Since the days of yore video-game magazines have given games a numerical rating. Often it’s out of ten or out of one hundred. Sometimes it has cute star-based systems and breaks things down by different categories. Whatever the system, they all suck.
Back when I was editing Crazynet we picked up a reviewing system from our French sibling Micro Dingo, which we twisted onto its back, made it cry, “Mon oncle!” and got Gabe from Penny Arcade to draw us some icons for it. Each item reviewed received 0-3 angels and 0-3 devils. Angels meant good points, devils meant bad points. So three angels and two devils meant “This is very good, but contains quite a lot that will make you throw things across the room. Worth checking out if you have a high tolerance.” A review that got no angels and no devils meant “This is completely unexceptional in every way.”
It transpired that nobody except me understood this system. But hey, icons by Gabe.
What video games need isn’t numeric ratings, or me trying to get cute. What they needÂ are Michelin stars.
According to Wikipedia, the 2004 Michelin Guide for the UK and Ireland reviewed over 5500 restaurants. Less than 100 received a single star. Eleven got two stars. Only three got three stars. (For stats-fans, that’s 1.78%, 0.2% and 0.05%)
In the last eight years 8,500 titles have been released for the Playstation 2. How many of them are truly exceptional? How many of them are worth buying a PS2 just to play? (Let me try: Okami; Ico; Shadow of the Colossus; Katamari Damancy; GTA III; Final Fantasy XII; maybe a Jak and Daxter but probably not. Not Bully. Bully is good, interesting, ground-breaking for anyone who didn’t have a Sinclair Spectrum as they were growing up, but not worth buying the console to play. Anything else?)
I’m not going to quote Sturgeons’ Law at you, lest I sink further into the bad books of Websense and the like. But a 60% rating on a game is no good to anyone. I’m a grown-up. I don’t have the time to play bad games, and I don’t have the patience to play average games. I want the best. Every time I load a new game I want to be astonished, challenged, entertained and ultimately fulfilled. I’m not saying that everything else isn’t necessary good, but I am saying that it isn’t good enough.
To hell with technical achievement. To hell with breaking down a game into graphics, sound and playability, and rating them each separately. We are not children. We need to measure one thing and only one thing: excellence.
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