Reviewing Reviewer Reviews?

I seek wisdom:

Is it a “MUST” when doing/writing reviews for products/games that the writer/reviewer go out of their way to find the “good” aspects of a product or game, and only write about the positive aspects, even if it becomes a chore to locate them?

Would it be more fitting for the reviewer who is writing the review of a product/game to look at it from a consumer/player stand-point and just unleash a torrent of hate about all the problems a product/game may have? Especially if the product/game charges a monthly subscrption rate to play?


I always write with a focus on the things that made the biggest impression on me, good or bad, and then fill in details that I think the reader would want to know.

May I ask why you’re asking?

My philosophy has been simply to present my impressions of a title. I’m not trying to balance every bad with a good. If what I got from a game was a string of frustrations and disappointments, you better believe that’s going to be the focus of my review. I’ve always felt that our responsibility, in a nutshell, is to tell the readers whether or not we feel a game is worth their money, and then provide the data that we used to reach that conclusion, so they can figure out whether or not they agree with the conclusion, based on their own preferences.

My goal when writing a review is to try to communicate to the readers the heart and soul of a game in a way that they can decide whether they would like it. Even if my “score” is low, why it was low (my problems with the game may not be a big deal to some readers - for example, I don’t like combat flight sims that have a single string of predictable missions tied together, in which you have to “solve” them before you can go to the next mission - but others may think that’s fine and dandy.)

A game is more than the sum of it’s features, which is why (IMO) reviews that are simply a laundry list of features are bad reviews (read the box if you want every feature.) Games with identical feature sets can be very, very different in the gaming experience they provide (e.g., why do people long for some of the classics, such as XCom, when so many other games have had the exact same set of features?)

I think the “torrent of hate” style of review is pretty played out, but it’s very, very important that you give the negatives and explain why some aspect is good or bad or annoying. I personally try to find something good about every game I play, but if there’s only a miniscule amount of good in a crappy title then the good stuff isn’t going to get equal time.

Beware Angie. She’s a big fan of blowing sunshine up your ass. Sunshine and kittens all day long, that’s what you’ll get from her.

The reviewer’s main obligation is write a review that fairly reflects his or her own experience with the game, whether it was good or bad or some balance of the two.

But, in order to do that, the critic has to put in the necessary hours with the product–not play just the first three levels–and in the process, even in a bad game, the player may find something original or appealing. (Then again, the game may get worse. :) )


Agreed. The faux-objective style is intellectually dishonest and a waste of time.

Although I’m guilty of using it in some of my lazier moments, there’s no line quite as lame as “if you’re a fan of X, you might enjoy Y.” EVERY game ever made - even Flying Heroes - has its fans.

You’re a reviewer because you’re a purported expert (or have an enormous schlong). You don’t have to qualify your credentials, and no-one asked for a wishy-washy diplomat.

What you DO owe your readers is a set of explanations for your opinions - answering the WHY for every laudation or condemnation you utter, so they can understand your feelings, and in layman’s terms, no less. Unqualified praise or hate is a waste of the reader’s time. WHY is the interface a work of genius? Because the buttons are arranged in a useful priority and also accessible through intelligently mapped hotkeys. WHY do the levels’ designs suck filthy lemur scrotum? Because they’re just ambling labyrinths that have no definable features and the enemies seem randomly placed. WHY is this game not worth $50? Because I just gave you a laundry list of reasons why it doesn’t compare well to the games in the same genre that I, the reviewer, have indicated that I liked.

Reviews should always be subjective, but also intelligently argued. Give the reader a way to identify with your opinion; don’t cater to some stupid sense of ranking or faux-objectivity. There’s nothing more insulting than a review where it’s obvious that the writer was much more ambivalent about the game than his glowing praise might indicate - like, say, certain MoO3 and Black and White reviews? That’s where pesudo-objectivity gets ya.

Ambivalence is key. Cover all your bases. Make sure if a publisher/developer slams on you thinking that you gave their game a bad review, you can point to where you lauded the game. If a reader/player slams on you thinking that you gave the game a good review to kiss publisher/developer ass, you can point where you slammed the game. Of course, you’d have to give the game a score of 7.5 to 8.0.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

The reason I ask, is because I worked out a barter deal with a gal to do reviews for me on my site. They get published, so they can refer people back to their writes. Hopefully move into a professional role and get paid.

Some of the folks who have done this with me, became site managers on some of the gaming networks, co-authored some strategy guides, and then got hired by gaming companies, etc.

We make no claims to be professional writers. We look forward to what all the pro’s do and hope to someday be considered as such (Mark Asher called me a newb at E3!).

So, this gal reviewed a game for me, and it has much hatred. I showed it to one of you folks here, and he had some constructive crit’s regarding it. It’s 6000 words long, and has much hate also.

I’m hesistant to release it, but think it covered the game it was written about well although with extreme negativity. Would anyone be interested in reviewing the review? I don’t want to self promote, so we can do PM’s.


