On Game Ratings

Most of my articles aren’t reviews.  My main topic isn’t “How good is this game or that” but rather discussing specific elements of games, traditional or electronic.  With that said, I do occasionally review games or other gaming products.  When I do that, I grade on an academic scale that I worry will be misunderstood.

I worry about this because, in a discussion that I had with a friend of mine recently, he told me that saying something was “a B+ game” implied that it must be pretty bad.  This is ridiculous, but he assured me that most games these days are expected to be on a scale that looks like this:

The Traditional Grading System

B:  Awful trash.  Companies shouldn’t even publish these.

B+: Not very good, with some redeeming bits.

A:  Ok!

A+:  Most games.

Now this shouldn’t surprise me.  I’ve read the TV Tropes page about the “four point scale” and I am also familiar with the chaos that arose from Twilight Princess getting an 8.8.  I would like to reiterate that this is ridiculous.  So for anyone who sees a review that I do and says “He gave that game a B+, he must hate it!”  Let me show you what my scale looks like.

The Game Detective Grading System

F:  This game is absolutely terrible. Game is broken, or at the very least didn’t deserve to be published.

D:  These games are pretty bad.  They’re functional, and might even have something interesting about them, but I’d never recommend someone spend money on them.

C:  This is the average of what I expect from a game.  Not super impressive, but I won’t feel like I wasted my money on it.  This is the baseline that I use when measuring games.  If it falls into a genre that you dig on, you might want to pick it up.  On the other hand, you might not.

B:  This game is good.  I recommend that you pick it up, especially if it’s in a genre that you dig on.  I consider this game to be better than most games in the same genre.

A:  This game is REALLY good.  Even if you don’t particularly dig the genre you might still enjoy it.  Alternatively, it may be exemplary within its genre.

There are, of course, degrees within these ratings.  That’s what C+ and B- and such are for.  Odds are you won’t see F+ or F- unless I’m just being sarcastic.

I’m also not perfectly unbiased.  I have a much wider range of games to compare when I’m talking about an RPG such as Phantasy Star than when I’m talking about a first-person shooter or even a roguelike.  Generally speaking, I don’t enjoy roguelikes, so if I find myself thoroughly enjoying one I’m likely to give it a higher score than if a connoisseur of the genre were scoring it.  I try to be up front about this in my analysis, so you should only be confused if you skip to the grade.

I also might prioritize things differently than my readers and I even have certain games that I am irrationally fond of.  If asked to analyze Lunar: the Silver Star, for example, I would find a way to justify giving it an A+ score because it’s my favorite game of all time.  Does it deserve that score?  Maybe, maybe not, I couldn’t really say because I am biased.

So… that’s the logic behind how I rate games.

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