Opinion: What does a 10/10 rating mean, anyway?
It’s a question that I’ve long pondered to myself: What does it mean when a reviewer hands out a ten out of ten score? For one thing it’s obvious that they enjoyed using whatever they reviewed (for the sake of the argument I’ll use video games as examples), but are they saying that what they reviewed is perfect? To say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game – that’s a bold statement to make.
The saying may be age old and yet it still rings true: Nothing is perfect. Game developers know this, consumers know this, and I would hope that journalists know this too – and yet ten out of ten game ratings often feel like they’re being handed out left right and centre.
Grand Theft Auto IV is a game that received a lot of praise from critics – indeed the MetaCritic page for the PS3 version contains 37 10/10 scores – so lets take a look at one of the reviews for the game. Everyone’s heard of IGN, so we’ll take a look at that.
I’m not going to get in to the semantics of whether or not GTA IV was a good game or a bad one in this post – but what does a reader take away from these numbers? It’s obvious that the game is good but in what respect? Is it just excellent value for money? Is it pushing the boundaries of typical game design and bringing in some great innovation? Is it gaming perfection?
It makes me wonder if numerical rating systems are really the way to go for reviews – not only for games either, but for TVs, phones and various other things that you could find a review for out there.
I’ve never liked assigning a numerical value to how good or bad I feel a game is in the reviews that I write because I feel like I’m tying myself in to a system where a reader can (and they will) point out inconsistencies in the ways that I judge games. If that happens then surely the reader loses confidence in what the writer has to say?
I’ve always thought that if the reader doesn’t want to read a full review then a few quick points about what’s good and what’s bad is far more informative than a number ever could be. Everyone who I ask has a different interpretation of what a 10/10 score represents -some think it means the game is perfect, others that it simply offers good value for money, and others that it’s far better than anything else that’s out there at the moment.
And that’s the flaw – a review should inform the reader, and with that information the reader can then decide whether or not it’s right for them. So why not end a review in such a way? A couple of simple, bite-sized infochunks for the reader to digest on. It’s quick, straight to the point, and much more informative than some arbitrary number could ever be.