The Problem With Ratings

By Rosemary Young (October, 1996)
We'd like to begin this issue by thanking everyone who has e-mailed wishing us well. We really appreciate your comments and suggestions and enjoy reading them. Please keep on writing because we publish Quandary as a hobby -- your letters are the only payment we get.

Sorting through our mail there are a few requests that crop up again and again. Many of you have asked for an editorial and I am taking care of that here and now, although our 'Musing' has more or less substituted as an editorial up until this time. Also, you have asked for a letters page and for game ratings on our reviews but, by far the most popular request has been for some demos on our site. We can't do everything, even though we might like to. Sorry, we simply can't provide demos because we just don't have the space -- space costs money so we have to keep it to a minimum. Also, we don't have the time to organise such an undertaking, and this is the reason we haven't yet posted a letters page. We are planning to give this serious thought in the new year.

This leaves your requests for game ratings. To be honest, we have given this last point lots of thought and it's been pushed aside and fallen into the 'too hard' basket. Here is our dilemma ... err ... here is our quandary.

The problem with ratings ...
Firstly, how do you rate a game, what are the important components that deserve attention? The puzzles, the presentation, the story, the graphics, the sound ... the list goes on and on; and now includes such things as the quality of the acting and other aspects normally associated with movie making. It's a veritable quagmire, especially as everyone considers a different component to be important and many components only fall into a 'good' or 'bad' category because of player preference rather than due to the intrinsic merit of a game itself.

For instance, some players love seeing their favourite actors in computer games, others hate video sequences so a computer game is the last place they want to see an actor, no matter how good the acting. The former might rate an interactive movie high, the latter might find it difficult to dredge up, say, 2 out of 10 points -- the game might be good (or bad) no matter which camp favours it.

There are also those who are impressed by games with characters that like to hit, or even kill, each other; at the other end of the spectrum this kind of game isn't appreciated by many players who have seen it all before in a million Hollywood movies. Then, there are players like me, who love games with tricky puzzles that have you pacing the floor, and even going slightly mad searching for answers, whereas there are others who don't like to be stuck so they don't like this sort of game.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on forever. Some people appreciate mazes some people hate them, some enjoy logic puzzles, some don't, some like arcade-type sequences, some detest them.

So what do we do, how should we tackle rating? Clearly, we can't let personal preferences dictate a game's worth, if so I should rate a difficult game highly and an easy game much lower. Ridiculous, when an easier game would suit many players, and especially those who are just beginning to sample the delights of computer game playing. I would also be inclined to demolish a game with arcade sequences and praise one with a good maze. Just as ridiculous. Some of you would agree, some of you wouldn't -- the only sure thing is that whatever rating a game might receive, it won't please everyone.

There is probably a way to go about rating games reasonably well, but we haven't stumbled across an easy way to do this yet. In the meantime we get around the problem by telling you as much as possible about a game so that you (and not the reviewer) can make the decision as to whether or not you might like it. Hence we tell you if a game has video sequences, if it has arcade sequences or a maze, how difficult it is, what kind of puzzles it contains, whether it has an aggressive story line or is a fairy tale-type yarn, etc. etc. We are only human so we can't resist showing some of our preferences in our reviews (and even offering recommendations) but a positive review doesn't necessarily mean it's the game for you. Take note of the other points we make and draw your own conclusions.

This is the best we can do the moment, we can only hope that it is sufficient. In any event, game ratings are still only one person's opinion.

Happy reading

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.