UploadVR is going back to 5-star ratings for our game reviews.
We've gone through quite a few changes to our review system over the years, but after trying out our label system for a year and a half, we've decided to go back to 5-star reviews.
We've used our current label system, which lacked scores on all reviews, since the beginning of last year. This was a move we'd hoped would focus attention on why the game didn't get a label, or if it did, help highlight exactly why something should be considered essential, recommended or outright avoided. The system did accomplish that, mostly, but we discovered some quirks as we went along.
We found that over time we were grouping too many games into either being unlabelled or in the recommended category. In other words, we were not awarding Avoid or an Essential label very often and, while that was partially by design in the guidelines themselves, we've realized this isn't producing the kind of criticism we'd hoped to present our audience.
That's why we're going back to a 5-star system. We're hoping that our final verdicts and criticism will be more evenly spread across the spectrum of ratings going forward – check out the updated guidelines below for each star rating to understand how we're thinking about this.
Breakdown of the 5-Star Ratings
You can read more specific breakdowns on the guidelines for each star rating in our review guidelines. But the gist is that:
1-Star and 2-Star ratings represent experiences that miss the mark and aren't likely to be worth your time, with the former reserved for experiences that are truly functionally broken or creatively bankrupt.
3-Star reviews are those that fall in the middle of the road – they work as intended and are potentially worth trying out, depending on what you're looking for.
4-Star reviews deliver on their promises and excel at what they do. These are often experiences that master a genre or style of game – that means they still might not be for everyone, but they're perfect for those looking for something specific.
5-Star experience are, as you would expect, la crème de la crème. Nobody's perfect, but these experiences are rare entries that often push the boundaries while mastering the medium – everyone should check them out.
Haven't you done this before?
Yes, we have, but we're hoping it'll look a little different this time.
When using a 5-star system in the past, we found that many games simply ended up falling right down the middle, ending up in the 3-Star category. Our new guidelines, though, are designed to help UploadVR reviewers focus their criticism toward clear justification for a title's rating.
For example, there's multiple scenarios where an experience might get a 2-Star rating. It could be creatively interesting but technically flawed, for example. Alternatively, it could be the opposite – the game runs flawlessly, but is creatively uninteresting or uninspiring.
Likewise, our 4-Star guidelines take into account that some games excel at a particular genre – even if that genre isn't for everyone. Roguelikes might not be everyone's jam, for example, but a good example of the genre might be assigned a 4-Star rating anyway. Even if an experience isn't for everyone, it can still be rated 4-Stars for catering to a subset of players or capitalizing on a certain type of experience well.
Expanding critical expression
At large, we hope these new guidelines will allow our writers to better express strong opinions and rate more experiences across the entire spectrum of star ratings.
In practice, that might mean you see more 2-Star and 4-Star reviews than you used to when we previously assigned star ratings. We think that opting for stronger and more direct critiques will allow our readers to more easily judge what's worth their time and money, while also giving our writers more room for critical expression and thought.
Aiming for stronger opinions will also increase the likelihood that one of our writers will write something you disagree with about a game you love. We believe hosting strong critical perspectives, even when those buck popular sentiment, is an important feature of our work as a publication. How we review VR content is likely to change further still, but we think our reviews will be more interesting and useful if individual voices can use UploadVR as a place to express whether an experience resonates with them personally, as opposed to framing their critique through the lens of whether it is ideal for everyone else.
We think the best way for readers to judge what games are worth their time is by comparing their preferences against those of our writers, whether you agree with a review or not. We believe this re-re-revamped system should allow our writers to more clearly express what they love and what they don't, which we think will make it easier to see how that stacks up with your own preferences.
Our first reviews using this new system will kick off next week with Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice and our updated final verdict on Ghostbusters: Return of the Ghost Lord.