A brief summary of the rating scale I use and why. I rate on a scale of one to five with none of that wishy washy in the middle crap, so no 4.5 or 2.1 or anything else like that. I’ll also talk afterwards about my opinion on scoring in general and about my personal scale. But before that, here’s what all of those numbers mean on my scale:
1: A terrible game/movie/anime/ect. While a 1 doesn’t mean it’s the worst of that category ever made, it puts it among the worst. For a game to go from a 2 to a 1 it not only has to be bad but actually do something to insult or offend me as a consumer; something that makes me sick to even think about watching or playing it again. Examples of 1s include Postal and Dragon Ball: Evolution. These are things you should avoid at all costs, fan or not. In fact, fans may want to avoid them even more than non-fans (and in some cases non-fans may not have as negative of an opinion on them).
2: A medicore game/movie/anime/ect. Not just below average, for something to earn this category it has to be boring or unenjoyable for a majority of its runtime or be a moderately enjoyable experience and do something so poorly that it brings down the entire experience. Examples of a 2 include Assassin’s Creed III, Kill La Kill, and Avatar (The movie with the giant Smurfs). Most people should avoid the 2s, but if you’re a big fan of the related genre/series you might get a kick out of it.
3: A roughly average game/movie/anime/ect. This can include media that I would call slightly below average or slightly above average. This is a game in which its flawed elements and strengths basically balance each other out. It might be a fun game with some frustrating mechanics, it might be a beautiful anime full of forgettable characters, or an action-packed movie with a stupid premise. Examples of 3s include Remember Me, Gantz, and Man of Steel. If you’re actively interested it might be worth a look, and if you’re not it still might not hurt to check it out.
4: A good to great game/movie/anime/ect. This is media that entertains, has good story, characters, and is something that I would want to revisit in the future. While it may have flaws, its strengths are enough to make up for them and carry the entire experience. Examples of 4s include Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, Black Butler, and Captain America. These are things that I would recommend to just about anyone.
5: A superb game/movie/anime/ect. Let me start off by saying that being granted a 5 does NOT mean that I think it is perfect. There is nothing I have ever experienced that I would call perfect because I believe that there is always room for improvement. Much like the difference between a 1 and a 2, the difference between a 4 and a 5 is that a 5 is able to go above and beyond in some way that sets it apart from similar media, be it a particularly memorable character, an emotionally moving story, or by just being impossible to stop watching/playing. At the same time, it must remain enjoyable in most if not all other elements, as only being good at one thing can greatly decrease my score. For example, looking at the list I provided for the 2s, Avatar is absolutely gorgeous, but lackluster to poor in every other category. Examples of 5s include Dragon Age: Origins, Yu Yu Hakusho, and The Shawshank Redemption. These aren’t just things that I recommend, but that I’ll repeatedly recommend and generally sit down with someone to expose them to it just so I can enjoy it again myself.
The first question to ask ourselves is, why do critics even bother to give anything a score? That’s a fair question and one thing to realize is that it’s perfectly viable to review something without scoring it at all. Yahtzee does this in his Zero Punctuation videos and it works out quite nicely for him. He mentions that he doesn’t believe that a complex opinion can be represented numerically which makes sense. The supposed reason to include them is that a score gives someone a very generalized opinion at a glance. If they don’t want to or don’t have time to read or watch a review in its entirety, they just glance at the score to help them make a snap decision. The real reason, however, is that people just like things simple. How many times I’ve heard someone defend something based on review scores and nothing else is rather sickening. Now, with that being said I think scores are a positive thing and people tend to like them, so I do tend to provide scores. On top of that I think they’re a good way for a reviewer to come to a point at the end and organize their own thoughts; in a way they’re more for the reviewer’s benefit than the reader’s.
