Jump to content

Site Work Failed, But We Didn't Die

Ugh. Still more roadblocks. Need to get an as-yet unknown password from Nay in order to get this sucker changed. For now, please enjoy the mess of a forums we've got, and dream of the forums we will probably never one day have.

< 3 - Tay

You can dismiss this alert by clicking on the "X" button

  • entries
    647
  • comments
    1,656
  • views
    318,863

The problem with reviews and reviewers

Clephas

230 views

Anyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'm something of a cynic and a pessimist.  I try to think the best about every VN I go into, but my first impulse is to see what is wrong, rather than what is right. 

Whether it is optimism and rose-colored glasses or pessimism and cynicism, and excess of either is often a negative influence on the quality of a review.  Generally speaking, I usually make an effort to find something I like about a VN's concept before going in, then I start the VN trying to enjoy it as an outgrowth of that.  By the end, this usually results in me having experienced both the negative and positive aspects of the VN... the problem is, when reviewing, it is all too easy to forget what is good about the VN.

As a result, when I'm writing up a review, the first thing I do is write up a list of the good points I found, ignoring the mitigating negative factors.  I then build the review around these and include the negative points in with the rest... but you can probably tell that being positive just doesn't come naturally to me, since I tend to be pretty harsh.

However, by using this system, I've found dozens of VN gems over the years that I probably would have discarded for perceived negative qualities if I didn't use this process.  Indeed, early on in my reading of untranslated VNs, I dropped numerous ones simply because they had a negative aspect that I got obsessed with.  I would later go back and replay them, only to find that the negative aspect wasn't as big a deal as I thought at the time, since I made the effort to go back with a differing perspective.

A poor quality in a reviewer is the tendency to ignore the negatives about something you like.  Another one is to rate things entirely based on aspects you only have a vague grasp or focus on (in my case, due to my eye problems, I'm not the best judge of artwork, and my musical sense is entirely based on how it enhances the atmosphere, rather than raw quality comprehension).  I'm a story reviewer.  I review almost exclusively based on the story, characters, and presentation.  As such, art and sound rarely have a place in my reviews, since I don't think I'm qualified to evaluate them except in the most general of terms.

I can tell when a VA did an exceptional job, because it stands out enough for me to notice.  I will even mention this in the review, since it takes a lot for a performance to stand out to me.  However, I never pretend to know the ins and outs of specific aspects of VA or musical quality.  I simply don't have the right kind of ear for that kind of thing, not being musically inclined. 

One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder).  It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream.  This is a problem that is particularly common in Western otakus of around my age, who became fanboys during a time when watching anime, playing Japanese video games, and reading manga had a rather strong stigma that left us feeling isolated and defensive.  However, it is also present in people who prefer niche genres (I get the double whammy, being both).  That sense of isolation leads to a tendency to over-praise our favorite materials and bash anything that we see as being too popular.

In reverse, there are those who automatically dismiss anything that isn't mainstream.  Both types are reactionary in nature and have little to do with the quality of the materials in question.  Being a long-time sci-fi addict, I can't understand why anyone would enjoy Avatar (the movie).  However, if I make the mistake of saying that in front of a fanboy of the movie, I will inevitably get a vociferous lecture on how misunderstood the movie is by science fiction fans...

There are many such examples of such behavior I have experienced over the years, both in myself and in others.  As such, a reviewer has to be willing to examine his own motives for liking or hating something.  Are you being cynical for the sake of being cynical?  Are you over-praising something to the point of overlooking the obvious problems with it?  Are you making excuses while thinking you are making a reasoned argument?  On the other side, are you ignoring the voice of reason to give you an excuse to dislike something? 

In the end, bias is unavoidable... but it is a reviewer's duty to do their best to cast aside as much of it as possible, because people use our reviews as reference points when they pick what they want to play/read/watch.



4 Comments


Recommended Comments

I guess if your bias suggests to you that nearly everything sucks, it's pretty important to make sure it doesn't dominate your writing, but I'm always a bit on the line when it goes to how much you should fight your instincts when reviewing stuff. For me, it's at least as important to state your biases clearly so the reader can know where your opinion is coming from and how much it might differ from theirs. An honest review can be more interesting, and maybe even more useful than an overly-analytical one in the end, as enjoyment from the media is not simply a sum of its parts. :]

Share this comment


Link to comment
Quote

One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder).  It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream.

I justify this as a desire to promote games that might not be on peoples' radar, or that they might not have seriously considered.  Why spend time and effort promoting that which has already been extensively covered elsewhere, especially if my perspective doesn't bring anything new to the table?  Does that generate value for my audience?  As a novelty seeker, I'm often interested in the games people AREN'T playing, and giving them reasons they should.  Conversely, I don't write too many negative reviews, because why would I choose to spend my time writing reviews about games I didn't like?

Edited by sanahtlig

Share this comment


Link to comment

I agree that obscure games demand more balanced approach, because - let's admit it - no one is ever going to write another English review about majority of them. But at the same time Joyjason as a reviewer has a great influence on me. I just love his trashing reviews. There's responsibility for biased reviews, but at the same time the will to wreck something hard from time to time. And well known species just feel right for it, because it's impossible to ruin a long standing positive reputation and because of disgust that all the praising reviews provoke. After reading numerous positive reviews of Air and Swan Song I was overjoyed to find a negative review for each game that complimented my own impression.

Not sure it's worth it to search for faults in the games I like - there are too few of such games, anyway. The most important thing is to express passion acquired. Another factor is that limitations I set make me choose too many unattractive games. After a spree of such visual novels any worthy story ends up over-evaluated.

My deepest fear is to turn into reviewer like Amaterasu. His impressions are spoiler-less and super reserved, but as a result all look alike and can be applied to a wide range of totally different games if the object is not known. I value any other review over mine, so the most important thing for me is to feel alive. That's best done with either trying to inspire or just having fun trashing something irresponsibly.

Edited by kivandopulus

Share this comment


Link to comment
10 minutes ago, kivandopulus said:

I value any other review over mine, so the most important thing for me is to feel alive. That's best done with either trying to inspire or just having fun trashing something irresponsibly.

I can relate to that last part. I started my blog with the idea I won't touch bad games unless they're very notable or there's something in them that represent broader issues with the medium. But when you write stuff for fun, it's simply that enjoyable to trash games that really deserve it and dissect their failures mercilessly.

Why I stopped being irresponsibly harsh is because while you can have your day repeatedly with old Japanese VNs, EVN scene is something of a community. By being an asshole to a developer that actually made an effort and is reasonably likely to see your review, you gain nothing but burn bridges. If you're harsh, but constructive and respectful at the same time, you can actually build connections and help people improve. It's what differentiate being a review in a highly-niche, indie scene from being one for mainstream games. There are still companies that deserve no consideration when you cover them, like Winged Cloud, but more often then not devs are actually well-meaning and it's best to be as respectful as possible even if you have to tear their work apart. :] 

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×