You can’t represent a complex opinion numerically

The title pretty much says it all. I’ve felt, for a long time, that review scores are a bit of a strange invention. While I see their merit I don’t think they really hold any sway actually being used in professional journalism or reviews and this idea seems to confuse or annoy a lot of people. Just as an aside before we get into things, this is a rambly post, I haven’t got a plan on how to convince you of your heathen ways.

I’ll start my piece of with some facts, however. At time of writing The Avengers (2012) holds an aggregate score of 8.1 on IMDB. What does this mean? It means it’s a pretty decent superhero film. Am I interested in seeing it? Not in the slightest. Why? Because it’s a superhero film. The score means nothing to me; it could have 10/10 from every reviewer on the internet, it could be 1/10 from every reviewer on the internet, I still don’t want to see it because it is a superhero film. I’m not into them, I’ve never liked them (see here for why) but people seem to think that, because it has a high score, I should go and see it. I should note that it is specifically because it has a high score and not because it has great reviews. In fact, as you might expect, it has a lot of good reviews, thousands in fact, and coupled with that there are some mediocre reviews and shome bad reviews.

The reviews are pointless without context, and the context is given in the descripiton that reviewers should put at the start of their review, but advertisers seem to not care. They don’t care whether you know what the film is about, they just care about their great reviews; it’s the same reason why books now, instead of having the blurb of the book on the back, a lot decide to have reviews there and the blurb on the inside of the front cover, but I can quantify this even more. The featured image for this post is an advertisement for the film “Legend.” I have a number of problems with this film, mainly its name because it is so generic that, in five years time, it will already be forgotten. That along with the fact that there is already a film, a pretty good one, called The Krays, which tells the exact same true story this will do. But back on track, do you see The Guardian’s review in the middle there? Do you see how it is tactically put between a load of 4-star reviews? The Guardian gave the film a 2-start review, which means nothing because they could just leave it out and include another one of their glowing reviews, but they chose to leave it in and disguise it because people will see that it got a good score from a respected site instead of reading a review to see that the reviewer didn’t like the film.

But I feel I have gone off track from my original point, but it is such a small thing that is so easy to fix. If you read or listen to a review you can usually get a feel for whether the item in question is good or not. If you just look at a review score that is, let’s say, 6/10, that could be a good film or a bad film. It’s not the obviously high review that a 9/10 is but it’s not so objectively bad as a 2/10, so do you see it? Read the review and you’ll find out. Unless you have an extreme opinion about something your review scores mean nothing because everything the middle is just a bit debatable. One good thing about review scores though is that, the way media is changing where people get their opinions of games from people playing them or talking about them on YouTube, review scores are taking a back seat. I don’t think they’ll go away completely because they are intrinsically tied to reviewers, and the world needs a few of them to tell people what’s good and what’s not. There are things that they will see/play/read that no one else will, and if it’s really good then it falls to the reviewer to scream and shout about it until people listen. For something that’s really amazing then a score out of ten might be useful, especially if someone scores it poorly and you can then see why they found fault in it where everyone else didn’t, but we really don’t need scores for everything.

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