In a nutshell, I would say that I score a game based primarily on how well it succeeds at being what it’s trying to be. A game neither starts at 10 and goes down or starts at 0 and goes up, it simply is what it is.
By the same token, I’ve probably extracted more hours of enjoyment out of games I’ve given sixes and sevens to than I have from many of my game of the year candidates. I bring this up because it’s important to acknowledge that not every game deserves a 9 or a 10. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good games, it’s just a recognition of reality. Not every movie can be The Matrix, not every book can be House of Leaves and not every band can be The Tragically Hip. Sometimes you just want to sit down and unwind with a nice fun popcorn game, and you should be able to do that without having to convince yourself that it’s caviar.
1, 1.5 (Abysmal)
A game that earns a 1 is devoid of any redeeming qualities, lacking sound gameplay, a proper story or any interesting ideas. It may be fundamentally broken, extremely offensive in some way or just unforgivably lazy. There is simply nothing to learn from these games.
Games Like: Postal, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
2, 2.5 (Terrible)
Not quite the bottom of the barrel, but not something you should waste your time with.
Games Like: Achron, Bravo Team
3, 3.5 (Very Bad)
A 3 is where a game crosses the line from not very good to truly bad, with one or more things seriously wrong with it. A 3 might have some interesting mechanic or aspect of its design, but not something that ends up salvaging it.
Games Like: Drawn To Death, Resident Evil 6
4, 4.5 (Bad)
In the cases where a game earns a 4, I usually don’t have much fun with it or if I do, I can detect a problem that holds it back in a major way.
Games Like: Red Steel, Deadpool, Perfect Dark Zero
5, 5.5 (Mediocre)
The center of the spectrum. I find that when reviewing a game, 5’s (or games that earn either surrounding number, really) are those games where personal taste enters into the equation the most. I could have countless hours of fun with a 5, like I did with Metroid Prime: Hunters, or it can frustrate me into submission like Rain World did.
Games Like: Lords Of The Fallen, The Binding Of Isaac, Silent Hill: Origins
6, 6.5 (Good)
A game usually earns a six for one of two reasons, by either being a baseline competent game that doesn’t aspire to be more than what it is, or by aiming high and missing hard.
Games Like: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Borderlands, Destiny
7, 7.5 (Very Good)
A 7 is where a game starts to enter the favorable end of the spectrum and where I’ll usually start recommending it to my friends.
Games Like: Bioshock 2, Gravity Rush, Fire Emblem: Awakening
8, 8.5 (Great)
Games that earn 8’s and above are truly special and usually where I start seriously bothering my friends to play them.
Games Like: C.R.U.S.H., Saints Row 2, Demon’s Souls
9, 9.5 (Awesome)
Just shy of a masterpiece. A 9 might have a few annoyances, but nothing that stops it from being a fantastic experience.
Games Like: Dishonored, Helldivers, Halo 2, Alan Wake
A score reserved only for the best of the best. No game is perfect, but any flaws that a game earning a 10 has don’t get in the way of the fun in any significant way.
Games Like: Bloodborne, The Last Of Us, Burnout 3: Takedown