10 out of 10 – Justified, Overzealous or Impossible?

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A okay Every now and then a title comes about that the collective gaming press goes crazy for, upon which granting it universal acclaim and scoring the game a rare 10 out of 10. End of story? Hardly. There seems to be a feeling in much of the gaming community that one cannot legitimately score any game a 10 out of 10 for, as some believe, that endows some sense of perfection on the game, and (you know, as we humans have been conditioned to believe) nothing is perfect. We’ll call the people who believe this the “impossible bunch”. Then there is the feeling that reviewers get caught up in the hype train, which blinds them to the evident flaws of a game, and, resultantly, inflate the game’s true worth. This lot will be dubbed the “overzealous bunch”. Lastly, there are those who think that amazing games, and not play-play-oh-this-is-fun-games, the serious gaming achievements deserve that rare 10 out of 10. We’ll call these believers the “justified bunch”. I’ll come clean right now: you can place me squarely in the “justified bunch”.

Before going into why I think one can legitimately score a game 10 out of 10, I will concede that the “general” review system needs an overhaul. Whether that overhaul is replacing the numerical system with a different system as 1UP did when it introduced its letters system, or reconsidering the criteria by which games are rated on (if all AAA games have stellar graphics, why do we still harp on about graphics?), something needs to be done. The reason I believe this is that gaming should no longer be reviewed primarily off of technical achievement, but rather that we may be hitting the maturation that the film industry hit where people stopped basing most of the criticism of the film on how good it looked to how good it is (because, truth be told, most high budget dramatic films without extensive CGI look equally good).

image Now that I have that way, way, way out of the way, let me try “justify” why I am of the “justified bunch”. Some games really are in a league of their own. Not by accident, but by focused dedication and raw talent other developers lack or have yet to harness. So one cannot possibly propose that the ceiling for a great game be a, oh, I don’t know, 9.5/10. Why? Well, what do you score a very good game that would have otherwise gotten that 9.5/10 that this new ceiling is at? Shift it down, some would propose. See, this would have the roll on effect of having to shift everything relatively down, and, as a matter of habit, will throw people’s expectations of what a certain score represents. Call me lazy, but I doubt I’ll perceive a game that used to score an 8 as the same game when scoring a 6. Also, some of the “impossible bunch” have proposed we score games out of a higher number – 100 maybe. Yet, the issue here is when numbers becoming really high, they lack meaning. It’s as Stalin once said: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” So, nah, we cannot even consider going that route.

See, the real reason certain games score 10 out of 10 is because they achieve that which very good games cannot. This is not to say that they are without flaws – because there is likely to be a flaw or glitch here and there – but the surplus of “oh my word, this is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced” out ways those flaws. That which they achieve may be a technical achievement that changes the way in which we play a specific genre or perceive a specific genre on a specific console. Yet, I feel it is something else: feeling and emotions. The reason why, say GTAIV, with the tons of slight technical glitches it has is in the opinion of many – as is mine – a 10 out of 10 game lies in the nuances and in how you connect to your character. It is about the aftertaste – the ability to generate discussion and reverence far beyond the scope of the game. 10 out of 10 games tend to sell the best because, well, honestly, they tend to be the best. Yes, the hype train has hit us all before, but that’s just human – it’s what gets you in the door. Whether you’re talking about it years after is what officialises it.

So, the fact is, the only reason games are scored 10 out of 10 and should be scored 10 out of 10 is that they are amazing achievements that stand head and shoulders over the rest, and, as a community of people who write about this, we must bring attention to these games. How else but by “loosely” calling them perfect? So I ask the “overzealous bunch” and the “impossible bunch”, what would you propose gaming press do to attract attention to amazing games without giving them what you consider a ridiculously high score?

Last Updated: May 15, 2008

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