There's nothing new about the 7-9 rating scale for video games

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Now I’m going to miss Amiga Power again.

I think at least half the reason why I read RPS is because John Walker is friends with Stuart Campbell.

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The illustration directly contradicts your statistics.


The illustration is from the article he’s disagreeing with?


[quote=“beschizza, post:1, topic:69384”]But the suggestion that this inflation is a phenomenon of the 2010s; now, that is suspect. I cracked open a 1990s copy of ACE magazine—one of the more popular British general-purpose gaming mags of the 16-bit era—and it had the following scores.[/quote]This does not seem like a particularly random sampling. Maybe ACE only rates credible commercial products.

I think more interesting results would be yielded from something that delves into ZX Spectrum software. Now there you got stuff that was definitely less than credible.



Never mind.



All ratings systems are really just 3 ratings: it’s pretty good, it’s fine, and it’s shit.

All else is hubris.


So to recap,

  1. Someone on the internet reviewed the state of reviews of video games with an infographic displaying imaginary data,

  2. Rob reviewed the review of the state of reviews of video games with an extemporaneous study whose sample size ensures its lack of statistical significance, and

  3. I review Rob’s review of the review of the state of reviews of video games with a boring list and unfair criticism of his method.

I guess it’s true: reviews are getting worse and worse!


There is a simple solution to this: ordinal rankings!

Of course you’d have to change the rankings every time a new game was reviewed, but I said simple, not easy.

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I’m with you on that. I subscribed to the US PC Gamer for most of the 90’s and into the early 00’s. Ratings under 7 were rare, and they seemed to be in the other gaming mags my friends subscribed to as well. Though if I remember at least one of them (probably PC Gamer though I haven’t looked at them in over a decade to be honest) wasn’t rated on a scale of 1-10 but on 1.0-10.0 scale. So a “7” game could be a 7.1 or a 7.4. So even then they were acknowledging tacitly that they only used the top of the scale (why else would you need a 100 point scale?). I do remember 7’s being more common and those games would range from weird boring as hell and poorly made simulators (Fork Lift Simulator!) to entirely respectable if flawed releases over the range of different 7’s. High 8’s to 10 would be the “great game” end of the spectrum and they were fairly de rigueur in terms of major releases, sequels to well liked series, and the like. Pretty much just as skewed as it is now. If there’s been a change its that the reviews you’re seeing now aren’t including all the weird and less high profile products they used to, or there are more of the high test sort of games they default to the top end coming out.

There’s an argument to be had that truly bad games rarely get reviewed if even published.

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I think the reason you see a high score bias is because these publications often rely heavily on game publisher advertisements to get by. Giving a game an honestly critical review would be like biting the hand that feeds you.

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A quick run through this list of 2000+ reviews from Crash magazine gives an average score of roughly 7/10 and a standard deviation of +/-2. That’s a little bit less skewed towards high marks that my memory would suggest…

Direct ad money is often not the issue, but access. Doing a real review of a game is likely to takes a week or more, you need to play the game naturally to get an idea of what you want to say, then play again to get screenshots or video to go into the review, then write the review. For a physical magazine then you need to layout, proof, and print.

Since all of this takes time, and day one (or earlier) reviews are what sell magazines or get page views you need to get a copy of the game well before it comes out. Only the publisher can provide that, which requires the reviewer to be on “good terms” with the publisher. And often that means even when a reviewer doesn’t like a game they need to find a “silver lining” to make a bad review not so bad.

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I disagree that access is the issue.

Movie reviewers get early access to movies so they can talk about what they saw in advance of opening day. It’s simply because publishers want the best possible opening day and the more people talk about the movie just before it comes out the better.

It’s no different with game reviews. If your game is missing from major publications before your release because you won’t give them an advance copy, because fuck those guys, then you aren’t hyping up your launch enough. And even then, it’s self defeating because it doesn’t prevent the reviewer from looking at the game and writing about it after the launch.

But I do think game publications don’t want to be too critical because unlike movies which are often reviewed in a small segment of an entertainment section, games are often reviewed in periodicals which are entirely about video games. And that’s in an industry in which there are only a handful of major publishers left. There aren’t many alternate sources of advertisements if they get too critical of a developer’s practices.

That can change with online reviews such as on Youtube which isn’t beholden to a single advertising source, but even then, it’s not uncommon to see popular Let’s Play personalities get paid to promote a game before it launches.

Not on Steam, not any more. There are a pile of games in the 1 - 4 range.
One outcome of digital downloading is heaping piles of pure crap. It costs nothing to publish so there is no curation being applied.

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It’s about ethics in gaming journalism!


Here you go, Unclear User:

Guide to ratings
5 moons
Buy it. They spend all their massive advertising budget with us
EXCLUSIVELY, and we get to review the game before it even leaves the
4 moons
Not short of a bob or two, the fellows who place advertising for this
software house, and they’ve chucked quite a few pages our way for this
game. They buy space in our magazine, we write nice reviews, you buy the
game. OK?
3 moons
Lots of carrots. Buy it.
2 moons
Nearly finished when we saw it — and they do buy our ad manager lunch regularly.
1 moon
They feel we ought to wait until the game’s finished, then insist we
play it before we write anything, and by the time we have, everyone else
has reviewed it months ago. What a bore! Why should you buy their game
if they won’t buy us lunch, or spend money on pages in our magazine, eh?

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I give your review 9/10

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