The following text adapts the voting guidelines I shared with the community during the 2018 season.
-Use whole numbers rated 1–10.
-Play at least 30 minutes of game time before voting.
-For rereleased games, play at least 30 minutes of the new content.
-Play as many games as possible to ensure a balanced score.
It may be tempting to score a game based strictly on subjectivity, but try not to rule out objectivity when you score. We’re players of differing tastes, and not all games can be everything to everyone. The question of on which you should be basing your score is not just “Did I like it?”, even though enjoyment should factor into part of your score, but also “Does it work for its intended audience?” If you’re not sure if it works, then go with your gut. The idea is to give some credit to the authors who made their game competently and effectively, even if it’s not exactly “your kind of game.” For example, I have no particular affection for the Call of Duty franchise, but I know which ones are the “good ones” in the franchise (Modern Warfare 1 and 2), so I would rate those entries higher than the not-as-good ones, even if I could spend a day not playing any of them and still feel like I’ve had a good day. Try to consider what the game actually accomplishes on top of how you feel about it before giving your score. We don’t want to punish outliers for being outliers, only for making ugly, broken games.
Below is a representation of what each score value should mean.
10 – This game is basically perfect. While it may contain a few subjective nitpicks, there isn’t really anything in the presentation that can be improved upon, and any attempt to improve it at this point will ultimately make it worse. (Game does not have to be complete to earn this score; it can earn it based on the merit of what’s currently in the game.)
9 – Near perfect, but maybe contains a couple of unimportant bugs that should be fixed sometime.
8 – Great game with a noticeable flaw. That flaw may be average or poor graphics, bad use of sound effects, or maybe contains a scene or sequence that is ultimately unnecessary for the story, but a flaw that doesn’t really take away from the experience; it just keeps it from being perfect.
7 – Good game with a few noticeable flaws. Ultimately, it’s fun and worth playing, but it still has a few issues that need addressing before it’s considered complete.
6 – Above average game that works, but ultimately doesn’t stand out from anything. You’ve basically played this game a thousand times before, in the same order, in the same places, fighting the same enemies, but maybe with a slightly different skin (maybe this one’s in the future, and your hero is actually a janitor). If it did anything bold or interesting, you’d score it higher, but it plays too safe, too formulaic, too Disney to warrant that extra point or two. It should’ve taken more risks.
5 – Average game that’s decent for what it is, but is ultimately forgettable. It manages some systems or aesthetics competently, but likely drops the ball elsewhere, and not in a charming kind of way. Maybe a stage is incomplete, or the item you need to advance the story is missing, but the rest of the game is pretty good and worth playing if not for that one catastrophic flaw. It can also be a working game with too many ugly features or confusing ideas to make it ultimately enjoyable, if not at least admirable for its intent.
4 – Below average game that really should’ve been released in 2020, not 2018. It has good ideas in the making, and it should be finished at some point, but it’s out of the cooker too soon, and the experience shows. Likely it contains missing areas or broken systems that prevent you from reaching the end of the demo, or has a few glitches that complicate the experience more than it should. Okay game for now, but it needs repair, and maybe some additional planning.
3 – A bad game in the making that ultimately doesn’t work. It may have some areas of competency (like decent graphics or interesting atmosphere), but on the whole it fails to work as a good game. Maybe the story is incoherent, or the gameplay is too tedious even for players who love the grind, or the graphics are so bad that it’s impossible to tell who’s who or what’s what. Conceptually, it needs redesigning before it could be considered a good game. It may have potential, but not before returning to the drawing board for at least one key area.
2 – A terrible game that is well before its prime. Maybe there’s something about it that can work eventually with lots of revision behind it, but for now, there’s nothing worth seeing here. It has at least one thing about it that does work, or is pleasant, or ultimately worth keeping, but that one thing doesn’t make the game ready for prime time. Fix or change the ingredients and put it back in the oven.
1 – Utterly abysmal game that does nothing right and won’t get better with revision. Needs a day one rewrite. Conceptually, it’s bad. Practically, it’s bad. Even if it were complete, why would anyone think it’s fun? It contains nothing salvageable. Should be scrapped and rebuilt with new ideas and a better plan. This is the kind of game that gets banned at torture camps for being too cruel. The author will spend his days better working on something else.
Okay, so hopefully that should inform you on how to score. Please don’t give 10’s or 1’s unless the game truly deserves it. Loving a game or hating it doesn’t mean it’s perfect or abysmal. Be objective in those cases before you score. You can always post a review with your score to explain why it earned what it earned [recommended].