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Subject: A foolproof way to improve games journalism: ban the number 7 rss

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Tom
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Interesting article in The New Statesman:

A foolproof way to improve games journalism: ban the number 7 .

She discusses video games and movie ratings, but it also could apply to putting numbered ratings on board games.

I'm not saying I agree or disagree, I just find it interesting.
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Rich Shipley
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noisycrow wrote:
Interesting article in The New Statesman:

A foolproof way to improve games journalism: ban the number 7 .

She discusses video games and movie ratings, but it also could apply to putting numbered ratings on board games.


7 is my rating for a game that I'll probably want to own. As for 5 being average out of 10 (it is actually below average), why would I want to waste my time with something average?
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Daniel Corban
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The more foolproof way would be to eliminate arbitrary rankings completely. What is the difference between a game that is rated a 9.1 or 9.3? An A- or a B+? It is fascinating that such arbitrary rating systems are still in use.

When reading a review, readers are trying to answer the question, "is this game worth playing?" A binary system (thumbs up/down) is sufficient with relevant content in the body of the review, such as descriptions of the audio and video quality, glitches experienced, control scheme, and so on.
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I'm just confused by people who complain about number or letter ratings. These things pretty much arise organically, IMO. As a critic you're constantly thinking about whether you like something more or less than something you already know - it helps inform your reviews, and it gives useful information to your readers. And once you start comparing, it helps to give a sense of the scale of comparisons. Maybe you like two games about the same. Maybe you like one a little more than another, but a whole lot more than a third (but all of them are perfectly acceptable). Numbers, letters, and so on help to express these gradations of judgment.

At the end of the day, it's more information. Hard to complain about that.
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Smurf-o-Deth
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celiborn wrote:
Hard to complain about that.


It's the internet. Complaining is like breathing here.
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Curt Carpenter
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dcorban wrote:
When reading a review, readers are trying to answer the question, "is this game worth playing?" A binary system (thumbs up/down) is sufficient with relevant content in the body of the review, such as descriptions of the audio and video quality, glitches experienced, control scheme, and so on.

Well, the simple argument against this is that some people may self select a different target rating for interest based on their gaming time/money budgets, risk tolerance, etc. An addict may want to try all 6+ games, while someone else may only have the time/money to consider 8+'s. This is assuming the person reading the reviews has already determined that the reviewer's preferences are useful predictors of their own, of course.
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Joseph
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noisycrow wrote:


She discusses video games and movie ratings, but it also could apply to putting numbered ratings on board games.



Interesting article; yes. Rating system applied to board games; no.

The rating system on BGG simply rates our willingness to play a game. It's not intended as an indicator of objective value or worth, despite its misuse by many. I find the rating system refreshingly subjective. cool

The key element, from my perspective, is repetition. One may play a board or video game several times before fully discovering all of its secrets. Books, movies, and music — not so much. While understanding that some people love watching movies dozens or hundreds of times, claiming to see something new every time ("the rivet colors on Han Solo's gun changed between scenes 1023 and 1040!"), games, as a form of media, present an object oriented difference from game to game (as opposed to a viewer perspective difference).

Take a different strategy or role in a game, and the game experience changes. For movies, music, and books, the observer must change. It's a subtle difference for some, but for me, huge.

I may play a game, whether board or video, in back to back sessions, and find something new and interesting. Not so much with books, film, and music. I claim this as someone who loves books. While I do return to favorite volumes, sometimes repeatedly, I find that I must grow, change or otherwise be in a different emotive or cognitive state to find something new, unique or interesting.

Hope this makes sense.

Joseph.

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It seems silly to me to gripe about the ranking of 7 versus the much worse 3 out of 5 (it got so annoying when I used to watch G4's reviews that we decided to just call the show, "3 out of 5").

That's by far a much worse review score in terms of arbitrary meaning and import.

The biggest issue for people who whine about reviews is simply this - we (those of us who have worked in that field professionally) focus the majority of our work on the actual things we WRITE about the game. Putting a numerical rating to a game is probably the thing we like the least about our jobs and we prefer it if people go by what we write as much, if not more, than the final review score.

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Why don't we just remove all the numbers between 1 and 10. Those are the only 2 numbers we really need anyway, if the first and last pages of every games ratings are to be believed. :p
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I rate the article a solid 7/10.

Er...sorry...

I rate the article a solid [(6+8)/2]/10.

I don't really have a beef with individual reviewers giving a numerical score, so long as they have a review to justify their score. I have more of an issue with collecting scores from 1000 people and giving the average as the final score.

