Fellow gamers, there comes a time when things need change. I love writing and reading reviews, as they are often helpful in my game purchasing decisions. They're not the end-all, be-all for me, but since I can't play every game at once, I often put my faith in the hands of the reviewers to tell me about the game and at least give me their side of the story.
But even now, as I've grown in gaming years, I've begun to notice something: whether it's the fault of the reviewers or the readers, the current review score system is broken and in need of repair.
This builds off some anger I had the other day over Xbox Live Arcade's new policy of cutting everything they consider "crap." One of the factors was a Metacritic score under 65. Now, going with a database of scores is fine and dandy... if you want a composite of how reviewers feel. They represent a powerful, yet small minority in the gaming community. In a sense, they're kind of like the Congress of gaming: they do stuff and we sit around, dissecting and bitching about it, but in the end, doing little to change the status quo.
Of course, Microsoft's stupid plan will use other factors, but that first part, the part relying on Metacritic scores above a 65, sticks with me. We are stuck with this mentality of the 10 point scale directly being linked to what we learned in grade scale. A 10/10 is perfect. A 7/10 is middle of the road. A 5/10, the true middle of the scale, is failing. And it needs to change soon, because decent games are being beaten down by it.
It's not these games that in my mind are failing. It's the grading systems we've become accustomed to, where everything below a 6 is lumped into one category called "Shit" and never touched again. In that case, we really ought to have a 5-point scale from 5-10, where 5 is the lowest grade, but that wouldn't make sense, would it?
Working over at Blogcritics as assistant gaming editor, I've had to learn to deprogram myself from these feelings, mostly because we don't have a point system. It's all based on stars, like in the old days, with no half-stars. Everything's between 1 and 5 stars. If I had to try and equate the two grading systems, though, my chart looks something like this:
Five Stars = 10 - 9
Four Stars = 9 - 7.5
Three Stars = 7.5 - 5.5
Two Stars = 5.5 - 3.5
One Star = < 3.5
For example, I recently reviewed FIFA Street 3 on the Xbox 360. Now, FIFA Street 3 is far from perfect, but it's a pretty average game that's good if you have a few friends around to play with. I gave it three stars and if I converted it to the 10 point scale, would place it around a 6. Metacritic agrees with me, giving the game a 63 rating, but most people see that don't put together that 63 is average. They think, "63=D-=BAD, DO NOT BUY EVER." It's a fallacy that we all continue to perpetrate and let live, much like "next-gen consoles" (if they're next-gen... then are the next consoles "next-next-gen?") and that games turn children into murdering robots (if so, the U.S. Army would love to talk to game developers).
I was unsure of EGM and 1up going to the letter-grading system over the points system, but it's a lot easier to remember and fits with how people will judge these games. Instead of trying to have to bust out a calculator to try and figure out how to convert it to a letter grade, all the work's done for you. A C game is given a C, you can clearly see it and say "Oh, that's average on their scale." It also does away with problem #2: the numbers coming after the decimal point.
Really, what does it add? Does it make that big of a difference if a game is an 8.7 instead of an 8.8? Does it mean the higher scoring game is inherently going to always be better? Of course not, so why add the extra decimal points? I personally think it's just to seem cool, and that it adds absolutely no value. The only time decimal points really truly matter are mathematical equations and money. Further more, they add more emphasis that the scoring system is like your school's grading system, which is the whole problem we're dealing with in the first place, right? Right.
So, if you might have guessed, I'm going to propose that gaming sites and publications rethink their scoring system and steer away from the 10-point scale, something we only really see here in the world of video games. Really, go look around. It's in video games and figure skating. We need a new way of reviewing games... or at least one that's less complex and confusing. I personally think it's time to either switch to a letter grading system or to a five-star system with no half-points, but we need to come up with something that's different from the number and alphabet soup we currently have.
I'd like to hear what you've got to say on the issue, though. Thoughts?