My Rating Scale Explained




For the rating scale that accompanies my game reviews, I have elected to abandon the traditional 10-point grading range in favor of something more simplistic. The range of 10 grades (or 10 grades with 10 half-grades, or 10 grades encompassing 100 one-tenth grades) is appealing to our metrically minded sensibilities, but either due to unfortunate misconstrual of the system by most casual observers or just its inherently defective nature, it always seems to imply a vaster range of discernably classifiable grades than is actually realistic for describing the quality of our games. Most advocates of the scale will adamantly defend its integrity by reminding its detractors of the number 5's median position--that it is meant to be reflective of an average score, and those who regard it as a mark of poor quality are simply not using the scale the way it was intended. That may well be the case, but it does nothing to change the observer's noting that each grade above the median mark tends to reflect a noticeably unique level of quality, while those below tend to merge into one indiscriminate mass of crap. Perhaps I simply lack the super senses of other game critics, which enable them to detect the clear differentiation in quality between a game rated an 8.1 and one boasting a score of 8.3; but more likely, there are simply only three or four truly recognizable distinctions that serve anyone any benefit when judging a product's quality.

These are the distinctions I recognize:

Most Should Play. Games of this grade represent truly admirable achievements in game design. Titles that are the pinnacles in their respective franchises or genres, or that offer an overall unique and creative gaming experience hampered by only a few notable shortcomings, are the kinds of games that populate this tier. Most gamers would do well to give them a try--fans of the genre or franchise in question will most definitely esteem them worthy purchases, while the rest could do far worse than to give them a try.

Some Should Play. The so-so category. Games that rank here are not necessarily devoid of entertainment, though neither do they want considerable room for improvement or innovation. Diehard fans of the genre, the developer, or the franchise will likely still be compelled to give them a whirl; others could probably avoid them altogether without experiencing the guilt of missing out on something truly remarkable.

Few to None Should Play. These are games with significant, even game-breaking shortcomings. If one is an absolute fan of the genre or has had his heart set on the game since learning of its existence, he might wish to give it a try, if only to see how it fails to compare to his expectations; but most would find their time and money better spent elsewhere.