How In-Game Report Cards Ruin Games, and (Probably) Lives


In games with a million fun things to do, why encourage players to fixate on the stuff they hate?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


… Is this a thing people do? I have my own sets of obsessive tendencies but having the need to 100% every game I ever play isn’t one I can relate to.


i absolutely get the needing to do 100% thing, but thankfully i started doing that before the whole 3 star/medal thing was commonplace, and you (mostly) just had to get a passing grade to ‘complete’ an event. having to get 3 medals completely kills my desire to be a completionist, and if that doesn’t do it i usually tell myself i’ll come back to 100% a game after i finish the story, and (thank god) i always forget to do so.


Anything where you can gold/silver/bronze a level or mission, or have some kind of rank. GTAV had this, and it made me feel shitty to just barely complete a mission or heist and see a bronze medal.


I was just about to post about GTAV. The medal system was so frustrating - especially for missions that I really did not care about (like the flight school tests or drug running).


I like tiers - I think of them as a fun note of where the devs think solid play should reach so I can use it to estimate how well I’m doing. Because, if I was to obsess about a game, every single thing you do in games like Forza is measured and pushed to a leaderboard. Who cares if you got Platinum*, are you a region first or world first for a clean lap round this track? Is your score in the top 10 for this event (as Apex uses scores not clean lap times for most leaderboards)? Well that’s not victory, that’s just turning up. And you can’t win that fight - the game will ensure you know you’re not the best in the world. So, really, it’s just some fun and you have to learn to let it go.

* Sorry Rob, there aren’t 3 medals in Apex. You may have reached two out of the three golds by the end but, if you’re going for only completing medals and not chasing leaderboards, you need to reach a little higher and they will convert to Platinum medals to show you’ve reached where the devs expect solid play to reach. But really, focus on the leaderboards; the unattainable goal can free you of chasing these tiers.


I think the in game medals are good thing. Most people playing sport/simulation games are invested in increasing their skill so the feedback is essential. Even throwaway game modes like car bowling still benefit from an understanding of the core game mechanics.


I definitely gravitate towards games that have either really soft conditions for failure or none at all (such as Abzu or Firewatch). I really appreciate Steep for doing a great job of adhering to the same (often frustrating) Gold, Silver, Bronze system while making it so painless to bail from a challenge that you don’t feel like you have to do anything in the game if you don’t want to.


Ye, I’m definitely less enthusiastic about this stuff being used to gate content, even if that’s the devs wishing you to master certain skills before progressing in order to reach later points of mastery. I think of it very much as the same areas as difficulty and accessibility settings: to avoid ableist gating then the minimum bar must be able to account for a lot of added difficulty (being able to use a controller in a certain way, reaction times, etc) that most players won’t encounter (because their life runs on permanent easy mode - even just having a very low latency TV is a form of buying into an easier mode in games so it shouldn’t be penalised if people haven’t done that).

It’s definitely valuable as a measurement but becomes a chain when that measurement is used to demand the player plays the game “the right way” rather than being a soft system that encourages improvement but doesn’t feel like a punishment for players.


Dishonored. Dishonored. Dishonored. You and Danielle actually talked about this in a few episodes last year for Idle Weekend. It still hits home.

While I’m a huge fan of the Dishonored series, knowing that every little thing I do is being tucked away in the backend for some end game score is disheartening. Life doesn’t give me a score system for every decision I make (can feel like it sometimes).

That doesn’t mean I need a grading system for how stealthy I was, especially if it effects the outcome of having to go for the “perfect” game. It sucks me out of the fantastical worlds games let us inhabit and I lose track of what’s happening around me instead of focusing on the situation in front of me.


Dishonored 1 bothered me, Dishonored 2 gave me enough feedback that I didn’t get frustrated. One more mission to go for Clean Hands/Ghost.

In general though, it drives me crazy. Letter grades on action games are the worst. At least in Odin Sphere I’ve convinced myself that both S and A ranks are OK.


I’ve been in the process of finishing Final Fantasy XV finally, and had forgotten how much its combat system annoyed me with this. The game seems to think you deserve a poor Finesse grade 85% of the time, unless you do extraneous things that make combat last longer and usually go worse. Killing enemies efficiently is somehow “bad”.

Also, I had flashbacks reading this to my days as a kid playing the 3D Sonic games and constantly getting seemingly arbitrary bad grades because I didn’t collect every single ring, or something.

I get that some players really like challenging themselves to perfect levels like this, and that’s cool! But with how much games are changing, it certainly seems a little vestigial that we still have so many “grading” systems in games that really don’t need it or benefit meaningfully from them.


