The 10/10 Condundrum

A friend of mine just got done with a heated AIM debate on the merits of the dreaded and misunderstood “10/10” review score, and thought I would swing the concept around here to see what everyone thinks.

Personally, coming from editorial and now in PR, I don’t see how a game can be awarded a 10/10. To me, that kind of score denotes something tha is flawless, perfect, or generally not able to be improved upon. My friend agrees to a degree, but counters that review scores are more tailored to each publication and shouldn’t be interpreted as strictly being focused on technical achievement, etc. This all started with (surprise) Halo 3, a game that saw numerous 10/10 or 100% scores, despite the fact that most folks I know seem to be hating the game.

So, esteemed readers, is the 10/10 score an archaic and dangerous tool in the wrong hands? Or does it still have a place in this industry? And, more importantly, how does a general consumer differentiate between review scores that might vary from publication to publication?

This is a common debate, but personally, I don’t see 10/10 as perfect or flawless. It’s just like five stars in movie reviews, it doesn’t mean the movie is absolutely flawless, just that it’s excellent.

To expand a bit: if 10/10 meant utter perfection, then you couldn’t ever give anything 10 in any review, because there are no perfect games. That would make the scale efficiently a 9-point scale, since valid values would only go up to 9 (or a 9.9-scale if using decimals). And then you’d have the 9/9 (or 9.9/9.9) problem instead of 10/10.

Considering every game releasing over the past and next few months is earning a 10/10…I think it’s time we invoke the rule of 11.

I think only BioShock and Halo 3 earned 10/10s. It really is up to consumer to go with publications they trust or use aggregation services like metacritic.

I think OXM, gave both BioShock and Halo a 10, made a great point about the score. It’s not a flawless game, just one that provides one of the best experiences on the console. These aren’t going to be the same: BioShock rated as a game that you can play for hours a week for years would do poorly, as would Halo if it were rated for its singleplayer story aninnovation.

So, a 10 for me, is telling people “What this game tries to do, it does extremely well; considerably better than other games trying to do the same thing.”

The top of the scale should never be about perfection because human beings and their works can never be perfect. It’s just the top of the scale. I knew a professor who never gave "A"s using the perfection rationale, which made him a jerk to me.

I’m the guy that KoreanBBQ was having the debate with, and you’ve pretty much summed up my point exactly.

When I was back in my critic-in’ days, I gave out one 10. Resident Evil 4. Perfect game? Nope. An excellent game that succeeds so readily in what it does that it deserves to be set aside as part of an elite group of rarefied titles? Most definitely.

Edit: Wow, what a rambling, pretentious sentence I just wrote!

There’s nothing wrong with 10/10. If we didn’t have 10/10 then what the heck would we give Portal?

I see how that statement can be derived, but personally I would like to see a “10” mean more then that. I’m not implying perfection, but it should be a truly rare gem that leaves a lasting impression and little dissapointment.

Also, I’m not sure that the industry uses 10s too much.

OXM has given 4 (Gears, BioShock, Halo 3, Fight Night 3), GI has given 14 (and has been reviewing since the SNES days), GameSpot has given four (Chrono Cross, Ocarina of Time, THPS 3, Soul Calibur), and even IGN (excluding GB/GBC games) has given 2: Ocarina of Time and Soul Calibur.

Even looking through GI’s list, there are no games there that wouldn’t apply to the definition of 10 I gave above.

I look at 10/10 kind of like a 3-star Michelin rating for restaurants.

It doesn’t mean that it’s perfect (since nothing is), just really great. Wikipedia says that out of 5500 restaurants in the Michelin guide, only 3 got 3-star ratings (meaning “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”).

So in my book, a 10/10 game means “worth upgrading your PC or buying a console to play”.

I don’t buy into the whole “we reserve 10/10 for perfection which can never be achieved” attitude, since no other form of criticism (film, theater, food, books) follows that approach.

I don’t think Halo 3 was 10/10-worthy.

It’s rumored that OXM just gave Call of Duty 4 a 10/10. [IMO]That’s way too many 10s[/IMO]

How many of those critics use a 10 point scale? Hey I’m all for a critique system that uses only 3 or 4 or even 5 points to denote worth but [IMO]if I see a game get a 10/10 - It better rock my socks off.[/IMO]

Exactly! I agree with the fact that Halo 3 was not worthy of a 10/10, and think that this game raises some of the issues with the review scoring system. Most folks I talk to love the multiplayer, but can’t stand the single-player (which I agree with). But, shouldn’t the game’s score be the sum of all it’s parts? Apparently not. Sigh.

I don’t consider 10/10 a perfect score, I view it as the highest score. I don’t look at a movie review that has a 5/5 and assume that it’s a perfect movie, I just think, “Wow, that critic really liked it.”


I don’t know why people keep getting their knickers in a knot over scoring. It’s just there to give you a sense of what the community thinks of a title. Just because you don’t think it deserves a 10/10 means exactly the same as the person who thinks it does.

I find the perfection rationale excessively wankatronic. If a game blows your mind and you go out of your way to recommend it to people who don’t like the genre – or even games – why would you not give it a 10/10? I’ll use two examples:

Disgaea – What an awesome game. One of my favorites of all time. The story and characters are charming and multifaceted, the battle system is crazy fun, and the character progression is second to none. Even so, there will be plenty of people who won’t grok it because it demands a fairly large tolerance for menu screens and attention to detail – not to mention an appreciation on some level for the isometric SRPG paradigm. 9/10.

New Super Mario Bros. – Unbelievably awesome. Accessible to everyone, with layered difficulty (unlocking secret areas/collecting stars) for people who want to dig through everything it has to offer. Level design, moveset, and responsiveness of control are all unparalleled. Even my wife (and other wives/non-gamers that I personally know) adores this game. It’s still the (arguably) best title released to date on DS. 10/10.

Pick me apart, please. What else would I step into this thread for?

A score is not the same as the similarity between a game and perfection, because who knows what perfection is?

Some Dutch mag I used to read back in the day had some reviewers that awarded straight 10s to games in franchises they loved. At some point one of them gave Mortal Kombat 2 a 10 for story and graphics just to get the average total score at 10. Who cares that much about scores anyway?

Lookie here! Another “Halo 3 sucks” thread in disguise!

Well, that’s just Halo 3’s fault for sucking so much!

It doesn’t need to rock your socks off. It needs to knock the reviewer’s socks off. And if the scale were 5 points, they’d just give it a 5 and we’d be butting up against perfect again.

Having more points (or decimals) allows for finer grained judgment, but it also becomes very silly very quickly. Within the bounds of happy day vs grumpy day, summer vs winter, near other similar release or not, favorite color matching dominant color in game or not, got laid last night or not, you and me and the reviewer all being different people to begin with, trying to say that at 9.8 game is definitively and meaningfully better than a 9.6 game is ridiculous.

The reviewer is just saying they give the game their highest recommendation.

“B-but…10?” hand wringing “That’s a very powerful score…dare I play such a game? If it disappoints will great wounds appear in my flesh? If these socks are not flung off my feet with sufficient velocity…goldtoeitis may strike! I’d feel safer if they only gave it a nice reasonable 9.5”