Dragon Age II Dev Rates His Own Game On Metacritic

A glowing fan review for Dragon Age II on Metacritic discovered to have been written by a member of the game's development team sparked outrage among the gaming community yesterday. EA's response? That's how it works.

Reddit user GatoFiasco felt there was something fishy about the perfect ten highlighted user review that appeared on popular review aggregator Metacritic yesterday. It was written a little too well, sounding more like a press release than something written by an ordinary member of the gaming public. Sure enough, his investigations lead him to discover that the person behind the Metacritic handle Avanost is actually an engineer at BioWare.

Someone from BioWare went to a public forum that allows anyone to post a review of a video game, and posted a glowing review of a product he was directly involved with. People were shocked. I'd imagine even more people were shocked that people were shocked.

In the Reddit entry, GatoFiasco argues that this is a matter of ethics and integrity. See for yourself:

This is a matter of ethics and integrity. A consumer requires objective information in order to make an informed decision about purchasing a product. If the line between editorial article and product review is skewed, then the consumer is being deceived at the cost of their eventual trust and loyalty to the company responsible. This is why disclosure of industry ties is necessary to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

It seems like a valid concern, but have you looked at the user reviews on Metacritic? This is not a place to get a fair and balanced idea of how good or bad a game is. Those upset with the slightest flaw in a title will rate it zero out of ten. Then folks defending the game from those people will give it a ten out of ten. It's more like a war than any sort of organized system.

But still, people have a right to be outraged. If they feel something shady is going on, it's up to the company involved to explain the situation. To that point, Kotaku turned to EA, whose senior public relations manager offered us the following statement:

"Of course the people who make the game vote for their own game. That's how it works in the Oscars, that's how it works in the Grammy's and why I'm betting that Barack Obama voted for himself in the last election."

I was under the impression that presidents voted for their opponents as some sort of point of honour, but then I might just be suffering under the same sort of delusion as people who think that game developers don't go out of their way to hype their own games.

Is it unethical? Is it dirty? Personally I feel that it's one thing if a marketing team spends time and resources seeding the usual places with shining reviews. It's another thing if someone that worked hard on a product for several years goes onto a public forum and lets his or her pride over what they've accomplished shine through.

Either way, is this really a surprise to anyone? Show of hands?


    Trololol and here I am waking up today after spending most of last night trawling through the Keiron Gillen school of New Games Journalism. This is a funny business!

      What's the issue here?

      If the dev in question had actually worked in the marketing department, would this have been viewed differently?

      I say fair play to him, he is proud of what he has achieved, if only all game devs produced such high quality that they had to tell the world. Maybe then we would have less tripe to wade thru on our shelves.

      ** I do not, or never have worked as a game dev, or in marketing **

        "I say fair play to him, he is proud of what he has achieved, if only all game devs produced such high quality that they had to tell the world."

        One problem. It wasn't a good game and completely tarnished the Dragon Age name. Just wait to see the pre-orders on DA3. It will be laughable.

    Despite it's been happening for years, people are still surprised?

    It might be because I work in advertising and marketing, but I don't care. And from a morality standpoint, how is his opinion of the game worth less?

    Besides, Fahey is 100% correct. You almost never see anything between 2-8 on the user reviews. Fanboys galore.

    "I was under the impression that presidents voted for their opponents as some sort of point of honour"

    God, you *are* naive!

      I'm totally fine with employees of any industry writing reviews of products they create, with *full* disclosure. In a lot of cases these people will be the most upfront about what shortcomings exist, because they've fought and lost the battles to make improvements. But we all know the games industry deplorably stakes bonus pay to Metacritic scores, and feeding that fire is the wrong way to go about things.

      Yes, Metacritic user reviews are a gong show (if you even accept the Metacritic system in principle), and there is something deliberately askew when the critics are +80s and the users are -40s.

    Firstly, obviously this happens all the time in every industry, you'd be stupid not to rate your own products in every subversive way possible.

