An interesting phenomenon occurs when a game, or any form of media really, is awarded a 10/10 score. There’s always a contingent of people that go beyond typical dissenters, haters if you would, ready to spitefully bash any game awarded said 10/10, possibly because they see it as an act of rebellion that will make them cooler in the eyes of their peers, or for some other deeply rooted psychological reason. They’re not the weird ones though, they’re just jerks The weird ones are the people that try to nonchalantly dismiss every 10/10 score because “it’s impossible to have a perfect game.”
While it’s true that no game is perfect, that means nothing here: 10/10 games aren’t perfect, they’re just exceptionally awesome. Assigning an impossible to achieve value to your 1-10, or similar, scale is stupid. Why even have a 10 if you can’t use it? At that point, the 9 is the same as the 10 because it’s the highest possible score, so nothing has been accomplished by setting the 10 on a pedestal, other than further limiting the range that can be expressed by the chosen scoring system.
Metacritic has turned game reviews into contests without context.
Ideally, nobody would use numbered scores, because they encourage people to ignore the reviewer’s analysis, and all context whatsoever, in favor of the score at the bottom. To draw from a sports metaphor used in a previous article: Fans see their favorite games and consoles as teams, and the scores of their reviews as points to be gathered in aggregate to determine a “winner.” It has gotten to the point that sites I have written for were forced to start including numbers in their reviews again, as traffic to reviews fell through the floor when numbered scores were omitted.
Instead of viewing the 10/10 score as a designation of perfection, it should be viewed in the same way an A grade is in the educational system. 95/100, 100/100, and 105/100 are not all equal, but they’re all considered A’s. That grade designates certain works as being in the upper echelon of the field. This system has its limitations, but after a game reaches a certain point of greatness, binding it to a simple number seems pointless.
CSG currently uses a ten point scale that rounds to the nearest whole number. We even show how we came to the conclusion by including component scores for Visuals, Sound, Controls, Gameplay, and X-factor. Real thought was put into those categories as well. For example, Story is not listed, because many games have little to no story by design, like Pac-Man, Madden, or Forza, and they shouldn’t be penalized for that. Since all games do not share the same aspects, X-factor was added instead, and for games like Persona 5, Story is their X-factor.
People value aspects of games differently, and a final score provides no context on its own. (Gears of War 4 Review)
I’m not bringing up CSG’s scoring system in an effort to low key brag, it’s to point out that even when you put a lot of thought, effort, and transparency into a system, it won’t be perfect. If the system itself isn’t perfect, why would you expect its 10/10 to represent perfection? It’s unrealistic.
Another issue is the idea that a high score must be rare. This is also stupid, as we strive to rate games on their quality, a trait that isn’t limited to a set number of releases per year. Some years are obscenely stacked in terms of quality. the Golden Year of 1998 is the best example: Metal Gear Solid, Pokemon Red and Blue, Resident Evil 2, Ocarina of Time, Gran Turismo, and more came out in rapid succession. Again, there is no limit to the number of high quality releases possible in a year, and by extension no limit to the number of high scores that can be awarded in a year.
2017 is shaping up to be the next 1998, with tons of high scoring games dropping within the first four months. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata, and Persona 5 are all amazing games, all deserving of the highest praise praise possible, for entirely different reasons. Should I lower my opinion of them for no other reason than there being too many great games? Anyone that thinks like that isn’t going to like these upcoming reviews, and I still haven’t wrapped up Horizon Zero Dawn and Yakuza 0. Let’s not even gaze into the future.
Spoilers: Breath of the Wild’s a great game, and we think it’s a 10/10.
That’s not to say reviewers should rain high scores upon every game that’s half decent. Ideally, every reviewer should go into every game with their minds open, and the belief that said game could earn a 1 or a 10. Higher scores are just more common, because gaming has become a serious business and almost every developer can make a decent game that’s worth a purchase, provided they’re given enough time and manage their budgets wisely.
That’s why 7/10 has become the new average, general quality is up and reviewers haven’t adjusted for the rise in quality. Nor should they really, gamers have already made the adjustment in perception, and will violently resist any attempt to tell them that a 5 or 6 out of 10 is a good score. That’s just how it is, until the next big shift in gamers’ perception.
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2 thoughts on “Using the perfect 10 in video game reviews”
Nice job. There is a blog over at N4G where we were just commenting about this very thing. And quite a positive discussion. Your story was just approved over there.
I just wish there was more journalism like this.
I think a lot of what’s wrong with professional games journalism is that you get what you pay for, and gamers don’t want to pay journalists anything, especially not now, so they turn to mindless clickbait, shilling, and manufactured controversy to make a living. It’s the major issue with the pay per click model, and a big part of why I lament the death of game magazines. Were writers and journalists perfect infallible beings back then? No, but advertising was more up front, distinct, and people had greater freedom in what they wrote.