: Should Critics Ditch The 10-Point Review Scale?

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Should Critics Ditch The 10-Point Review Scale?

For decades now, the standard review scale for video games has gone up to 10. And maybe it's so ingrained now that it's impossible to change the norm.

But there are plenty of reasons to change. Firstly, we're really not utilizing the full 10-point scale; at least, not in the mathematical sense. Regardless of the policies of critics and sources, gamers will quickly harp on any game that scores below an 8. The way we have it now, a 7 is considered "average" while a 5 is just plain horrendous. Obviously, that's skewed.

Secondly, if we're breaking the review down into tenths of a point, do we really need 100 little points to fiddle with? What's the difference between an 8.2 and an 8.3, really? Or the flip side, a 3.6 and a 3.7? Some sources have eliminated the tenths and settled on a .5 differential, which makes a little more sense. It's just that the standard setup seems over-complicated and indeed, unnecessary. Are video games really that complicated?

Thirdly, maybe it'll help games push a little further into the mainstream. There's a 4-star rating for movies, for instance, and four and five-point rating scales are pretty common in the entertainment medium. Therefore, by shifting to a 5-point scale for games, it might just become a more accepted score...as silly as that may sound. It also might help us critics; I know gamers would see a 6 as a terrible score, and I have to consider that. Plus, deciding between a few tenths is getting ridiculous.

Perhaps it's time we left this old-fashioned system behind.

10/7/2011 Ben Dutka

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Comments (54 posts)

Oyashiro
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:28:50 PM
Reply

I say ditch numerical ratings altogether. Let the words do the talking.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:51:52 PM

I'm sorry, but considering the number of people who actually READ anything anymore, that's not a good idea.

Besides, it really is a disservice to consumers, I think. Looking at an average review score gives you a good idea of what to expect in terms of quality and it's just a million times faster than reading twenty reviews.

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johnld
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:10:51 AM

i agree with ben, most people these days wont keep still long enough to read about the game than just checking the score it was given.

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Beamboom
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:29:11 AM

I agree too - there is an obvious need for both a review and a score.

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Dancemachine55
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:58:42 AM

X-Play uses a 5 star scoring system for their games, and I find them to be most accurate and easiest to understand when approaching a game.

If X-Play give a game 3 stars, I will still get it if it's the type of game I like, or at least hire it or check it out and return it within a week to EB Games.

However, if a game gets below 7 out of 10, I immediately think it's not even worth checking out even though it technically scored higher than X-Play's review system. This is mostly on Metacritic though, where I usually go for an idea of what's good and what isn't.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:29:51 PM
Reply

At first I was against my team using the 5 point score scale but then I saw Temjin's point rubric and decided it was the better way to review a game when applied to the written review which should hold more weight for the gamer.

The 10 point system has the room to be more precise but like you say Ben it isn't really being used right and I think it more or less has created an atmosphere of competition between critics for fans to agree or be upset at them as for anything else.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:06:22 PM

I agree with that, but do you know how much trouble I had in trying to place WKC2 on that scale? I keep thinking I should have gone a half point higher, but that rating doesn't seem right to me, given the rules of the rubric... *le sigh*

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Temjin001
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 12:18:20 AM

I was almost convinced of something 3 points, where a one means best and a real bad game could get negative points. That way I could just wreck the Metacritic system.... or be ignored... like now =p
It goes something like this,
#1: Doesn't Suck ever

#2: Sometimes Sucky but usually not

#-3:Sucks (yes, this game gets a negative score)

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AcHiLLiA
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 10:48:59 AM

My 5 point system,

5=Excellent
4=Average
3=Good
2=Fair
1=Poor

When it comes to the 10 point system, anything below a 6 is not worth playing. Most importantly their should be talk/discussions about such a game.

Last edited by AcHiLLiA on 10/8/2011 10:55:37 AM

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AcHiLLiA
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 11:04:03 AM

more talk/discussions about such a game if the rating is based on a 5 point scale.

Last edited by AcHiLLiA on 10/8/2011 11:05:11 AM

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LegendaryWolfeh
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:35:07 PM
Reply

I really think a 5 point scale would be better. Would down-tone the what's a good bad game by just a few points or whatever so.

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LimitedVertigo
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:35:16 PM
Reply

Gamespot goes by 5s and I'm fine with that. I personally look more into what the reviewer actually has to say about the game rather than the final score. It is nice though to have the score to go along with the reviewer's thoughts.

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NoSmokingBandit
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:43:52 PM
Reply

I dont even bother with numbers on a review unless it is substantially higher or lower than i was expecting. The actual review content is much more important than a single number that sums it all up (MATH PUN!). Gamers these days seem to be more concerned over a tenth of a point than the actual game itself.