I support Doug’s post fully.

I would like to add to it…

The point in a review is for the reader to know where you are coming from so that he can qualify your words for himself. So if I was reviewing Yarr! Puzzle Pirates I would provide a link to information about myself so that people could see that I am greatly dissatisfied with the Upward Spiral design of MMOGs and also the Levelling Treadmill.

That allows the reader to understand HIS relationship to YOU. If the reader loves the Levelling Treadmill then he probably wants to read a MMOG review from a reviewer who also likes Levelling Treadmills.

Something that would be great to happen is a methodology whereby the reader is MATCHED with the reviewer. So every reviewer should produce a bio of his favortisms/unfavoritisms and provide a link so that the reader can gain further clarity regarding what lies behind your review.

Can anyone imagine how many times a reader reads a glowing review, heads out to buy the game, and then dislikes the game? His tastes don’t MATCH the reviewer’s!

Also, I’ll repeat a request I made earlier…

Reviewer statistics should be provided. So the mean and median scores for reviews from that reviewer, also a breakdown of the mean/median for each genre from that reviewer, perhaps by developer, etc.

Once a reader has reviewer statistics and a reviewer bio, he is ready to make a truly informed decision. He is ready to find his review mate.

Or, if you want to really get organized, provide a Meta-Review site where a reader types in his own likes and dislikes, creating a kind of bio, then the search engine finds a reviewer who shares his tastes.

Not a bad idea in theory, Brian, but I think that’s just too much work/research on the part of the reader. I don’t think people will spend that much time looking. Most of them, anyway.

What people seem to want is ratings at the bottom of the page, and reviews that agree with their opinion. They’ve usually already bought the game, anyway.

I’d say the most important thing about a review is that it states the reviewer’s opinion clearly and backs up positives/negatives with reasons and examples. “This game sucks” is useless to the reader, because it’s subjective. As was said before, it has to be written so that the reader can tell why the reviews liked/disliked it, to better enable the reader to determine whether or not it’s worth their time and money.

And I hate it when reviewers pull punches. If they hate it, I want to know.

Bear in mind that the review will still be there. Readers that don’t like my idea can ignore it… just ignore the links!

It will require more work from the reviewer and the site maintainer and the review manager for sure, but I for one would be delighted to go to a website that offers these features and I bet there’s many others too.

Also, even aside from the raw mechanics and practicality there is a broad-theme of encouraging understanding of the reviewer. Since a reviewer’s identity is so critical to the review why not help out readers by clarifying that identity?

This idea also moves toward a more subjective focus for game reviewers. Reviewers can be themselves and not have to worry about “objectivity”. Call the game as YOU see it, not as how others see it or as some kind of collective viewing.

If it’s Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness then by all means release it. :)

Seriously being negative because one is angsty, or because you’re comparing it to the greatest game of all time, or for the sake of being negative is pretty worthless.

But there are some games out there that I find are very difficult to talk about without covering mostly negative aspects. In a review I wrote of TR: AOD I felt guilty being so negative, considering my history with the series, but I felt that the game left me no other option.

Some people however, and I notice this particularly in mmorpgs, have a bizarre love/hate relationships with their games. They’ll bash it over and over and yet still play it constantly (I admit to be somewhat guilty of this too). If the review were of a game like this, I feel like it’s more of a case of subjectivity and not the game “deserving” to be trashed.

I’m not as qualified as other people in this forum to review reviews, but I’d be willing to read it and give you my opinion of whether or not I feel it’s constructive if you’d like.

I think Brian has a good idea, but the drawback is (as mentioned above) giving the reader too much research. How about giving a brief list of the reviewers all-time favorite games? Only a list, not an explanation.

If a reviewer who despises conventional Tolkien-style fantasy is assigned to review Everquest, what’s the value of his opinion to those who enjoy such things? The reviewer might qualify his opinion by stating the genre is “tired” or “cliche” and come away being bored simply because he is so subjective in his critcism.

It’s 6000 words long

Paging Jakub! New Firing Squad material!

This should be an issue for the assigning editor, rather than for the reader. It doesn’t make sense to assign a review to someone who loathes a genre (or is a blindly devoted fan of one, for that matter). The best reviewers come to a game (or movie, or book) with minds uncluttered with preconceptions.


I agree it would be an editor’s problem, but aren’t there times in the real world when a reviewer must cover a game genre that he’s not crazy about? In fact, I remember reading a magazine a few years ago (a big one… maybe PC Gamer) that intentionally would assign games to writers who are not fans of the genre – presumably to avoid a “gushy” review.

I think a little more info about the reviewers would be helpful to the reader.

"The best reviewers come to a game (or movie, or book) with minds uncluttered with preconceptions. "

If the reviewer is a human being then thats not gonna happen. Any reviewer that say they do is lying through their teeth.