Well there are actually two answers for this:
1) A single digit; or
2) More than meets the eye.
If you have gotten this far and recovering from shock of the length of this blog (start scrolling) I presume that the answer 2 is definitely the better one of the two. So to appreciate the folks who supplying you with quality reviews and to those who would like an insight of what actually goes on when writing reviews I decided to spill out the beans of what's going on (in my head anyways) the life of a causal reviewer. I'm sure that there are many gamers out there having their own judgment of how games should be rated and that my friend is the beauty of community blogging, it's your choice of how things should pan out so strap on those jogging shoes and let's start.
To kick things off, I tell (write) you my version of why I choose the final score. Then I move on and provide some examples of my favourite track list friends and the reasons why I choose them (over many others). Take heed I will normally track a person who shows creativity and stick to their guns about rating games as I understand there will be games I thought really kicks some serious butt yet another person will state the opposite; yet I will praise them in their efforts of justifying their reasonings as there's absolutely nothing wrong voicing an opinion (as everyone got one).
To those who knows me (at least in cyberspace) probably noticed a blurb on the top of my blog – yes it's a description of how I perceive games from the top score of ten (a masterpiece and NOT a perfect score – more on that later) to a dismal one (you're fired). My overall score is based on Gamespot's previous rating system (i.e. gameplay, graphics, sounds, value and tilt). Take note: 'gameplay' and 'tilt' are weighted considerably heavier than 'graphics' and 'sounds' with 'value' the in-between.
By now you probably be starting to perspire but that's ok - it's good for you. So if you read my reviews, the rating format flows directly into the review itself: an opening paragraph (which usually has no bearing on the score itself), one to two paragraphs on gameplay (because of the heavier rating), one on graphics, one on sounds, one on value (can extend to two if I muddled in the multiplayer option hence the in-between score) and one on tilt (my personal feelings). Of course this is not set in concrete however it normally forms the base of my reviews.
So the score goes like this and I'll use my latest review Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill as the example:
* Game score starts off as seven.
* Gameplay/tilt adjustment is 0.3 above and below seven; graphics and sounds adjustment is 0.1 and value 0.2.
* So in Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill I ranked gameplay a six (overall score 7 – 0.3 = 6.7);
* Graphics a five (6.7 – 0.2 = 6.5)
* Sounds eight (6.5 + 0.1 = 6.6)
* Value five (6.6 – 0.4 = 6.2)
* Tilt seven (6.2 – 0 = 6.2).
* Overall score 6.2 (well in Gamespot terms a six).
This is the old Gamespot way and I still love it but there are some changes in the way I interpret the scores particularly ten, seven and five.
Ten (a masterpiece): Ten for me is not the perfect score, it's a masterpiece. This means there maybe some extremely minor flaws but the overall sensation is truly a masterpiece. Think of it like Michelangelo's statue of David: minor flaws yet certainly a masterpiece. Sadly not one game got this score however some came very close (e.g. UT2004, Bioshock and Star Raiders to name a few).
Seven: This means not an average game but a game that whatever it promised it delivered (in a good way). A recent example was FEAR 2 (my score 7.9 – the higher end of seven). It promises suspension and action and it delivered; so there's nothing wrong with a seven as it delivered what it promises.
Five: My meaning is that 'Either a technical marvel yet a crappy game or an excellent game yet technically lowsy - take your pick'. An example of this is Instinct – technically hopeless yet a great game to play. Is that possible – yes as 'tilt' normally influence the score of five. In Instinct's example it had a tilt of nine which saved the game of being a complete mess whilst on the other side of the spectrum Caverns of Mars the tilt score of three influenced its score of 5.5 of being a technical marvel yet boooring to play (and my review showed it as well).
Right now I'll bet you are wishing this to end...and...so when reading my reviews, think of the above meanings before you submit your thoughts (i.e. thumbs up or down). Also considering the score is only a snapshot of the game, remember my additional meanings to ten, seven and particularly five. Here are some examples of my reviews getting a hammering but for a good reason?
Thumbs up from the community
* Hour of Victory (my score 2.5)
* You Are Empty (8.0)
* Starship Troopers (7.6)
Thumbs down from the community
* Tomb Raider (7.0)
* Red Faction (6.0). This is also a clear example of what not to do - that is letting your emotions dictating your reviews (but I'll keep it as a reminder to myself).
