I am in the camp that believes there is no such thing as a video game that deserves a perfect score.
That’s not to say that I don’t think there are fantastic video games currently in existence, or that score-based gaming journalism doesn’t serve a purpose.
I just believe, personally, that a 10/10 game should have zero flaws. And even the classiest classics and every one of my personal favorites are all riddled with flaws. The problems might be minor or major, but regardless, a flaw is a flaw.
So, why are there so many games that get perfect scores? One could explore that question without end. I believe that a very simple answer which does not thoroughly explore the question, but can still help to answer it, is that when a game receives a 10/10 that simply means the reviewer really liked it and thinks it’s worth playing.
Of course, gaming is so subjective that the criteria the reviewer is using to define what makes a game worth playing might be the exact opposite of what you believe makes a game worth playing.
For example, little Billy might be the most hardcore fan in existence when it comes to the 2D bullet hell genre, but he has never found himself enjoying a single first-person shooter in his life. Likewise, little Sandy Jr. over there might be the undisputed queen of the 360 no-scope, but she thinks 3D platforming is the most depressing thing since Adam Sandler’s last shitty movie.
Speaking of movies, let’s take a moment to compare the way reviews work over in that medium to the way they work in gaming.
Now, I do believe in the flawless movie. But a movie is a different animal altogether. A movie is a self-contained experience with a history stretching back for well over a hundred years; and that art has matured (Sandler aside). Additionally, perfecting a passively received experience lasting maybe two hours is much easier than perfecting an entry into an interactive and relatively unexplored medium where the gamer’s involvement could continue for hundreds or even thousands of hours. And there is less room for subjectivity when it comes to movies, since even if the subject matter of a film is found unappealing to some critics, chances are those people can still appreciate the acting, cinematography, and score.
And you really only ever play a movie one way. Even if you cue up Dark Side of the Moon at the exact moment that the lion roars, you’re still only a passive receiver (unless you got your hands on some really good shit). Comparatively, there are countless ways to play a game, thanks to the interactivity and near-unlimited potential of the medium. That makes each individual experience far more unique in gaming.
That’s not to say that score-based journalism doesn’t have its purpose. If a game gets a 33 on Metacritic, it’s very likely not going to be worth playing. Likewise, a game that gets to brandish “Over 100 10/10 Scores” on the Greatest Hits edition of its box is very likely worth playing, assuming that you’re a fan of that genre.
Furthermore, if there is a critic with tastes in gaming similar to your own, you can use them as a barometer for buying new releases. And if there is a critic with a taste opposite to your own, then you have a reverse barometer. Their taste might be shit in your eyes, but they are allowed to have their opinion, obviously wrong and terrible as it may be. Besides, they can let you know exactly what to avoid.
For example, I think Owen Gleiberman has ultra shit taste in movies. So when he says a movie is bad, I immediately open up a new tab and pull up Fandango on my browser and buy a ticket to a showing that night. It might not be much, but I believe that we all have our own parts to play, however small, in making the world a better place.
So yeah, my upcoming site, Bearshaman Gaming, will not have scores. It will have recommendations, lists of the positives and negatives of the game reviewed, and maybe even Gameproesque Super Sour Warheads picture-faces. But it will not have scores.
Of course, should the elusive and universally appealing, endlessly repeatable and perfectly executed game come into existence, I will change my mind on the matter.
Until then, have a continually and increasingly groovy day!