1-star ratings on IFDB - what do you think?

Recently I have been revising some of my old ratings as I have changed opion on the topic but I’m not done yet. For that reason I would ask your opinions on 1-star ratings on IFDB.

Should we never give a 1-star rating on IFDB without a review? (And what about 2-star ratings?)
[according to IFDB: The star scale is inherently subjective, so it’s up to you to determine what the different levels mean.]

I don’t have time to review all the games I play - at least not thoroughly. Of course, I could just do mini-review of two-lines explaining why I do/don’t like it, putting this “lousy” review on the front page of IFDB and pushing down the great reviews. Perhaps an idea for a comment field for your own rating?

My current view is that I should not discourage new authors so avoid 1-star ratings to new authors, perhaps unless the majority of people rate the game highly. Then they should be able to accept that not everyone likes their game. But ratings should of course always be given in good faith, also 1-star ratings. When I just started writing games, I was happy if someone gave me 2 stars rather than no rating. More experienced and popular authors may even like the honesty of a 1-star rating(?)

I’m just curious what people think here.


I generally don’t like to leave star ratings without reviews. I communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the game so the person reading it can decide if it’s up their alley, since this is also how I decide on which games to play.

For 1-star reviews, it’s really important to go into why you think a game deserves it, and I reserve this for games that were actively obnoxious or I just had a terrible time playing, such as Stiffy Makane or Not the Lord of the Rings. 2-stars usually have one aspect that I liked, like a good story starter or a creative concept that was just executed badly, and it’s important to give them this credit. Seeing 1- or 2-star ratings in the wild with no elaboration tends not to help (why does Cragne Manor have a single 2-star rating?), since I don’t know what the rater’s perception of an awful or bad game is.

I do write more cautiously around new authors, and make sure to highlight what I think they already did well or what they can still improve on (and how I’d go about it). They’re more likely to polish or refine their game, or even keep these comments in mind for their later writing. I try to put myself in their shoes – how would I feel if someone said this about a passion project I spent months on? – and be supportive and encouraging.


I always think it’s worth saying something. even if one sentence. In fact, any number of stars without comment is dubious.


I have never given a 1-star rating on IFDB. (I have in a comp-context, but that’s a different metric.)

The reason is that I have never forced myself to hang around long enough to finish a game I really don’t like.

I have given some 2-star ratings. Skimming over the reviews of those, a few motivations stand out for the combination of low score and still finishing the game:

  • Games that are chock-full of bugs, linguistic errors or non-sequiturs that managed to get me entertained (laughing my nads off) at a meta-level. ( The Darkest Road)
  • Games that are buggy, underimplemented, unbalanced but that still manage to sparkle (that one great puzzle; that one great NPC). ( Deep Space Drifter)
  • Games that got me through a rainy brainless afternoon , like a bad action/romantic flick would. (Myth)
  • Games that disappointed me so bad that I was probably too harsh in my rating. (Aunts and Butlers)

And going over my ratings, I see that there is a game that really deserves a 1. I probably gave it 2 stars because I had an approximation of fun yelling and cursing at it and daring myself to see if it could get worse: Gerbil Riot of '67


Tangentially; According to your review of Myth, the game was re-released in 2020. Is this true?

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A reference to the Spectrum Next version, I’m guessing. Which, I probably don’t need to link to for you. :slight_smile: Not really a “revamp”, I guess. Although you could always do one. :slight_smile:

Thanks for digging this up, @8bitAG . I was sinking away in shame as I could not find my own source material for a claim in an IFDB review. I’m still not sure anymore where I found the info on the “revamping”.

Personally, I think the scale is there to be used – if you never give 1-star reviews, then 2-star reviews will start to sting more for the recipients, and so on and so forth until we’re no better than Goodreads and it’s five stars or nothing. (I kid!.. mostly.)

That said, I do try to leave 1-star ratings rarely, and to leave a written review unless there’s already one there that sums up my feelings. As far as I remember I’ve only given one of those and it was for a clearly incomplete and very incomprehensible game. Very few games deserve one of these as far as I’m concerned.

Two-star ratings are something else entirely since I usually give them to games that have a lot of potential, but fall flat in many areas. Still, there’s always some potential there, and in that case I think a thorough review can really help the author with future works, at least if they choose to take the advice to heart. I find it easiest to write these reviews since you can usually do a pretty good “compliment sandwich” and be critical while still being kind. (I hope, anyway!)

As far as getting 1-star ratings, I do appreciate if there’s a review attached. It’s about 50/50 as to whether said review comes with good, thoughtful advice or the equivalent of “I hate sci-fi, so I played this sci-fi game and hated it. 1/5”, but I think it’s also good to remember that there’s no way EVERYONE is going to love your game and the criticism you receive will sometimes reflect that. Either way it’s good to be able to take a bad review on the chin now and again.


I’ve given out 165 1-star ratings, out of 2637 total, so about 6.3% of all my total ratings.

I have a specific scale I use, so I generally give 1 star for games that are buggy, are difficult to play/use, and didn’t land emotionally. I also give reviews for my ratings. I generally try to add to 1-star ratings what I like about the games and what I think could work better in the future, or explain things I like about the game.


Well, we already know that a score of 1 or 10 is ignored in IFComp. I hope IFDB doesn’t follow suit with such short-sightedness.

Without a review, we don’t know what causes someone to rate a game a 1, but you can rest assured they were offended greatly by something in the game. It’s not always a troll vote if it’s a rating of 1.

With a review, it’s self-explanatory. Sadly, it’s true many don’t understand a simple 1-to-5 rating system. I’ve received a 1-star rating that was accompanied by a review saying the game was “pretty good”.

