampant; hidden weights and unverifiable standards bias data; lack of sample size for many games gives outsize influence to overly positive (or overly pessimistic) reviews; corporate overlords dictate review coverage; and the ultimate metric – a ‘weighted’ or ‘average’ score – is almost entirely arbitrary.
VSG is different. We have no relationship with any other media outlet, or company in the games industry. VSG is built for gamers by a gamer. We aim to become the one-stop-shop for gamers on the hunt for a new video game. And we promise to be uncompromising in our coverage.
Game reviews are added to VSG’s database as quickly and efficiently as possible, but precisely when data is pushed to our database after being aggregated can fluctuate. To reduce server load, the MetaMeter aggregates data on a rolling basis, with scheduled updates and error checks to ensure that all reviews from VSG Critics are accurately reflected on the front end experience.
VSG and the MetaMeter is a passion project, born out of a love for video games and the communities they create. But it wouldn’t be here without the support of others – family, friends, and you.
The most important thing you can do is to tell your family and friends about VSG,. share our content on social media, and interact with VSG and other members of the community. And if you want really want to go above and beyond, consider checking out VSG’s Patreon.
The MetaMeter is a measurement of critic consensus, reflecting the percentage of positive reviews for a video game. While the term “aggregator” may seem complex, what VSG does is actually quite simple.
To calculate MetaMeter Scores for games, VSG: (1) extracts the reviews/impressions for the covered game by crawling publications on our Publications List; (2) normalizes (i.e., scored reviews are all translated to a 100-point scale) and classifies reviews into two baskets (recommended vs. not recommended),;and (3) divides the number of ‘recommended’ reviews by the total number of reviews aggregated, equaling the MetaMeter Score.
Games with MetaMeter Scores greater than 70% (i.e. 70% or more critics recommend the game) receive a PLAY IT recommendation from VSG.
Whether an individual review is considered ‘recommended’ depends, first, on whether that review is scored or un-scored:
Scored reviews are considered ‘recommended’ when the normalized score is greater than or equal to 75 / 100;
Un-scored aren’t treated with as much rigidity – these reviews are considered ‘recommended’ when they are ‘generally favorable’ to the game. This determination is only made after a manual review of the critic review, and deference is always given to favorability. For more information, read ‘How does VSG handle unscored reviews?’ below.
Conversely, scored reviews with a score less than 75 / 100, and un-scored reviews that are ‘generally unfavorable’, are classified as ‘not recommended’. Note that whether or not an individual review is considered ‘recommended’ or ‘not recommended’ is unrelated to VSGs Play It or Skip It recommendation.
A growing number of gaming outlets have stopped issuing numerical verdicts in their game reviews, including large sites like Eurogamer, Kotaku, and Polygon. Most aggregators don’t include these reviews in their aggregated scores because unscored reviews are not easily quantified. But because VSG is not a simple average of scores (or a nebulous ‘weighted’ proprietary score), the MetaMeter is able to reflect un-scored reviews from these sites.
VSG does so by classifying un-scored reviews as either ‘generally favorable’ or ‘generally unfavorable.’ That is, reviews that express a generally favorable impression about a game – without serious reservations – are treated the same as scored reviews with verdicts greater than or equal to 75 / 100, and generally unfavorable reviews are treated the same as scored reviews with verdicts less than 75 / 100.
Some outlets classify their un-scored reviews according to custom criteria. ACG, for example, uses a ‘Buy, Wait For Sale, Rent, Never Touch’ rating scale. For this outlet, games marked as ‘Buy’ are considered ‘recommended’; otherwise they are considered ‘not recommended.’ Similarly, Eurogamer sometimes classifies games as ‘essential,’ ‘recommended,’ or ‘avoid.’ Reviews marked as ‘essential’ or ‘recommended’ are considered ‘recommended’; reviews marked as ‘avoid’ are considered ‘not recommended’; and reviews with no verdict are considered ‘recommended’ if they generally recommend the game to a general audience without serious reservations.
