They Say "Inflation", We Say, "Womp, Womp"
However, when Joystiq grabbed the story, Blake Snow posted the numbers from both IGN and Gamespot and insinuated that judging from the data, journalists from both sites get paid by game companies to review games favorably.
While I'm not going to sit here and defend IGN, I will rise to the occasion for Gamespot, and whatever other game review publication gets judged solely based on the information provided by Metafuture.
Gamespot's average review score is about a 6.7, which places the average game at about a "fair" rating, according to Gamespot's own rating scale. The folks at Joystiq apparently believe that if a rating system is based on a 1-10 system, then the average game score should be at about a "5," and that any publication that has higher review averages than that is padding their scores for the benefit of huge gaming companies.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it. We were all at school, at one point or another. I don't know about you, but if I ever came home with a 67 (out of 100) and tried to show it off to my parents like I accomplished some big deal, I'd get my ass slapped back to the Stone Age. Sure, I passed, but that don't make it acceptable in the least bit. The only score that would be sure to please the parental units were ones that ranged from 90-100. Anything in the 80's was "acceptable."
Or what about when we rate people on how good they look? If a friend told you that they met someone that's interested in you, and you asked where that person stood on a 1 - 10 scale, would you get all excited if they told you "6?" Hell no! And what about a "5?" You'd tell your friend to go jump off a cliff!
The reason is that "5" ain't "average," people. That's failing, no matter what way you slice it. Any number below that, and it's just a matter of whether or not getting hit by a car is more pleasurable than getting your toes smashed by a falling hammer.
So please, spare us the whole, "5 is average." No it ain't. It's failing. And an average score of 6.7 just means that there's a lot of barely passable stuff out there. It doesn't mean that Gamespot's reviewers get paid across the board to pad their scores. They're just scoring according to how we all have grown accustomed to interpreting the "1 - 10" scale. Nothing more.
Now, IGN, with their average score of 8.0... that's a different story...