In Defense of Perfect Scores

You will see, occasionally, the complaint that a video game has been given a perfect score. 10/10. 5/5. All five stars.

The complaint tends to be that there are too many of these perfect numbers. These scores must come, the thinking goes, from easily-impressed reviewers who are as full of bias as they are breathless.

Some reviewers support this reaction by saying they will not give a perfect score. Nothing, they say, is perfect.

I give that line of thinking a 6 out of 10.

I'd like there to be more perfect scores.

Perfect scores do not indicate perfect video games, because there is no such thing as a perfect video game. No created work exists that is indisputably without flaw.

If we believed games could be perfect, what would be our exhibits? The eternal Pac-Man, though it might not have been as fun as Ms. Pac-Man? The ubiquitous Tetris, which has had soundtracks you may not like? What of the dominating Angry Birds, which pleases millions while still not fitting quite right into some mobile phone screens? How about the excellent, aged Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time with its annoying fairy helper? Or the magnificent Super Mario 64 and its muddy graphics? Can we give the best praise to Metal Gear Solid, except when its controls betray it?

If we will spare the world's best video games the highest statistical praise, let's demote our praise of the Sistine Chapel for requiring the bending of one's neck to see it. And let's lament that Michelangelo didn't capture a Mona Lisa-quality smile on either God or man. The best movies, sculptures and plays I have ever seen have had flaws and inconveniences, as do the best books and songs.

If we believed games could be perfect, what would be our exhibits?
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At Kotaku we "score" video games with a Yes/No/NotYet in response to the question "Should you play this game?" We do this as we endeavor to give the readers of our reviews a more natural response to a more natural question about the quality of a game. But I do not begrudge our peers who utilize taste mathematics to quantify the quality of what they have played. Many people like a number. Many people don't just want to know if a video game is fat or skinny with quality. They want to know what its quality weighs, assuming such a measurement can be ascertained.

Today, our friends at Polygon reviewed Diablo III, which may or may not be a most excellent game. We gave it a Yes. They gave it a 10/10 and yet their reviewer acknowledged the game was not perfect (highlight added by me):

In Defense of Perfect Scores

Cue the response from a reader protesting that the number did not match the caveat. And cue subsequent readers who said those two things could co-exist.

In Defense of Perfect Scores

Let us give more games the highest honors. Not because games need to be graded on a curve. Time already corrodes most games as advances in technology make many games tough, in retrospect, to enjoy. The best games already crumble from the withering impact of advances in design. Most great games also suffer a stinginess born of an impossible standard.

No video game is perfect. But so many of them are perfect 10's.

(Top photo credit | rimira/Shutterstock)