Editorial: What to Do About the Broken 10-Point Scale

It's obvious that not everyone uses the 10-point scale the same way, and that's a problem.

It’s obvious that not everyone uses the 10-point scale the same way, and that’s a problem.

Let’s face up to facts: The most commonly used method of rating video games, the 10-point scale, isn’t perfect. In fact, some will argue that it’s downright broken.

After many years of utilizing the scale a certain way, it’s common for most gamers to think of any score below a 7 as being downright terrible. While mathematically, 5 is strictly average and a 6.5 is decent, games that land such scores are widely considered to be failures.

Now, there are a few sources that attempt to use the scale properly, but this really only causes confusion and dissension. If only the minority of critics accept that a 5 is average (and not a monumental disappointment), the overall scale remains broken. This is because thanks to aggregate sites like Metacritic and GameRankings, we’ve become accustomed to the overall average score.

That’s what matters most to publishers and many gamers, whether they want to admit it or not. It’s just easier to find one average percentage and that’s why sites like Rotten Tomatoes are as popular as they are. People want faster and easier; they don’t really want to read every review they can find, and attempt to determine if something is worth purchasing. Many will claim this is what they want, but statistics say the opposite.

Maybe it's time we reassess the current popular scoring scale, so we can FIX it.

Maybe it’s time we reassess the current popular scoring scale, so we can FIX it.

So, how do you fix it?

This is where we start to wonder about a standardized, universal scoring system to which every critic in the industry must adhere. This would eliminate a lot of the subjective interpretation involving the 10-point scale. It’s why reviews in other entertainment industries have settled on a star system (books, restaurant reviews, movies, etc.), although different systems still exist.

Why force a source to explain how it utilizes the 10-point scale? Again, it only adds confusion and creates a ton of debate and argument. Let’s just have every source try to use the scale the same way. Either that, or adopt the same type of star system and go with four or five stars, which would make sense, as many agree that game critics only use a 5-point scale, anyway (5-10).

This would avoid questions like, “Well, what does an 8 mean from this source?” There will always be subjectivity and interpretation, but we’re certain we can run a tighter ship than we currently do.

What’s your take on the issue?

6 thoughts on “Editorial: What to Do About the Broken 10-Point Scale”

It’s definitely broken, which is why I don’t bother with review scores. I just read the text of a review to find out what I need to know.

Not sure there’s much you can do about it now. The skewed 10-point scale is so deeply entrenched in the culture that the instant you try to be “mathematically logical,” everyone freaks out.

Not sure there’s any way around that.

I don’t really have a problem with the way it is, just because I accept that they’re really scoring on a 5-point scale.

I mean, if we all KNOW what’s happening, how can it be that big of a problem? 😉

Interesting point.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t understand how critics use (or misuse, as the case may be) the 10-point scale. So if we all know what’s happening, it can’t be too big of an issue.

Yeah, it’s broke but there might not be any reason to fix it. 😉

Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fix it.

Nothing that’s broken is ever a good thing.

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