“There are some people so addicted to exaggeration that they can’t tell the truth without lying.”
The statement that we live in an age of hyperbole ought to come as no surprise to anyone. Our modern life of conveniences and leisure, at least in the industrialized world, is one which can afford the luxury of exaggeration. This has come to dominate nearly every aspect of the human experience.
Finding love is equivocal to the Holy Grail. Sex is the ultimate euphoria to live for. Entertainment is caught in an endless crusade of trying to top itself again and again, getting louder and more viscerally visual each year. Organized religion has widely turned into charismatic extravagance and showmanship. Society has taken to calling nearly everyone racist, one of the worst possible things you could call somebody in the US, even if its just someone else saying something you don’t like. Politics, infamously, seems totally invaded by hyperbole. Even the way that we speak, using phrases like “It was the absolute best” take the most extreme statements and apply them to everything. Read some of the headlining reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and tell me they aren’t hyperbole meant to grab attention among a sea of information. It’s fluff for the civilization of the short attention span.
Is this progress? I don’t know. By which I mean I’m actually not sure. One way at least in which I’m sure it doesn’t represent progress is in the area of critical thinking, specifically critique of art, books, movies, games, and so on. Shock value and click-baiting has become more significant than balanced thoughts. People either say they loved it and it was perfect, or they hated it and it was just okay.
To cut short this monologue, let’s talk about the 10-point grading system. Let me explain that I’m not saying this is the best grading system there is. Not my point. It is simply one which many reviewers, such as our own, employ. On a scale of 1 to 1o, the lowest number is of course the worst and the highest is the one indicating perfection. That would mean that a score of 5 is totally average. Read that in modern language as “totally crap”.
I recently observed about four comments that were exactly the same on several other sites which reviewed Breath of Fire. I’ve just finished reviewing the game myself and I often like to read other people’s thoughts on a game after I complete my own take on it. A few critics placed it around 7/10 which I thought wasn’t accurate for reasons I laid out in my review, and 6/10 which I thought was better. My own score was exactly 5.0/10. On the sites that bore a similar 5/10 score, I read four separate comments which said: “A score of 5/10 is harsh.”
Is it? If 5/10 is average, when did “average” become an insult? It just means it’s standard, typical, normal, normative, ordinary, regular. Sure unremarkable isn’t the same thing as great or wonderful or flawless or exceptional, but average is not the same as below average, which I’d consider to actually be a little harsh. The thing is, it seems like nearly every game in the world gets more than a fair share of scores between 8 and 10. Are we just going to grade on a three-point scale between 8 and 10 from now on? Is 8, or God forbid 7, really the worst there is? NPCs, 7 is gooder than good. 8 is grander than grand. 6 itself is above average. Above average, my friends. That’s essentially the same thing as exceptional, the exception to standard.
With gaming, a few things like nostalgia and hype get in the way of sound and reasonable scoring. Maybe that explains why every new big name AAA title is the next perfect thing, when it’s first released, and then forgotten about after a short time. Not the best example since it’s actually amazing, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is being hailed as this perfect game, when in fact it has a few very minor issues with it. Reminder: perfection cannot have flaws, by definition, no matter how minor they are. I’ll leave you in suspense as to where I think Breath of the Wild actually falls on the 10-point scale, for now, but I consider “perfection” to be just a buzz word for “very good”. You may think Breath of the Wild is perfect, but I’m less convinced that your opinion is precise based on how many games you consider to be perfect as well.
Comments like the ones I mentioned above calling out average scores as “harsh” are something I haven’t been confronted with too often here. In over a year of blogging, I can only think of a handful of times where a commenter and I have expressed prolonged disagreement over a score I gave to something. Every time that this was the case, though, it was for a piece of entertainment that was released several or many years ago, risking the coloring of nostalgia.
Let it be said, I’m never bothered by disagreement since it often creates greater and richer discussion rather than agreement. It’s the dismissive statements like “that’s harsh” which I find unhelpful and in some cases disrespectful. If someone wrote over a thousand words explaining their case and then someone comes along to tear that down with a statement as curt as “you’re wrong”, then going even further to allege personal attacks to invalidate the writer’s opinion, “Most people think this…” for commonality or “If you’d played the first game you’d know…” for lack of knowledge, then I think that’s actually wrong.
Disagreement is also unfounded if the person cannot express why they disagree with the score at all. A person is free to disagree in a free society but without reasons to back up their opinion then no one ought to take that person seriously. It’s the equivalent of a boo or hiss from an audience without reasonable basis. If they can give reasoning for their disagreement, more respect to them. If they can’t, then I merely wonder if it’s the result of hyperbolic infection warping the perception of the 10-point scale, where a 5 is a “low and terrible” score.
Now, I’m not writing this out of some kind of vindictive anger because someone left me a nasty comment! Haha! Please don’t think that! Ultimately, I hope this encourages some thought on the value of grading scales and the value of discussion in disagreement. I don’t care if you don’t use a scoring system but we do to place an easily identifiable number that sums up our thoughts on the piece of entertainment being reviewed. It is in the end just a number. It’s valuable for summary but not if scoring ceases to be meaningful because of hype.
Let it be said that this isn’t an apologetic for the 10-point grading system. It’s the one I use but I’m not prepared to die defending it. I don’t want to defend it at all. It’s the interpretation of it which has become skewed that concerns me, not the fact that everyone has opinions they’re entitled to.
So please, if you disagree with someone, leave a detailed and reasonable comment for them like a decent human being in a civilized society. That’s all.
-The Well-Red Mage
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