Why a Five-Point Scale?

The trend amongst reviewers, especially games reviewers, at the moment seems to be to rate them on a scale of 1-100 (either as a percentage or as a 1-10 scale with decimals). I absolutely hate this scale as it is a far too subjective way to review things and although it would appear to allow for more precision, just serves to make things more imprecise.

What is the difference between a game scoring 94% and a game scoring 93%? Is the second one not worth getting if you have the first one? Is an Xbox game scoring 90% the same or better than an N-Gage game scoring 95%? Do you see what I mean yet?

Review scales that give a final score as an average of the scores for the individual components are even worse. In a game for instance, few would argue that gameplay is more important than graphics, so is it right that a game with good graphics and good gameplay gets a 7 but poor gameplay and great graphics gets the same score? I don’t think so.

This average scale also can’t differentiate between say, artistically impressive graphics like World of Warcraft and technically good graphics such as Doom 3 – Doom throws around more polygons and effects but I’d rather sit and look at Warcraft.

A 1-10 scale is an improvement but very few people use the scores as they’re meant, both in writing and reading reviews. 5 on this scale should be average, meaning that 7 is good, but would you consider buying a game if it received unanimous 7 scores? Considering the fact that most places treat 7 as an average score (how bad must 1 be?), I’d wager that not many would.

That’s where a five-point scale comes in. A review is both an opinion and a recommendation, and it’s not often that when someone tells you their opinion of a game in real life that they’ll rate it on a large scale. More often than not you’ll get a simple “shit”, “crap”, “OK”, “good”, or “fucking amazing”, which translates well into a review scale for written reviews.

You’ll be sure that something getting a four or five is going to be worth getting and you know that you’ll like a game scoring three if you’ve enjoyed similar games. That’s what you need to know, without the ambiguity of working out what the reviewer’s bias is or whether 9.1 is actually any different to 8.9.

This is what my scores mean:

1 Star
abysmal; don’t even dignify it with your attention

2 Stars
poor, but there might be some enjoyment to be had

3 Stars
fair; you’ll probably like it if you’ve enjoyed similar things

4 Stars
good; worth your attention and almost certainly a worthwhile purchase

5 Stars
excellent; this is an experience not to be missed