Scientifically calculating the game of the year | Unraveled

Scientifically calculating the game of the year | Unraveled

Should auld acquaintance be forgot.
THAT’S RIGHT FRIENDS it’s Game of the
Year season!
Which means it’s time for us to hop on those
message boards, chat about our favorite games,
and tear out each other’s throats when someone
expresses an opinion
that is slightly different from our own.
By this point, pretty much every gaming publication
has announced their Game of the Year…
which means that I’m a bit late.
Anything that I say is just a drop in the
ocean of discourse.
No one wants to hear my opinion.
That’s right, I have devised a statistical,
analytical, number-crunching formula
*hype 80s music plays*
They said it couldn’t be done.
A bias-free formula to calculate the game
of the year?
That’s a fool’s errand, Brian!
You are a fool!
They called me a fool!
But do I look like a fool to you?
I’ve done it, and with the knowledge I have
found, I can go ahead and assuage any arguments
you might have with your friends.
There is nothing to debate anymore, there
is only the truth, that the best game of the year is…
hidden somewhere, um, in these
I’m gonna be honest with you, I haven’t…
there are a lot of numbers.
And I haven’t had the time to, uh, do them
all just yet.
But it’s only December 14th.
This video is set to go up on the 30th, which
means I still have two weeks for new games
to come in before I can really call which
game is the game of the year.
But I’ve at least finished the formula, and
I’ve tested it on a few to make sure it
runs correctly.
And everyone knows that you can’t get full
credit unless you show your work.
So let me show you how I made it.
First thing you gotta do when you’re making
a GOTY formula is find your list of games.
And obviously we’re going to have to choose
every single game that was released this year
in order for us to say that it is scientifically
So if we just go ahead and take a look at
Steam and see how many were released since
January 1st 20-hmm.
That’s over 15,000.
You can’t make me do that, legally.
That’s not in my contract.
I can’t… they can’t legally make me do that.
Look, as much as video game reviews can be
an imperfect reflection of the person who
is writing them, they are still a pretty solid
baseline for which video games mattered in our culture.
Even if a review is bad, it still means it
was good enough for someone to spend time on it.
So I went Metacritic and I took all the
games that were rated 80 or above, and at
the time of writing this script, that was
181 games.
So I’m gonna do the formula for all of those.
Some of these games were DLCs or re-releases
onto new platforms.
The Switch alone resurrected about a dozen
candidates from years past.
But since they were released this year, they
are still technically in the running.
Fight me.
Now that we have the list, it’s time to make
the formula, and it might surprise you to
hear this, but I have not been in a pure mathematics
class in about five years.
So I reached out to some scientists.
And then none of them got back to me.
So I called my old roommate.
“Hey, I’m Nicholas.
I’m a graduate student studying exoplanet
Nick is working toward a PhD at MIT, and though
I was a bit worried about reaching out to
him since his specialization is in astrophysics
and not stats about video games,
he assuaged all my fears.
Brian – “Would you say you are a math expert?”
Nick – “No.”
We chatted for about a half an hour, diving
deep into the scientific method and the selfless
goals of discovery.
Brian – “If I invent a unit… can I trademark
Nick – “I think your final score should
be, like, in Gilberts or whatever.”
Brian – “OK!”
And we finished our chat with the reassurance
that this formula was not only going to help
the gaming community, but the scientific community
at large.
Brian – “Do you think if I wrote this up,
I could get it published in, like, Nature?”
Nick – “No.”
So where to do we go from here now that we
have been scientifically rejuvenated?
It’s time to build the criteria.
What specifically makes a game of the year?
Number one, what is the game worth?
We’re not just talking about monetary worth,
we’re also talking about the amount of enjoyment
you get while playing the game.
Number two, how them graphics?
We’re trying to find specific numbers associated
with these games, and graphics is just a bunch
of numbers anyway, so this will be a useful
Number three, how did it affect the cultural
Look, it’s all about those google results,
how many people are talking about the game?
And most importantly, is the game art?
I’ve figured it out.
Which means that no one has to write any more
goddamn thinkpieces about this topic ever again!
Given these four criteria, I sat down with
Tara Long, former bioinformatics researcher
and also my current boss.
She and I figured out a formula that will
end up with a numerical value that will tell
us the game of the year.
The higher the number, the better the game.
We’ll start with game worth.
Now it’s hard for us to find how worth it
a game is to play from a numerical standpoint,
but if you take Metacritic’s score as a
percentage of the game you enjoy, and you
multiply that by the average amount of minutes
each playthrough takes using the stats from, then you end up with a
number of minutes you have spent enjoying said game.
Now, to tie in material worth, we want to
go ahead and take in the original listed price
