Just about every place on on the ‘net that does reviews, and all the magazines, use some sort of rating scale. Usually it’s numeric (1-10, 1-100), or it could be iconographic (stars, for example). It’s a quick and dirty system, and I’ve never used it.

However objective one tries to be, there is always some personal bias involved, and you can’t really quantify the subjective. Beyond that, ratings take away from the review itself.

Why bother reading it, when the number is there for an overall assessment, along with a quick pros/cons feature for highlights and lowlights?

The numbers are also the subject of fierce – often vitriolic – arguments around the net. Flaming is common, and it’s rare to see a thoughtful response among the trash talk.

My feeling is that a review is meant to be read, and the summation is only an indicator. How much can you really tell about a game because it’s “5/10” or “85/100” or “3 stars” or whatever?

Even with pros/cons, you have just a superficial understanding of the game. Only by reading the review can you see what it’s like (providing the review is well-written).

When CGW moved to rating games (stars), I resisted. They kept asking, because I was the only one not doing it. Finally, I said they could put whatever rating they wanted on the game, based on the review and what they themselves knew of the product. So ratings showed up on my reviews, but they were from the editors, not from me.

And there was one other thing that completely blew me away when I found out about it. My reviews used to come with a “bottom line”. One day, that disappeared.

Johnny (Wilson) told me – and I was too bemused to ask how he knew – that people were skipping the article and just reading the “bottom line”! Urk! Even before ratings came in, they were passing over the “meat”. That hurt.

Anyone who writes a review knows it takes time, thought, and effort to produce a good article. The piece is meant to be read, so potential buyers have a clear idea of whether or not the game will appeal to them.

I believe that ratings are a bad idea, and we’d be better off without them. Otherwise, why not just dispense with the review completely, and only put up that rating with a quick look at good and bad points? Why bother with writing a complete review when few will read it?

For that matter, how many gamers these days pay real attention to reviews or ratings before they buy? Much of the dispute over a game’s rating comes from people who already have played it (or are playing it).

This is much the same as when people commented on my reviews in CGW, as I mentioned in On Reviewing: they had played the game before the article came out.

It seems that even with the immediacy of the ‘net, not a lot has changed. Are reviews obsolete? I don’t think so. But they may end up that way, thanks (if we can call it that) to those ever-present “ratings”.