As you can see, even the rubbish games get a positive response however I have an inclination that fan boys attacked my Tomb Raider review instead of reading what I have to say as the vast majority of the negatives practically arrived overnight and remember what 'seven' means – it promised; it delivered. I thought at that time that my top 500 emblem is heading for the 'delete' button or get a warning about 'trolling' but thankfully not. Yet I look at as a sign of 'at least people viewed my review' instead of ignoring it. But the morale here is that if you like it then it's a top game (e.g. You Are Empty – I reckon it rocks regardless of what the vast majority said) but make sure you justify the means otherwise it can easily perceive as trolling.
Community reviewers (the people I track):
Before I go on, please note that this is not a complete list but to demonstrate the different writing techniques and if you like them as well, post your recommendation. And to those below I have mentioned, if you guys want to be taken off for some reason let me know either on this blog or PM me.
Nightharvest: He uses the same rating scores (a.k.a. old Gamespot ratings) and uses a similar format to mine – another word: I can relate to his reviews and trust it with high respect and besides he also plays those dodgy games that no one reads about (nightharvest - you'll never walk alone).
ChristianKiss: Not sure what formula he uses however the majority of his scores are on 'higher' end to mine (a little generous..lol) but seriously, good reviews and even includes tips on beating the game (without spoiling the fun) and even uploads vids to get a better insight of the game. Lastly it's great to see another 'old school' gamer so look out for him if you enjoy old and new school gaming.
Fastpunk: Again like ChristianKiss I'm not sure how he bases his scores however one thing I envy with Fastpunk – he played all the games that I want to play so it will be damn cool to see what he had seen; and besides his reviews are well thought out plus on some occassions post a blog of up-and-coming games.
Joe714: A retired veteran (top 1000 emblem). His scores are on the 'higher' end however he has a knack of placing his personal feelings in his reviews with finesse. Entertaining to read without falling in the wayside and I really like his review on XIII (I'm glad I'm not the only one who thoroughly enjoyed this game as it deserves more praise).
Jepsen1977: Like one of his favourite games Thief: The Metal Age, he's to me is a silent assassin. Once he strikes, everyone listens and it's really entertaining to read the conversations with fastpunk. He's also an example of me respecting his views on games that I adore yet he'll give a 'meh' approach. An example of this is his Bioshock review (oh the pain) but I respect that and gave it a 'thumbs up' for his well thought out approach. Jepsen - if you are reading this, write more reviews!
Sequekhan: The new kid on the block for me. This guy improving with every review however what I like from him (which can be misunderstood by other readers) that all of his scores are ten. Like me, we have different meanings for ten: Sequekhan uses his own formula of the traditional 'thumbs up / down' approach. So a ten is a 'thumbs up' – another word must play. That, my friend I like: a fresh approach to scoring games (well that's the way I look at it).
As you can see, I have strong fingers as I'm still typing (I play Diablo you know - keep jogging), this is not a complete list however demonstrating the fact that different reviewers uses different approaches and as the old saying goes 'variety is a spice of life'. I'm sure that there are many reviewers out there uses their own 'personal touch' and if you are one of them, PM me; I'll track you back. Yet there are reviewers that very well be regarded as high quality however booore me to death as there's a lack of that personal touch or have the tendency to 'jump on the bandwagon': that is 'if everyone gives an eight then so do I' and their review doesn't really give an additional insight to what you have already read a million times before. Take heed that too much personal touches equates to fan boys (but there's nothing wrong with fan boys but do so in moderation – heck I'm a fan boy of UT2004).
I hope this helps this age old question of 'So what's in a rating score anyway?' and by all means this is not a perfect babble. Don't take my word for granted however my aim is for the reader to be flexible and the writer to be logical - that said if you feel its right then it's definitely right – just make sure you add it somewhere in your profile/review of your intension though.
Game on, thank you for reading this and hit the showers - you deserve it.
8% Heiankyo Alien Azghouls (HAA)
Oh, and this happens to be my hundredth blog entry - sweet
And stop scrolling - this is the end...seriously.