How We Score Video Game Reviews

We’ve done a few video game reviews here on et geekera but we haven’t really explained what the scores mean. Sure, the scores at the end of the reviews are a reflection of the content of the rest of the review but we haven’t expressly said what constitutes a full endorsement and what is a game that must be avoided at all costs.

While we don’t always score games on their core components, we do evaluate all games based on their story/plot, gameplay, graphics, audio and value. The most important and the most intangible criterion for evaluating a game is how fun it is. A game could have great graphics and a well-written story but if it’s frustrating to play, its score will suffer because nobody wants to play a game that isn’t fun.

Scores will always be half or whole numbers. I’ve never been a fan of using the whole spectrum between 0 and 100% when scoring video games as can occasionally come off as arbitrary. After all, what is really the difference between a game with a rating of 8.8 and one scored 8.9 out of 10? (Though those decimals matter when AAA releases are scored from 8 to 10.) While I like whole number scores better, they seem occasionally a little imprecise when a game that’s rated a 7 could almost be an 8 but is lumped in with company that it’s clearly better than. And a binary buy or don’t buy rating system? Forget it.

So here is a breakdown of what the overall scores mean.

10 – Hall of Famer
Why not start at the top? A game that scores a perfect ten might not be absolutely perfect but it is as close to perfection as you can expect. This game is one that will sweep all the awards and be talked about as a great game for years to come. We’re talking about console generation and genre redefining good.

9.0 & 9.5 – Excellent
An excellent game may not be perfect but it’s, again, damn close. These games will be on the short list of game of the year award lists and will likely pick up awards for best game of the year in its genre. It will also set the benchmark for similar games in the future. A purchase isn’t so much highly recommended as mandatory.
Example: Mass Effect 2

8.0 & 8.5 – Great
Great games are games that may not necessarily do everything better than the rest of the market but enough parts of the game are done very well. One of the core components might be lacking but the remainder make up for it enough to make for a great game. Unless you hate games in this genre, a purchase is highly recommended.
Example: Spec Ops: The Line

7.0 & 7.5 – Good
It’s a game that could have been better with a little more time and effort but isn’t bad as it stands. There are issues with the four core game components above that keep it from being a great game. If you’re a fan of the genre or series, you’ll want to pick it up. It’s still worth a play though we could understand if you pass.
Example: Super Hexagon

6.0 & 6.5 – Above Average
It’s better than most games on the list but not by much. You can have some enjoyment but there isn’t enough there to really recommend it. There are issues with those core components that prevent the game from being a completely enjoyable experience.
Example: WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship

5.0 – Average
There’s nothing good enough about this game to recommend it nor is there enough pervasively bad about it to recommend against buying it. That being said, it’s not worth a full price purchase but at half-off or less, you’ll get some value out of it. There’s no 5.5 score here because that would be above average. If it’s good enough to get a 5.5, it’s probably good enough to get a 6.0.
Example: The Showdown Effect

4.0 & 4.5 – Below Average
There are just too many issues with this game to let it escape with a passing grade. The glitches can be fixed with a patch but these things really should be taken care of before shipping or with a day one patch. Otherwise, there aren’t enough redeeming qualities to this game to recommend a purchase.
Example: Death Rally

3.0 & 3.5 – Bad
When we get to scores this low, we’re starting to look at serious gameplay issues. These are more design-based than execution-based issues with the game. Once we get to this range of scores, there isn’t much fun to be had by anyone over the age of eight.

2.0 & 2.5 – Awful
When we get down this low, the game should neither be purchased for yourself or as a gift. If you receive it as a gift, I would highly recommend re-gifting to someone you don’t like. There is no enjoyment to be had out of playing this game.
Example: Primal Fears

1.0 & 1.5 – Garbage
As in the game belongs in the garbage rather than in your console or on your hard drive. There are numerous flaws in multiple core areas of the game. You would be better off watching paint dry than attempting to play this game.

0.0 – Epic Fail
I’m not sure what’s worse, that somebody said that this game could be released to market or that I actually played it. If a game scores a perfect 0, it has to be effectively unplayable. If it is playable, it has to be so bad that having both of your hands cut off would be preferable to playing this game.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on January 31, 2013, in Games and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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