The idea for this piece came to me as I was trying to rate a game recently. Lots of games are easy to rate but there are some that just make it tough and that got me to thinking about which rating scales are most popular and why. There are several different types of scales but when it comes to video game reviews by far the most popular are the 5, 10, and 100 point scales. Each scale has its pros and cons and because of that as game reviewers you are kind of screwed either way you go. No matter which scale you use, somebody is not going to like the score you give a particular game, but I wanted to write this article to explain to you a little about what actually goes on when you are rating a game, yes it is subjective to a degree but there is a lot behind it.
Every rating scale has its advantages.
I don’t know about other sites but at ZKG we try to rate each game on its own merit, by that I mean we try not to compare it to any other games that are out at the time. We do however take into account, in the case of a sequel whether they took the criticisms of the last title into account in the new one. If you don’t take those factors into account then you are going to end up with a skewed review score. A prime example of this is COD:MW and COD:WAW, both were excellent games but was WAW better than MW, in our opinion no but did we give both games a perfect score, yes. Now you may look at that and say well how can that be? It can be that way because when looking at both games as isolated entities they were both executed at a high level and you just can’t ignore that, whether we felt like one was more fun to play is irrelevant. Another thing you have to understand is that as reviewers its our job to be critical, to point out the things that the average gamer let’s slide because that is what differentiates the best of the best. A lot of the time though it comes down to whether we think the developer achieved what it was that they sat out to accomplish because while it may not be what made the most sense to us, if based on all the material available up to that point they executed what they wanted to execute then credit must be given for that. The bottom line is that there are very few great games and it’s always the small things that make the difference.
Here at ZoKnowsGaming we used to use the 5 point scale and to be honest when we chose it at the time we didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it and that is actually why we changed it recently. The benefits of the 5 point scale allowed us to quickly and easily give our readers our opinion on the quality of a title. The 5 point scale is used in a number of different fields, making it easily recognizable. The major problem with the 5 point scale for ZKG was when it came to the small stuff, the minor things that keep a good game from being great. On a 5 point scale it is very hard to convey the subtle nuances that separate the wannabe’s from the big dogs.
Next is the 10 point scale used by favorites such as IGN and Gamespot. The 10 point scale is pretty good but again, it really doesn’t give you the detail that you want. What it does do better than the 5 point scale is give a little bit clearer picture as to a game’s quality, while a 7 out of 10 and 3.5 out of 5 are equivalent the latter somehow seems more negative doesn’t it? This is one of those places where perception is much more powerful than reality, both are saying that the game is good yet one seems more neutral than the other. The bottom line here though is that its easier to really get a grasp of what the score is trying to reflect and gives a much better first glance than the 5 point, but still lacks that detail as you hardly ever see a game get like 6.3 or 7.7 or something like that.
This finally brings us to the 100 point scale which to be honest seems to provide the most amount of detail, but is used more by aggregation sites like Metacritic and Testfreaks. The 100 point scale is very detailed and easy to understand but it also implies that some kind of formula or scientific calculation has been applied so it’s not a good fit for sites that do the actual reviews.
In the end I don’t think that it can be definitely said which one is better so it just comes down to the reviewer’s preference. With all that said though, what I really want to know is what do you think about it? Is there one scale you prefer over the other? Is one easier to understand? Does it matter less about the score and more about who gave it? Do you not trust just one score, but like to see multiple interpretations before you make a buying decision? Is there one site that you take their review scores as gospel, that just based on their review score of a game would make you buy it? Tell us what you think, this one really interests us.