I’ve noticed a worrying trend with somes games reviews of late. There’s an increasing tendency for high-profile games to get perfect scores. I’ve seen ten-out-of-ten and 100% “Perfect!” reviews and it doesn’t make me happy.

This is not to say the games being reviewed aren’t great. Just that they’re not perfect. No such thing exists. And to give a score that represents “free of flaws” or “couldn’t be improved” that a 10/10 suggests is simply wrong. No game is perfect. Every game can be improved. Every game has flaws.

Now, in part, this is as much a criticism for using a two or three digit number to distill one person’s lengthy opinion of one game into a piece of meta-data that the typical A.D.D. style gamer can grasp as much as it is a critcism of misrepresenting “good” as “perfect”.

I know what you’re thinking – and you’d be wrong. I’ve been against ‘perfect’ scores since the first time I saw Xenon 2 get 10/10 in Amiga Power. This isn’t an issue about games appearing on certain formats. Save that for the shallower arguments please. Although, I must say, in the two most recent examples of perfection that spring to mind, both are by western media, for western games, produced by western developers, parented by one of the largest and richest companies in the west. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy but sometimes, when something sounds too good to be true it’s because the truth has been compromised.

I know reviewers are human beings. They have feelings like you and I. They have bias like you and I, and they can get caught up with the excitment of the moment like you and I. The difference between us and them, however, is that most of us don’t use our opinion as the basis for our profession. So there is an expectation and a responsibility by reviewers to rise above bias, excitement and goodie-bag and remain objective. Anyone willing to review a product and declare it as perfect, in my mind, has compromised objectivity somewhere down the line.

In fact, when I think about it, I dont think I agree with any game review that’s given a perfect score to it’s subject. I’d have considerable more respect for a review that stops at 99% than goes to 100.

The last game I played to the end of was Bioshock. A game that got more than one perfect review. Ignoring hype and agenda-fuelled fanboys and, generally speaking, everything that wasn’t talking about the game itself, I wasn’t really too fussed about Bioshock. Once the reviews came through and the demo was played I had something meaningful to work with. As you may have read, I’ve bought the game, played through it and found it definitely less than perfect.

This only serves to reinforce my attitude towards games with perfect scores.

Of course, game scores carry a lot of the blame. At the end of the day they become numbers for warring fanboys to volley at one another to prove that something as unquantifiable as a player’s experience with a game can be represented by a number between 1 and 10 and, based on that number, serve as undeniable proof of the worth of a piece of silicon. Such a flawed mentality! I mean, if you truly gave a damn about whatever it was you were arguing about you’d manage to make the effort to say a little more about it than “average of 98%!!” to prove your point. But then, people are lazy and numbers, like stats and specs, are always manipulated to present a one-sided story.

So, here’s hoping that games journalism can hold onto some shred of dignity by avoiding the easy, please-the-reader-at-the-expense-of-quality route and we can look forward to reading opinions worth something.

In summary: if you think a game is perfect, or if you believe it should be graded with a perfect score then you’re happy to cheapen perfection when it suits you.

Shame on you!

6 Responses

  1. Alastor September 28, 2007 / 5:45 pm

    I would say Metal Gear Solid 3 is perfect…

    *hangs head*

  2. Retroid October 11, 2007 / 12:43 am

    Surely the idea of perfection is limited by the whole scope of the game? A game can be perfect and good in what is sets out to do but not actually as fun or interesting as a imperfect game which sets out to do things on a much grander scale.

    In reviews I prefer to see the score at the end as an enjoyability rating rather then a perfection rating, because imperfect games surely could be better then perfect ones.

  3. Retroid October 11, 2007 / 3:40 am

    (Well In theory, since perfect games really can’t exist.)

  4. Alastor October 11, 2007 / 3:58 pm

    Erm..what, if a game is perfect, surely it does everything better than than the imperfect one, by definition alone?

    Anyway, I was wrong when I said MGS3 was perfect……………….I meant MGS3 Subsistence.:p

    I have no shame!

  5. Android18a November 12, 2007 / 4:28 pm

    See, I still don’t get the whole score thing… 94% and 98% mean the same to me, for example.

    I don’t see how anyone can “grade” a game, since everyones tastes vary and to give one game 4 or 5 points more than another seems somewhat petty… to me, games are either Bad, Okay, or Great. I think thats why I always liked CVG magazine, they were sensible and went with scores out of 5.

    1 = Don’t Buy
    2 = Probably shouldn’t buy
    3 = Buy if you like that sort of thing
    4 = Worth a go
    5 = Buy it

    That’s all I need from a review. A simple mark to tell me on a scale of 1-5 how much the game is worth owning. I can’t help feeling that scores out of 100, or even 10, are simply random numbers plucked at a whim at the end of the review. With a simple Crap>Bad>Okay>Good>Great system, there’s no arguments about Super Mario Galaxy being 2% better than Ratchet and Clank: ToD, or Half-Life 2 being 3% better than Metroid Prime. It surpasses those petty score issues and just tells you what you need to know.

  6. Kiyuri December 1, 2007 / 4:00 pm

    Funny thing is, there used to be a games magazine I read ages and ages ago that used the 0-100% in a different way.
    To them, the 90-100% mark was used for games that would appeal to a wide range of people, were fun to play, long lasting, and had very little noticable or detrimental bugs to it.
    Stuff like 50% was for games that would only really appeal to fans of the games specific genre but not to other players because it had a lot of flaws to it.
    And the lower end stuff was for games that would not really appeal to anyone or be remembered.
    The attitude from it was no game was worthy of a perfection rating, thus they changed the scale to represent that. So I’ve always looked at games reviews (when I do, I usually don’t see the point of scores) I see it like that. If it’s a 10/10 or a 98% or something, then it just means it’s actually very good. Sure, everything could improved, except perhaps tetris or something… and… um… I don’t know where else this point is going, so I’ll leave it here.

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