MetaGameBot: Metacritic Game Scores Via SMS

by Darius Kazemi on August 31, 2007

in games,hacking,project,reviews

Sometimes I’m in a game store and I wish I could quickly look up a game’s average review score to help me decide if I should buy the game. So I just set up a service where you can send a game name over SMS from your phone and you can get its Metacritic scores. The short version is that you can text 265010 with a message formatted like this:

metagamebot: “name of game”

And you’ll get a text back with the top 3 Metacritic search results for that game, along with their dates of publication, their average scores, and platforms. See below for more detailed instructions.

How This Came About

So Jeff and I were in a video game store yesterday, and I said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if there were a service I could text message and it would tell me the Metacritic score of a video game?” About three seconds later, we decided that we’d both try to implement it, although slightly differently.

Jeff didn’t want to use SMS, because his phone plan charges per message. Because he has a Windows Mobile Treo, he wanted to build an MSN bot to do it. But I say screw MSN.

I have an unlimited SMS plan, so I don’t care about text charges and it’s more convenient than signing on to the Internet. The easiest way to set up an SMS service is to write an AIM bot (be careful to use the OSCAR protocol and not TOC or TOC2). Then you can text the AIM bot from your phone by texting the number 265010 with a message formatted like

AIMScreenName: message goes here

So I modified a Perl AIM bot that uses OSCAR (BudgetBot). Of course, I had to learn some Perl first, but I already knew a lot about regular expressions in other languages, so I was pretty good to go.

Instructions For Use

All you have to do is text message the number 265010 with messages like

metagamebot: psychonauts
metagamebot: “advance wars dual strike”
metagamebot: “oblivion ps3″

What it does is search Metacritic Games using the string you provide, and then it gives you the top 3 search results. So for example,

metagamebot: oblivion

will give you

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 2006 94 PC Games
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 2006 94 Xbox 360
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The 2007 93 Playstation 3

But let’s say you were actually looking for the Turok game. You could then try

metagamebot: “oblivion turok”

which would give you

Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion 2000 77 Nintendo 64

Pretty neat, huh? The important thing to note is that if your search term is longer than one word, you should put it in quotes. Also, nothing is case sensitive.

Now that I think about it, you could use this service on your computer by just IMing MetaGameBot. But… why would you do that?


This is just running on a server of mine somewhere. It may crash and I won’t know about it. So, I make no claim that this thing will work forever, or at all!


Bradley Momberger August 31, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Friggin’ Brilliant!

I could have used this service on several occasions in recent memory. Full price video games are not the kind of thing I’ll buy on a whim without research (though those under $20 are a different story), and I always finding myself in Gamestop saying to myself “Gee, I wish I knew more about the games on the shelves.”

andrew khosravian September 1, 2007 at 11:51 am

Neat idea, but why not put the string the bot gets in quotes before searching it?

Darius Kazemi September 1, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Andrew: because I don’t know enough about Perl. The script receives each word as an argument, and I’m sure I could work something out where I have a while loop concatenating each argument together into a big search string string. I just need to figure that out!

Philip September 1, 2007 at 5:40 pm

That’s weird. I sent in “Metagamebot: Bioshock” and got responses for Bioshock, Man’s Land: Fight for your Rights, Brain Age and Mind Quiz.

Ferg September 1, 2007 at 7:15 pm

It would be something like:

$searchstring = join(‘ ‘,@ARGV);

Geoff H. September 25, 2007 at 3:30 am

Thats a really cool idea. I hope theres a way to bold the review score or make it stand out somehow.

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