Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Why video game reviews suck: part one

12:40 PM on 03.12.2007 // Anthony Burch

 thumbs down

It has frequently been argued that video games tend to be reviewed much more favorably than other forms of art, like film. This type of thing is usually argued by the same people who complain about the state of video game journalism, and who call most gamers immature morons.

The problem is that, at least in this case, those people are right.

Video games are reviewed much too positively, and the gamers are suffering as a result. Horrendous games are getting rated 6/10, decent ones are getting 8/10, and the much-desired perfect 10/10 is getting passed around more frequently than a bong at Phish concert. 

Are video game reviews really that positive? Is that a bad thing? Why are video game reviews the way they are?

This two part article will tackle all of these questions: the first one today, and the last two later on in the week. Hit the jump to see part one.

The 1-10 Scale

When you come down to it, the 1-10 scale is the most frequently used in video game journalism. The almost as popular 1-100 scale could easily be reduced to a 1-10 decimal system without any real difference.

But how effectively do game reviewers really use the 1-10 scale? Generally speaking, a 1-10 scale should be represented as such:

1 – Shit

Could not possibly be worse.

2 – Awful

Maybe the idea was kind of clever, or you may have fun accidentally, but everything else is horrendous.

3 – Bad

Some aspects are terrible, others are either so-so or kind of fun.

4 – Poor

An admirable effort, but essentially mediocre.

5 – So-So

Fifty-fifty. Half of the time the game is fun, half of the time it isn’t, for whatever reason. This game is absolutely average in every single way -- neither good nor bad.

6 – Not bad

Decent, but you wouldn’t recommend it to friends. 

7 – Good

Replayable, fun, but nothing innovative or amazing. The game potentially has large flaws that, while they don’t make the game bad, prevent it from being as good as it could be.

8 – Great

Very fun -- its essential gameplay aspects are cool and interesting, but may not be implemented in the best way.

9 – Fantastic

Negligible flaws. Otherwise very, very good.

10 – Perfect

Could not possibly be better.

Now, I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that you disagree almost entirely with the criteria for that ranking system. But while you can substitute your own subtitles for each of the scores, I think we can generally agree on what the bold points represent: on a 1-10 grading scale, a 1 is absolutely horrible, and a 10 means that you’ve just played a video game that could not be made better in any way.

Logically, there is no way that a 1, being the lowest possible point on the scale, could represent anything other than a game with no redeemable values, or that a 10, the highest point on the scale, could represent anything other than pure perfection.

However, this is not the grading scale we use when judging video games. I would argue that our scale looks much more like this:

10 – Fantastic

9 – Great

8 – Very good

7 – So-so

6 – Bad

5 through 1 – Awful

Don’t believe that this is the de facto video game grading scale? Consider the reviews of Gears of War, a game which was frequently given a perfect 10/10, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which I personally gave a 4/10.

gears of war

The “Perfect” Game

While most reviewers tend to shy away from giving any game a perfect ten (9.8’s are far more numerous than 10’s), it has to be said that the “perfect 10” rating does not stand for perfection at all. Take Dan Hsu’s review of Gears of War (keep in mind that I hold the highest opinion of him, considering he's one of the only video game journalists to show any balls in the last few years):

“You can always find reasons not to give a game a review score of 10. Control issues (Gears of War has that). A.I. problems (that, too). Bad dialogue or storytelling (yes on both). Linear levels, online lag, limited modes (yup, yup, and yup).”

Then he gave it a 10 -- a perfect score. He defended his rating by stating that the good overwhelmed the bad by far. That the player was kept in a constant state of awe by the setpieces and the satisfying kills. In some respects, it’s hard to disagree with him: Gears of War is undeniably fun, and the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

But it does not make the game perfect.

And yet, many other reviewers gave Gears of War almost equally high scores despite acknowledging the game’s many faults. Out of 132 reviews, 12 of them said Gears of War was a perfect, 10/10 game.

Whatever your opinion is concerning Gears of War, I think we could all agree that it is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. One may consider a 10/10 score for Gears completely justified, assuming you don’t consider 10/10 to mean “perfect,” but rather “really fantastic.”

But why should 10/10 mean anything but "perfect"? You cannot get any higher on a grading scale than 10/10, meaning there should be no room for improvement. Many magazines such as EGM classify a 9-10 rating as "excellent", but that doesn't insinuate that a 10/10 should indicate anything other than a flawless video game.


“We should reserve 4's for the X-Squads, Orphens, Godai's, and Big Mutha Trucka Racings of the world.”

The above quote, by The Brain, was taken from the comments of Destructoid’s review of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The Brain’s comment was one of the most civil ones I received in opposition to my grading of Link’s Wii adventure.

I gave it a 4 because I felt that the gameplay was repetitive, the story, unoriginal, and the Wiimote functionality, broken. I stand by my review, and I make no apologies for it. Many readers said that they would no longer visit Destructoid because of my review. Others said that I should no longer be allowed to review video games, or even contribute to the site.

But is a score of 4/10 really that harsh? In a functioning 1-10 scale, a 4/10 is the equivalent of “poor.” Not bad, or awful, or shit -- just “poor.” Slightly below average.

And yet, a 4/10 in the gaming world might as well be a 1/10. After we posted the Zelda review, readers either accused me of deliberately lowering my rating just to incite controversy, or of being anti-Nintendo, or of just plain being an idiot.

Yes, a large part of the community outburst could be attributed to the fact that Zelda was a Nintendo title, and therefore attracted the most irate fanboys on the Earth. Gamespot received similar hate mail when they awarded it an 8.8 out of 10 -- still “great”, by Gamespot’s standards. But my rationale for rating the game as low as I did is not nearly as important as the community’s reaction to it.

