Reading games reviews on the Internet reminds me of the days (way back) when I literally ate car reviews for breakfast. Numbers, average ratings, I was obsessed with averages. However, reviews based on average (numerical) ratings don’t work: take for example this review over at Gamespot for a game called ‘Prey’. Gamespot uses several components that (at the end) result in an ‘average’ rating in a scale from 1 to 10, uh, wait, there’s a ‘catch’:
Our ratings are generated from the component scores that our reviewers assign. That means the overall rating is not a pure average of five component scores–some components are weighted more heavily than others. GameSpot has consistently applied this same rating formula since we started.
So, going back to the ratings of that game, over 5 different components the review assigned 3 7s and 2 8s (on a scale of 10), which according most math should end up with an average rating of 7.4. The question is of course, where exactly did the article’s 7.5 score come from? It must be the graphics!
The catch-all with these kind of ratings is that averages don’t really tell anything. Think of it this way: 10 years ago graphics were a lot less better than today. If 10 years ago, games reviewers gave a game like Pac Man a 10 for graphics, imagine what that number (according a specific scale) would be now. Most likely not 10. I bet that it’s probably a lot more fun playing Pac Man over and over than, lets say, the very game now known as ‘Prey’.
I have a better and alternative rating system: it’s called the ‘Frustration Level’. It’s on a scale of 10 too and for clarity, I decided to use sailing as a metaphor:
- 10 – This game is smooth sailing from A to Z.
- 9 – Smooth sailing. A and B was bad but Z is there.
- 8 – Sailing.
- 7 – Sort of sailing, need to use the spare motor to get this going so once in a while.
- 6 – It’s sailing, but the motor ran out of fuel and there’s a big chance we may need to use the wooden peddles. Whatever.
- 5 – God. Somebody forgot the fuel.
- 4 – OMG. Somebody forgot the fuel and the peddles. Wind is hardly blowing, we’re almost at a standstill. What’s next?
- 3 – OMFG. Sombody forgot the fuel, the peddles and the sails. And this is supposed to be a sailing boat. Ever peddled a boat by hand?
- 2 – Did anybody notice that this boat is leaking?
- 1 – This is not a boat. It’s actually a Sinking Brick. A Shiny Sinking Brick at that.
There’s no need for multiple sub-ratings either: how much you enjoy a game is actually defined by how many times you got frustrated during gameplay. Did you get frustrated too many times? Somebody forgot the fuel!.
The good part of my rating is that if a game has a frustration level of ’10’ (no frustration whatsoever), this doesn’t automatically mean that it’s a good game. That’s not the point of this rating system: if you find that a game sucks, it’s probably because you’re biased. Or lets say it this way, if you think a game sucks then you might just as well put that to words and convince your ‘fan base’ why this game didn’t work.
Afterall, you don’t suck 5.5 on a scale of 10 either, do you?
1. Since I was Alfons introduced me to ‘Eurogamer’, I have always preferred their reviews above the ones produced in the US, because of the highly dry humour displayed by all of the reviewers. While I don’t agree with their ‘point system’ (1= bad, 10 = really good), compare their review of ‘Prey’ with the one above.