The general rule, though, is this: so long as the outlet generally recommends the game without serious conditions, the MetaMeter considers it ‘recommended’; and where that answer is ambiguous, the game is given the benefit of the doubt. As an aside, note that un-scored early reviews from outlets that traditionally score reviews (e.g., IGN) are also evaluated under this rubric.
The MetaMeter is a measurement of consensus, and the binary decision it produces (Play It vs. Skip It) is analogous to the binary decision facing consumers (to buy or not buy). But the MetaMeter has its own limitations, one of which being that all games above or below the 70% threshold for recommendation are treated the same.
To illustrate, consider these three games: Sniper Elite 4 (72%), Gravity Rush 2 (87%), and Persona 5 (99%). Because each title received more than the minimum threshold, each game earned a recommendation from the MetaMeter. It is difficult to argue that they are comparable, however. Sniper Elite 4 might be a good game, but it’s not in the same ballpark as Gravity Rush 2; and while Gravity Rush 2’s 87% MetaMeter score is impressive, that doesn’t mean it’s comparable to Persona 5. VSG’s medal system accounts for this, helping consumers differentiate between the good games and the truly great games.
Whether a game receives one of the four available medals – Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum – is dependent upon, first, whether the game receives a MetaMeter recommendation and, second, what the Average Critic Score (ACS) for that game is. The ACS is calculated exactly as it sounds – it’s the simple average of all scored reviews, with no weighting or adjustments applied – and rating tiers are determined by where that score falls under the following framework:
Bronze (75-79.99) – ACS greater than 75 but less than 80.
Silver (80-85.99) – ACS greater than 80 but less than 86.
Gold (86-91.99) – ACS greater than 86 but less than 92.
When issues multiple reviews for the same game, VSG may (at our discretion) treat those reviews as distinct data points, so long as they are unique. A more common occurrence comes in the form of updated reviews; in this situation, the updated review replaces the legacy review.
A thornier issue rears its head where a publication publishes separate reviews for the PvP and PvE components of a game (e.g., as IGN does for the Call of Duty franchise). In this situation, it is not fair – to the developer, to the reviewer, to the consumer – to average those scores together. Because of that, those reviews (while technically scored) are treated as un-scored reviews and batched according to the ‘generally favorable’ rubric used for un-scored reviews.
Scored reviews are considered “recommended” when score issued is greater or equal to 75 on a 100-point scale (normalized). Why that number? Because it strikes a good middle ground. After extensive testing, I found that setting the threshold at 70 was too lenient, recommending games that critics had serious reservations about. On the other hand, setting the threshold at 80 was too restrictive, excluding many good games that were recommended by reviewers (albeit with some reservations). Additionally, the 75-point threshold accurately reflects the sentiment on most outlets’ scored ratings scales, where 70 typically indicates a “good” game, and 80 typically indicates a “great game.” VSG believes that there is not enough time in the world to play everything, so you should only purchase games actually worth playing.
VSG ranks covered games according to an Adjusted Score, which provides a “Bayesian estimate” taking into account the number of reviews each game has received, the minimum number of reviews for a MetaMeter Score, and the Average Critic Score for all covered games. The specific formula used is as follows:
Adjusted Score (AS) = (r / ( r + m)) x A + (m / (r + m)) x C
A = Average Critic Score for the game
r = number of reviews for the game
m = minimum number of reviews for a MetaMeter Score (currently 15)
C = the mean Average Critic Score across the entire VSG database
Hundreds of games have been covered by VSG. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that VSG is selective about the games it covers, and does not endeavor to score every game released on every platform. At this point, hundreds. When VSG launched in 2018, the goal was to establish a content/data baseline as a proof of concept, and that led to VSG focusing only on titles released on or after January 1, 2017. Games released prior to January 1, 2017 – in particular, games that continue to have an impact on the industry (e.g., Minecraft, Bloodborne) – are being added to the library on a rolling basis.