Eurogamer Reintroduces Review Scores
30 May 2023 | 6:22 am

Eurogamer recently announced that their review system will be changing yet again. Instead of the review badge system that was introduced in 2015 as a replacement for typical out of 10 scores, they now reintroduce the rating system but on a scale of five. Before, games weren’t scored, but instead some were stamped with one of the following badges:

  • Recommended: exciting and fun games that they want to bring into attention;
  • Essential: the best of the best—expected to see only a few times a year;
  • Avoid: major flaws in design, technology, and/or concept mean it’s best not to play.

I really liked those badges and think it’s a shame Eurogamer gets rid of them. As I mentioned before in my Grading Systmes post, coming up with a decent rating system is very difficult. A score on 10 means the lower end won’t ever be used, resulting in most games receiving a 7-8-9.

On the other hand, the above badge system means receiving no badge at all could result in disinterest of readers. If it’s not recommended, then why play it? Does not receiving the badge “recommended” mean the game isn’t recommended? An awful lot of games are quite good but just not good enough to be easily recommended. The editor-in-chief of Eurogamer, Tom Phillips, elaborates:

We ended up recommending a lot of games, or not giving a badge at all to many others - which meant readers not acquainted with our odd four-point scale had nothing to go on. We rarely used Avoid, because it always felt a bit mean.

Being mean can still be done by handing out a 1/5, as they did a few days ago with The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, so I don’t think that argument really stands. Perhaps it’s an idea to combine both if you really wanted to stick to grading? What is the real underlying to partially revert to something you ditched in the first place? If you take the patience to read Eurogamer’s explanation, you’ll encounter this paragraph:

But the reality is reviews without scores will be seen by and read by fewer people, and have less influence on the industry overall. That’s more than just a cynical point about ‘getting clicks’. Trust me when I say reviews genuinely aren’t major traffic drivers for sites like Eurogamer - even the ones you disagree with! - but we believe in our reviews, and their relative visibility and weight matter.

In a heated ResetERA thread discussing these changes, people seem to be especially upset about the above statement and I honestly can’t blame them. They’re admitting (and then trying to cover it up) that graded reviews do drive more traffic. Review aggregate sites like Open Critic rely on these numbers, and publishers hand out bonuses to developers depending on the average score—not if a site like Eurogamer awards a certain badge that’s difficult to translate into a number. Of course, taking the average is ridiculous as each 3/5 has its own interpretation, but it’s still done regardless.

Unfortunately, the first game that was treated with the new review system was the much anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which was awarded… “just” a 4 out of 5. Let the backlash begin! Quantifying something makes it easy for people to wrongly compare things: the next game that receives a 4 out of 5 will be “just as good as Tears of the Kingdom” and the next 5 will no doubt ironically be called out as “better than Zelda”.

Another problem is the lack of a label, which they purposely left out, but introduces even more interpretation bias. What is a 4 out of 5? “Great”? “Amazing”? “Well worth it but not the best”? A 4 out of 5 on Eurogamer will probably not compare to a 4 out of 5 on another game review site, even though the numbers are the same, and even tough Open Critic will happily squeeze both review summaries in the same column, only adding to the confusion.

Someone on ResetERA remarked we should get rid of grading systems when it comes to evaluating art. Is a game a work of art? If you think about the amount of work and diverse talent it requires to shape a virtual world, I’d say yes. If you gaze upon screenshots of games like Okami (HD), as visible here, I’d also say yes. Then who are we as a critic to say “that’s a clear 4 out of 5 for me”? Are paintings judged that way too? Again, that’s why I appreciated Eurogamer’s badge system, even though clearly it also has its flaws.

Eurogamer states that, while the review scores should add information and provide a glimpse of what they think is a good or bad game, it shouldn’t be the primary goal: the review text itself will still be a qualitative description of all individual components and how they fit in the whole, and I like that. I’m just a bit concerned that for highly regarded review sites like Eurogamer, nuances in text will get lost once the score has been glanced over.

