Whether or not to give games a review score is part of long and gruelling discussion the gaming community is (and should be) having as a whole. The byproduct of the western education system is a knee-jerk reaction to read review scores as a mark, a percentage out of one-hundred that underlines unattainable perfection. Of course, as we all know, that is not a rubric that can be applied to arts and entertainment because the very nature of the criticism that surrounds them is subjective. The trouble with this dichotomy is long and nuanced, but suffice to say that businesses, artists, and consumers have a long way to go before reconciling the issue.
So why does this matter? It matters because we are a site that prizes critical thinking that has chosen to stick a bunch of arbitrary stars underneath our critiques to designate value.
And here is why:
Creating a ‘canon’ for games is important. It is important for future developers and it is important for the critical thinkers alike. Review scores allow the community at large to syphon through opinions helping them understand what was culturally significant at any given time, and also what was not. There is an inherent value for creators and critics alike to be able to reference both good and bad works without scavenging through criticism at random to help understand the past. Take filmmaking: one of the best ways to understand how not to make a bad movie, is to watch a lot of bad movies and take note of what they are doing so you can steer clear. And for the critics —the history keepers— it is incredibly valuable to pass on what should be considered mandatory reading. We need to be able to reference other works to help create a conversation — very few things are created completely from scratch. If every hundred years we stopped reading the books from the century prior we would not have the rich tapestry of literature that makes up our cultural understanding today.
And what else? Review scores are fun; they’re a springboard to interesting discussion about why a game is or is not a valuable work. Having a short-hand for “I thought this was awful” and “I thought this was terrific” is a great way to have a meeting of the minds. They urge us to ask the question: “well, why?”
And with all that said here’s how we want you to read our 5-point review scale:
- Four stars is a thumbs up. That means the game was good.
- Two stars is a thumbs down. That means we did not like the game.
- Three stars is in in-between. It means that we liked the game, but wouldn’t feel robbed without it.
- One star is for games we thought were plain bad.
- Five stars is for games we thought were special or significant.
These are intentionally very, very simple distinctions. The most important part is of course the thought and criticism in the body of the review. We feel very strongly about reviews. They are a part of who we are as a site, and a part of the gaming community as a whole.
For more thoughts on the subject, here’s a podcast Olivier and Raphael recorded.
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