I tend to view report cards like I view achievements: if they’re well designed and thought out they can really improve the game. At its best a report can work as a way to make me play differently than I normally would and encourage me to better learn the mechanics. The problem comes where they aren’t and trying to perfect and completing the report becomes unfun. With these cases I typically notice how annoying accomplishing these tasks are and just drop them to revisit later/never play again.


Zelda: 4 Swords played a part in a ruined friendship for me. I had already plowed through the game in single player mode, and was playing it with 3 friends on the weekend. I’m a competitive person, but I didn’t really think I was playing this competitively, at first. But I was getting first place for gem collection by large margin for the first few levels, until one of my friends snapped. He refused to progress and leave a room until he was on top in gem collection, and attacked me and my friends to cause us to drop our gems. Instead of just rolling my eyes and letting him have it, it tripped that competitive switch in my head, and I refused to relent.

20 or so minutes later, the other 2 friends amusement had turned into awkwardness and annoyance at both of our bullheaded refusal to move on. “Fuck this, I have better things to do than watch you two endlessly throw each other into pits because neither of you can stand to be in second place.” “Yeah, I’m done too. I didn’t think this could be worse than Crystal Chronicles, but somehow, it was.” And then that was that. FF:CC lasted a few sessions before infighting over bucket duty destroyed us. But a game with no group responsibility, but a score screen, did it in a matter of hours.


That was the most frustrating thing about that game. The great thing about Dishonored is it gives you so many ways to recover from your mistakes but it imposes this scoring system that forces you to constantly quicksave and reload to get the highest score. I learned to ignore the grades and just run with my mistakes and it was much more fun. But I still hated that screen at the end of each level.


I generally do like rating and scoring systems in games since it’s nice feedback for telling how well I’ve done in a level. I enjoy being able to improve and see feedback based on that. One series of games I enjoyed particularly well for this is the Mega Man Battle Network series of games, which gives a letter grade for every battle. This affected the drops and, I think, did well to encourage efficient play.


I’ve never finished a Wipeout campaign because I can’t move on from an event until I have the highest rank. Not only do the Wipeout games get very difficult, inevitably I reach my hurdle on an event I’m worse at/enjoy less than normal races (the poison in the most recent games are the Zone events).

Similarly, the moment a game gives an easily-readable list of every challenge or collectible, I get paralysed into trying to fill it out before moving on with the game. In the Xenoblade games, they have collectable items on a chance-based spawn around the world which are used for Quests, trading, gifts… but the thing that ruins it is the “collectables” screen which tells you how many collectables there are in each area. I simply cannot start a mission in a new location until I have filled it in. This takes up hours grabbing these orbs (hoping one I don’t have spawns) and the rarest collectables only spawn in hard-to-reach places (enter repeatedly reloading saves next to them to get the right one). I do this despite knowing that they expect you to pick them up gradually as you do other missions: the fact they notify me beforehand makes it an issue.

I enjoy these things at first: I’d probably do most of it on my own for a while if there wasn’t a report card given. However, these lists with rewards means I feel like not focusing on it is sub-optimal and ‘wrong play’ (more of a punishment for ignoring than reward for trying). It feels like there’s no other choice than to 100% it (even if the game is designed to want you to move on and just return to them later).


Its kind of crazy how man games do this? When it really just feels like an insult to the player? Well that’s always how I internalize it anyway…

To be fair, I do understand the psychology around it. Perfection is an attractive goal and it adds longevity to a game. But if 90% of players are never going to reach that level, why not lock it behind an extra hard difficulty setting or something? Plus; these systems feel super cheap. Especially when you compare them to games like dark souls that have a built in satisfaction to mastering a challenge. In the end they’re just cheap number incentives, and that’s kinda boring. :triumph:


Best thing about Nier Automata as a Platinum game is that it dropped the grading system they love so much. And they’ve a tendency to lock cool shit behind that level of play. Bayonetta and it’s sequel especially are the absolute WORST for this. There’s a secret boss fight and an entire weapon locked behind getting the maximum amount of halos, an absolutely mental task even if you are the kind of person who can Pure Platinum the game on it’s hardest difficulty.

I feel like these kinds of systems are usually implemented because it’s easy enough to do that you can get it functioning before you really have to consider weather it’s a good idea. Honestly that kind of thing is by most hated videogame bugbear, doing stuff because it just seems like the thing to do rather than considering weather it would actually work.


For the longest time I hated in-game report cards but now I find I just don’t have the time to care about them unless I decide I want to strive for a given grade. As a result, I don’t even notice them as often. There are still exceptions though; I still don’t like that Valkyria Chronicles has report cards in the middle of a war and that they’re based on how many turns it took you to complete a battle, not how little damage you took or that you wiped out the enemy forces.