The -/+ Rating System Explained

If you’ve seen my recent review of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you’ve seen this rating system already.  This is an explanation for how it was designed, split into right (positive) and left (negative) sides.  The decision to account for “outside factors” is very important to me for rather philosophical reasons:

  1. Readers don’t want an omnipotent judge beyond all time and circumstance when they read your thoughts.  Authors are only human, and despite the static nature of text, to read is to have a discussion with the author mentally.  Therefore, let that reader have an honest discussion with you, by being candid.  Allow your personal perspective to soak through, rather than put on some pretense of scientific objectivity.  Make your strongest argument, and stand by it.  Otherwise you’re guaranteed to end up sounding indecisive, disingenuous, or boring, as you try to cancel your real opinions over and over.  If they don’t enjoy your real thoughts, or the argument you make in its favor, then there’s no hope to begin with.  (Which is not to say that your argument can’t be carefully considered and well-balanced.)  That’s the fun of writing.
  2. Our opinions are affected by our personal history, our education, culture, habits, and maturity level.  When these factors inevitably change, it’s only fair to re-evaluate our old opinions again with the hopes that our new opinions are even more compelling.  But either way, it’s the responsibility of the reader to evaluate the evaluator — to form opinions about your opinions, and take your words with the appropriate amount of salt.  That’s the fun of reading.
  3. The Internet allows a game to easily change over time.  Patching, updates, and downloadable content can make or break a game, even after its released.  Just look at how much Minecraft has evolved since it first became available.  Would you rather have somebody update their score after major patches, or pretend to know what future will bring and just stick to their old, outdated critique?  A living creature should be judged by how it lives today, not by how it once lived.

So just take it for what it is, okay?

For years I’ve wondered why people don’t think of consumer media as a potentially negative experience, worthy of opposition.*  I got the idea when I inverted the idea of a “value proposition” and asked myself how long I would put up with a game’s bullshit if I was getting paid, or if it was free.  (The Free to Play business model has made this question very real, and proven that most games aren’t worth the time and energy, much less the cash.)

Now, the rating system has some tricks up its sleeves that I enjoy, mostly related to the subtleties of the decimal points in this sliding scale.  For example, a rating of -1.3 would indicate that a game definitely qualifies as “unpleasant” and even somewhat “bad”, while a rating of -1.7 would indicate that a game is definitely “bad” and almost “worthy of opposition”.  And on the other side, a rating of +2.2 would indicate that a game is definitely “amazing” and a little bit “mind-blowing”, while a slight nudge up to +2.5 would indicate that a game is definitely “amazing” and definitely “mind-blowing” as well.

In theory this rating system could easily be applied to specific aspects of the game (which is tempting) but for now I plan to judge games as a whole, including outside factors and so on.  I hope you think it’s cool, because I plan on adding more games in the future to see how they all stack up.

* Before you say that videogames are a luxury that we should all be thankful for in some grand historical context, and that it takes a pretty entitled person to say they could be “worthy of opposition”, let me remind you there is no luxury, just the civilization we were born into, which I do my fair share to maintain — which includes the responsibility to speak out and demand quality control — lest evil prevail(!).  It’s the same reason we complain about corrupt politicians and oppose tyrants, instead of just being grateful for having government at all.  And you know what else?  Our forefathers would have called all our luxuries a fucking waste of everything, and called our whole civilization a hollow pursuit of vanity disgraced by mass delusion, and I would agree with them.**

** Wouldn’t you rather work an honest day in the field, reaping only what you sow, nothing more and nothing less, making love to your homely wife in the open air of the silent night, than sit alone at a computer monitor and waste away in self-medication and distraction as the globalist agenda manipulates your every waking thought?***

***  I thought so.  And that’s why it’s okay to complain about games sucking.

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