As a community, we seem to have collectively decided that the regular 1-10 system does not apply to video games, and that, instead, everything rated below a 6 is irredeemable crap. Many of the comments concerning Twilight Princess said that I should have awarded it a 6 or 7 instead of a 4, even given my arguments that the game was sub-par. The majority of these comments were written not because readers thought I was outright wrong, but because they thought 4/10 was simply too harsh a number based on my complaints. As mentioned above, however, 4/10 is not very harsh at all; we have simply decided, as a community, that even if we think a game is sub-average it is still worthy of a better-than-average numerical score.

Scores under 5 shock us, when they really shouldn’t. Most games that come out on a monthly basis are either bad, or simply mediocre, but we still grade then with 6’s and 7’s -- grades we ought to reserve for honestly good, enjoyable games. We should be seeing a lot more 4/10’s than we currently are.



The Magically Inflating Score

The important question is, why do we relegate sub-five scores to bargain bin crap, or lousy movie tie-ins that have no redeeming value? Why do games that are clearly below average often get scores of 6? Reviewers (and I am personally guilty of this in my grades of Lost Planet and WarioWare: Smooth Moves) will often times point out many things that a game does wrong, essentially deeming it below-average, and then inexplicably award it a 6/10 or a 7/10. 6/10 scores, by their very definition, should be awarded to games that are above average. To games that are more good than bad. A 5/10 or a 6/10 is logically not a grade to be ashamed of if it belongs to an above-average game, but these scores are usually awarded to horrendously sub-average fare.

On, the all-time worst reviewed game on the site is Charlie’s Angels, for the Nintendo Gamecube. Its average score? 24/100 -- reduced, 2.4/10.

Isn’t that a little weird? That a game ranking site, which includes games dating back to the Super Nintendo era, has not a single game with an average score of less than 2.4 out of 10? We’re talking about more than a decade of games, and not one game is scored lower than a 2.4.

2.4/10 is a low score, yes. But for a game like Charlie’s Angels, which has absolutely NO redeemable values to speak of (other than the fact that it doesn’t give you cancer or something), it’s far too high. Why not a 2/10, or a 1/10? Why do reviews like IGN’s accuse it of being "simply, bad, in just about every way," and then give it the generous score of 4/10? Shouldn't a game that is bad in every way get a 1/10 or a 2/10?

The problem is not the reviewer's individual sense of judgement, but what we as a community have decided to be the criteria for our review system. Simply because a video game is a video game, it warrants a higher score than it really deserves.

Why is this the case? Tune in next week to see a dissection of the possible causes. For now, though, hit the comments and lemme know what you think: am I full of shit? 

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Alphadeus avatarAlphadeus
Love, Lost, Live, Lost (2014) - Yesterday was me and my girlfriend's 16th year anniversary together, so I decided to share this song. It deals with being in love, losing that person, moving on, and learning to love again. It's 9 minutes long, too :P
gajknight avatargajknight
I have done my part. Thank you Niero. Question: Does blocking someone also remove their front-page articles too?
iam16bit avatariam16bit
I've been on this site for sometime and for some reason I've never done a quickpost until now.
TheKodu avatarTheKodu
So I'm hearing the UN called Japan in to discus "Banning the sale of video games or cartoons involving sexual violence against women " Which by Anita's standards = any Violence able to be done. Japan sent a 40 page long NO back to the UN in reply.
Amna Umen avatarAmna Umen
Why did I have to read that Austin Grossman was going to be one of the writers on a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode?
Parismio avatarParismio
Dammit its 3 and i cant stop reading cute gay romance mangas.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Going to be honest; I love out-of-context anime screenshots. They're... kind of incredible.
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Retweet of the year goes to President of Worldwide Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., Shuhei Yoshida.
Voodoome avatarVoodoome
Just got home from Deadpool and ... it's not good. I liked the jabs at Green Lantern and the previous movie Deadpool, but that was about it. The rest was just painfully forced dick jokes. Wife fell asleep.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Larxinostic rule34
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
Looks like I'm not gonna be able to 100% Tearaway Unfolded until Monday at the least. I'm definitely writing about it this weekend and am trying my hardest to get my screenshots off of my PS4 (especially hard as I don't do social media anymore)
Darth Wachen avatarDarth Wachen
I've never done a blog before, so I may as well try one with a review of Stranger of Sword City....well, when I get entered into that contest of course
ikiryou avatarikiryou
Shakedown Hawaii is giving me good GTA vibes. I missed the topdown GTA games when they were a thing. I have to decide what platform to get it for since it's coming to 3DS/Vita/PS4/PC (probably the Vita version for moi).
TheBlondeBass avatarTheBlondeBass
You think your art sucks? Here's the rule34 I made of Larx yesterday. Look at it and despair.
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Hey Dreamweaver? If you think your art sucks, you should have a look at my magnum opus. It's of Cloud from the popular game, Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
I never thought this would happen, but here I am. all of my 700+ pokemon gone in one day. My cart stopped working and there's nothing I can do. I quit, you can't just rebuild all that. Time to find something else.
taterchimp avatartaterchimp
Tom Collins is a pretty great drink, and well suited for poutine. consumption
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
It may be because I've been drinking but... We need some dung beetles from ark for the front page. Move that dung on out.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
Does anyone know how to get PS4 screenshots onto a PC without needing a flash drive? I don't have a spare.
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
This is an example of how bad my drawings are. I honestly think drawing stick figures would've been easier on the eyes. :( The worst thing about this image is that this was made after I got BETTER. Trust me, you don't want to see my earlier stuff. T^T
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -