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Perfect Game ≠ Flawless Game
Editorial by 
July 21, 2011, 09:24:28
Every single gaming editorial publication is asked this at least once in their lifetime. Why did you give a perfect score to to a game with flaws? I was recently asked this question in my latest review for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. It's a fair question and, in order to answer it, I need to get a little bit technical and philosophical at the same time.

A perfect game is not a flawless game. Negative World, like some other sites, has a review scale that goes from 0-10. If there is a game that is so terrible with absolutely no redeeming qualities (not even one), then I think it should deserve a big fat zero. However, if there is a game out there that does absolutely everything right, with maybe one or two meaningless wrinkles that are wholly overshadowed by the rest of the positives, then I don't see why I should deny the rarely given and elusive "Perfect Score." Like Anthony Burch once wrote (yes THAT Anthony Burch), "Perfection is an ideal, never to be practically reached by any art form at any time. That's just the way it works. With that in mind, why would you waste an entire point on the 1-10 grading scale by devoting it to something that can, by definition, never truly exist? Instead of calling 10/10 "perfect," why not just call it "will cure cancer"? They're both equally likely to happen within our lifetimes. To hold the 10/10 score back as an ideal for the perfect game, just in case it ever exists, is to degrade the entire 1-10 system into a 1-9.9 scale."

I feel that a "Perfect" game comes out maybe 1-2 times per system (sometimes 3 if we are lucky) , if that system has a lifetime of 4+ years. Let me list how many "perfect" scores there are per system, in my opinion.

NES: 1
Game Boy: 0
Game Boy Color: 0 For now. There are 4 games I want to play before making my final judgment.
Game Boy Advance: 1
SNES: 5 I find that the SNES constitutes the Golden Era of gaming.
N64: 2 And you already know one of them.
Game Cube: 1 and it's not Wind Waker or Super Mario Sunshine
DS: 2 and they are both remakes.
Wii: 1 I have to finish another game to see if it is worthy of a 10, but I'm not playing it soon.
3DS: 1 for now.

Game Gear: 0
Genesis: 0

PS1: 2
PS2: 0
PS3: 3
PSP: 0

XBOX 360: 2

If you look at other sites, you will see that, even though they have perfect scores in their review scales, they all agree that there is no such thing as a perfect game. I leave you with some examples:

10.0: PrimeThis exceedingly rare score refers to a game that is as perfect as a game can aspire to be at its time of release. Obviously, the constantly changing standards for technology and gameplay will probably make this game obsolete some day, but at its time of release, a game earning this score could not have been improved upon in any meaningful way.

Nintendo World Report:
10 - We don't believe any game can actually be "perfect." But some can get pretty close. We give our highest grade to games which are the best of the best. Games that aren't necessarily "generation-defining" can still be given top marks for this reason; if a game is all it can be and stands out among those like it, it can get high marks, too.

Game Informer:
Outstanding: A truly elite title that is nearly perfect in every way. The score is given out rarely and and indicates a game that cannot be missed.

And my favorite definition of a "Perfect Game" goes to IGN:

10.0 - Masterpiece
The pinnacle of gaming, a masterpiece may not be flawless, but it is so exceptional that it is hard to imagine a game being better. At the time of its release, this game is the not just the best the system can offer, but better than we could have expected.

Example: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I would like to conclude the same way I began, just to hammer the point. A perfect game is not a flawless game.

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Posted: 07/21/11, 09:24:28  - Edited by 
 on: 07/21/11, 23:10:02    
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@Guillaume I never said we can't have descriptions! If you were pushing for them before, it probably got lost in the midst of all the discussions about changing to different review systems, yada yada. Or maybe I was just confused because it seemed like, on some level, you didn't want to acknowledge what Mustache and I were telling you about scores, and you were also arguing that in a 10 point scale 5 is average yada yada, so I figured you would not want to score based on any score = description I would come up with anyway. But it seems that you're ok with the one I just came up with.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:43:12
My point was to make it as weird of a scale as possible. If you say a "0" is the best score, then people have to pay attention to your description of the scale. If you say -5 is the best, then they'll just say, "Oh, so it's a 5 star scale that you've just put negative numbers in front of to be clever. Ho ho."

Anyway, Zero, I thought you'd be all about 0 being the "all time classic" rating.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:43:12
When you think about it, what does assigning words like "excellent" and "poor" to a number scale really accomplish? I mean, what does great really mean? It means better than good, which is already conveyed by the number system. Excellent means better than great, etc.

All you really need is one reference point, which ideally would be 5, but because people think of the grading scale, it can be 7. 7 means OK. The rest fills itself in.

Meanwhile, another thing to consider is whether to take into account price/value. I would never include price in scoring a game myself. If a game is worth playing, it's worth playing regardless of price (within reason of course) in my opinion. Also I think it's stupid to give a cheap game a scoring bump over a normally priced game when most normally priced games are going to wind up on sale pretty soon anyway.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:43:53
Zero said:
@Guillaume I never said we can't have descriptions!
You sure have a funny way of showing that, repeating over and over it wouldn't change a thing, that it's useless because people wouldn't understand them anyway, etc.

You have fought against it every step of the way and I'm just spent here. I can't continue having this conversation again and again.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:46:55  - Edited by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:47:59
@Guillaume I never said we can't do it though! I don't think it will really change anything, but it's not like it could hurt anything either. Worth a shot.

I end up fighting because this always seems to be tied into a bunch of other arguments about the scoring, especially the argument about using different scoring methods, most of which honestly don't make much sense to me, and others of which, whether they make sense or not, don't seem to have any real benefits over the 100 point scale and would involve both a lot of work, and a conversion of current ratings that would effectively be changing scores that people selected to scores that they did not select in a way that they might not even agree with.

And also because, knowing that this is the scoring method that we have chosen and are using and makes sense to me (and some others, shockingly), you still fight it all the time. Which leaves me spent as well, because I sure don't want to sit around fighting about something that, in my eyes, already works.

Jargon said:
All you really need is one reference point, which ideally would be 5, but because people think of the grading scale, it can be 7. 7 means OK. The rest fills itself in.

I don't necessarily disagree that the rest fills itself in, but if you're doing one, might as well do the rest.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:47:03  - Edited by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:57:49

I think words with a score is a good thing. It reinforces the scale you are using.

For instance, I'm always getting caught-up at GameSpot when they score a game in the 7's. To them, that means "Good" and I'm glad they write that just below the number because just about anywhere else, 7 = Barely Okay/Flawed.

Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 22:49:04
Graphics and Sound: 2/2
Gameplay: 4/4
Play Control: 4/4

TOTAL: 10/10 -

That's....what I rated DKCR way back on the official thread. I rate my games out of 10 with the scores divided up as above - Everyone scores differently and I don't think one main "NW" system will ever work out. I think a review should have a score..and an explanation of why you came up with it. Reviews will always be a personal opinion but when you glance at an NW's game collection and then read his/her review, you should get an idea on what he/she likes to play. Sirmasters review of OOT was detailed and written well..


Posted by 
 on: 07/21/11, 23:55:00
Oh man, did I get on this train late. I can't reference/quote everyone. Some bullet points!

-Leave my future 10s alone! I've lived my entire gaming life like this... 9.8 is my current max, and pretty darn good. With that, on my scale, its probably "more important" than your piles of 10.0's that you frequently give out. If I have one game that stands above them all, doesn't that say more than the six or seven of your titles that stand shoulder to shoulder? I certainly think so. Tip of the iceberg, baby (with more room at the top should something -- someday -- challenge Chrono Trigger. Nothing wrong with that.).

-Pandaman, Zero and I told you exactly what he's saying, and how we interpreted your review. You had a score that -- in our eyes -- didn't match your description. No one can change what you wrote, thats fine. Thats the meat of the whole deal (the sandwich), but the thing that people look at first, or take away, is the score (the price). "Pffft, I'm not going to buy THAT sandwich!" A 6 isn't good. Most people will pass on a 6, and a BUNCH of people pass on 7's! Don't you remember that big hubbub about only buying 8.0 and above? First off, what a stupid decision to make as someone who buys games (basing their move to purchase based solely on a number that some idiot says on another site gives to it), but secondly, there are a LOT of fun/good games that aren't necessarily deserving of a huge score. Should Tetris or Pac-Man get a 10? Absolutely not. Are they addicting, fun, challenging, etc? Sure! Back to your [url=http://www.negativeworld.org/boardreplies.php?id=4653&pagenumber=1]Jam City Rollergirls[/url] review, we told you what we thought the score could/should be based on what you wrote, and you didn't want any of it. He thought it sounded like a 7, I thought 7.2-7.4 (based one your additional thoughts). Again, I think the Canadian school system (really) is to blame in this. All of your life a 60 has been good. We get spanked at 70. (I didn't really get spanked at 70, haha, but its close to Spanksville..)

-100 point scale critics: Just because you can't differentiate between a 9.5 and a 9.4 doesn't mean that someone else can't. I certainly can tell the difference. I don't even like the 40 point scale (with the .25s and stuff). Theres too much minutia in there. The more you shrink the scale, the more you've got games in areas they shouldn't be in. Games get overscored or underscored. People who want to use a 10 point scale, you're still free to! I don't know why its a problem. 9 is pretty much the same darn thing as a 9.0. I know someone had a big equation out before saying that they weren't...but, come on, haha. 9 is essentially 9.0, just like 80 is 8 and 4.0/5.0.

-For people who want smaller scales, how do you even begin to rate, for instance, the Donkey Kong Country games? I have them rated differently on my 100 point scale; how do you take care of them on a 10 point scale? Are they all [downgraded to] 8's? Are they all [upgraded to] 9's (10's depending on how you score them)? If they're all 8s/9s/10s, how do you know which one is better? How do WE know which one is better while looking at your scores? I KNOW they're not "exactly the same!" in your head, so why score them as such? Everyone knows that Donkey Kong Country 3 eats buns compared to the other two, but not by THAT much. I also know that Donkey Kong Country 2 is taken by most as the better of all three. If you score them all 9's, you're saying (even if you're not "saying") that they're equal. That doesn't make any sense. You're giving credit to DKC3 that it doesn't deserve, and creating an illusion that that game is "just as good" as Donkey Kong Country 2 or the original Donkey Kong Country game.

-Average, average, what is average? Are you talking about "average across all games" or "average across games that people want to buy?" Because there is a HUGE difference. Some games are horrible, and some games are worse than that. Just as some games are awesome, and some are good, and some are excellent. On my scale, a 5 is probably embarrassing for the people who made it. A 6 is something they should be borderline ashamed of (or it has some serious issues), and a 7 is right on the brink to working towards bad. 8 is pretty much my personal baseline. I don't set out to make it like that, but thats what happens (I find that they usually end up near games early in a console's lifecycle, too..hmm. Interesting!). Games I like but are too simple or not involved (or have replay value, etc) hover around the 8.0 mark. Some of my games need revised scores (which I'll probably do after my next playthrough; I changed Dragon Warrior last night after just beating it for the first time); I probably went too hard on Duck Tales the first time out. I don't see anything wrong with that either. I don't think a scale should be fluid and ever-changing, but if some games are better or worse than you remembered, feel free to fix it (Adventure of Link has room to grow, too. Mega Man 7 is stuck, however.).

Thats all I've got for now. I gotta go get some food; I'll read all 7 pages of this later..

EDIT- Booo, links! --ARGH, why won't you let me show my awesome game scores!

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:14:06  - Edited by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:19:34
What about just normalizing everyone's score when factoring it in to the aggregate? So their contributed score to the pool would be:

Score to rankings = Score given/Average Userscore * Average NW score

That way people can consider the scale however they like and the two basic points of understanding are that higher numbers mean better scores, and magnitude is consistent from game quality to review score.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:27:59
Mr Mustache, the problem is you're treating game reviews like scores given in the Olympics. The score is for the benefit of the consumer, not the benefit of yourself. Hence why I call it a recommendation score. A 10-rating "recommendation" is a powerful recommendation, but it's much different from a 10-rating "I scored this game based on how good it did!" and is also more useful to a consumer. How much do you as a reviewer want me to buy this game? That's all that matters in the end. An essay about your love story with the game is nice and all, but the fact of the matter is that a review is basically a testimony for the game that swings near buy or don't buy.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:38:48
@stephen08 But average userscore can only be used like that if the user is playing a wide range of quality of games in a consistent manner, no? It doesn't mean much to say that a 9.5 is the average score someone gives out if for the most part they're only scoring awesome games. Especially versus someone else who gives out 9.5 on average because they think 9 is a weak score (not that this person exists, just making my point...)

@Xbob42 But honestly I have no idea how, as a consumer, to read the 10 point scale and get much out of it. Pretty much every major game falls within one of two scores: a 9 or a 10. So if the scores are supposed to recommend something to me, I get like 20 of the "exact same" score recommendations every month. Whereas if someone gives out a 10, 9.8, 9.7, 9.4, 9.2, etc. then I have a bit better of an idea which games they are recommending over others.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:40:11  - Edited by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:42:42
Oh, I'm not talking about the amount of points, maybe I worded that poorly with "10-rating," I prefer 100 myself. In my mind you have 100, 3 or 5-point scales, and there is nothing inbetween. Games sort of need the 100 scale a bit more in my opinion because they're much deeper, much more involved pieces of software than other media, hence require more in-depth reviews and a more elaborate, more intricate scale.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:44:08  - Edited by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:44:55

To make things easier for you, how about I tell you at the end to buy it?
Didn't work with Arc Rise Fantasia though. Maybe I'll just call it a "10!" since thats the only thing that makes people go.

--And are you telling me you're going to pass up a 9.8?! Surely, you must be joking.
Heck, who even passes up 8's?? (Unless its No More Heroes and the style of the game makes you vomit)

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:45:57

I pass up 8s all the time. I don't have enough video game playing time to play all the 8s in the world (or the 9s or 10s for that matter)

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:48:04

Where is your cutoff? You guys are confusing.

You ONLY buy 10s?? What kind of world are we living in where a man dressed as a BAT steals my press?

This town needs an enema!

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:50:28
@Mr_Mustache Well...

Score is only a part of it. The genre / type of game / etc. all matter. Like, if some weird niche Japanese game like say... Catherine comes along and scores 7s and 8s, I might check it out. But if the new Call of Duty gets a 9.8, I sure as hell will pass it up anyway.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:53:21  - Edited by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:53:44

Its pretty arrogant to tell someone else how to score a game. He apparantly feels it deserves a 10. I feel the game deserves a 10.

You are allowed to score games however you see fit as well. Its not like his 10 or my 10 is the end-all be-all of gaming scores. You act like his 10 is the way everyone should perceive the game.

Exactly what is your agenda here?

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 00:57:51

If that's the case then the person's scores need to be taken with a grain of salt. I think there is a disposition to rate good games more than bad games but if someone is only giving out one score then those contributions aren't meaningful from a numerical standpoint. It might as well be a binary system at that point. To prevent this you could just omit a person's scores from aggregates until they cross a certain number of ratings (say 10).

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 01:07:44

I don't buy games based on scores. The biggest part of whether I will buy a game or not depends on how interested I am in it before it comes out.

It's very rare that a game I'm interested in gets such bad scores that I'm no longer interested in it. I suppose if Mario Sports Mix had gotten better scores I would have picked it up by now, but I still want to get it at some point.

And at the same time, good scores usually do not make me interested in a game I wasn't otherwise anticipating. It has been known to happen but usually it's message board buzz and bigger things like a game being considered one of the best of the generation that will finally put it on my radar. Now obviously those things often tie into good game scores, but not always. And even then, I still have never played a Grand Theft Auto game despite universal acclaim. They just don't really pique my interest.

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 01:12:46

Alright, well, I guess that "pass up" thing is more geared toward XBOB then. Sounds like you more enjoy the "words" side of "scores" and not so much the number. I guess thats why we have both?

If someone has a problem with any of my scores, or wants to know more about the game, feel free to ask. I can back up my score, and I can tell you EXACTLY why it got the score it did on my scale. Like I said, I've been doing this stuff for years (rating games), so I have a system I'm married to (forever). I know how it works, the ins and outs, etc.

So yeah, everyone is invited!

Posted by 
 on: 07/22/11, 01:17:41
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