As for my own game review website, I do still employ a scoring system that also saw multiple revisions over time, but that’s more of a very personal game log site that happens to be public than a rigorous and professional journalism site. The whole Eurogamer debacle makes me think I should perhaps add badges in addition to the scores. In a way, I do, as the 4 and 5 games make it to the GOTY lists. After that, it’s up to the reader to experience the games and make up their own mind.

By Wouter Groeneveld on 30 May 2023.  Reply via email.

Collecting And Preserving Belgian Publications
27 May 2023 | 11:20 am

The Brussels Royal Library of Belgium, better known as the KBR, is the country’s national library and responsible for collecting and preserving all Belgian publications. To achieve that, all Belgian authors are obliged to hand over copies of their publication in the KBR Legal Deposit via This legal obligation is applicable to both legal entities and natural persons who act on their own—any Belgian author, even if you self-publish your work.

All submitted work, through the Legal Deposit, eventually ends up in the official Belgium Bibliography that monthly publishes lists of new entries of all non-periodic publications (thus excluding magazines). This electronic archive goes back to 1998 and should be a complete list of what is being published in Belgium—or, like in my latest case, abroad by Belgian authors. For the curios ones, legal texts concerning the obligation to deposit are readily available online.

To submit a work to the KBR Legal Deposit, if it’s in physical form, they require two copies. You fill in two copies of a letter to describe the author, the publisher, and the work, and after a week or two, one letter, now stamped to approve the deposit, is sent back to you. Digital publications can also be uploaded, together with a form to describe its legal space: is this going to be published in the KBR as open access or can people simply lend a copy like in a regular library?

When I published Red Zuurdesem in 2020, I found KBR information by accident. I presume Belgian publishers will do this for you, but back then I self-published the Dutch work, and for The Creative Programmer, it’s published in New York so they won’t care. The Legal Deposit process was quite fun to do actually, once I managed to find the correct letter template and knew what to fill in.

Next to the obvious ISBN number, to more easily categorize works, a “NUR” and “KBR” entry has to be filled in—and, ideally, printed in the front matter of the work itself. “NUR” means Nederlandstalige Uniforme Rubrieksindeling (Dutch Uniform Classification), a three-part code that summarizes the subject. For example, Red Zuurdesem has NUR 440:

  • 400: Non-fiction leisure/general
  • 440: Foot and drinks general

This works a bit like the ACM classification system but again is of limited use: to foreign publications such as The Creative Programmer, the number itself is not present in the book so not officially part of anything. And then there’s the “KBR” text which groups works by publisher. In case of my self-published work, that’s simply “D/2020/Wouter Groeneveld, uitgever”.

And that’s it, after the librarians and archivists did their work, your work is now both nationally preserved and loanable in the Royal Library! That is, if you can find it in the enormous catalog… A search for “The Creative Programmer” yields thousands results except my work, and searching by name doesn’t seem to particularly help either.

I eventually found my work in the digital library: Red Zuurdesem has a permalink at and The Creative Programmer has been marked as received and pending for archival—who knows how many parcels the KBR Legal Deposit receives each week? With that link you can request a digitization, check where the books (two copies, remember?) are, and reserve one, which will first have to be dug out in the labyrinth below the library.

An archived picture of the KBR archive.

In 2012, when I still worked in Brussels, I went on a guided tour that led us below the library, deep within its archival catacombs. I don’t remember much of it except that it was impressive and vast. There’s a bit of historical information on The KBR but I can’t find much about the underground tunnels that harbor the hard work of Belgium’s authors. Perhaps pictures weren’t and still aren’t allowed. It’s somehow soothing to think that while strolling around in the neighborhood of the KBR building in Brussels, you’re walking over a gigantic amount of cultural heritage.

Of which four books now carry my name!

As a researcher, my university obliges me to upload papers in their own repository system, which, after a pre-set embargo if applicable, will become accessible to anyone, regardless of the stupid paywalls of some journals or conference proceedings. I also try to upload a pre-print version to just in case. Easy accessibility is important!

