The Ratings Game

starsThis isn’t about TV shows. That particular Ratings Game would take an entire blog unto itself to even begin to properly discuss. No, I’m talking about when people review things and rate them.

Does Size Matter?

Some people used a 5 point system. Usually 5 stars, but then they give out half star ratings, thus making it a 10 point system on a scale of 0.5 to 5. Then you get 10 point systems, and then they go and try to present averages between multiple reviewers and dish out things like 7.6 and 2.4, thus making them actually a 100 point system ranging from 0.1 to 10.0. Luckily, if a person starts with a 100 point system, they generally don’t do decimals (unless you are handing out grades and want to really rub it into the kid’s face that a 92 is an A and they got a 91.9, a B). Really though, most of these systems exist almost entirely to attempt to set expectations. If a movie review site uses a 5 star scale, 3 usually means “like”, 4 “really like” and 5 is “love”.

But I’m all about managing expectations, and large systems (even as large as 5) start to set them for me. A 5 star film isn’t going to be just good, it’s going to be great. A 1 star film isn’t just bad, it’s awful! And it happens with every scale.

And then you run into other people wanting to fiddle with your system. Tons of game sites rate on a 10 point or 100 point scale, but the vast majority of their scores will be in the 7-9/70-90 range. They save the top score for the absolute best games, and everything below 7/70 is complete trash, and even mediocre games get a “C”. I’m sorry, but on a scale of 1 to 10, 5 is the middle, the average, the “meets some minimum level of entertainment but I didn’t really enjoy it”. You wouldn’t know that from the way most sites work.

A Simpler System

For me, however, I prefer a binary system, a scale from 0 to 1. If I enjoyed something and would recommend it to other people it gets a 1. If I didn’t enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it to other people it gets a 0. No fractions.

Of course, that’s just the score. Any long review would get into exactly why I liked it, and what sort of people I think would also like it. Or it would discuss why I think the thing failed for me, and perhaps try to understand what sort of people might enjoy this, because you have to assume if someone takes the time to make something they must intend for someone else out there to like it.

I’ve written about this before. In fact, twice before. At a glance, I need only one piece of information: did you like it. Then, based on that I can decide if I want to read your full review. More so, if I’ve read a bunch of your reviews in the past and I have a general sense of “if he likes it, then I like it” I may not even need to read every review. I can shorthand. If I’ve heard about a game and think I will like it and I see that a reviewer I generally agree with also liked it, I can pretty safely purchase it and avoid the possibility of getting spoilers in a review. On the other hand, if there is a game I’ve heard of and think I will like and that reviewer says he didn’t like it, now I definitely want to read his review because maybe there’s something I need to know.

Got it in 1

In the past, I’ve toyed with ratings systems on reviews here. I even invented a 13 point system just so that a 7 would be the middle/average score. And I’ve thrown out ratings systems, insisting that the review is the only thing that matters. In the future, I’m going to implement my more simple 0 & 1 system.

Now I just need to make some nifty graphics for my new rating system, and they need to be self-explanatory because I don’t want any¬†passing creator see that I’ve given them a 1 and think I’m saying they suck.


  1. Cat says:

    I think a system of 1-3 is good:
    1 – Bad, stay away
    2 – Good
    3 – Fantastic

    Or, in your case 0-2.

    • Jason says:

      I guess I just don’t see a need to differentiate between “good” and “great”. Either you liked it and recommend it, or you don’t.

      Think of 0 to 1 as “thumbs down” to “thumbs up” or “x” to “check mark”.

  2. Tesh says:

    I ignore the numerical rating anyway and just read any useful information they have to offer. I’d like to know *why* someone liked or disliked a game so I can decide if those factors are relevant to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *