On Negative Reviews and Reviewing in general

So, this week, I was able to finish up four reviews… and I managed to publish the posts in not too much time. Initially, I’d spend 3+ hours on the write-up, editing and formating but as time went on, I was able to narrow down the time needed, partially because of my decision of going for shorter reviews (1k~1.3k words) instead of the longer ones (2k~3k words) – but also because I now have an initial idea of what I want to say and how I want to say. Frankly, I’m getting better at writing up these initial drafts and the hardest part is the beginning portion where I talk about something unrelated or very general to then segway into the actual review. I like that personally though I suck a lot at that portion and I want to get better at it. Something that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though, is to just dunk on a game. Initially, I ended up only reviewing good games or games that I just adore that much – but nowadays, I don’t have an opinion on a title before I play it and I certainly don’t try to have an opinion on a title while I write it up. I like getting into the good stuff first before eventually mentioning what is wrong with games… Eventually, I then end up thinking back on whether or not my frustrations with a title outweighed the good portions and whether or not I can recommend a title in the process… and at last, I will then have to change the initial portion of the game to reflect that outcome which leads to a few annoying issues here and there. But today, I actually wanted to talk about negative reviews and my stance on them.

From Backbone (Steam/My Review)

The other day, I talked with my better half about reviews and about not recommending something. Since I still make an effort to portray the good sides well while also getting into the bad sides of a game, I try to stay “relatively neutral” but in the end, it comes down to “Do I recommend this or not?” – an important questions. I don’t do scores because scores say nothing relatively speaking… and you can’t really compare games by giving each of them scores and then comparing the scores, so I don’t see the point. Recommending one title and not recommending the other, however, works a lot better. My better half was confused that I’d write about games that I don’t like in the first place. Apparently, a lot of people don’t do that… but if you only write about games that you like and if you only recommend things, then that reduces the value of you as a reviewer, at least in my opinion. If a food critic would give everything five stars, then that critic’s opinion would mean a lot less, right?

From Beasts of Maravilla Island (Steam)

But yeah, you could make the point that nobody checks my blog for every single review… but that’s mostly because I don’t have a visual indicator on my reviews that immediately shows you that I recommend a game or that I don’t recommend a game. Meanwhile, Steam’s curator pages (here’s mine btw) have that indicator! Blue is recommended. Red is not recommended. Yellow is “neutral” or informative. You can see right away what titles I liked or didn’t like! And when I see a curator on steam that has no negative reviews, then I trust that curator less.

In the case of Superliminal (my review), I actually liked the game but the fiddliness and the technical issues ruined the experience for me at times, which made the game overall frustrating. I loved the concept but hated the finished product if that makes sense. That’s also why I hate it when reviewers recommend a finished game just because the demo was great. The demo is there so that you get interested in the finished product. In the case of Tunche, PC Gamer said “while I was drawn to Tunche’s GDC demo by its unique, refreshing art, it was the combat that really set the hook” – But the Steam page omits the part about the demo, simply saying “While I was drawn to Tunche…” which is frankly false advertising and sketchy at best. The demo obviously featured unique and beautiful skills but the actual game has you grinding a whole lot to get to that point, as I pointed out in my review. That kind of pisses me off, to be fair. I only realised that after the review was published but I don’t want to give the game a bad rep just because the publisher or whoever decided to falsely advertise the game.

What I was trying to say is that – in my opinion (very important!) – you lose credibility as a curator/reviewer if you only recommend things but never review anything that you could potentially dislike. I turned down games before, don’t get me wrong, but in those cases, I had hardly anything to write about and it was just that bad. In those cases, I was being polite and sent the developer my feedback and told them that I didn’t want to just shit on the game for 500 words and leave it at that. There are games that I really love, like Party Hard (my review), but there are a lot of frustrating bits in those games that make it hard to recommend them and as time went on, I tried to position myself accordingly. No matter how much I love a game as a concept, I try “to be real” as the youngsters say (do they really say that?). Uh, in essence, I find it tricky to just recommend everything, so I try to review games that I may not like as well and I end up playing platformers, for instance, or shooters and weirdly, some of them are really good. If I’d just go for games I love, I’d only recommend roguelike games or strategy games or RPGs or casual simulations or stuff like that – and even then, not all games in those genres are as fun as others. Neon Abyss, for instance, looked fun as a concept but I can’t really get into it for no particular reason. Once I know what that reason is, I may pick it up again from a different angle or I may just write about why I don’t like it. Still, it’s a roguelike, eh? 

From Rainbow Billy and the Curse of the Leviathan (Steam/My Review)

What I’m trying to say is really just my opinion on the matter and I don’t think that other people should change the way they do things in the reviewer community. Really, it’s just my own motto: “Review games even if you may not like them. Don’t just recommend everything.” or something like that. Blogging and reviewing stuff is a hobby for me but I try to be relatively serious about it. I want to get better at it and I want to provide good reviews and recommend gems while not recommending things that are no fun. So, I kind of ended up creating those values of sorts in my head and I stick to them, change stuff out all the time, and revamp my style and in my head, I just don’t trust the opinion of someone on Amazon that gives every product five stars, so I try to apply that to my blog and reviews. If I were to recommend everything, every single review of mine would lose credibility, so I try to not silence myself. If I don’t like something, I’ll talk about it. If I really enjoy something, I will, too. If a game falsely advertises itself, then I get pissed off at it, but that’s usually not the developers’ fault and I try to not let it influence my opinion. Oh well, I just figured I could talk about this today. Hope you enjoyed this one. 

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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