Use the entire review scale please!

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

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All too often I see gamers react to a 7 out of 10 for being a “bad” score.  As if for some reason the only possible scores a game can get are 7 through 10.  This is absolutely wrong and it needs to stop.  I’m here to enlighten you on how exactly each popular review scale system works while providing charts to illustrate each system.

The 20 point scale

The 20 point scale is probably the most common system I see reviewers use.  It is a system consisting of scores ranging from .5 through 10.  The scores ranging from .5-4.5 would technically be considered “Bad.” A 5 would be considered “mediocre” with 5.5 being just above.  6-10 is actually considered “good” with the later scores (namely 9-10) being “great.”

The 10 point scale 

The 10 point scale has mostly been replaced by the 20 point scale, although there are sites that still use it.  It’s fairly simple with the scale consisting of the numbers 1-10.  1-4 would be considered “bad,” 5 being “mediocre,” and 6-10 being “good” to “great.”

The Five Star Scale

Some sites used the five star scaling system.  1 to 2 stars would be bad, 3 is mediocre, and 4 to 5 stars is good.  There’s also the variable five star scale that uses half stars, which is more or less the same as the 10 point scale only in star form.

The Four Star Scale

This one is a little complicated as there is no “middle.” 1 star is bad, 2 stars is mediocre, 3 is good, and 4 is great.  Typically when a site goes for a four star scale they don’t split the stars in half as it’s already small enough already.

The Grading Scale

Very seldom used, think of this as your typical elementary school grading system. An F, which is a failing grade in school, is reserved for the worst of the worst. Then things get complicated. C- through C+ is used for a range of just passable games.  B- through B+ is used for a range of generally good games.  A- through A+ are used for a range of great games.  There really isn’t a clear indication of what is considered “bad” (except for an F) and really all depends on the tone of the review.


The 100 Point Scale

This scale has been mostly abandoned as it’s really too complicated to understand. While 1-49 would be “bad” 50 being “mediocre” and 51-100 being “good” to “great,” what really separates a score that is 33 to one that is 34?  Seriously, screw this scale.

So why did I bring this up?  Basically it’s to stress the point that what people perceive as a “bad” score is actually the opposite.  This isn’t solely the fault of the reader though and it certainly doesn’t apply to everyone.  Reviewers have a habit of throwing a 7 out of 10 at many games, almost as if they are indecisive.  With so many games getting a 7 out of 10 it actually becomes rare for any review to be below 7, therefore gamers adapt a 7 as a the new “low” score.  That’s not true though as it’s possible that right now we have a generation of generally “good” to “great” games.

In the end it’s actually more important to make an educated decision about games.  Read up about it, if it seems like the type of game you would like the play, it probably is!  Of course there are gamers who can be on the fence about a game and that’s where reviews come in.  Gamers shouldn’t base their decision on one review alone though, it should be a consensus of various reviews and they should actually read them instead of going straight to the number.  If the majority of reviewers insist a game is good, the game is probably good.

If you do decide to use reviews, please, for the love of god, use the entire scale! You’re driving me insane!

Do you use reviews?  If so, how do you use them?  If not, what’s your reason for not?

  • Hear hear.  It’s mildly disheartening to see Pandora’s Tower, for example, receive a 7 out of 10, but when you really think about it, that’s really not too bad (not to mention the “average Joe” gamer seems to love this one).  It’s not the end of the world just because it’s not getting the rave reviews the other two games got; I for one am still extremely excited for it.

    Reviews have been instrumental for me deciding on games I wasn’t sure about or didn’t know a lot about, and so I tend to seek them out pretty frequently.  But I never let them be the sole influence; it is just one source’s opinion, after all.

    • RyanOPR

      I’m guilty of this. If I have a genuine interest, I won’t be influenced by review scores for the most part. But if I wasn’t sure about the game, then a 7 or lower will likely kill my interest, Hey it’s not my fault, it’s the system man!

    • Richard Ross

      One game that I think suffered from people thinking a 7 is bad was NieR.  NieR, to me at least, was a fantastic game.  It may have been a little rough around the edges but overall it was one of my favorite games.  Most reviewers gave it a 7 out of 10, which while I certainly would have gave it more, I can see why they did and it’s a good score none the less.  But most people saw that as a deal breaker.  That’s a complete shame since it’s one of the more original games out there at the moment.