of the game and divide it by this number so
that way we can end up with a DPM: dollars
per minute enjoyed.
Now, it’s hard to decide if you want a high
or a low DPM, because some people want the
most bang for their buck, while others are
willing to spend a little bit more for a really
well-enjoyed minute.
But just to standardize this, I’m going to
assume lower is better — that means you’ve
paid less per minute you’ve enjoyed — and
that way I can use it to divide literally
the rest of the equation.
In the past few years, people have cared less
and less about how many
polygons you’ve got on the screen
and more about the style.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is frame
People want the most frames per second.
So, factually, the more frames, the better.
That means we’re going to go ahead and take
the highest frame rate available in the game
and we’re gonna multiply that by the seconds
of average playthrough, again from
And that will give us the amount of frames
per game.
The game frames mainframe.
But how many frames does a gamer game in the
gameframe mainframe?
That’s a good question.
Now if you go ahead and you take your frames
per game and divide it by the number of gamers,
I’m talking about however many copies have
been sold or however many number of downloads
there have been, then that’s going to leave
you with frames per game per gamer, and that’s
a really important number, because if you
have 200,000 frames per game and you have
200,000 gamers, that’s 200,000 gamers that
have only had one frame per game per gamer.
And that is no good, is it?
Is it?
I actually have… um, I’m a little confused
We’re gonna take frames per game per gamer
and we’re gonna put it on the top of this
equation, because we want it to be the biggest
number possible.
And now it’s time for cultural relevancy.
We want our games of the year to be big and
brash and bold and boisterous, letting people
outside of the gaming world know,
This is a thing!
So how do we judge a game’s effect on the
world at large?
Well, we go ahead and we take all of the Google
results that come up when you search
the game’s full name and the word game.
But that’s not everything, right?
That’s just the bare minimum.
It’s like saying, “This dude’s bad haircut is important just because a lot of people are talking about it,”
which I know isn’t
true from personal experience.
So I went on twitter and I asked you lovely
folks what descriptors you expect to see in
descriptions of games of the year.
And you gave me a lot.
So I went ahead and I plugged all those into
Google’s advanced search along with the
game’s name, and I took those results and
I multiplied it by the base Google search.
And I got very big numbers.
But don’t worry, we’re going to bring these
numbers down to size, because some of the
descriptions you sent in were actually pretty
negative descriptions of games.
So I did a Google search using those descriptions,
and then I multiplied those results by one
plus the number of Funko Pops made of characters
in the game,
which is objectively a terrible thing.
Now this is going to leave you with BCE, or
your base cultural effect, and we’re gonna
multiply that by our FPGPG in order to get
a pretty big number.
But before we’re done with cultural effect,
I want you to ask yourself, is this the culture at large?
Does this go outside of our gaming bubble?
There’s really only one way to tell that,
and that’s by using the M.O.M. variable,
which stands for: “My Own Mother.”
So I called my own mother for help.
“Hello, Brian, I’m a follower and a subscriber
as well as your mother.”
Brian – “That’s very good to hear.
I… you support me so well and I appreciate
I should ask you, Mom, would you consider
yourself a gamer?”
Mom – “When I play Mario Kart with, like,
grandchildren and things like that, I always
go off the road.”
Brian – “That’s, but, on purpose to let them
feel better.”
Mom – “Very similar to my real-life driving
skills, I find.”
Brian – “I have a list of 181 video games,
now I know that’s a lot.
I’m basically gonna run through this, and
I’m gonna ask you if you have heard of this game.
Red Dead Redemption 2.”
Mom – “No.”
Brian – “God of War.”
Mom – “Yes!
I have heard of that.”
Brian – “Oh, OK!”
While subjecting my mom to a litany of 2018’s
best games,
it became clear that she was very interested in the topic.
Brian – “We’re only 57 in, so we’ve still
got another 130 to go.”
Mom – “I can’t tell you how, what an exciting
time this is for me.”
Brian – “Now you get taste of what it’s like
to do my job.”
Mom – “I tell you what, this is a lot of research
into things that really have very little meaning.”
Brian – “You’re right.
It is.”
So once I had asked my mom about all of the
games from the game of the year list, I was
able to throw it into a boolean function.
If mom knows game equals true, then that’s
a plus one here.
And then I could raise our base cultural effect
to the power of mom, so if she doesn’t know
it, that’s just to the power of one.
If she does, that’s to the power of two.
Finally, it’s time for our fourth, and perhaps
most important criteria: Is this game art?
And when you start asking if something is
art, then you really end up asking,
“Why should we even be defining what is and isn’t art?”
And the only thing worse than discourse about
“are games art?” is
the discourse ABOUT the discourse of “are games art?”
Look, art is experiential and that’s a beautiful
