Reviewer Request

This mostly goes out to my MMO blogger buddies, although I am hoping readers have similar thoughts.

If you have been following a game since before beta, your positive opinions on the final product are suspect. Call it fanboyism, irrational exuberance, or cognitive dissonance: we expect your opinion to be positive no matter what the final product is, and if you pre-ordered before playing any sort of beta, we completely discount positive views. You are an advocate. Negative views gain strength so long as they are not too strong; the negatives seen even through rosy lenses are probably real, but we also discount venom spewed by people who sound like jilted lovers.

You can write for people who have already decided to buy the game or not. Both love news that supports confirmation bias. If you want to write for people who have not yet decided and are either on the fence or just have not thought about your one game in the thicket of competitors, there are two things that I think will be most helpful.

On your enthusiasm, “show, don’t tell.” We already know that you like it, so we need to see why. This post is inspired by Ravious doing an excellent job of that on Guild Wars 2. See also SynCaine on Darkfall, demonstrating why and how he enjoys the game in a way that is compelling even to those of us who will never play it. These are model posts for bloggers.

For that final decision when the game is releasing, give us references to more disinterested observers. Have a few links to other people, noting an endorsement from a newcomer (not a long-time follower of the game), a mixed but “buy” review, and someone who decided against buying. Demonstrating awareness of “this is not for everyone” strengthens your view by making you look less like a raving fanboy, and the positive comments from someone who is not buying get that same weight as your negative comments. Please also remember to link to your pre-release posts with an update of “and this panned out perfectly” or “and this will need some work post-release.” The perfect conclusion will be “These are my 3-5 favorite aspects, but don’t buy it if you cannot stand X.”

Thank you.

: Zubon

10 thoughts on “Reviewer Request”

  1. I much prefer enthusiasm to an under-informed and cursory overview.

    It’s the reader’s role to seek alternative opinions and weigh the enthusiasm with experienced judgment.

  2. I personally much prefer a non-recommendation. I can usually tell from the tone and context whether the reviewer enjoys or dislikes a game and would much rather they leave me to make my own conclusions.

    I do have a tendency to search for the extremes on both sides of the buy/don’t buy argument though. If I can I like to read 2-3 pro and 2-3 con posts to get at the heart of the arguments so I can make up my own mind. It would be better if there were more truly disinterested parties reviewing games, but that just doesn’t happen as often as it should.

  3. I agree with Bhagpuss on the difference between journalists and bloggers. I write reviews for gaming websites and print media and I also blog. I think that the best reviews are the ones written by someone who has been following the game since beta (or even earlier) because the writer knows a lot more about the game than he would if he’d just played it for a couple of weeks (which is usually the amount of time we get after release before the review is due).

    Although that usually means that I really really like the game, that doesn’t mean that I can’t write a balanced, objective review and mention both the good and bad in it. In fact, as a reviewer, it’s my job to be objective because people usually base their buy decisions on game reviews.

    When I blog on the other hand, I can gush about what I really love in a game because it’s my own personal opinion.

  4. I have to side with Bagpuss. A blog, if journalism at all, is at best series of editorials. When you come to my blog you’re getting a heavy dose of my personal opinions, and I make no bones about it. While I do try to ensure that my posts are accurate, I’m not a news service or a professional critic. You want me to write at that level? Pay me.

  5. There is nothing to stop some bloggers from attempting to exercise a level of objective journalism. But, unless I have followed a particular one for a while, I would not hold only minimal weight for their review. Even in the case of reviewers that I have followed in the past, I have learned which ones like and point out aspects that I enjoy in my games.

    Even when I consider professional sources, there is always a bias in their reporting since they are catering to a particular audience. One site I used to read long ago had a very subtle “If isn’t a FPS with the latest graphics it is crap!” attitude. This made reading reviews on some of my favorite 3rd Person RPGs very entertaining at times.

    Granted, rarely do I buy games on reviews any more. I don’t buy that many to begin with. Usually I know a few months in advance that I going to buy a game regardless of what other people think.

    What does catch my attention is “buzz” before a game. That will at least put it on my radar. Right now GW2 has been put on the must watch for list. Depending on its release with other games on my list, I will at least investigate the game.

  6. A blogger should write for themselves as long as they’re not getting paid. It’s up to the reader to make conclusions on what they’re reading. If a reader has been following a blog that has been following a game since before beta, they should by then have some idea of the bias of the writer.

  7. I’m a fan of critical thinking, but there’s a huge difference between glowing praise / fanboism and simple positive opinions. That sounds a bit like too much of a backlash, suspecting anything positive from someone who knows the game well. I’m more suspect of negative reviews that are quick to offer comparisons of what does it “better”.

    Regardless–

    The reality is a number of positive opinions naturally adds up to a perceived consensus. Sometimes that’s unfortunate, sometimes not.

    Take the popularity of meta scores for instance. I’ve at times argued until I’m blue in the face that meta scores are so easily manipulated as to be meaningless, but I guarantee you they’re taken with more weight than any balanced review. Unfortunate IMHO, but reality nonetheless.

    I have to say, as a reader, what I’ve been hoping for is a review site that ONLY reviews games they enjoyed. If it gets a thumbs-down, don’t even give it the light of day.

    There’s so much buzzing of bees around, it’s hard to see through all of the noise. Too many sites and bloggers trying to be all-comprehensive on topics and not enough just saying what they like.

  8. I’ll strive to do better. You guys are giving lots of good advice. My blog (and most) definitely belongs in the ‘opinion’ section of the paper, but yeah, even opinions can be expressed better.

  9. This is exactly why a blogger is not inherently a writer nor a journalist. There are standards to which a blogger is not held to and as such the vast majority of blogs are nothing more than personal opinion rants on the various subjects they cover. Sure, they pretend to do some investigative journalism and whatnot and they’ll post links (although typically only ones that support their opinion) and all that good stuff. But at the end of the day, they’re just some dude with a computer like every other dude with a computer. And most of them (and by them, I mean us) are absolutely full of shit and talking out our asses.

    That said, I think it is unrealistic to ask of simple bloggers that which supposed journalists do not even accomplish. I say supposed because we all know game journalists are just bloggers who get paid by a corporation to write. They’re basically on the same level as tabloid journalists.

    Then again, maybe if we started holding these charlatans to a higher standard, we’d get better media coverage and actual proper reviews instead of blatant and obvious fanboy pants-creaming rants about how awesome the next shitty franchise game is going to be or developer interviews that mainly consist of asking how awesome the game is going to be 20 times in a row with slightly different wording.

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