What my game review scores mean
When I first started doing game reviews I came up with a score scale to say what the point allocation meant.
It has been a while since then, and I think it is time to update that explanation and what the various points mean, because I try not to operate on a 3 point scale.
So here is how I am currently scoring video games.
1: This isn’t a game, it’s a virus
While I have yet to have to give a game a 1, what it means is that the game is actively harmful to your hardware. This is incredibly rare, and a score which I hope not to have to give, because it will mean replacing my hardware.
2: Too many game stopping errors
I am a little bit more forgiving with PC games in this regard, because the PC isn’t a standard platform the way consoles are, but there are limits to that extended tolerance. This is for games which are unplayable.
3: Bad game from bad people
Games like Rapelay and Ethnic Cleansing exist. Fortunately they tend not to be in the mainstream, so I have avoided having to review any of them. These games tend to be awful on their merits, but to simply say they are awful is not quite enough – this kind of awful is the sort of awful tied to awful people.
4: Not offencive, just bad
There are a lot of bad games out there. Some are bad from simply being tedious, some are from trying too hard to be gritty, and most fail thoroughly on their gameplay. This isn’t a curse on a game’s house or anything; it is just a bad game.
Any reviewer who tells you they are being objective and emotionally detached, is either completely blind to their own prejudices, or playing something that is so completely mediocre it inspires nothing, not even the irritation of a bad game. These are the hardest reviews to write well because there are none so boring as the bored.
6: Actually not bad
A 6 is not a bad game – it is a game with promising mechanics, a fun theme or something that makes me feel in some way positive about it. It isn’t going to set your world on fire or anything, and it needs work, but it also shows promise for the developer in future. Worth a shot if you find it cheap.
These are games which if you are into the genre they are made for, you can get and find some fun in. They aren’t necessarily what you would recommend for someone who wants to try out the genre, but once you know what you are into you should enjoy this.
8: A good introduction game
This game isn’t necessarily the best in its genre – it isn’t the greatest real time strategy game or the best first person shooter, but if you want an idea of what the genre is about it is a good game to start with.
9: A game you should enjoy
These are games which you can enjoy whether they are the genre you go for or not. They are often the best in their genres, and are balanced for enjoyment, whether it be through great gameplay or story-telling. They are accessible, fun and interesting.
These games are not perfect, but they are the big games which either marks a niche genre turning really good, or the culmination of the said genre. Starcraft, Civilization 2, Baldur’s Gate 2 are all examples of this sort of game.
Of size and forgiveness:
Of the three games I have given twos to, two were from large developers (Lionhead and Blizzard) and all three were big franchises. I will forgive more bugs from a smaller developer, but huge names get less slack. This is balanced I believe by the fact that the big names also tend to have bigger budgets to make better games overall, and I am not really taking the price of the title into account.
Normally an 8 will be better than a 7, but it isn’t necessarily guaranteed. A game that warrants a 7 may have greater depth and concepts which you have to be familiar with the genre to fully grasp, making it better for a seasoned veteran than a game that would get an 8. That said, I am writing for a general audience and normally it is a good rule of thumb that if it isn't accessible to a new gamer it isn't that great for a veteran either.
The game genres I tend to like are RPGs with strong stories, third person action games, fighters, tennis games (though not sports titles in general), strategy and the very occasional racing game. In other words, I like a lot of different kinds of games, but there are some which just aren’t what I am into and while I try to be fair, it isn’t always going to happen.
My moral biases are pretty obvious based on my columns given that I am pretty preachy when you get right down to it. I am aware of them when writing my reviews, but complete objectivity is neither possible nor desirable as a review is ultimately an opinion.
I hope my opinion is useful, but it is still just my opinion.