Hey-o, single players, and welcome to…mid February I guess. I hope your Valentine’s Day was enjoyable and not a miserable mess of loneliness and despair like some people’s (just kidding; I saw Deadpool!).
February’s been quite a bit slower than January, but I’m not surprised, nor am I worried. I know we have a few more great things coming up this month to whet your appetites for all things single player, so make sure you’re constantly checking back. We’re working hard to give you more of what you want – more news, more editorials, and more feature content including in-depth analysis of games and interviews with the people that make them. I’d also like to take a moment to plug OSP on social media – Facebook and Twitter (@Official_OnlySP). It really helps us to know that you guys are following us there and you’ll be kept current on everything we put out every day, so be sure to give us a visit and a follow.
Please don’t forget that we also have an active Patreon campaign running. We don’t mention it all that often for the sake of not wanting to spam you about it, but we could really use your support. Every dollar you pledge to us goes back to our writers, and the more money we pull in the better we can pay everyone. If we could just get a quarter of our audience to pledge $1 a month to us, we’d be in really good shape. If you haven’t checked out our Patreon yet, here’s the link.
But believe it or not, I’m not here to talk about social media or the site’s content or even my miserable failure of a social life. I wanted to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind for awhile now – since I joined the site back in June, as a matter of fact: our review scores.
Now, I know review scores are a hot-button issue. A lot of sites are eschewing them altogether and pundits are calling them damaging to the industry at large. While I certainly don’t begrudge those opinions and, in fact, agree with many of them, I stand resolutely by Only Single Player’s decision to include them in our reviews. They’re convenient ways to quantify our opinions and are a valuable service for someone looking for a quick “yea or nay” opinion on a game. We aim to provide you comprehensive and in-depth looks at the games that we review, so it’s not like by including a game score we’re limiting ourselves in anyway. If you don’t like game scores, simply don’t read them, it’s that simple (and I don’t mean that in a diminishing or degrading way, I wholly respect people’s opinions on the matter).
But one of my resolutions this year, besides improving our presence on social media and dredging my social life up from the mire of depressive loneliness, is to review and perhaps revise how we score our games. Like I said, I don’t intend to make a push to drop them altogether, but I’ve never been happy with the category-based 1-10 scoring system that we use. As a former teacher, I know how tricky grading can be, and with video games, grading by category is trickier still. Games aim to accomplish different things; some provide us with a purely mechanical challenge while others eschew mechanics nearly altogether to deliver an entirely narrative-based experience. So why should the former be penalized for having a lax story and the latter be penalized for, perhaps, having sub-par mechanics?
Then there’s the problem with the 1-10 scale in general. I loved the mechanics in Renowned Explorers, but are they perfect? Should I give them a 10? And if not, what’s the difference between an eight and a nine? Or even a seven? In discussing this with the site’s owner, Nick Calandra, he made the point that readers probably see scores in terms of extremes…so to many readers, an eight (or maybe even that seven) might as well be a 10. After all, great is great. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And for a lot of people good is definitely good enough. I’ve struggled with that a lot since I started here, actually. The range of numbers between seven and 10 are difficult to quantify. Even a game like Undertale, which to me is as close to gaming perfection as we’ve come in a long time, has flaws. but how much do I knock off its mechanics for not being “absolutely perfect”? Or are they perfect?
These are just a few things I’ve been wrestling with, and I have a few possible solutions. But before I spend much time fleshing those out, I want to make sure I’m not spending time trying to fix something that isn’t broken, so I’m putting it to you, dear reader. What do you think of review scores in general? Go nuts in the comments, on social media, or in our forums. I want to hear your full opinion, even if it’s to abolish them completely (like I said, I have no intentions of doing that, but I may revise my opinion if everyone to a person cries out for it). Tell us if you like how we’ve been doing things. Or if you have suggestions for how we can change. I’ll spend the next month or so monitoring the discussion and amending my own opinion.
In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy our content and I’ll see you in a couple weeks when the Ides of March bear down on us.