This was a tricky one.
Back when I wrote for Nerd Rock from the Sun – Lizard Lounge’s predecessor, in a sense – I used to refer to IGN’s and PC Gamer’s systems. They seemed appropriate enough for scores; well-articulated, a broad series of grades, making is easy (more or less) to slot a game in place.
But assigning a number to a game has always made me vaguely uncomfortable. As someone who prizes the stories that gaming gives me, I’ve never assigned much importance to the score in reviews I read. When I see a 90, for example, I say to myself, ‘Okay, this is a very good game.’ But that does little or nothing to inform my decision to purchase.
Before I actually decide to buy a game, I’ll either read a preview or review, or – more often than not – hunt down gameplay footage. The preview/review gives me an idea of the kind of stories that the reviewer walked away with; the videos let me see the game in action. I bought X-COM 2, for example, based entirely on Christopher Odd’s excellent Let’s Plays.
So when I place such little importance on scores myself, I’ve always been vaguely uneasy assigning a number to a game’s worth. In essence, I was trying to quantify the amount of fun I was having and the system we were using didn’t quite do the job.
I took this problem to Lizard Lounge’s writing team.
How we figured it out
Matthew suggested a Steam-type system – recommended or not. I liked that. I liked that very much. The simplicity of it appealed to me greatly. To my mind, it was the equivalent of me telling a friend, “Hey, buy this, it’s awesome.” or “God no, don’t waste your money.”
Neil suggested a better than/worse than system. And while I liked that idea also, I can’t say with any degree of confidence that a) the breadth of my gaming knowledge will allow me to make a satisfactory comparison, and b) there will always be an appropriate comparison.
Then Eoin came along, suggested that perhaps we combine the two, and pointed us in the direction of Eurogamer’s review policy. You’ll find it here.
I thoroughly liked it because it’s incredibly straightforward.
There are three ranks: Essential, Recommended, Avoid. To my mind, examples of Essential games would be The Witcher 3, Pillars of Eternity, Deserts of Kharak. Recommended games would be Drone Zero Gravity, Pulse, Sym, Funk of Titans. Games to Avoid would be Trapped Dead Lockdown and Fearless Fantasy.
The bulk of the games we review, which don’t make as enormous an impact on our lives but aren’t bad either, fit snugly in the middle. And, handily, Eurogamer even uses a 5-star system with this – although, admittedly, theirs is to ensure a high-profile presence in search results.
So here’s how we’re going to lift Eurogamer’s system and apply it to Lizard Lounge.
All games will be given a score out of 5.
5 stars will be awarded to essential games. Ones that are the finest examples of games in their category or, simply, games in general. The Witcher 3, Pillars of Eternity and Rocket League are prime examples.
4 stars will be awarded to games that we highly recommend playing. They may not be the greatest games in their genre, but there will be plenty to enjoy. And the inevitable flaws will be minor. Examples include Drone Zero Gravity, Pulse, Shadow of Mordor and Sym.
3 stars will be awarded to everything in the middle. Games that are good, fun, enjoyable. Not necessarily great, but certainly worth playing.
1 star (note the absence of a 2-star rating) is for games that you shouldn’t poke with a stick if Steam offers to drop them wholesale at your feet. They have few or no redeeming qualities and most certainly aren’t worth spending money on. Trapped Dead Lockdown is perhaps the best example of this type.
And that’s all, folks
That’s how we plan to review games. It’s a system that we might well extend to comics, perhaps movies and TV shows as well, in the future. If there’s an addendum to the policy, it’ll be added as a new section and clearly flagged out, as well as the date on which it was added.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or just want to say things to us, check out @lounginglizards or email email@example.com
Editor, Lizard Lounge
February 22, 2016