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rainrox
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 9:47:58 PM
Reply

IMO any kind of review score should not be used. Write about the game, state pros and cons then leave a recommendation whether to buy or not.

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GuernicaReborn
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 10:27:40 PM
Reply

I think a 4 star or 5 point grading scale would be more beneficial to consumers, because the journalists writing the reviews would have to think a bit more about whether a game is a 2 star or 3 star game, or whether to rate it 4 points or 5 points.

I should explain myself: In my opinion, as the rating system stands right now, the scale is too big. If your not sure about something, say the soundtrack didn't really appeal to you, but you think it might resonate with most other gamers, you could just rate it a 7.5 or 7.8... both good scores, not great, and nothing that anybody would debate if the sound was good, but not great.
Now, say we have a 4 star scale instead of the old 10 point scale, and you are unsure if you should rate the sound a 2 or a 3, because the sound was good, but not great. You will put a little more thought into it, because the difference between 2 stars and 3 is a pretty big difference, at least compared to .3 points.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I don't think a 10 point scale is doing gaming journalists, games, or gamers enough justice. There is too much leeway in a 10 point system to hide something in mediocrity.
Take the new X-men game, for example. The score Ben gave it, IIRC, was a 4, which is 40% of 10. If we translate that to the star rating, then mathematically speaking it would have gotten 2 stars, since 2 stars is equal to between 25% and 50%.
Now, lets say that Ben had to rate the game on a scale of 4 stars instead of 10 points. I have a feeling that same X-Men game would have gotten one star if he were using the 4 star rating system. The four star system would have forced Ben to ask whether this game had enough redeeming qualities to give it two stars, or if it really was so bad as to only deserve one star. And based on the content of the review, it really sounds like it was that bad.

Last edited by GuernicaReborn on 10/7/2011 10:29:00 PM

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Warrior Poet
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 10:41:34 PM
Reply

I think a letter grade (like in school) would be pretty easy, since everyone knows what that means instantly.

There's nothing wrong with the 10-point system, but 5 should be the "average" game instead of 7.5

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Lawless SXE
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:16:13 PM

That's a good idea, but only as the base letters. How would you really quantify the difference between B- and C+? It's those small distinctions that cause the problems to spring up...

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 10:51:16 PM
Reply

This is why IGNs scores don't matter, the words in the review just tell the plot and complain about things they don't like that aren't related to the guidelines that companies provide with their review copies.

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SolidFantasy
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:11:48 PM

Strongly agreed.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 10:52:00 PM
Reply

So would people want a 5-point scale at PSXE? I think we'll do a poll.

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Temjin001
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:11:07 PM

I do

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SolidFantasy
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:12:28 PM

nah I like what we have now.

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Lawless SXE
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:17:47 PM

That's a toughie... Maybe just scale it back to .5 variables, rather than .1.

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StubbornScorpio
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:13:38 AM

I'm in favor of a 5 point scale.

The 10 point scale, even if it was scaled down to .5 intervals, still has the potential for a lot of disparity. If it means anything Ben, I rarely look at the numbers specifically, just what you type in the body of your review.

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johnld
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:16:14 AM

the numerical score is pretty worthless to me so i dont mind what you go with. i only read the parts concerning the actual game itself. i usually dont put much stock on the audio and graphics, its more about gameplay. I do like the part where you list the good, the bad, and the ugly. it makes it easier to pin point what you might find problems with.

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Beamboom
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:41:38 AM

I think a ten point scale is just fine.
But in my head I convert all ratings to a 100 score anyway (I was raised reading gaming magazines with a 100 point rating, and today I am a metarating addict :).
So when you rate a game "8.2" I think "oh so it got a 82%, that's pretty darn good!".

Same would happen with a 5 point scale: "A 4.5? Dang that's a 90%! Gotta read that review!"



Last edited by Beamboom on 10/8/2011 2:42:06 AM

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GuernicaReborn
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 10:10:18 AM

I would welcome a 5 point scale, maybe you could just try it out for a month and see how the community reacts to it.

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jjlive168
Sunday, October 09, 2011 @ 3:47:23 PM

you could try doing both 5 point scale and 10 point scale see which one gets a better reception. alternate, one game on the 10 one game on the 5,

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Lawless SXE
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:04:09 PM
Reply

I don't think that it's a matter of the ten point scale. I think that there is something fundamentally flawed with the usual method of generating a review score of games in general. You bring up the point of the massive disparity of the ratings where 7 or 8 is considered average, and anything below that is just different levels of terrible.

