On Review Scores

A few years ago, I launched my very first website: Everyone Who Cares - The Prologue. I intended for it to serve as a beta of sorts while I learned more about making websites, and also got more familiar with writing about games online. It was mostly successful, I learned a lot from that site, and I don't think we'd be at this point now, were it not for that.

At that time, EWC reviews weren't based on any type of review scale. Rather than assigning a number to a game, I ended each review with a section called "Is It Better Than..." where I'd compare the game to three other games that most people would consider as competitors for your money. For example, I compared Spec-Ops: The Line to Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception because those are all third-person shooters released about a year apart. My hope was that a person who maybe already knew they liked Uncharted would see that comparison and think "Oh, so it's a little bit like Uncharted, but it focuses on this thing a little bit more/less."

That's because I think this is how we naturally evaluate video games. Rather than describe a game like Nioh as "an action-RPG with asynchronous multiplayer options, punishing difficulty, and a variety of weapon-based combat options using a multitude of weapons reminiscent of feudal Japan," everyone just says "It's like Dark Souls but with samurais and demons." However, the problem with reviewing a game this way is that it doesn't assign a value to the individual game at all. I could say I think Battlefield is better than Call of Duty, but without a review score, there's no representation of how large that gap in quality is. 

There's also the obvious flaw with a review score that doesn't include a number: people like review scores. People want to hear Gamejerks.fam gave Murderfest an 8 out of 10, and maybe even like to argue about that. Game reviewers (myself included) struggle with getting people to actually read reviews, rather than just see the score at the end and skip the details, but I don't want to underestimate the value of having that short-hand label of how I felt about a game. 

So if we're going to use review scores, what's the scale?

Personally, I think using a numbered scale requires two things:

  1. The scale being large enough to represent multiple degrees of high or low quality.
  2. Us making use of the entire scale.

I think it's important to make use of the entire scale, because it's stupid to me that an average score for a game is 7/10 and a terrible score is 5/10. Almost every game is rated between 5 and 10, which is likely why 5-point scales are pretty common. So why not a 5-point scale for EWC? There's not enough nuance! Here's how the scores break down in my mind, and hopefully this illustrates my issue with rating 1-5 and not 1-10.

 

Five-Point Scale

  1. Terrible
  2. Below average
  3. Average
  4. Above average
  5. Great

Ten-Point Scale

  1. Literally unplayable
  2. Terrible
  3. Seriously flawed
  4. Below average
  5. Average
  6. Above average
  7. Good
  8. Great, with clear room for improvement
  9. Excellent, with flaws
  10. Outstanding, with negligible flaws
 

Basically, I want to be able to say more than just good or bad with the score number. So, as I wrap up our second EWC review, I'm considering assigning scores on a ten-point scale for the foreseeable future. I'm incredibly curious what you guys think about an ideal scoring system, so please leave feedback on this one, on our Patreon, Twitter, or Facebook pages. I'd really appreciate it. I'mma go write some more.