Should games be rated or reviewed?

Now what do I mean by rated or reviewed? Surely written reviews have ratings attached at the end; both can’t exist without each other right? Well I question the use of ratings. Personally I think there are many flaws in slapping a number or grade at the end- or the beginning for that matter- of a game review.

All hail numbers.

I would be completely over exaggerating if I said that ratings can brainwash people but there’s no doubt that they’re highly influential. The reviewer may complain about controls being too difficult to master and give a game a mediocre score of let’s say, 6. However you may not find that mastering controls as much of a problem at all but that 6 still looks quite off putting… So do you get this game or not? Does that 6 mean this game is bad? Should anything under 8 really be worth your time and money? It’s when people start focusing on the score instead of the review itself that problems arise. Especially if you see a score before you read the review. Scoresl give an immediate impression of a game and that impression stays throughout the whole review. Sometimes a very low and high rating can be more influential than the review itself. Ultimately none of this will matter if the review matched the rating yet that raises another problem.


”Must do what numbers and scores say…”

Is not like an exam

I’ve heard several times about critics complaining that it is very hard to score or rate a game accurately, well that’s normal because it is. What you feel about a game or how you judge a game is not the same as marking an exam, there isn’t a criteria list or an answer booklet to assist you. Some may argue that you can rate games on graphics, sound, presentation and other criterion. However games now provide such varied experiences and have such different qualities that make it good, it would be unfair to force criteria upon it. It would be limiting creativity and originality if critics suddenly start taking off points for games that doesn’t fit in some set of ‘laws that make games good’. Games are not generic enough for people to score it like an exam; often they make you feel different emotions: frustration, joy, relaxation, fulfillment  Something that an examiner probably won’t be doing when he or she stares at a math paper or an essay on Shakespeare (unless the student decides to doodle on their math papers or write an emotional, tear-inducing essay on Much Ado About Nothing). Since games are getting more complex, scoring would naturally be harder which is why sometimes reviews contradict ratings- thus the comment section is set on fire by people’s complaints.


”Grrrr I can’t believe that she doodled on her exam! So much overflowing emotions!”

Should it really be abolished though?

Of course it’s not always negatives, I understand that scores can be a quick guide for those in a rush or can’t be bothered to read for some reason- summaries and video reviews are better alternatives in my opinion. What I want to point out the most is that reviews should always serve as the better guideline for gamers and buyers. A good reviewer isn’t someone who can justify their score; a good reviewer is someone who doesn’t have to rely on the score to persuade and advice consumers.


1 year ago by in Feature Articles , Portal | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

An eccentric British-Chinese girl who's been obsessed with gaming since her first journey through Monkey Island, SSBB, Sinnoh and many other gamey places. Inspired by games journalists, bloggers and her teachers; she's now developed an obessesion for writing. Typing about yourself in third person is strange indeed.

9 Comments to Should games be rated or reviewed?
    • Daniel Switzer
    • I think they should still be rated and reviewed, but somehow we need to adopt a universal review scale. Of course, not everyone marks a games the same way and it would be tough, but then it would make the decision for gamers easier.

      If we can’t do that, then we should just simply take out the number and make sure people are reading the actual text, people simply skim over the actual talk of the game and look straight at the number which is something we need to deal with

      • Danwen Huang
      • Yeah, I agree the problem is when people just skim the text and look at the number as a guide (when the actual review itself is a better guideline). Numbers can not properly convey why a game’s quality or the reviewer’s taste in my opinion. Reviews are obviously great and a large part of games journalism (I enjoy writing and reading reviews)but there’s too much emphasise, amongst gamers, on ratings then actually opinion and content of reviews.

    • Holt
    • I like using review scores as a shorthand to whether or not I need to read the review. If the score deviates from my expectations, then I know to check the text to find out why. Though summaries and other short-hands would accomplish that task as well, so maybe it would be better if more outlets switched gears to that sort of system.

      It doesn’t help that most of them don’t seem to use their own scales properly, resulting in scaling systems can’t express a wide range of reactions.

      • Danwen Huang
      • ‘It doesn’t help that most of them don’t seem to use their own scales properly’ Indeed it’s very hard to express opinions and emotions through numbers etc (psychology class had a lot of influence on me when I wrote the article :P ).

        I usually use reviews as a final assurance (since my gut feeling tells me if a game’s my cup of tea by reading previews), but even then sometimes I get put off if the game scores lower than I expected. So now I just try my best to ignore ratings XD.

    • Dexter
    • I prefer a game to be reviewed with no score given. A pro/con summary is also acceptable.

      That said, one of my most trust film critics, Roger Ebert, uses a star system and I routinely rely on his stars to gauge if I will enjoy a film or not.

      To put it differently, I believe only a select few reviewers can use a rating system properly, yet most reviewers use it.

      • Danwen Huang
      • Glad to see another Ebert fan :D . Even though I tend to agree with his opinion, I feel that the stars are still primitive and inaccurate representations of his feeling towards a movie (he even mentioned in one of his blog posts that he does change his mind about the number of stars, which is another problem with these ratings). It’s also why I prefer his ‘great movies’ articles. Mind you I have been guilty of seeing if a movie is four stars before. Ultimately it’s still up to personal taste since he rated a film I loved 2 stars before.

    • Kami
    • Ratings are funny things and this is before we get to the kurfuffle that arises when you inject stuff like Metacritic into the mix. When scores do have that kind of impact and when some are found to be factually incorrect in so many ways that they have to be pulled, the scores on Metacritic can still stand.

      Personally, I tend to find my reviews summarised by “Recommended”, “Rent” or “Avoid”. And I do try to avoid the “Avoid” tag when I can because I am painfully aware that even as a small blogger, I can still perhaps influence people and their purchases. I’d rather recommend a cheap rental to someone to see if it suits them than actually tell them to outright avoid something. Sometimes it is unavoidable however, and I try to be VERY careful. I don’t want to tell people how to think – that isn’t my thing. Rather, to discuss, debate and perhaps help people reconsider their views but that change needs to happen on the readers own volition, not because I told them to avoid it or not to participate in something.

      That’s the problem with scores. Even if you want people to think for themselves, they’d much rather have the bullet points. And there’s no greater bullet point than a big fat number at the bottom of a review.

      Kind of sad, when you think about it…

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