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Now that the dust has settled from the most aggressively mediocre E3 yet, we've entered that yearly lull in which the game industry kicks off its shoes and takes a pre-autumn nap. With crumminess behind us and boredom ahead, we can't think of a better time to dedicate a week to the celebratory prodding of all that is banal, boring and mediocre in the game industry. In the coming days, we'll drag the laziest aspects of our industry - kicking and screaming - out into the light and make fun of them. Welcome, friends, to Seven out of 10 Week.
Why Seven out of 10 Week? Seven out of 10 may not be the most frequent score to appear in game reviews, but it sure feels like it. More than just an awarded number, it's the product of an entire industry of reviewers who - for a variety of reasons - rarely use the entire one-to-10 scale available to them. Because today's conventional wisdom holds that anything below a score of five is just punishing a game that's already failed, seven out of 10 isn't the great score it used to be - it's the mushy middle, the didn't-quite-make-it, the refuge of critics without the balls to either slam a game or give it modest accolades.
Fig. 1: Few games released in the last 12 months are as emblematic
of Seven out of 10 as the relentlessly average TimeShift
To understand why seven scores show up so frequently, you need to understand something about game reviewers. Part of the problem is that many of them grew up in the American public school system, in which anything below 60 percent equals a failing grade. But the real reason sevens are so common is simple: laziness.
In most instances, a Seven out of 10 is a game that deserved either a six or an eight, but was either "just not bad enough" or "just not good enough" to fit whatever criteria the reviewer thought they needed to fit. A six might have been more appropriate, but then there would be the angry publicists to deal with, or - worse - angry fans, all screaming "console bias" and calling the reviewer's integrity into question.
Fig. 2: The fevered mind of a game reviewer deciding on a score
Alternately, the game might deserve an eight. But if it doesn't, then the reviewer will be reviled as a crappy critic who's soft on bad games and doesn't have the edge needed to do his or her job. Worse, the critic will have failed to serve the readers who came seeking advice on what to buy, which is the only real reason to write reviews in the first place.
Gripped by a powerful indecision, most reviewers end up glancing at the clock, shrugging and tapping the 7 key. Done! Moral crisis averted. Time for a nap.
We're not here to condemn critics for using Seven out of 10 like the reliable crutch it is - we're just holding it up as a symbol for all the shamelessly average crap we're going to dredge up for you to laugh at this week. Whether it's mediocrity in game coverage, game publicity or the games themselves, keep it here all this week for the absolute laziest things our industry has to offer.
Monday, July 21
Tuesday, July 22
Wednesday, July 23
Thursday, July 24
Friday, July 25
Jul 21, 2008