A long-winded and completely unnecessary explanation of my non-standard rating system
Back in the day, I suffered through the IB, a high school-level diploma program that’s like the AP, only more European or something. The only thing I remember from taking that program (aside from that god damn Theory of Knowledge class I had to take – just ask any IB student about TOK and they’ll go into temporary shock) is the seven-point system they used to grade our final exams and essays. So I decided to swipe that system to grade the games and music I buy. (I’ve made it a rule not to give ratings to free games, because that just doesn’t seem right. I also reserve the right to bump up or knock down a rating based on how much of a good deal or a ripoff the game in question seems to be, and also for any other conceivable reason in the universe.)
Since this isn’t really a standard grading system, I thought I’d write an explanation of it here for people who are wondering why the hell I’m praising a game and only giving it a 6. All the following explanations are written with game ratings in mind, but you can apply the same general scale to music without too much trouble. I’ve also added 10/10 and letter grade equivalents for easy conversion and also in case Metacritic decides to factor my amazingly insightful reviews into their averages.
7 As close to perfect as a game created by mortal humans can get. I’d have to really nitpick to find any flaws in a game that I would rate a 7. An all-time classic that gets an unqualified recommendation. Equivalent to a high 9 or 10/10 or an A or A+.
6 An excellent game. It’s not quite perfect, but its flaws are minor and more than made up for by the game’s good aspects, so they can easily be ignored. I’d highly recommend any game in this category. Equivalent to a high 8 or low 9/10 or an A- or A.
5 A good game that has some flaws. I might give a 5 to a game with an interesting plot and compelling characters but dull gameplay or vice versa, or to a game that’s enjoyable but has a lot of unfulfilled potential. I’d still recommend a game with this rating, but it might be a conditional recommedation. Equivalent to a 7 or low 8/10 or a B or B+.
4 Here’s where things get dicey. A rating of 4 might denote a game that’s just average, playable but otherwise unremarkable. I might also give a 4 to a game that’s extremely unbalanced – in the case of an RPG, for example, if it has a great story with broken, frustrating gameplay, or great gameplay but a lacking story. This is the lowest score I’d give to a game I would recommend, but it would be a very conditional recommendation if it gets one at all. Equivalent to a 6/10 or a C+ or B-.
3 Anything below a 4 is basically a failing grade, but we’ll keep going anyway. A game that receives a 3 might be just plain mediocre, a weak effort not worth checking out. Or it might be a failed experiment incorporating some interesting ideas that are executed poorly. If the game is part of an established series, hardcore fans might find something to like here, but otherwise, don’t bother. Equivalent to a 5/10 or a C- or C.
2 A game that’s just bad without qualification. If there are any good elements present, they’re not enough to make the game not miserable to play. If the game is part of a series, even hardcore fans may hate it. Equivalent to a 3 or 4/10 or a grade in the D range.
1 An absolute disaster. This rating is reserved for broken, effectively unplayable games that should never have been released. In fact, the release of such a game should be considered grounds for a fraud suit against the publishers (it probably isn’t, but it should be.) Equivalent to a 1 or 2/10 or an F.
n/a A bullshit copout score that I added to the scale later on. A score of n/a doesn’t necessarily mean a game is bad or not worth playing. It probably just means the game is so weird that it defies the standard rating system. I also might give an n/a as part of a split score, when I assign different scores to a game based upon what specific audiences I think it would appeal to; that is, if the game is so niche that it would have no appeal at all to most people.