Videogame review scores are a contentious subject. For whatever reason, the number assigned to a game review seems to hold a lot more importance to fans of the medium than, say, the number of stars assigned to a film or the grade given to an album. What’s more, over the past 10 years, game review scores have become inflated to a hideous, almost irreversible degree.
From the critic’s perspective, review scores are a fundamentally tricky proposition. It’s very easy to fall into the “9 is great, 8 is good, 7 is not good” mentality, and easier still for score-creep to begin to occur (e.g. “I gave Modern Warfare a 9.5, and I like Mass Effect 2 even more than I liked Modern Warfare.Ergo…”). From time to time, it’s happened here at Paste just like anywhere else.
Of course, the substance of a review will always be found in the written critique, not in the score assigned to the game. But all the same, a numerical rating system can provide useful context for a review. Since I took over as games editor in December, we’ve run a good number of reviews, and I’ve been keeping an eye on how we assign scores to the games we write about. I thought it would be a good idea to take a moment to clearly articulate our scoring policy, as well as to cleanse our palate going forward.
Paste’s review scores are as follows:
What that means is that our review scores will be lower than some other gaming publications. A 65 is not a bad score, it means we consider the game to be “respectable” but that it has several flaws. A 94 isn’t just a “good” game, it is a game that we consider to be phenomenal, a creative work at the top of its genre. I expect that we will only give out a handful of 90+ scores this year; the only one so far has gone to LittleBigPlanet 2.
For a bit of history on how Paste came up with this number system, check out this interview with former Paste reviews editor Kate Kiefer, back when we instituted the 100-point scale in 2009. In her words:
“Because everyone’s used to school-style grading, a reader might see a score of 70 and think it’s not very good, when it’s actually a good score—falling on the high end of “respectable.” Since our scale is relatively new, I think that readers will get used to the fact that a 60 is not a failing grade. We use 90 and above very sparingly.”
So there you have it—Paste’s review scores, in a nutshell. And now back to your regularly scheduled games coverage.