The Rating System

Welcome to the system for rating videogames.  This rating system is divided into eight “leagues”, which represent major differences in quality.  A full explanation of how it works, and the rules that go along with it, is beneath the diagram.

review leagues


Most review systems suck.  A thoroughly forgettable game usually gets a 7/10 just because, technically, it has graphics of some sort, and stuff happens when you push buttons.  Meanwhile, a highly anticipated blockbuster will also get a 7/10 because of a few small problems that hold it back from being “perfect”.  In the end, the blockbuster is being held up to a much higher standard.  I’ve noticed that it’s rare for any game, no matter how mediocre or bland, to get a low score.  This means the upper portion of the rating scale is jammed full of anything and everything; it doesn’t give us enough room to properly measure the gap between great games and average ones.  You can’t just start giving every mediocre game a 3 or 4 out of 10 either, because then you’re crowding the low end.

Without realizing it, we subconsciously divide games into different leagues and tend to judge them against other games in the same league – and this is fine, except that we haven’t adjusted our rating systems to reflect this!  I want to makes those “leagues” official.

Each league should be considered vast and far apart, having their own significant 10-point scale inside.  For example, there’s a big difference between a +1.1 and a +1.9, but compared to the wider spectrum of -4 to +4, it’s still minor.

In this system, “zero” represents the mysterious void of mediocrity sometimes called vaporware.  You might think zero is the logical bottom of a rating scale, but the oft-forgotten truth is, games are not like movies.  They require effort.  Every game requires you to invest energy, even if it’s free and simple to play.  Good games might feel effortless, but bad games feel like work.  Bad games punish you, waste your time, cancel your effort, and insult your intelligence.  Ratings therefore need to allow for negative numbers.


My Rules of Rating

A rating scale still doesn’t mean much without some guidelines, so here are mine:

  • There is no such thing as a theoretically perfect game, nor is there a theoretical “worst game that could ever be made”.  Currently existing examples determine the opposite points of the spectrum.
  • The purpose of giving a rating is to send a message to developers, encouraging and discouraging certain practices, schools of thought, design elements, etc.  It’s not about measuring artistic value, hype levels, or business savvy.
  • At no point in the reviewing process should you allow a game to fool you into thinking it exists in a vacuum, or some bubble where it is immune to certain types of criticism.  Be open, but use your own carefully considered standards, not the one suggested by the publishers or developers.
  • When rating, remember the purpose of them first, then try to begin and end with the first gut feeling you got from the game, with only fine adjustments upon further consideration.  Don’t try to ignore your gut feeling and calculate your rating as if it were arithmetic in which you discover the sum without knowing it beforehand.  Rather, start with the conclusion and work backward to find out why that feeling is true.
  • If you haven’t developed standards by which to judge a certain game, don’t review it.
  • If you are too indecisive about something to have a gut reaction, don’t review it.

It may not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than most.  I’m looking forward to reviewing more games according to this system and put everything nicely where it belongs — hopefully you’re looking forward to them too!

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