There’s a strange relationship between the number of video game reviews available to the general public and the use that the gaming population seems to get out of them. You’d think that, as more and increasingly detailed reviews come to light, both bashing and heralding games, a measure of quality would eventually be mutually understood. Terrible games would be viewed as something to avoid, while the hidden gems and triple-A success stories of gaming would receive the praise they deserve. I suppose that this has come true to some degree; if a game is universally panned, it tends to sell poorly and vice versa.
The problem is, the commonplace definition of quality has become so incredibly skewed as to label anything below roughly 80% (8.0 out of 10.0, 4.0 out of 5.0 and so on) as sub-par and not worth playing. This mentality undermines the purpose of reviewing video games, and also unfairly besmirches the games in question.
Entertainment purposes aside (hey, we can be entertaining and informative), the only reason that the practice of reviewing video games persists is that gamers, as a consumer base, crave information. It’s more accurate, however, to say that people enjoy buying safely. If, for example, a player were to happen upon a new series by an unknown studio, they can easily turn to the game’s no-doubt crowded review spread for feedback on the game before investing in their money and time in a copy. Assuming the gamer in question actually reads reviews rather than simply tearing through to the numerical score at the end (which is another problem in and of itself), he or she will have gained an understanding of what the game has to offer, and can determine if it appeals to them. In doing so, they will have built credibility behind their purchase and drastically reduced their chances of unwittingly buying a bad game.
This is not only the reason that game reviews can exist, but it’s why they should exist. Every product must be critiqued and held to a standard in order for a healthy market to exist. Otherwise, any shoddy product can claim superiority and get away with it. Video games are no different; without a system of reviews in place, gamers would be stuck gambling with their money or trudging through a torrent of brief and incomplete feedback on Amazon.
Why, then, do so many gamers insist that a “good” game is one met with unanimous scores of 8.0 or more, or some comparable figure? No matter the scale, that’s great feedback for a game to receive. How on earth can that be considered the minimum? It doesn’t even make sense mathematically; assuming 10.0 is gaming quintessence, then, say, 6.0 would clock in at decent. Setting the bar at 8.0 is skipping a quarter entirely, and therefore callously eliminates a vast portion of wholly credible games—games that, if nothing else, deserve to be experienced first-hand before being cast aside.
Worse still is that reviews are sometimes seen as inarguable executioners, that a score below the mystical number of 8.0 means it can’t possibly be enjoyed by anyone. Do yourself a favor and read up on the feedback of a handful of your favorite games. Go on, I’ll wait five minutes…
Back? I’m more than willing to bet that many of your favorites garnered scores in the six and seven range, if not lower. Has your opinion of a childhood favorite or your current gaming binge changed dramatically? Probably not.
The fact that the third installment of a series that you personally adore comes in at 6.5 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth playing. 6.5 is a solid number, people! Moreover, even if the entire Internet throws the game in the corner, it’s entirely possible that a sizable portion of players can love the thing. This is where we derive the term “cult classic” (see: Mirror’s Edge, Resonance of Fate, Alice: Madness Returns, etc.).
Of course, it also needs to be said that reviews should be given credit for what they are. If a successful series does in fact take a turn for the worse, we’ll tell you; it’s our job. This necessitates a dependable review scale. But a bottom line of 80% is anything but dependable. In an effort to combat this trite perception, let’s lay out a more balanced scale, based on a maximum of 10.0. It might not be an infallible reference point, but it’s sure to win out over excluding well over half of today’s games.
– Below 4.0: Yeah, it’s probably crap.
– 4.1-5.0: It definitely has its problems, but it also has its moments. Whether or not those moments pay off is up to the individual. Though, a small percentage is going to side with positivity on this one.
– 5.1 – 6.0: This is the grey battlefield of ambivalence more commonly known as “average.” Some people will love the game and some will hate, so it basically nets zero. If you know the series, trust the developer, or are simply in love with the concept or media that you’ve seen thus far, go for it.
– 6.1 – 7.0: The highs definitely outweigh the lows, and it might even to get you to come back.
– 7.1 – 8.0: This is a good game, one that shines in its respective genre and dares to try new things.
– 8.1 – 9.0: We’re looking at a fantastic experience, here. A game in this range has either greatly refined a classic formula or ushered in a new gold standard for at least a few elements.
– 9.1 – 10.0: If you don’t despise the genre or platform with every fiber of your being and the studio responsible isn’t infamous for beating puppies to death, you should probably play this. This is where you’re sure to find a new addiction.