For example, when I'm looking at reviews and ratings of a movie I want to see, there's a big difference between 100 scores in a typical bell curve averaging out at 6.5/10 and 100 scores most of which are split between 0/10 and 10/10. One is an entertaining movie likely to be enjoyed by most people, but nothing to get overly excited over, the other is a movie that you'll love if you "get it", or if you're into that particular sub-genre, or hate if you don't. I'd much rather see a score distribution chart than a simple average.
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Dr Caligari
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Typpo wrote:
Why don't we just remove all the numbers between 1 and 10. Those are the only 2 numbers we really need anyway, if the first and last pages of every games ratings are to be believed.


An old story attributed to A K Dewdney :

The acolyte goes to the Master and says "Oh Master, give me a random number"
The Master says "Seven". The acolyte leaves contented.
The next day, the acolyte returns and asks the Master for a random number. Once again the Master replies "Seven!". The acolyte leaves, though a bit puzzled.
On the third day, the acolyte once more asks the Master "Please give me a random number, but it can't be seven".
The Master replies "Very well, but it won't be random!".
And the acolyte was illuminated.

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Magic Pink
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rshipley wrote:
noisycrow wrote:
Interesting article in The New Statesman:

A foolproof way to improve games journalism: ban the number 7 .

She discusses video games and movie ratings, but it also could apply to putting numbered ratings on board games.


7 is my rating for a game that I'll probably want to own. As for 5 being average out of 10 (it is actually below average), why would I want to waste my time with something average?


Because only a fool would let their opinion be decided for them by a number. Just because someone else thought it was average is no reason to think you'll feel the same.

As far as I'm concerned, ratings should be "Did you like it?": Yes/No. I still laugh at people who use ratings to the tenth of the percentile here.
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Stephen Keller
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dcorban wrote:
The more foolproof way would be to eliminate arbitrary rankings completely. What is the difference between a game that is rated a 9.1 or 9.3? An A- or a B+? It is fascinating that such arbitrary rating systems are still in use.


It's only arbitrary if you insist on seeing it as arbitrary. Try to be creative and come up with some wacky alternate world premise that could explain such a phenomenon.

My whack ball idea is that if a specific reviewer rates one game a 9.1 and another a 9.3 then maybe they're signifying that they like the later a little bit more.
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Magic Pink wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, ratings should be "Did you like it?": Yes/No. I still laugh at people who use ratings to the tenth of the percentile here.


Hello, laugh at me then. There are so many shades of liking something. Lets use words. Did you like that game? Valid responses could be No, not really, sorta, a little bit, it was decent, I liked it alot, it was amazing, that was the best game I've ever played.

Now for the crazy referential answer: Ya, Liked it a little bit more than ticket to ride. The thing about an answer like this is that it can be expressed with a number (and decimals if using a 10 based scale).

Giving a yes or no answer just doesn't cut it for some. This may be all you need but stating things as a number can have significant meaning to some people - especially if you follow a specific person's work.

Anyhoo, numbered ratings have a definite use if they're given context. Yes, it requires the reader to connect the dots and be aware of the author. But, it's a great too for those who choose to use it.
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Caleb
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Magic Pink wrote:
rshipley wrote:
noisycrow wrote:
Interesting article in The New Statesman:

A foolproof way to improve games journalism: ban the number 7 .

She discusses video games and movie ratings, but it also could apply to putting numbered ratings on board games.


7 is my rating for a game that I'll probably want to own. As for 5 being average out of 10 (it is actually below average), why would I want to waste my time with something average?


Because only a fool would let their opinion be decided for them by a number. Just because someone else thought it was average is no reason to think you'll feel the same.


Aren't you basically saying here that one should try every single game on earth to decide whether you really like it? I'm thankful for the shades of meaning imparted by the 10-point scale, because my leisure time (and budget!) is not infinite, so culling the possible universe of potential wants is pretty important.
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Shawn Fox
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I also agree that 5 should be the average rating. In the end the ratings balance out, but the effect is that those who actually use the full 1 to 10 scale for rating games end up with a much larger influence over game rankings than those who use a 6 to 10 scale. Effectively my rating ends up meaning 2.5x as much as someone who never rates games lower than a 6. If you want your ratings to have a larger influnce, use a full 10 point scale.
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Daniel Corban
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Synnical77 wrote:
My whack ball idea is that if a specific reviewer rates one game a 9.1 and another a 9.3 then maybe they're signifying that they like the later a little bit more.

How is this practical? What benefit does it have to the reader?