Now, let’s look at how others review things in general. We’ll start with film and I’ll say that I don’t really have a problem with how movies are scored. In general, critics have a high standard for movies as they should and aren’t afraid to give a movie a bad review. Most are just on the 1-4 stars (But include half stars so the actual score scale is more like 1-8 or something like that including 0), but there are also plenty of critics who won’t give a score, which I also respect. The score is often a very good indication for how much an average viewer will enjoy it and can be trusted.
Though I don’t do food reviews, I was brought to the attention of a grading scale used for restaurants by The New York Times and wanted to discuss it. It’s also on the stars system, but let’s take a look at this really quickly:
0 = Poor, Fair, or Satisfactory
1 = Good
2 = Very Good
3 = Excellent
4 = Extraordinary
Okay, can anyone in the class explain to me why this scale completely sucks? It completely defeats the purpose of the rating system as I previously described it; the score ultimately tells you very little to nothing about the thing in general. 0 Stars can mean anything from “It was okay” to “The chef cut off my foot and served it to me on a plate he didn’t even bother to clean.” At the same time, what the hell is the difference between “Good” and “Very Good”? The Adjective “Very” does not actually help anyone get any sort of idea of how much better it is than a 1 star restaurant. The idea here, I assume is less informative for the reader and more to categorize restaurants for the publication’s own purpose. A 0 star doesn’t need to be specific because it isn’t relevant. Well, hate to break it to you but bad stuff is still relevant if only to point to it and shout “NEVER AGAIN!” But more than that, it’s important to give a much better idea of how much the formula needs to be improved. By giving 0 stars not only have you told the reader nothing, you’ve told the creator nothing and essentially accomplished nothing as a critic. This is a sticking point for me because I do believe critics are important, as striving to improve is a feeling that we all need to have.
And now… sigh. The gaming reviews. Gaming reviews are heavily, HEAVILY skewed to the positive side. Most publications review on a 1-10 scale where 7 is average. The idea, I suppose, is sort of like grading a child’s homework where 7 would be a C, or average. The problem with that logic is that if you’re trying to grade a video game like you would a 5th grader’s book report, you’ve clearly lost your marbles. Beyond that, many reviews go even further by adding a decimal point to those numbers, so you’ll get places like GameTrailers giving a game a 7.6. What the hell does that even mean? How is it better than a 7.5? Worse than a 7.7? You don’t need to be THAT specific with a score. What the “7 is average” scale also means is that about half of your scale will never get used. In general, it’s uncommon to see any game on that scale get below a 7. It’s rare to see anything get below a 6, and extremely rare to go below a 5. At that point 1-5 is basically just describing in excruciating detail how bad the game is specifically. Do we really need that? No, and it makes the scale completely confusing and unreliable. Angry Joe uses a variation of this scale that I prefer, which ditches decimal points and sets the average at 5. That’s more like it, and makes sure that both sides of the scale are equally balanced for the easiest to comprehend scores. Still, I think it’s a little broad, which is why I use my 1-5.
Now, one last thing I want to address: On my scale particularly, 1s and 5s aren’t given out too frequently. Like I previously said, a 1 doesn’t mean it’s the worst game EVAR, and a 5 doesn’t mean that the game is flawless, but to get those extreme scores, the game has to do something extreme, positive or negative, to set it apart. To that level, you could make a pretty solid argument that because 1s and 5s get dished out more rarely, the scale is almost 1-3. That’s not wrong, but I honestly don’t even think that scale would be bad. Bad, Okay, Good. Simple and sweet. My scale just adds one on either extreme to give credit for the best of the good and the worst of the bad, both of which deserve to be labeled as such. In general, the 1s and 5s are where things get extra subjective, so try to take those particular scores with a grain of salt. I generally do a lot of hemming and hawing over a score anyways, but even moreso when trying to decide on a 1 or a 5.
Anyways, I rambled on for quite a while on this subject but it’s one that I’m rather passionate about. I hope this gives you a better idea of where I’m coming from with my scores, and I look forward to using this scale more in the future.