As I see it there are two real issues:
The first is that there are such a huge range of games that to try to force them all into the same categorical offerings is a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It can be done, but it doesn't feel right to compare Guitar Hero to FIFA to Uncharted. Yet they've all scored in the 90% range at some point. They're simply not created equal. As the first is, basically, for parties, the second is an attempted representation of reality, and the third is a full blown game. Surely there is something wrong with trying to judge the three by the same scale. But then, they also have similarities, and there is no way to judge them separately without creating a megaton of work for oneself... It's confusing and frustrating.

The second issue is that the elements of games are growing and evolving. Technological improvements happen on a day-to-day basis, which means that games that are deserving of a 10/10 score very likely won't be in only a couple of years as they become dated, their graphics lose their impressiveness in the face of more detailed presentations, etc., etc.

It's because of this that I am an advocate of reading what reviews have to say. It allows for a more complete picture to be had. But more than this, I feel that too much importance is placed upon the technological elements of the game, rather than the reviewers personal sentiment. On some level, I feel that it should be taking into greater consideration the creative merit of a title and the subjective experience. I mean, quality will always shine through and should always play a large part of the review. Another thing is that there should be a greater lambasting of the flaws of highly rated games, so as to bring them down a few notches, and I know that that sounds unfair, but the amount of reviews that I've read attacking the writing of GeoW3, then going on to rate it top marks simply screams of hypocrisy. Narrative in games is growing, so when this element is poorly done, why is it glossed over? This is a debate that I rail against myself with as it truly is something to wonder about....

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StubbornScorpio
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:23:49 AM

Your last part about focusing too heavily on technical merit and not properly criticizing story are the two biggest things I think need to change about reviews. I was looking at reviews of The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection on Amazon (because I wrote one myself) and pretty much every single 3-and-lower-starred review talked about the water wheel in ICO, or that the game was too slow and "boring." Games like ICO, flower, and other artistic endeavors really need to be judged more on their art style's effects on the player and the level of immersion. I also noticed the Gears of War 3 reviews harking on the story; it's pretty unfair that such a negative part of certain reviews has no profound effect on the overall review.

Last edited by StubbornScorpio on 10/8/2011 1:26:12 AM

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Beamboom
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 9:37:13 AM

Stubborn: But Amazon only has user reviews, doesn't they? Or has they started linking to professional reviews too, now?

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StubbornScorpio
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 11:06:19 AM

Amazon sometimes has people review certain products and puts that as an "Amazon Review" near the product description, but I don't know whether to count that as professional or not. Let me use GameTrailers as an example. Apparently they gave ICO/Shadow like an 8.0 or something because they hated the gameplay enough to score that section a 6.something while graphics and whatever other sections scored 8/9.somethings.

What I'm trying to get at is there is only a 2 point difference between a 6 and an 8, yet anything lower than 7 is skewed to be "awful." That's just wrong.

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Temjin001
Friday, October 07, 2011 @ 11:09:33 PM
Reply

Yep, I'm a big fan of 5 point scales, or just scales that try not to be so exacting in specificity for something that is clearly approximated by one person's judgement. I don't give a crap why a person feels why a 9.3 is so much better than say a 9.1. Because, really, at that point, whatever nuisance that may seem problematic to that one person may very well be undetectable by any other player with a controller in their hands. Or better yet, for a person to pretend to know down to a hundredth the exacting weight of a given concern.

On a related note. A recent example is Forza 4. The gamespot reviewer said some utterly retarded crap during the intro of his review that never needed to be said. Calling out how familiar Forza 4 is to past Forza's and how it could have been called Forza 3.5. But then he goes on to say that as a person plays they'll discover new layers of added content that makes for a worthy sequel(or some crap like that).... ummm. okay, so why waste time talking about Forza 3.5 when it actually isn't just Forza 3.5? Is that 8.5 score reflecting the familiarity of the genre? That, for some lame reason, the reviewer believes FOrza 4 should have guns and war zones to plow through. To connect this point, if Forza 4 was given a 4.0-4.5 that lame assertion about how the game doesn't feel all that changed wouldn't have seemed so bad in my eyes.
Anyway, sorry to use Forza as an example. The same kind of arguments were leveled against GT5. Arguments that have no business being weighted against the score as a determent. I'd rather just have a simple point system, and let each player own their own preferences and eccentric complains to themselves as to why one game is fractions better or worse than another.

