Someone I follow on Twitter recently insinuated that a 10/10 game should not exist. He elaborated on this claim somewhat by stating that “absolute zero” is the extreme polar opposite of a 10/10, perhaps perceiving the label as one only reserved for games with no flaws whatsoever (which is, as implied, impossible). This mindset is one that I feel is more on the pragmatic alignment of criticism, which finds more value in the “objective” rather than the “feeling,” where one cannot help but never see anything as a 10/10 because that would imply it is perfect, an accolade impossible to achieve.
In my own mind, there is still a strong attachment to this style of critique, which for me is akin to stacking pros and cons next to one another and judging their worth in a direct comparison chart. To this day, I don’t have very many 10/10’s to my name, with only three with anime, zero with video games, and two with films (Kung Pow‘s 10/10 is (probably) a joke; The Truman Show is in need of a rewatch). The Twitter user’s insistence on the impossible feat of a 10/10 title made me think about my own standards with my 10/10 marks, and whether I actually find them perfect or not. I also couldn’t help but feel a little elitist knowing that I tend to be a lot less 10/10-happy than other critics I either follow or read about while browsing various media-tracking sites.
Do I think the things I’ve rated a 10/10 are perfect?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: When I rate things, I find I use gut feelings and my own emotional state while indulging in them as a crutch for how far up or down a rating I feel a certain topic “deserves.” Generally speaking, if something has me immersed, gets me emotional (i.e. happy, sad, scared, anxious, etc.), and makes me think (important part), it will likely be given something above a 5/10, the average score. How much it immerses me or how much it gets me emotionally-attached typically benefits the score dependent on the level. Now, the reasoning behind what gets me immersed or emotional is another factor altogether, but for now, I’ll just stick with the emotional aspect (so as to save time).
At the same time (similarly to the logic presented by the Twitter user), the level at which a subject bores me or gets me negatively emotional (i.e. frustrated, cynical, etc.) will often deter the score from even reaching a 5/10. To some extent, this doesn’t even need to occur with generally average topics, as the repetition of seeing consistently average (or “safe”) products may motivate me to rate it lower simply because I tire of seeing it. But, again, that’s a little more off-topic than anything here.
To get a 10/10 from me, a topic needs to provide benefits to my emotional state that puts me in a state so blissful that it overrides the qualities of the negative. Take Toradora! for example, which reigned as my favorite anime for several years until the memories of nostalgia and sentimental favoring wore off. I was aware of the negative attributes it held, what with the overexcessive use of drama and the occasionally pretentious writing, and still held it to that standard of excellence that all else strove for. This is due to the positive qualities that it had—things that held more importance to me, personally—overriding the baggage it also carries. Almost ironically, a 10/10 isn’t a statement of perfection, but a testament to those that go beyond what should be objectively possible; to have a series trigger an overwhelmingly positive response in me that makes anything else of negative value completely disintegrate.
A 10/10 score is not me saying that I think a subject is perfect, and that will never be the case for me. A 10/10 is more like an indication that a topic provided something so radically overwhelming to me that it short-circuits my objective mindset, only warming me in the embrace of “all the feels.” When I think of Blade Runner 2049, which is the go-to example for my favorite film, I am constantly within a state of sublime. What that film means to me is more than any pro-con list could speak to alone, and the measures it takes to encourage such a state of mind-crushing entertainment and insight is something that I value over anything negative about the film.
And there is—negative things, that is, about Blade Runner 2049. Many negative criticisms I’ve seen I can completely understand, and in some ways agree with. These don’t do anything for my rating, however, as when I think about these negative criticisms, they don’t immediately dent my already lucid fascination with the film’s overall body of positive parts. Sometimes, when someone points out a mighty flaw in something I watched and enjoyed, my heart sinks and I go, “Oh… Oh, yeah… That’s bad.” (Same can happen in reverse.) For 10/10’s, that pretty much doesn’t happen unless I find the reasoning to lower the score on my own accord (such as with Toradora!).
While I don’t entirely agree with the point of the person who inspired this post (or the way he went about his claims), I do find myself empathizing with his position as someone who doesn’t tend to rate things higher than an 8/10, generally. Of the 429 anime documented on my MAL profile, I’ve given 48 of them an 8/10 or higher (11%); of the 281 films documented on my letterboxd profile, I’ve given 49 of them an 8/10 or higher (17%). (These statistics take into account anything I may have given an 8/10, but precisely scored with a 7.5/10 in entries.) Even getting a 10/10 out of me is a difficult venture, as with KeenGamer I’ve yet to even reach a 9/10 during my career! But this is also indicative of just how prestigious a 10/10 is—only reserved for those that completely obliterate my expectations and allow my mind to fully escape the confines of reality and settle into the world presented before me. It’s not perfect, nor will it ever be, but it’s as close to perfect as it can be to me, personally.
What is a 10/10 to you? Is it a perfect score? Is it something more (or less)? Should 10/10’s really not even exist? Please feel free to provide answers in the comments and talk with me about it. Thanks for reading, and have a good time-of-day!