How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

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How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Elaura » Mon May 16, 2016 2:13 pm

In the US, where comparison advertising is not only legal, it's a multi-million dollar industry, the "review" has become no more than a statement of how what is being reviewed measures up to something similar.

In the first place, this limits the audience of the critique to those who are somewhat familiar with the other similar thing. This is hugely prevalent in game reviews. Authors simply cannot state their opinion of a game without comparing it to a game they personally liked better.

Naturally, any literary piece is going to be colored by the personality of the author, but the review has become no more than an opinion piece, offering nothing more than what can be summed up as "I liked it" or "I didn't like it". This, in turn, becomes "this is my favoritest game ever!" or "I hated it and anyone who disagrees with me can't be my friend".

Rather than attempting to stretch his or her imagination by suggesting the audience a particular game might appeal to, even if it doesn't appeal to the author, said author just falls back on quantifying worthless adjectives like stating an interface is "too confusing", the graphics are "too colorful" or "too dark", or the music is "too bland". A favorite of mine is the classic which was applied to Borderlands and now to Battleborn: "too cartoony". For those of you who haven't played either game, this is much like calling Japanese games "too anime" or the Warcraft universe "too fantasy".

I long for the days when I had to keep my dictionary handy because I needed to look up the definitions of all the new words I encountered to describe the subjects under review. Now it seems all I have to do is find a teenager to translate the single-syllable text-speak and slang, tho wot i here is rly "gg" r "h8te it", ffs.
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby fleet » Mon May 16, 2016 5:38 pm

"tho wot i here is rly "gg" r "h8te it", ffs."

Please translate. As a certified old fart who doesn't text, tweet, or do facebook, I have no idea what that means. :(
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Fenrir » Mon May 16, 2016 5:54 pm

tho - Though, wot - What, rly - Really, gg - Good game, h8te is just hate, and I believe FFS is "for fuck's sake", but that's just speculation on my part. Even at 19 I'm not very hip.
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Elaura » Mon May 16, 2016 8:41 pm

That's how I read it, Fen. I think the only reason I can get as far as I do with trash English is because I used to be a copy editor at a newspaper. Nobody spells worse than journalists.

So the full translation is:

"Though what I hear is really "good game" or "hate it", for fuck's sake.

I've been told that is the translation of ffs, but sometimes kids tell old folks things just to make them look silly.
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby fleet » Mon May 16, 2016 10:21 pm

I don't need any kid to make me look silly; I can do that by myself. :rant:
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Fenrir » Mon May 16, 2016 11:22 pm

I'm pretty sure that's what FFS is short for. It seems to work in all context I've seen
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Adul » Tue May 17, 2016 9:01 am

It's OK to appreciate the occasional trash piece where a reviewer tears some movie or game apart for the fun of it, and where the reviewer and the readers have a mutual understanding of not being the subject work's intended audience. But if you're looking for a serious review, it's probably best to look for someone who understands and respects the genre/niche they're talking about.

Me, I've had mixed results when I tried to rely on individual reviews to assess a particular work's value to me. As you said, E, a lot of it comes down to opinion, so I'd be looking for someone whose tastes mirror my own, which I don't think is a realistic expectation. At this point I'm more interested in critical evaluation in terms of metascores. As a rule of thumb, something being generally panned by critics is a pretty good indication that it's crap, and something being generally praised indicates that it's probably worth seeing/reading/playing for myself. It ain't bulletproof, but it tends to work for me.
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Elaura » Tue May 17, 2016 4:31 pm

I'm glad it works for you, Adul, but I guess my tastes don't run parallel to the general public. I've enjoyed many games, movies, songs, etc, that have been given horrible reviews by so-called professionals and friends alike. The only person I've met whose tastes I can trust is Jac and even then he likes some programs I'm just not into.

I may be getting soft in my old age, but I don't really think it's okay to tear into anything just for the fun of it. I find I'm getting more and more sensitive to the difference between playful teasing and mean-spiritedness. Or maybe it's that I have begun to put my friends in the place of anonymous developers and/or celebrities in my mind. If What I'm reading would hurt my friend, why should I expect it to not hurt the feelings of a stranger?

Just recently, Jac and I saw a live performance by a group we'd never seen before. It was comically terrible, but the performers and many in the audience were trying very hard to get into it. I know it would have hurt their feelings for me to share my opinion and, as it turns out, the group IS extremely talented. They were simply having a really off night.

This is why I would like to see more reviews based on merit rather than emotion. People are entitled to their opinions, but I would really rather know what it was about a piece of work that elicited that opinion than simply have that opinion repeated over and over. Simply saying "I don't like it because the style doesn't appeal to me" isn't really informative unless I know what style DOES appeal to that person. Hell, at least I can glean just how much that person values their own opinion, though.
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby neildarkstar » Tue May 17, 2016 4:34 pm

I generally just ignore reviews in any case, unless I'm getting a personal recommendation from a friend. First, there's the question of whether the reviewer's tastes reflect my own, but aside from that there is a question of what mood the reviewer was in when he tried the game or watched the movie or whatever. for instance, I went to see "The Godfather" at a theater when it was still new. I hated it. If I'd written a review that anybody paid attention to, I would have trashed the whole thing. I saw it in a theater a year or two later, and enjoyed the hell out of it. The same thing happens with different video games, so I know I'm not a good candidate for a career as a critic of either games or movies... :D

The consequence is that I don't trust other people's judgement either, eh?
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Re: How not to write an effective review of anything . . .

Postby Adul » Tue May 17, 2016 5:43 pm

A lot of artists who are starting their carriers aren't ready for this, but if you put your work out there, it doesn't matter that it's your baby, you have to be able to handle it when people tear it apart because that is going to happen. And artists, being the sensible people that they often are, unfortunately will see the one overwhelmingly negative comment in a sea of positive feedback, and some of them will let it ruin their lives. This is the first thing anyone with public work needs to learn to accept and handle, otherwise they're in the wrong business.
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