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It’s hard to know if IFDB ratings are fair.

One 1-star review I gave was to a speed-IF by Andrew Schultz:

I like Andrew Schultz’s games, and have give 4-5 stars for many of them; if I see one of his games in a comp, I look forward to it, and generally see a high level of polish.

I’m the only reviewer for this game, while 2 others rated it.

Is this among the lowest-effort games on the site? Not at all. It’s coded pretty strongly, has a clever puzzle concept, and is playable with only a few bugs.

So the question is, is it fair to put a good chunk of work out to a game and have it just linger for 6 years with a single 1-star review?

I feel a bit guilty about it, but the game is a Speed-IF, which typically has weaker games. So I don’t know.


Hmm, interesting data, wonder how it looks for me? Out of 362 reviews (you know, that number usually seems impressive – I don’t know how do you do it!), I’ve done 18 one-star ones, so that’s just about 5%, not too far off yours even though I, uh, do not have a well worked-out rubric on ratings.

I also tend to reserve a single star for terminally buggy, incomplete games; there are one or two exceptions in there like The Vaults, which was a CCG entered into 2021’s IFComp despite having very few narrative elements (it also felt pretty buggy and incomplete), and Stand Up/Stay Silent, whose politics deeply irritated me (I agreed with the overall position being taken, but the points were being made in a very heavy-handed, judgmental way that I thought trivialized the issues). Anyway I don’t ever rate games without reviews, so hopefully even if I’ve been somewhat unfair to an author it’s at least clear where I’m coming from and if some other player might have a better experience!


We had a related thread about low scores for IF Comp games not too too long ago.

I don’t presently rate games (besides Infocom ones), but I would write a review if I gave a one star rating. I don’t think I’d give a one for bugs. I’d leave it unrated and call it “unplayable”. I’d personally give a one star for miserable/tedious gameplay, or other bothersome content.

But if I felt that way, I probably wouldn’t play it long enough to review it. I rarely complete games I don’t like. There’s too much fun stuff out there


I searched for your name but found nothing on IFDB. What game was this? I’d love to take a look.

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4 posts were merged into an existing topic: A. W. Moderation

I think the Jehovah-style vowel-deletions in your forum name might just be making it hard to find! Here’s the link:

I read the review; I sorta get where they’re coming from (they say it’s “competently designed” which in context is I think meant to primarily apply to the puzzles, rather than “pretty good” overall) but yeah this feels like it should go with a 2 star rating to me. Better than nothing I guess!


4 posts were split to a new topic: A. W. Moderation

A few of my random obersvations:

I would like bad faith rating accounts that spray ones to be destroyed or weighted out.

The problem is that to avoid destroying the innocent, we need to set a super high bar for knowing something’s bad faith.

Look at this page:

I’ve no doubt this person is just fiddling ratings for whatever reasons. They came to my attention because their 1-star no-text rating on Leadlight Gamma has kept it at 2.5 stars for… years. Even with two high score editorial reviews and and a high score non-editorial. Most of the people who’ve played or bought the game aren’t IFDB users. So that one annoys me.

This topic has made me look at games I’ve rated 1 star. Sometimes there are one or more other reviews already explaining at length why it might be one star. In those cases I don’t rise to write anything. e.g. The Lighthouse - Details

We’ve commented in this topic that we should at least write something (when rating one). For whatever reason, there are people who automatically vote that any 1-3 line review is Unhelpful. I’d like to discourage that, but I’ve got no control over it, and it doesn’t help anyone people who see it to act more helpfully.



@mathbrush: no problem on Civil Mimic! It was probably my least well-planned game. For SpeedIF I usually did stuff in chunks but that one, it was done over a short period. So that was motivation/reminder for me to start early and chip away often.

It would be neat to allow for, say, half-rating at the review author’s or rater’s request, as if to acknowledge that they know there is some personal taste. But that is one more feature to add, and then there’d be an issue of, do I want it revealed that I weighted my review, etc. A lot of times I like to have the “Hey, I don’t get it but you might” qualifier but I don’t know how to do that. And opening several levels of ratings would probably discourage rating and reviewing in general.

Certainly when I look back at some games I’m surprised I rated them so low, and maybe that’s just that they didn’t leave any scars and I hope I can remember the better parts.

However, having someone give a game of mine 1 star and then later give one 5 stars (dunno if they wrote any–it may’ve been a case of one being up their alley and one not at all) felt nice in a way a random 5-star, as nice as it is, can’t.


I mostly use IFDB to keep track of what I’ve played and what I thought of it. I agree that, since people’s rating schemes are so variable, a reviewless rating isn’t meaningful, but I’m doing it more for personal reference than for the benefit of the author or prospective players. Maybe that means I should just have a private spreadsheet instead, but it’s slightly more effort, which means I’ve been terrible at keeping up with it when I’ve tried it.

I occasionally just mark things played and don’t rate them, which so far has either been because I have complicated/conflicting feelings that I have no idea how to translate into a rating, or because it’s one of those very personal, confessional types of games and giving it a low rating feels cruel.

Also, from an authorial perspective, I’m not sure I agree that it’s always kinder and/or more helpful to explain why you didn’t like a game. Not all criticism is constructive, and non-constructive criticism stings more (to me at least) than an unexplained one- or two-star rating. Leaving a sentence or two about why you didn’t like the game seems like the worst of both worlds for an author—harder to dismiss as meaningless than a reviewless rating, but not substantial enough to be helpful. Although it is possibly slightly more helpful to a prospective player.


Based on that user’s other Ectocomp reviews, I think they rate speed IF on a scale of 1 to 3, which leaves each star rating covering an even larger amount of territory than usual. Most of their 2-star Petite Mort reviews are quite positive.