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Why do we apply the same grading rubric to games as we do to films?

Gamingtodaynews1f - Why do we apply the same grading rubric to games as we do to films?

To some extent, most films are going for the same goals, namely to tell an interesting story in a way that engages and thrills the viewer. Games don't really have this same uniformity; it's hard to argue that something like What Remains of Edith Finch has the same goal as Enter the Gungeon, for instance. They're only compared to each other because they both involve some level of player input, and that's where the similarities end. So why do we essentially grade them both on the same single-scale rubric that we do every other medium? If I were grading those two games on their narrative, Edith Finch would score quite highly and Gungeon would bomb; however, if I were grading them on their gameplay, Gungeon would receive top marks while Edith Finch would struggle, having only a few short sequences of truly engaging gameplay, if any at all. However, it isn't right to split the difference and give them both middling marks either, because it's not like Edith Finch failed to have interesting gameplay or Enter the Gungeon failed to have an interesting story, it's that those things were never meant to be part of the experience.

With that in mind, it feels appropriate to rank games on two axes rather than one. I understand that there are limitations to this too, since I'm sure there are conceivably other purposes to games besides delivering engaging narratives and providing novel gameplay conundrums to overcome. However, I would contend that the vast majority of games primarily attempt one or both of those two things as their primary goal.


For an example of how this idea can be applied, I'll use Roger Ebert's 4-star scale as a formula since I like how relatively discrete it is:

Enter the Gungeon could receive a 4/4 for its thrilling gameplay loop, insane variety of items and weapons, and satisfying progression. It will also receive a 0.5/4 for simply not having a noteworthy story at all.

Edith Finch could receive a 1/4 for its gameplay, since there aren't really a lot of interesting problems to solve or obstacles to overcome. It could also receive a 4/4 for its touching story about the consequences of superstition and the individual hardships a family endures because of it.

So rather than compromising to produce one score that doesn't tell the whole story for either game, we have two that do. We can see the differences between the two games' intents and strengths, and have a clear idea that both excel, just in very different respects.

Is this a better solution than what we see now for game critic scores? Could it be improved upon further? I understand y'all will probably say that numerical scores are a pointless conceit and should be ignored, but they have a lot of inherent value; they're a great way of seeing what a trusted critic thinks of a game without having to spoil any information about the experience at all. I think they have value and it's worth discovering how they can best be applied to every medium, video games included.

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