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johnld
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:07:52 AM
Reply

for me, its not the numerical value of a game review thats the problem. its more about the inconsistent review parameters that reviewers put into their work. there has to be a universal set of guideline that must be followed. i dont like seeing inconsistent standards like bashing a game for doing nothing new but praises a different game for basically being the same game every year. yes i'm using call of duty as an example mainly because its very clear that its just the same game with a different coat of paint. then theres the gran turismo 5 "fiasco" where most reviewers faulted the game because it wasnt doing what arcade racers do when it was clearly a driving simulator.

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Excelsior1
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 9:06:52 AM

i'm probably not qualified to judge gt5 but i can make an observation about the review scores it received. i'm not so sure it was mainly the simulation aspects of gt5 that was the problem. in fact ign's review goes out of it's way to praise the gameplay and racing mechanics. what they were critical of was the uneven presentation. there was one line in the ign review i remember to this day. the lack of polish in certain areas would have been seen as sacreligous in past gt games. i agree with that sentiment.

i would argue the premium/non premium split generated far more reviewer negativity than the simulation aspects. sites like ign and gamespot loved the past gt games and scored them higher. why assume the simulation aspects were the problem this time around? i think that it is a reach to make that argument. i think if you remove the premium/non premium split gt5 would have scored at least .5 higher or more in many reviews. gamespot's and opm's reviews open with being critical of that design choice. opm has given the two previous gt games perfect scores but gave gt5 an 8/10 so what's really going on here?

what i mean is they called the racing sublime but complained about the uneven presentation. that seemed to be a common theme in many gt5 reviews. that's just my 2 cents on the gt5 review fiasco. i would say gt5 is messy masterpiece to borrow a term i read once. i can see why the reviews were mixed this time around with this 1 particular gt game. reviewers loved the series up until this game.

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AnonymousPoster
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 1:16:19 AM
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I've always been fond of the 4-star system. Something is either Bad, Okay, Great or Awesome. It's simple, easy to grasp and more clearly defines your feelings on the product. Every game can clearly fall into one of those categories without the ambiguity of, for instance, a 7 vs an 8. And only one of them means it's not worth playing.

The trouble with a 5-point system is that it's still based on the 10-point scale, especially when people start giving half-points. 3.5 = 7.

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Excelsior1
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:35:00 AM
Reply

a 10 point scale system is fine. reviewers just need to make sure they use the whole scale.

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Crabba
Sunday, October 09, 2011 @ 8:33:35 PM

exactly.

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___________
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:46:08 AM
Reply

thats why i dont like the 100 point system, i prefer the .5 increments and thats it.
instead of say a 8.1 or a 8.2.
its either a 8, or a 8.5.
no 8.4 or 8.8.
increments of .5 are more then enough!
a 5 point scale as in 1-5 is far too low for a game.
one thing ive noticed with G4 is there suffering because of that, because every really good game is getting a 5.
so how do you separate the really good games to the OMFG this is f*cking amazing games?
a 5 point scale does not give you enough leeway to differentiate between games.
a 10 point scale of increments of .5 is what everyone should be using.

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Killa Tequilla
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 8:52:02 AM

Yea but sometimes IGN rates a Ps3 game a 9.0 when it was a 9.4. Know what I mean? Round to the nearest 10th.

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GuernicaReborn
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 10:15:58 AM

You differentiate the really good games from the OMFG this is f*cking amazing games by reading the review. The only thing the 5 star rating is telling you is that it is an experience that shouldn't be passed up. If you want details, read the review.

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___________
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 10:57:05 AM

hmmmmmm.
and what about those who dont have the time to spend the time reading a 2+ page review?
allot of people just want to get the bare details to get a understanding if they would like the game or not.
thats why allot of places have resorted to video reviews, because it shows lots of gameplay so the viewer can see what the game is like and can tell if they would like it or not.

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GuernicaReborn
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 6:22:07 PM

Then after seeing the score, you can go to youtube and watch videos of the gameplay.

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tes37
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 7:21:55 AM
Reply

I like the review scale the way it is.

Any changes to it should be made by the people doing reviews. They should know better than us if the system is working. Ultimately, the review scale PSXE feels most comfortable with, will yield the best results for us.

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robinhood2010
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 7:40:20 AM
Reply

Funny. I was thinking about this after reading about Rage and MW3.

I think numbers with such a small range don't mean as much.

Then again, I don't think grading games with letters would work either.

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chucknasty
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 2:22:34 PM
Reply

I agree that video game reviewers refuse to use the full scale. Guessing a move to a 5 point system would move the average game score from ~7/10 to ~4/5. It hides the higher than average scores by seemingly moving them lower but I think game reviewers would continue to use ~15% of the scale and it would be a rare stinker that would score below a 3. Game reviewers over-score terrible games and under-score great games (compare movie scores to video game scores on metacritic and you will see a pronounced difference in the average scores).