thing that should be allowed to flourish without
having some pseudoscientific proof of greatness
thrust upon it.
Which is why I’m not proving greatness.
Instead, this part of the formula is so revolutionary
because I am proving art.
So let’s go ahead and throw this into…
Shit, I ran out of space.
You know what, this part wasn’t that important.
We’re just gonna cut it.
This big GOTY equation ends up with very large
numbers, which would be too hard to show all of.
So I needed to make a new unit.
Something I could reduce them all down to.
I plugged in my favorite game of the year,
Celeste, and I used that to be our new baseline.
Celeste equals one BDG.
Or Big Determinant of Game.
Everything else will be reduced down using
Celeste’s score to a scale of BDGs.
So that’s it.
That’s the entire formula.
And if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do my
dark bidding on these spreadsheets and I will
come back to you right now.
December 30th.
New year is at our doorstep.
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
It’s 2019!
Come on in, hope you’re not as big of an asshole
as the past few of your friends!
I spent the past two weeks crunching the numbers,
and it is my honor to announce that
2018’s scientifically calculated game of the year,
with 19…
trillion BDGs…
is Fortnite.
That can’t be the right number, I’m gonna…
No, that’s right.
You remember when Pluto stopped being a planet,
and the scientists were like,
“Hey, that’s just what the definitions say!”
And we were like,
“Hey, scientists, maybe
your definitions are busted!”
Maybe my formula is busted.
The fact that God of War got 2.1 million BDGs
and Red Dead Redemption 2 got 0.1 BDG…
Maybe I shouldn’t have made my mom’s knowledge
of the game an exponential factor.
Brian – “You know Tetris.
You would really like this Tetris…”
Mom – *sings the entire Tetris song*
No, I
stand by that decision.
Let’s be honest, the stats I was using definitely
favored cultural importance, and Fortnite’s
cultural effect was orders of magnitude larger
than any other game this year.
And though I’ve never played Fortnite
— which proves my lack of bias and also that I’m professionally irresponsible —
there can be no denying that
it has made a lasting impact
outside of the video game world.
It’s the only nonseries game that my mom
knew about.
And regardless of how you feel about the Fortnite,
it drew together a collection of people that
might not have otherwise connected, and that’s
a valuable thing.
And even when your Uncle Devin comes up to
you at the holiday get together and says,
it gives you a common ground to chat,
and you really haven’t chatted with Uncle Devin in a while.
You should call him more often.
He wants to show you his Civil War books.
And his collection of swords.
But if you’re upset, and you didn’t IMMEDIATELY
close this YouTube tab to send me an angry tweet,
I’ve got an extra little gift for
It’s a new formula.
GOTY equals x times 1 quadrillion.
And x equals your favorite game.
Of this year.
Now you can go ahead and tell your friends
that Brian scientifically proved that my favorite game
is the game of the year, and then you
can share them this link,
and then they won’t click on it because it’s a 15 minute video, so your secret is safe with me.
And to be honest, your favorite game deserves
because if you liked it enough to call it your game of the year,
then it must be
pretty meaningful to you,
and no one can take that away.
So congratulations, Fortnite, and congratulations,
your favorite game.
Here’s hoping 2019 is full of wonderful
games and even more wonderful experiences.
Happy New Year.
I’m okay.
Mom – “Does enthusiasm count or anything like
Should it just be, or just be, just bare bones…”
Brian – “Mom, to be honest, I don’t think
you can do this not enthusiastically, so,
you’re gonna be fine.”

9 thoughts on “Scientifically calculating the game of the year | Unraveled”

  1. Of course fortnite will come out on top because it’s free. However, there is more data pertaining to fortnite than there was, a website where you could play tetris for free. If we take that into consideration, tetris still loses because it came out years ago.

  2. I mean… yeah. I hate the results but… I mean it's free, a ton of people play A LOT of it, people who aren't gamers heard of it. Makes sense. It is a shame you did this on a year Fortnight or Minecraft or Tetris were rereleased. I'd be interested to see the result. I'd also like to see the top 10 rather than just the number 1. Feel like you wasted a lot of time just showing Fortnight and not showing some of the highlight games.

  3. The frames per game per gamer unit is not a useful measurement, as the frames per game is the total frames in each copy of the game and each gamer experiences all of those frames. using this unit favoured games that had fewer people playing them, so it's no surprise that fortnite won, considering how everyone was talking about it, even people who had not played it.

  4. One problem with the equation: to find FPGPG you divide FPG by total Gamers. The idea is to maximize that number so a large top (FPG) or small bottom will work which means if I have a game with 10,000,000 frames and one copy sold I’ll have an insane FPGPG so even though my game sold poorly I’ could get a higher rating than someone with he same states except copies sold

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *