The numbers game: why I’m thinking of dropping scores from my game reviews

For as long as I’ve been involved in game writing in some form or another – 10 years maybe – I’ve always used some sort of numerical scoring for game reviews: be it out of five stars or out of 10. That’s how I’ve always done it – but I’m starting to questions that style now, to the point of actually seeing if I can do away with “number” scores all together in my reviews.

What has bought about this contemplative reassessment of scores in my review? My Assassin’s Creed Revelations review, that’s what. The review ran in The Press’ hardcopy technology/TV tabloid last month but I laboured over the score right up until deadline.

I liked the game but didn’t think it was the best in the series, yet I to and fro-ed about the score right up until before the pages were ready to go to print. “Do I give it 3.5 out of 5 or 4 out of 5 stars?,” I continually asked myself as the deadline for the pages loomed. I ended up giving it four out of five – right at the last minute – but already I’m not sure I did the right thing. Revelations certainly wasn’t a five but it felt better than a three – and that’s the problem that out of five scores presents for a game that doesn’t suck but isn’t the greatest around (I wish I could take  back the four out of five I gave Assassin’s Creed Revelations but I can’t).

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about dropping scores from my reviews for some time but have never found a reason to do it, after all, the bulk of review sites and reviewers use some form of points system for their reviews, be it numbers, stars, symbols or letters – but the longer I do this job the more I get convinced that I could do a better job of conveying my thoughts on a game without the need for a numerical score at the end. I can give my reasons for liking and disliking a game without the need to pigeon hole it at the end with a numerical score.

Besides, how many times have we read a review then read the score at the bottom and thought “Oh, that read like a 7”. I know I have and I know I’ve written reviews that I’ve read the next day in print and thought “Hell, that didn’t read like a four out of five”. Part of me believes that avoiding giving a game a numerical score will avoid confusion: the words will be enough to let readers know.

I’m hoping to starting writing reviews with no score next year, when I’m back from my summer holiday. Hopefully the editor of the game section at The Press’ Box tabloid agrees with me.

2 thoughts on “The numbers game: why I’m thinking of dropping scores from my game reviews

  1. I don’t think it is a good idea to remove scores from reviews. I don’t want to sound harsh but it feels like this is to make the reviewers life easier, not the readers.

    The problem is with the granularity of the score. Out of 5 or ten is just too narrow. Out of 100 probably gives more room to fine tune a score. I would also like to see several scores broken over several categories. What matters to me (single player) is not what matters to other people.

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