My Perspective on Game Scores
  • POSTED BY elheber on Jan 15, 2017

    When a game gets 2<span class=”rendered_qtext”>½</span> stars out of 5, how does that translate to a 10, 20 or 100-point scale? What about if a game gets a letter score C? How does that translate to a numerical score?

    I’m almost sure that I would give a different answer than you.


    To me, a game that earns a C is equivalent to a a 7/10, 7.0 0r 70% depending on the numerical scale you use. The reason why is fairly simple if you grew up in the United States: if you take a test and get 70% of the answers right then you get a C letter grade. Similarly, getting only 50% right gets you an F, which is a failing grade. However, getting anything lower than 50% doesn’t get you a G or an J. You just still get an F. This is why a game scale in my head looks like this:

    Yeah, it stops at 5. If a 0.0 game is a bad game with no redeeming qualities, and a perfect 10.0 game is a good game with no problems… then 5.0 is the halfway point between games that are good overall and games that are bad overall. A game that earns a 5.5 game is still a good game, but just barely. It would be a game that has a lot of frustration or disappointment or boredom, but it has just enough thrill or joy or engagement to push you into feeling that it was an overall positive experience. In a manner of thinking, a 5.5 game is 55% good and 45% bad.

    The scale in my head is essentially a 10-point scale except I only use the top half. So why does my scale end at 5?

    Because games that are bad overall don’t deserve any of your time. Going below a 5 is at the point where even a free game doesn’t deserve to be played because you end up with a negative experience overall. If staring at a blank screen is considered a neutral experience, then a game that falls under the 50% midpoint line is a game that would be BETTER if the TV/monitor were turned off.

    50%, 5.0, 50/100 or 5/10, these are all the midpoint.

    For purposes of critique, it’s still necessary to give it it’s 3/10 or 4.5 or whatever score. But as a recommendation to someone, specifying HOW below a 5.0 it got is not important. Such a game shouldn’t be played, and you wouldn’t recommend it anyway. By ignoring the bottom half of the 10-point scale, I’m guaranteed to use the entire range of the scale more. This is because games that score below a 5/10 are actually quite scarce and rarely deserve to be covered. I’d give it a “<5” score and call it a day.


    Some people incorrectly assume that a 5.0 represents the average game. It does not. Based on the average scores on Metacritic, the average game score is actually close to 7.3! The only way a 5.0 is supposed to represent an average game is if the games are being graded on a bell curve, and very few publications use this system because it’s confusing as fuckall. Here’s the ratings distribution someone compiled in 2013 of IGN’s scores:

    No matter where you look, the bulk of review scores fall above the 50/100 threshold when distributed.

    If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that the average game would not be “50% good.” Nobody wants to make a game that is barely good; they want to make the best game they could make and are only held back by time, resources and skill. Every developer worth the title is trying to make a 10.0 game and simply falling short. Moreover, publishers/developers want to make a game that sells a lot. In order to do that, they have to hit these 8.0 to 9.0 scores for which people would want to spend money.

    Games that are only half-good don’t sell.

    To use a metaphor as an example: If a town opened 10 burrito restaurants, each representing a score on a 10-point scale, then the ones that sell nasty burritos would quickly go out of business. Nobody wants a harry burrito from the 1.0 burrito restaurant, or the 4.0 tasteless burritos from the other shop. New burrito restaurants would spring up to replace them, but few will make the mistake of selling anything below a 5.0 burrito. The lazy new shops would only aim to make 7.0 burritos while the good ones would aim to make absolutely delicious 10.0 burritos and simply fall short. In the end, the town will have several burrito shops and the average “goodness” of a burrito will end up somewhere around a 7.

    But 7.0 is not the midpoint of how good a burrito is, it’s just the average. The midpoint is still 5.0 where it tastes neither good nor bad. And a 0.0 is still a stone-cold dog turd wrapped in a stale flour tortilla.


    None of this is to say that ratings of games aren’t subjective. The game I rate a 6.5 may earn an 8.0 from you.

    However, they are not meaningless. Reviews are meant to give people an idea of how much they’ll like a game, and that includes the score. The more people who come out of playing a game saying, “yeah, that’s the score I would have given it too,” then the more successful you were. The score itself should reflect the reader.

    I hate the argument made by certain publications on why they’ve eliminated scores: “Scores discourage meaningful discussion,” they say. I believe the opposite is true. No scores means less discussion. People screaming (via ALLCAPS) at reviewers who gave a game an “unfair” score adds to discussion. “Why do you feel it was unfair? What about this problem that the game had?” The real reason for the dismissal of scores is that some editors are pussies who fear criticism. Yeah, I said it. Disagreement is a natural consequence of the differences between people, and the absence of disagreement is unnatural.

    In conclusion: my “top half” scale is the best way to rate games and you are subjectively wrong for disagreeing. End of discussion.

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    POSTED BY elheber on Jan 15, 2017

    Ah, shit, I cut out a part about stars at the end that makes the beginning sound really weird. Basically, to me the 5-star scale is similar in my head to the “top half” 10-point scale. The reason is because many 4-star scales in movies and literature use 1-star to mean “mediocre”. Their lowest score is the midpoint, essentially.

    Can’t wait for the ability to edit!

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    POSTED BY Joel Castro on Jan 18, 2017

    I prefer not to score things, honestly. Id rather discussion come from the words written than what a series of numbers dictate.

    POSTED BY elheber on Jan 18, 2017

    The written word is still there. Nobody’s saying taking the written review away.

    At worst, the score is a jumping off point for a deep discussion of the written word. “Didn’t like the score? Then what part of the review did you disagree with?” The score reflects the text anyway.

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    POSTED BY xsuicidesn0wmanx on Jan 18, 2017

    I tend to use the top half of the scale as well. Rarely do I give out a sub 50 on any game.

    I think that is part of why I use the 5 score system here. While I respect the opinion that a game review does not need a score, I feel like having all 5 available provides a good idea of WHY a game was reviewed this way in the most simplistic form. I think my review of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is probably the best example of this system at work. I really had a terrible time playing the game. Although the sound and graphics performed excellently, I felt the story was your run of the mill revenge plot that had been done several times in the AC universe already. But the biggest problem was all of the bugged out controls that the game had(a problem which apparently is more obvious on Xbox than PS4), and my scores reflected that. I ended up giving the game a 90 in both sound and graphics, a satisfactory 60 for the story, and a disgusting 20 for the piss poor controls. I weighted the controls very heavily since it is critical to the fun factor of a game and ended up giving the game an overall score of 35.

    I don’t think many people actually look at a review score and base their purchasing habit solely off of that one aspect. If you’re going to use reviews to help you make an informed decision, you’ll see why the author graded the game the way they did, and may even look for multiple perspectives on the subject.

    You're all zombie thigh-fat people brought into animation by some evil force of forceful evil!!! - Happy Noodle Boy.

    You're all zombie thigh-fat people brought into animation by some evil force of forceful evil!!! - Happy Noodle Boy.

    POSTED BY elheber on Jan 20, 2017

    That brings up a good point. People don’t look at just the score and made a decision on the game, but it influences it… especially when a consumer looks at several scores from several trusted sources.

    You look at an upcoming game and have already got an opinion about it based on videos, trailers, previews, your own playing of older games in the franchise, etc. And off of that general feeling you have, you subconsciously think, “if this game gets less than a 6 on average, I’m not buying it,” or “I’ll only get this game if it gets high scores across the board.”

    When you give a game a score, you contribute to that added, easy to parse information for the consumer. Data so easy they can compare across various trusted review sources. That type of comparison is much harder for the information contained within the written review.

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."
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