Ask a Dork: Reviews
What qualities or information do you think is most important for a reviewer to get across in a review?
The internet is swimming with media reviews. Pofessional and amature critics regularly rip into books, comics, music, graphic novels, movies, video games, and film in order to help their audience avoid making wary purchases, improve their respective industries with progressive commentary, or simply to provide entertainment. I’d wager that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of reviewers online at anytime but it’s not terribly hard to separate the good from the bad.
The strongest reviews aren’t necessarily the ones that offer a ton of well articulated information; the easiest thing to do while writing a review is to detail a piece of media’s mechanics, qualities, or production history. However, that’s not exactly what people want to read. Otherwise, they’d be going straight to WIkipedia. A great reviewer is smart enough to avoid the pitfall of objectivity.
Reviews are innately predicated on subjectivity. Sure, direct comparisons can be used to give a better a sense of objective placement (i.e. this game’s mechanics are similar to that of this other game, this filmmaker’s dialogue is reminiscent of this award winner, the prose in this novella resembles that of this other author, etc.) but when it comes to the perceived quality, objectivity is mostly out the window. This is why the best reviewers examine material under their own skewed lens. There are no claims that their opinion is the only one that counts, but it is distinctly theirs.
Destructoid’s Reviews Editor, Jim Sterling, is a shining example of this principle. He’s considered somewhat controversial in the industry because he allows his seemingly abrasive personality fly on to the page. There is never much exposition in his reviews and he doesn’t like to waste time with minor or unimportant details. It’s just his a focused, extremely well articulated demonstration of why he dislikes or likes in a game. He’s vulgar at times, but sharp and often uses satire to demonstrate a point. It’s different, but that’s also why it works. In fact, while Jim Sterling isn’t seen too highly by many stuffy industry pundits, he’s known far and wide for his entertainingly no-nonsense reviews.
No piece of media is one size fits all. The preferences and expectations of those who will use and review something will naturally differ. The important thing in writing a well structured review is to not get bogged down in the obvious objective details and instead revel in the glorious subjectivity that such a soapbox offers. If you take this approach, you can be honest to your preferences, clear in your assessments, well rounded in your approach, and, most of all, ensure that you entertain.