Is it real?

A no-bullshit alternative to review scores

"7.5 out of 10" doesn't mean anything. It's arbitrary, subjective, and without context it's totally worthless—just a weird katamari of bullshit, including the reviewer's preferences, their personal scoring system, and other things they've scored recently. It invites comparisons between works that shouldn't be compared, implies a degree of precision that doesn't exist, and it's never useful as a singular takeaway.

If you're going to sum up a review, then your job is to answer one question; is this worth my time? On an individual basis, that can be a complicated question, and there's a lot that goes into it. But as a reviewer, you don't know about any of that—you can't. So you get to skip to an easy answer.

Is it REAL, ASS, or REAL-ASS?

A work is REAL when it pretty much achieves what the creator wanted. It's well-crafted, engaging, and satisfying (except when it's not supposed to be). This isn't a guarantee that everyone will enjoy it, but anyone who's interested will find it worth their time.[1]

A work is ASS when it's not real. Whatever the creator's goals were, the work doesn't achieve them, through huge design or execution flaws. The end result has little to no redeeming qualities—it leaves you bored, frustrated, and feeling like your time's been wasted, even if you walk out early.

But sometimes you can fail and still create something interesting. A great story that blows up halfway through, a garbage movie with a standout performance, or a novel game destroyed by glitches. When something fails, but it leaves a lasting impression, if there's something there for the curious or the dedicated, it is REAL-ASS.[2]

I don't have to explain why this system works, which is the greatest proof of its success. It never pretends to be objective, doesn't imply comparisons that don't make sense, and doesn't depend on context or personal preferences. It just answers the goddamn question.


  1. This is kind of a broad classification, so feel free to use "fucking real" for anything that you think is really, really good ↩︎

  2. The Chaos Generation Escape Clause: Any such work where the creator's intent is completely fucking incomprehensible is Real-Ass by default. ↩︎