The Unhelpful #7 in Gaming Reviews

The number seven is kind of a big deal both inside and out of the gaming world. It’s the number of sages in Ocarina of Time, the number of (arguably) the most popular Final Fantasy iteration, the number associated with James Bond – and it’s just all around considered by many to be a lucky number… like I said, a big deal.

But I’m starting to think that this dastardly digit gets a little bit too much love. I adore Ocarina of Time, James Bond and FFVII as much as the next person, but let’s take a step back and ask ourselves: how helpful is the number seven when we see it as a review score? The answer for all of you out there scratching your heads is… well, it’s not very telling at all when it comes to making a decision to purchase a game or not. As a matter of fact, I like to think of seven as the purgatory of review numbers. “Well, it’s probably not as good as you’d like it to be… but it’s not bad! No sir!”

Now, I wouldn’t be a proper video game reviewer if I didn’t admit that, yes, the score holds very little weight in comparison to the actual words, thoughts and overall feelings that go into a review. Yes, believe it or not, all of those words before the number isn’t just icing on the cake – it is the cake! *insert cake is a lie reference here and then get over Portal* I’d go so far as to say the number is the fork you eat the cake with, because if you like the cake enough, you’re going to eat that sucker with your bare hands regardless.

Unfortunately (and I’ve been guilty of this before), sometimes readers don’t want to take the time to read the whole article or any of it at all. They want the quick fix, the easy way out, and there’s nothing a few pesky paragraphs are going to do to stop them! After ferociously scrolling down and feverishly scanning an article’s end, the number is forever implanted into the mind of the curious gamer; forever having the innocence of preconceived notions taken from their brain. It can be quite an ugly sight indeed, as we’ve seen in the case of Duke Nukem: Forever: keyboards flying into monitors and such.

But the only thing worse than seeing your most anticipated game get a bad score is to see it get a seven. I mean, what do you do with that, right? On one end, you have an eight. A fairly hopeful number that denotes a title with more than just a few redeemable qualities. A game that receives an eight is usually one that’s worth buying if you were already interested. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the number six. A number that promises nothing to hyped-up gamers who expect everything. Basically, when a game gets a six it might be good enough to rent if you’ve really been looking forward to it (anything below is most likely a train wreck), but I feel like a six is a failing score in the minds of most.

To put these two scores that are separated by a mere number into perspective, I’ll throw out a few titles that received Metacritic ratings in these ranges.

A few titles that received around a score of eight include:

  • Sunset Overdrive (8.2)
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (8.3)
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (8.0)
  • Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze (8.3)

I’d like to think that most of these games are looked at in a positive light with Monster Hunter being an ultra-popular franchise in Japan, Sunset Overdrive being an XB1 exclusive that has received positive praise, Star Ocean being a fairly classic JRPG on a console filled with titles of the like, and Tropical Freeze being considered by most to be a successful addition to the DK franchise. Again, these statements are opinionated, of course, and some people probably hate these titles. Anyway, here are some of the games that scored around a six:

  • Sonic: Lost World (6.3)
  • Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (5.8)
  • Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus (5.7)
  • Pure Chess (6.1)

That’s right, a chess video game beat out a game that had “Final Fantasy VII” in the title. What has this world come to? Now, the scores only reflect the words that were written in the review, but this brings me to the number seven. If games from these two number groupings can be so different in quality and depth, what does this say about the number smack dab in the middle of it all? That’s right… nothing. Well, okay, it says more than nothing, but in the end it’s not much more than, “Well… it wasn’t a complete failure, but it definitely wasn’t great. It doesn’t let you down to the point of frustration and it doesn’t keep you interested for a considerable amount of time. It just… is.”

Again, I’d like to point out that the number is absolutely not the most important part of a review – not even close. But, as I’ve said earlier, not everyone takes the time of day to read what reviewers have to say, taking away only a number as a sign of everything that’s right or wrong with the title it sits so seemingly innocent beneath. The main point is to always read the review. But the super duper main point is not to take review scores so seriously. After all, what’s a number when a rental is only a car ride and a few bucks away – or even better yet, a few mouse clicks away? The number seven might say next to nothing, but a rental will tell you everything you need to know.

Now that I’ve finished telling you how unimportant review scores are, it’s my pleasure to announce that Power Up Gaming will soon be switching to a 20-point scale! Now 7.5 will be the new 7, and the world goes ’round! – AF

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