Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why review?

A running theme in several IF comp blogs currently is a discussion of why and how people review interactive fiction.  We haven't quite come to a point of seeing reviews of individual reviewers, but since this is a community that enjoys writing and giving feedback (a community which is overall very good at those things) it wouldn't surprise me to read even more meta-analysis of meta-analyzers in the future.

These are blogs of note I've read on the topic of reviewing interactive fiction.

Wade challenges IF comp bloggers to articulate their motives.  He points out that mis-matched adgendas (between authors and reviewers) can lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings.  That's a great challenge Wade presents, but an embarrassing one, because it starts out by admitting that a core motivation for bloggers of all topics is narcissism.  I think I'm super-clever and I want other people to read me.  I could, after all, keep my writings private, or email my more constructive comments directly to the author.

Racing past that embarrassing truth to the more noble goals of writing.  I've written two works of IF (remarkably, both published in the same year).  I really enjoyed reading the reviews that my beta testers sent me, and later reviews shared publicly during the competition.  I even enjoyed the bad reviews.  I appreciated the feedback, and I liked knowing that someone who had played my game was interested enough to write about it.  That's one reason I review.  To pay respect to the authors.

I don't write just to announce "this is what score I'm giving to this game".  In most cases I don't post a number.  I don't want the author of a game to fixate on that number and overlook the specific feedback I've given.  I don't ever want to eviscerate an author just for sport, but I do sometimes post reviews of games I didn't overall enjoy.

I write for future authors as much as current ones, to share my philosophy of game design.  Prior to publishing my first game(s), I had already been reading for years, so even on my first game I knew what to expect.  The Spring Thing and IF comp do not have to be (should not be) a testing ground to discover what other players like and what they find irritating.  I hope that my reviews can help some future author avoid common traps.  I suspect that some authors don't care if their games will be popular (again, those mis-matched agendas).  I write for authors who want their games to be well received by a majority.

I write for people who have already played a game, so we can compare thoughts.  I don't write so much for people who haven't yet played the game, because my reviews contain spoilers.

Thanks to Wade for inspiring this self reflection.

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