Ah, review scores. They’re the flame that draws the moth-like lazy readers who want anywhere from 500 to 2,000 words summed up in a single number. If that sentence doesn’t convey their inherent problem — and years of watching the Olympics or receiving grades on exams haven’t clued you in — then consider how much grey area exists between one and 100.
Any form of media, from books to games, is not made of the same stuff as a 100-point exam, either. If each test question is worth one point, then figuring out the grade the student deserves is an easy enough calculation. It’s when the teacher starts awarding half points and quarters-points that you storm over to her desk and demand an explanation.
As a reviewer of various things, I assign scores. Outlets tend to use their own criteria, forming a total out of 10 or 100, for example, or maybe even adopting letter grades. Even so, what a “9” represents on one website is not the same somewhere else even though we like to qualify it as such on aggregate sites like Metacritic.
I’ve switched over to letter grades (A through F) when reviewing for pleasure because it’s familiar and refreshingly straightforward. I don’t have to worry about how a 9 is minutely different from an 8 when a 6 is in a separate league of awfulness. Ironically, the grading system we turn to for simplicity has poisoned how we measure quality. (And worse, I can’t seem to stop throwing in pluses and minuses. Help!)