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On Perfect Review Scores

Hi everyone! After finishing my "Gamer in Provincial Russia" trilogy I've decided to post some of my video game related thoughts here. Hope you find them interesting!

First off, let me confess: I have never written a video game review. Personal impressions on a game in my LiveJournal blog don’t count – I’m speaking of a full-scale analysis, more or less detailed and usually topped with a score, one that’s now become increasingly easy to publish in a “User Reviews” section on many game-dedicated websites and services. It just never felt like my opinion on a game would be relevant to anyone not acquainted to me. Still, like perhaps most of us, I’ve got my own evaluation list in my head, and I’m really into reading reviews, too. So, I guess, it’s easy for me to imagine myself in a reviewer’s shoes – and try to analyze the infamous “perfect score” issue as I see it.

What I way too often see in the comments sections to popular reviews – both on Russian and international websites – are demands for “objectiveness” and for a “ten out of ten” (especially for the more popular AAA titles). And if there is, indeed, a ten crowning the write-up, there’ll always be similar comments about overestimating the game – or even “sellout” accusations. Now, let’s imagine for a moment that a reviewer is concerned about their readers’ opinion and tries to follow their demands. But even in that (let’s be honest, mythical) situation they wouldn’t be able to do that because those commenters are asking for two opposite things. Let me explain what I mean, point by point.

1. Objectivity is a myth. I believe Mr. Sterling proved this way before me with his brilliant 100% Objective Final Fantasy XIII Review. Sure, it was over the top, but in my opinion it made the point excellently. Still, I’d like to add my own argument: it is possible to stay objective while reviewing a game without going to the extremes presented in the link. You can even still hold to your own opinion – but you’d have to be completely emotionless. Discard all your personal tastes, keep only your experience. But don’t even think of using it to draw comparisons – especially not to older titles because, you know, memory isn’t a perfectly objective judge. Stick to the facts. Don’t try and see the bigger picture, analyze the elements only. Maybe list high and low points and count them… ahh, damn, I think this already sounds dystopic enough. Besides, hardly anyone will enjoy reading reviews like that, right?

2. A “perfect score” is the most subjective one. Well, except maybe for the lowest possible score. Let’s face it: nothing is perfect. There are no games without flaws. And even if there are, a game with no flaws, but with everything else just mediocre, still cannot be called “perfect”, can it? So, to objectively earn a 10/10 a game should possess no weak points while keeping all of its aspects at brilliant levels. Among all the games I have played (and those I loved) there is only one I can with all honesty put in this category. It’s Portal. Not only all of its important aspects were brilliant, even the ending song – a thing generally considered purely optional – was so iconic that I know a whole lot of non-gamers who listen to it constantly. I’m sure we all know the song, but I just can’t help it – so let’s just take some time, feel nostalgic and listen to it again, shall we? 

But wait, there’s another thing!

3. You shouldn’t trust perfect scores either. Trust nines. Trust eights more than nines. Trust sevens even more. The most objective and balanced reviews I’ve read were usually concluded with this score. And you can definitely trust anything ranging from 4 to 6. Because that usually means that the game has neither things to blindingly love nor things worth hating viciously. Other than that, the closer to the extreme ends of the scale the score is, the more it is a matter of personal taste. And (write it down, folks!) reviewers are human beings, too. Like you all, they can suddenly love an unpopular game or find themselves unable to enjoy a title lauded by their colleagues and general public alike. And by the way, a 9,5 still seems like a compromise to me; “I’d give this game a 10 but I’m afraid of something”, so I guess you shouldn’t trust it either.

So, the first thing you’ve got to ask yourself before you post that comment below an 8,5 review is “Can the reviewer like the game as much as I did?” and not “Doesn’t the game objectively deserve a better score?” Because – alas! – it most probably doesn’t.

Oh, and by the way, all of the above was totally objective. :)
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About Tonichone of us since 12:03 AM on 05.06.2013

Hi everyone!

Please, call me Tonich. That's what everyone calls me. I live in Nizhniy Novgorod - a pretty large and picturesque city in Central Russia (yep, that's it on the header image).

Currently at the age 30, I am a taught historian, reluctant archivist, occasional tour guide and aspiring composer/musician. I write songs, play guitar and sing (badly) for the art rock act The Heckfish. Oh, and I also play videogames. :)

My gaming habits started with the NES era, and my favourite consoles are Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and PlayStation 2. I'm more of a PC player currently, so why don't you check out my Steam Page?

You can also listen to my music here.

I have been blogging here on Destructoid since spring 2014. Here's a selection of my blogs you can read if you'd like to know me better:

My "Gamer in Provincial Russia" trilogy:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Ten Things About Me

My Top 10 Games List

My call to arms online playing

A musical gift just for you. Yes, I mean you, silly