    Secondly, however, you've got to be a massive idiot to you give your own thing a perfect score!

      absolutely - a 8/10 with a "few minor annoyances and flaws that bothered me occasionally, but boy did it rock!" would sell a lot better than a land of milk and honey review

    I don't believe meta critic and other sites that collect this sort of information are prepared to deal with the threat to information that this sort of cyber-lobbying presents and that this is the real issue.

    One does not necessarily assume when going to rotten tomatoes that the baby genius 3 marketers have lobbied it so heavily that the review is essentially meaningless.

    Of course it's not surprising that it is this way but I believe it is unfortunate. Certainly in the legal sense it is a clear conflict of interest and it does in the end provide consumers with blatantly biased information that affects their purchasing decisions. It's clearly unethical. That said, I cannot imagine how you could prevent it.

    Wait, it was someone from Bioware? If it was some tool in the EA marketing department, I could understand it. Despise it, but understand it. But Bioware? Really? You used to be cool, Bioware. You're really pushing it.

    I think, unless the whole bioware team, and perhaps all of EA go on there to give press-release worded review, even at a 10/10 it won't make much difference, given that it is already weighted so far against them (I was one of those "fanboys" who rated it low...)


      Personally the games feels too stripped down, like an origin story from the first game, I'm 10 hours in and waiting for the actual game to begin...

    lol yeah if I knew it was written by a dev, I wouldn't bother reading it. No way would it be an honest review

    This is practice is corrupt and yet not very surprising. Remember that it is quite common practise for competitors to downgrade products in these forums. Public forums should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

    "that’s how it works in the Grammy’s"


    This was EA's senior public relations manager?

    Or should that be relation's. Guh.

    It's most certainly a matter of ethics and integrity. He wrote a glowing review posing as a member of the public in an attempt to influence sales and opinion.

    This is just the kind of laugh I needed while trying to avoid work this morning. Talk of ethics and impropriety in user-generated reviews. It's not like these are professional critics. These are people saying things about something with no filter, it is the internet after all. If anything, the engineer might be the most qualified to review the game - as someone who has spent lots of time with the game.

    If you want a review on a game, then go to a gaming website where there are critics that do it for a living. If you go to a public forum where anyone can write a review, then I don't see why it's a problem for someone to write a good review for their own product. And I don't understand the outrage when it pertains to a website where people give zeros and tens as a way to influence the overall score.

    Ive read a lot of reviews about the game that talk high about the game and do not knock the game other than some small glitches.... SMALL GLITCHES? if you are on a PS3 there is a HUGE problem with the game. The game is FREEZING. You can play 10 mins you can play 2-3 hours. no reason yet to be determined why it freezes but it locks the system completly up and you have to turn the power off to reset. It is really detracting from what should be a fun game.

    Conflict of interest. Nothing more.

    I'd prefer to read why a dev thinks their game is good rather than why some of the consumers do, to be honest.
    As for not diclosing a connection, well for goodness sake- it was a review not a loan document.
    Marketing or honest opinion? I hope it's both. If the devs are that pleased with the game, Bio and EA should be encouraging them to let people know.
    Ethical issues? None. Disclosure can lead to your opinion being rendered instantly worthless, as has already been demonstrated in the comments above.
    The only exception here is if you both *bought the game on the strength of that review* AND *think it does not deserve that score*. If that is the case, then that's more of a reflection on YOU than Bio/EA. ^^

    I've worked in games for over 20 years, and it's a trialling job. Spend years making a single good game, and sometimes they're games you hate working on and they aren't even good (and you know it, but nobody's listening).

    So this guy worked on a game, he loves it and wants to give it a chance against all the negativity. Nothing at all wrong with that.

    Perhaps if he didn't, as one commentator here put it, make out the game is a land of milk and honey, this probably wouldn't have turned into an issue (nobody would have been suspicious).

    Fact is, I think developer reviews - like post-mortems - can be a good thing. But they need full disclosure. That would win respect, possibly even more balanced reviews from the community (understanding the dev's perspective).

    Ah well, 20 years on and nothing's changed.

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