"Oh, I was going to play that game, but it only rates a 9.1 while this one is a 9.3, so forget it!"
 
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dcorban wrote:

How is this practical? What benefit does it have to the reader?

"Oh, I was going to play that game, but it only rates a 9.1 while this one is a 9.3, so forget it!"


The benefit is that if I look at a particular person's body of work and their related ratings and match those to my own then I can form a basis on where to start looking for games that I'll potentially like. Every so often I'll come across BGG users whose likes appear to be very similar to my own based off of titles that they've rated and titles that I've played. Although you may feel that my finding reliably good games to check out may be the result of pure random chance I feel that the existence of these numerical ratings have led me to games that are to my particular liking.

Now, the value of seeing someone rate something a 9.1 versus a 9.3 may seem trivial but it tells one very specific thing - that the 9.3 was slightly preferred over the 9.1 by that specific person. Being that the number is near the top of the scale means that they're both probably worth checking out (if this person's tastes closely match mine). Of course, the number isn't the sole criteria as it merely acts a compass of sorts.
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Years ago I read something in a computer games magazine (or maybe it was online, I can't remember), about review scores and ties in with this a bit:

It described 73% as "The Mark of Meh!".

The mark a game gets when there is nothing intrinsically *wrong* with it, but it just doesn't achieve goodness either. A game it's hard to care about. Meh!
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I think it's normal that 5 isn't the average. This is because of the selection bias. I think if I had to play every game 5 would be the average, but because I only buy and play games I think I would like it's normal to have a higher average. 7 is usefull, as it means, it didn't dissapoint, but maybe I wouldn't have bought it again. So for me a game rated a 7 is a 'don't-buy' unless it really speaks to me personally because of some mechanics or theme
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Daniel Corban
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I think everyone would agree that 5 or less is "don't buy or even play", so isn't it basically a five point scale? This means the article is complaining that the average game gets a "3 out of 5". What's wrong with that?
 
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dcorban wrote:
Synnical77 wrote:
My whack ball idea is that if a specific reviewer rates one game a 9.1 and another a 9.3 then maybe they're signifying that they like the later a little bit more.

How is this practical? What benefit does it have to the reader?

"Oh, I was going to play that game, but it only rates a 9.1 while this one is a 9.3, so forget it!"



More like "I can only afford to buy one game before this next session (or only have the time to learn one / teach one / play one) and I need to decide which one. This reviewer whose tastes usually are a good forecast of my own tells me he loves both, but when pressed he said 'Both are great, but I like this one a little more than that one', so that's the one I gave the edge."
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Curt Carpenter
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thebearthatwasnt wrote:
I think it's normal that 5 isn't the average. This is because of the selection bias. I think if I had to play every game 5 would be the average, but because I only buy and play games I think I would like it's normal to have a higher average. 7 is usefull, as it means, it didn't dissapoint, but maybe I wouldn't have bought it again. So for me a game rated a 7 is a 'don't-buy' unless it really speaks to me personally because of some mechanics or theme

I try to rate games I've played as 5 being the average of the games I've actually played. Without going out of my way to try to play games I don't like to balance the games that I do like. It makes it really easy to say something is better or worse than average, where average is defined absolutely in terms of games that I've played. I'm not completely successful, as my ratings show, but striving for that seems to be the most useful approach to me that I've found.
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Rich Shipley
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curtc wrote:
thebearthatwasnt wrote:
I think it's normal that 5 isn't the average. This is because of the selection bias. I think if I had to play every game 5 would be the average, but because I only buy and play games I think I would like it's normal to have a higher average. 7 is usefull, as it means, it didn't dissapoint, but maybe I wouldn't have bought it again. So for me a game rated a 7 is a 'don't-buy' unless it really speaks to me personally because of some mechanics or theme

I try to rate games I've played as 5 being the average of the games I've actually played. Without going out of my way to try to play games I don't like to balance the games that I do like. It makes it really easy to say something is better or worse than average, where average is defined absolutely in terms of games that I've played. I'm not completely successful, as my ratings show, but striving for that seems to be the most useful approach to me that I've found.


If you are rating from 1 to 10, then 5.5 might be the average to shoot for. Your 5.71 isn't too bad. Mine is a bit high at 5.99.
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Curt Carpenter
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rshipley wrote:
If you are rating from 1 to 10, then 5.5 might be the average to shoot for. Your 5.71 isn't too bad. Mine is a bit high at 5.99.

Good point. So 5 means barely below average, 6 means barely above average. Glad to hear I was closer than I thought. :-)
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