The IGN Review Scale
Art criticism, whether you’re talking about games or movies or TV shows or comic books, isn’t a science. To use games as an example, while you can count the pixels on screen, the number of frames per second displayed, or even the number of hours of content available, none of these things mean a game is good; even if it’s technically bulletproof and runs at 4K and 144Hz it could still be terribly boring. Conversely, a game can run in 900p at 30 frames per second (with occasional dips into the 20s) and still be worthy of our highest rating: Masterpiece.
The fact is, while many have tried, you cannot objectively measure how good or fun a game or movie or TV show or comic book is in the same way you can quantify things like temperature or mass or speed. All of these mediums are art forms, and the goal of art is to inspire an emotional reaction in its audience. Therefore, what we’re doing in reviews is talking about how a given work affects us emotionally when we watch or read or play it – and the review is the inherently subjective perspective of an individual critic. When we then summarize that review into a score, we’re not doing any kind of calculation; there’s no “default” score that’s added to or subtracted from to arrive at the final number, and no qualities or features (or lack thereof) are worth a prescribed number of points. That’s because scores aren’t math – they are code, with each number corresponding to a description on our scale.
Historically, IGN used a 100-point scale for more than a decade, briefly switching to a 20-point scale from 2010 to 2012 before reverting back. However, starting in January 2020, we’ve changed over to a 10-point scale for games, movies, TV, and comics (leaving intact the scores of our back catalogue). We believe this scale, as described below, clearly and effectively communicates the decisive opinion of the reviewer without getting lost in the weeds over the difference between incremental scores.
Scores are just a baseline for our opinion, though. All reviews go through a stringent editing process for fairness, transparency, and accuracy by the time they finally appear on IGN and stand as the IGN Review. That being said, there’s also a byline on every text you see, and we encourage you to follow our writers on platforms like Twitter, get to know them on their IGN pages, and try to get an understanding of where they’re coming from based on their recommended games. With many different voices on display at IGN — both from current and former contributors — it isn’t feasible that every opinion will magically line up (pending the development of hive-mind technology). A reviewer of a sequel to a game that came out a decade ago, for example, shouldn’t be beholden to the score a previous reviewer gave the original because that was the view of a different person in a different time and place. Basically, we don't want review scores to end the discussion, but to encourage more of them, and we want you to interact with our reviewers throughout the entirety of the process in a smart, courteous, and passionate way.