But when I think about it game reviewers get a $60 game for free (and early!) that they can keep forever and replay at will vs movie reviewers who get to see a $10 movie once for free. I can see where it would be unwise to pan a game if it meant being removed from the mailing list. This leads to the tactful negative reviews of games that are terrible (do not play this! worst game ever! score: 5.2) but it also leads to a meaningless middle ground where most games are scored so closely it does help anyone on the fence (another 8.5, hmm).

I liked Kotaku's loved/hated reviews without a score. Often a 'hated' item sounded great.

Not trying to be overly critical of critics in general or Ben in particular. It isn't easy to review things, I would be a terrible reviewer since I like games that everyone else hates (Saw) and hate games everyone else loves (any FPS - except Portal, which doesn't count).

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Superman915
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 4:38:50 PM
Reply

5 point system would be the best.
Must Have!
Get it!
check for it!
Skip it....
Dont go anywhere near it.

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SaiyanSempai
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 5:24:59 PM
Reply

10 point scales require precision in grading that just isn't possible, let alone consistent across the board. Is there really a difference between a 5 and a 6? Both mean that you probably shouldn't pick up the game.

A 5 point scale is all that is really necessary.

1 Star - the developers obviously didn't mean to release this game.

2 Stars - This game has issues that make it not very good.

3 Stars - This game is pretty enjoyable. It has issues but doesn't detract too much from the fun. Read the review to find out if it's for you or not.

4 stars - Great game! Well designed and polished experience. You should probably pick this up.

5 Stars - Absolutely fantastic! I can't come up with a single complaint for this game and consequently, I can't stop playing it. If you like this type of genre, it doesn't get better than this.


That's the only grading that is really necessary.

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xnonsuchx
Saturday, October 08, 2011 @ 9:05:36 PM
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I think it should be a 5 to 10-point scale only w/ no decimals/fractions.

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Banky A
Sunday, October 09, 2011 @ 3:45:13 PM
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Good points Ben.

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Crabba
Sunday, October 09, 2011 @ 8:43:21 PM
Reply

The amount of different numbers isn't the problem, reviewers not USING them is. It wouldn't help going from a 10-point scale to a 5-point scale, since game reviews would just go from being 7-8 average to a 3.5-4 average, same thing, different numbers.

The problem is that reviewers aren't using the scale as it should, meaning 5 should be the average. Currently, a 7 or even 8 is what should be a 5, and 5 and below is hardly used at all and if used should be interpreted as more like a 3-...

A lot of it obviously has to do with money, sites are getting free review copies, and like Ben has said himself often get a lot of other goodiebags to promote the game, so obviously the publishers aren't gonna accept or be happy with their game getting a 5, so then you have to give everything a 7+, just to please them.

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wackazoa
Monday, October 10, 2011 @ 9:49:13 AM
Reply

I try to read the review. So if the reviewer says things like bad enemy A.I. or glitchy graphics I will not buy but just rent. These days the scores almost dont matter anyway. The reviewer will blast a game as not being better than it last one and not being finished, then give it a 9.

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Lairfan
Monday, October 10, 2011 @ 6:48:00 PM
Reply

The 5 point scale isn't precise enough for me. As far as I'm concerned, the 10 point scale allows you to determine the degree to which something sucks or something rocks, far better than the 5 point scale.

This is why I have such a big problem with the 4 star scale for movie ratings: you can't tell how "okay" a 2 or 2.5 star film at first glance. However, I can easily tell that a 6.5 game is a okay, but save your money kind of game.

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ThingsOnFire
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 @ 6:56:14 PM
Reply

The thing about numbers is that they are completely arbitrary. I think that even if we did use the entire range of the rating scale, it still wouldn't end up being any less arbitrary. Looking at a lot of different scores for videogames, you get a sort of emotional gut feeling as to what a score means.

Once you get down to it videogame scores are relative . A four out of five stars on one site could very well be worth a 9 at another site. So having another system wouldn't really change much since the meaning of it wouldn't change.

Or!....(and I just thought of this), you could score games based on the relative-ness of it to other games, giving your games nominal scores rather than numerical ones. "Average" "Great" "Mind-Bending" "So-So". Though I suppose if you didn't make sure that average actually was average that could destroy credibility.


Last edited by ThingsOnFire on 10/12/2011 6:59:27 PM

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Yes, and it's great!
Yeah, but I'm a little disappointed.
No, but I plan to get it soon.
...they still make sports games?

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