Monday, 6 August 2012

The Method

I think it's important to explain my review process so that you, the readers, have a resource to fall back on if you have any questions or concerns. I'll be explaining my general approach to reviewing any material, and I'll also go into the specifics of reviewing movies, comics, and games.

The General Approach

Mini rant

I'm not a fan of rating things out of ten. For some odd reason, it's become the most common system, but to me it makes no sense. You've probably heard this particular question before but, what's the difference in value between, say, a 3/10 and a 4/10? Other than some abstract feeling of magnitude, nothing really separates those two scores. More importantly, the level of dislike (in this case, anyway) varies quite a lot from person to person. One person may think 3/10 is just a placeholder score implying that the particular product is really really bad, while another may actually have given a precise 3/10 score based on utilitarian considerations. Combine this with the fact that different mediums have wildly different expectations from scores, and this seeks to confuse people even more.

A good example is comparing games and movies. As far as movies go, in a ten-scale system anything 6 and above is considered "good", with anything 7.5 and above being rare. For video games, anything above a 9 is considered good, something between 8 and 9 is considered decent, but perhaps flawed, 7-8 considered barely considerable, and anything below that garbage. What creates this discrepancy? Is it the fact that games tend to serve as good entertainment more often than films? I don't know, but I do know that there is a huge difference between the ten-scale systems of films and games. As I said earlier, this serves to confuse people, especially on sites where both of these mediums are portrayed.

Bottom line is...rating things out of 10 does not seem to be a good approach, which is why I don't use it.


Now, moving on that what system I will use...choosing between a 4 star and a 5 star system, I prefer the 5 star one, since it gives slightly more leeway. I won't do half stars, either, because then the 5 star system becomes a compressed version of the 10 point system...

That essentially leaves us with 6 possible scores, which makes things a lot simpler and less murky. This is usually what I consider the scores to mean:

5 - Perfection, or as close to it as can be gotten. Usually denoted to things that are both excellent in quality and are highly creative. Highly recommended even for non-fans of the genre/medium/series. Rarely handed out.

4 - Great, something which is definitely worth investing in. Usually given to things that are highly creative and done well, or things which are excellent in quality but might lack originality. Definitely worth it for fans, recommended for non-fans. Uncommon rating.

3 - Decent, something which may be flawed but has enough redeemable qualities to make it worth picking up. May not be the most well crafted and might lack originality and punch. Recommended for fans, maybe worth getting for non-fans if it is interesting enough. Ideally, the most common rating.

2 - Mediocre, something which has some serious flaws, lacks polish or is very formulaic or boring. Usually not recommended, fans may enjoy it but non-fans should probably stay away. Hopefully an uncommon rating.

1 - Bad, plain and simple. Little to nothing good about it, very poorly made, no creativity and/or a bore to experience. Fans should stay away because it's an insult to them, non-fans shouldn't waste their time. Again, hopefully a rating that won't be common.

0 - Apocalyptic. More of a joke rating, reserved for something that is really really terrible, or something which was expected to be good, but ended up with a rating of 1, and so has been bumped down out of shame. Hopefully never given out, ever.

See? Simple stuff. The explanations weren't even necessary; just by looking at the number, you can know all that you need to know.

Of course, some may consider this too simplistic. For example, something might have really good qualities but be brought down by a fatal flaw, perhaps inspiring a rating of 3, while something may be a solid piece of work but without anything particularly engaging, also getting a 3. How do you distinguish between these two similarly rated products? Doesn't a situation like this prove that the 5 star system is flawed?

Well, I would respond that even a ten-scale system can't really alleviate the issue. However, I do recognize the problem, which is why I will be adopting another level of criticism; essentially, a categorical approach to a product's qualities. That means that I'll be reviewing an item based on several different criteria, varying by medium, and give a score for each criteria. I'll then give an overall rating to the product, and that rating may or may not be an averaged score based on the previously rated criteria.

This post is getting rather lengthy, so I'll cut it short here and make another post detailing the different criteria I'll be using for the different mediums. So, for now, adieu!

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