Announcement: At BeefJack, you’ll no longer see scores appearing after our reviews. Why is this the case? And what are those funny pictures you see instead? Read on to find out what we’ve been up to…
A few months ago, you lot were all very kind and responded to a big survey we issued about game reviews. We wanted to know what our readers like and dislike about the current state of gaming criticism, with a view to examine the way we do things at BeefJack.
The results were interesting, and in some respects surprising. Scores on the end of reviews are often cited by journalists and critics as a necessary evil – something readers demand but that we don’t really like awarding. You guys demonstrated otherwise. Overwhelmingly, you suggested that getting rid of scores entirely would be something you’d support.
What was clear, though, was that a lot of people do like having a handy shorthand. So we sat down for an epic meeting at BeefJack Towers to decide what we should do about this. And a plan began to hatch…
What was wrong with scores?
Nothing as such. But sticking a number on the end of a review seems to do a disservice to the different things we feel when we play games. You probably don’t play a game like Mass Effect 2 and think, “wow, I’m totally having a 9.6 out of 10 time here!” and you don’t play STALKER and go, “oh, the bugs make this a real 8.2.” You think, “wow, this game is amazing,” or, “oh, how frustrating – this game is really skirting brilliance, but there’s something holding it back.”
Scores are a great way of getting a quick idea of most games’ quality. But scoring a game is not a precise art (as much as many like to pretend it is), and there are some titles that simply don’t seem to fit on a standard scoring spectrum. What number do you assign Dear Esther, or even Heavy Rain? And what about games that you’re never going to want to buy anyway? What’s the point in differentiating between a bad game and a really bad game, if what we’re basically saying is that you shouldn’t waste your time with it?
So we got thinking. What if we could come up with a set of scores that weren’t scores at all? What if we could quickly and easily communicate a game’s quality – and its type of quality – without relying on numbers and letters?
Introducing: BeefJack badges!
From now on, when we publish a review on BeefJack, we’ll follow it not with a number, but with a badge. This badge might just give you an idea of the quality of the game. But it might provide a little extra insight too. We came up with six badges, and each game will be assigned one of them. Here’s what they all mean.
What it means: The cream of the crop. These games exceed all expectations, either perfecting their craft or innovating superbly. Games awarded this badge are ‘must-buy’ titles – the ones people are likely to be enthusing about for a long time to come.
What it means: If only they fixed those problems! These games come tantalisingly close to greatness, but they’re held back by some unfortunately significant flaws. They’re bursting at the seams with wonderful ideas, and will probably be some people’s games of the year, but others will struggle to forgive their crimes.
What it means: You should very much consider picking these games up. They won’t be the very best on the market, but they’re substantially enjoyable titles that should keep most people engaged throughout, with enough stand-out features to raise them above their peers.
What it means: Keep your eyes peeled for a price-drop. These games are your everyday, middling-to-decent releases: unlikely to set anyone’s world alight, but doing just about enough to entertain, even if they never manage to truly impress. Save them for a rainy Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do.
What it means: You won’t want to bother with these games, which range from below average to downright terrible. Even if you see them cheap, you should probably keep scanning those shelves, because there’ll plenty of better options available.
What it means: These are those rare games that, for whatever reason, defy any ordinary rating system. Perhaps they stretch the definition of the word ‘game’, or maybe they’re just so new and novel that there’s not yet a point of comparison. Good? Bad? We’re not sure – but they’re probably worth a look for their weirdness alone.
A note on older reviews
As you can imagine, going through and changing scores across our entire database, into which we publish literally hundreds of reviews every year, would be a ridiculously mammoth task. It wouldn’t simply be a matter of swapping an image around; we’d have to consult each reviewer about each game and get them to work out where on this new scale that title would fit – if they could even remember at all.
As such, we’ve left most of our existing reviews as they were. We have, however, put these new badges into reviews published in the last few weeks – just to make sure you’ve got a good idea of how we’re applying them.
Because that’s the most important thing about a ratings system, right? That everyone understands how it works. We hope you find this delightfully clear.