As a book author (at least for me), you want your work to be easily available to be read—and hopefully, appreciated—by as many people as possible. I still have a few physical copies that I’m planning to donate to my local library, but the book purchase procedure is quite complicated. On top of that, libraries regularly clean and restock their shelves, sometimes based on the amount of times a work was effectively lend. Since both works are a bit obscure, I think after a few years mine would end in the discount bin anyway!

And then there’s the option to add a book to the Internet Archive Library. I still have to figure out whether or not it’s possible to do so since licensing agreements with my publisher prevent me from releasing The Creative Programmer as open access.

By Wouter Groeneveld on 27 May 2023.  Reply via email.

Burnout Guru Causes Burnout
22 May 2023 | 7:01 pm

The University of Brussels (VUB) started an internal investigation against well-known Flemish clinical psychology professor Elke Van Hoof, who already received complaints before for toxic leadership, reports VRT NNWS. When Van Hoof worked at another university, UHasselt, similar problems emerged, causing her contract not to be prolonged.

These reports are not uncommon in highly competitive work environments, but this time, it’s quite remarkable, as Van Hoof is an expert on stress and burnout. Her entire team (7 people) quit and filed a complaint that their well-being was severely compromised, edging on burnout (and intimidation, according to the article). A burnout guru causing mass burnouts herself, isn’t that ironic.

A few days later, VRT NWS publishes another article claiming that Van Hoof’s “spectacular burnout treatment” isn’t that spectacular after all: the quickly trademarked “Insourcing” therapy that supposedly saves employers €100.000 per sick employee lacks any firm scientific proof, yet with firm political bonds, decision makers seem to blindly follow her recommendations. Recommendations such as “go back to work as quickly as possible, preferably within 1.5 months”. Music to the ears of employers that only care about profit: saving hundreds of thousands and having a workforce back up their feet in no-time, great!

Except that—depending on the situation, of course—these recommendations can cause more harm than good. I know by experience as my wife suffered from a severe burnout thanks to a boss exactly like Van Hoof: one that loves pushing people around, taking credit for your hard work, paying little to nothing, and yelling when things go rough. It is sad to see so many narcissistic people who somehow worked or bought themselves in management roles where it is even easier to let that grand personality flourish—at the cost of the employees. But hey, they’re replaceable.

From the above articles, we also learn that Van Hoof is great at directing all the attention to herself and taking credit for everything while most of her staff did the hard work. Who do you think is first author on major publications? Who do you think did most of the work? Exactly. I won’t be surprised if some of the data was tampered with.

Narcissistic people usually first deny and then kick and scream until they get what they want. In a third VRT NWS article, three days after the second, Van Hoof claims not to have received any official complaints, and never made the claim that Insourcing was effectively (based on) scientific research.

Further evidence of child-like behavior is easily found in one of these articles:

Some contacts say that Van Hoof has “long toes” [easily offended] and would not hesitate to call in a lawyer if her image is damaged. It’s all very sensitive.

My blood pressure always rises a bit when I read about narcissistic misbehavior. My wife has had to suffer through intimidation and more for more than a year, and her perfectionism and eagerness to please and help others only made things worse. She worked for a lawyer—stereotypical? Perhaps.

The worst part is that these people always know how to squeeze the lemon—your lemon. The fact that Van Hoof is an appointed professor who in Flanders is called “the burnout prof” makes this entire situation even more baffling. We bought her book years ago, Eerste hulp bij Stress & Burn-Out (First Aid by Stress & Burnout) but were very dissatisfied to read “stress is good” (which reads as get over it1) and “go back to work as fast as possible” (which reads as you’re not sick, poser). Perhaps it all makes sense now. Society doesn’t care about disabled or longtime sick people, so no wonder politicians love her mantras. If you have been mistreated for years at work and are out due to a severe burnout, like my wife did, going back to work after a couple of months is guaranteed to push that burnout into a big depression.

There is your empiric evidence.

  1. I’m cutting a lot of corners here, I know, of course a healthy dose of stress is “good”, but the problem is, that “good” is subjective, hard to quantify, and dangerous to use in context of a burnout, as those are very personal experiences as well. ↩︎

By Wouter Groeneveld on 22 May 2023.  Reply via email.

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