  • RyanOPR

    Well said Richard. The whole idea that a game is a failure if it doesn’t get an 8 or higher is ridiculous.

  • Great article and makes me rethink my use of the 100 point scale. Not only do I use the 100 point scale, but I half it for 5 categories, then double it again for a final grade. Yeah…

    • Richard Ross

      That totally confused me..haha  Yeah I’m not a fan of the 100 point scale, it’s because what would really separate two scores  if they are one point apart?  I mean if you can make it work, cool, but I like the ones that keep it simple that I can understand where they got it from.

  • I hate rating scales. I review games for a living, and the most pressing issue come deadline is always “What do I rate this?” Millions of things flow through your head, potential fan/readership backlash on popular titles, overrating something unpopular, are you grading it on your bias or your experience? The merits of the game objectively or how you felt about it? All of it’s going to show in one stupid number/letter grade. Why? Because no matter what you rate it, your readership hops over your judgement, your reasoning, your backing, and stares straight at that grade. 

    I have my quirks with review systems at large (despite earning my income off of it) the best thing I can do is to keep myself out of whatever I am writing unlike a vast majority of high-profile reviewers in our field. All I can do is follow the standard, assign my grade, and hope to God that the readership will fall in to my arguments to defend that choice. 

    There have been plenty of titles I’d have probably rated a C/D that I’d enjoy more than most I’d have assigned an A (No More Heroes being among them) due to the enjoyment factor outweighing technical problems and hitches in gameplay structure. Likewise, higher rated titles might perform without a hitch, but leave me longing for a greater experience. An example of this is Mass Effect 3, which I gave a B+. While I felt it was technically sound, with phenomenal gameplay, the emotional aspect didn’t work, and choice was all but eliminated (not just in the ending) rendering the validity of the title null. If people look to my grade, they assume “Wow, Mass Effect 3 was pretty good!” when in reality, the text sought to explain why, despite it’s overall quality, it fails as a game and ultimately destroys the expectations of it’s own fanbase. 

    I want all text, not a letter, a star, or a number to be seen.

    • Richard Ross

      Unfortunately people want a number or a letter, you can write a well written review that goes over anything, but people won’t look at it because it doesn’t have a number to it, and when it does you’ll have a lot of people going straight to the comment section and saying how much they approve/disapprove.  It’s laziness for something anyone can literally do in about 5 minutes, I think people need to read reviews more to get a better understanding on how the writer feels about the game because if there’s one thing a number or letter can’t convey it’s tone.  And it’s a shame because as you probably can attest to, you try to put some thought into the review, to make it more than just going through the motions, and most people will ultimately ignore it because they got what they came for…that score.

    • Exactly, but I can’t blame them. We’re systematically trained to do that through education. We’ve been graded our entire lives. So we expect the same of our media. That’s why I think silently taking it away might be the best thing to do; slowly phase it out. Eventually, people will continue to stay, but they’ll have to read it out. In my case reviews are restricted to 350-500 words as they are printed, it’d be pretty easy to keep attention.

    • Richard Ross

      Agreed, because a lot of the time when people don’t read reviews is because they are too damn long.  Some reviews I’ve seen are about 4 pages long.  I think it would be a little much to ask the audience to read through this entire thing to know if I liked the game or not.  If they kept it limited to one page, have a sort of structure like “here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and in conclusion” more people would be prone to just reading it.

  • I pay most attention to IGN’s reviews, but I’ve bought and enjoyed a lot of games with not as favorable scores or just terrible ones. The most recent one is Silent Hill Downpour, and two titles I LOVED and IGN’s scores marked them as terrible: Deadly Premonition and Unlimited Saga.

    So yeah, reviews are most useful to me in reading the games details, and to notice any potential, generalized flaws about a game, but even so, if a game still sounds interesting or unique to me, I don’t pay attention to all the negativity towards it including the scores it might get.

  • felipe.f.santos2011

    terribly wrong, 5.5 never was and never will be considered a good score.