Bryan Kam

I've previously thought about this question, whether there's a moral cost to indulging one's dislike or hatred for something through vitriol, how that weighs up against saving other people's time.

My recent thinking has been that it's hard enough to get the motivation to read/experience difficult stuff so better to err on the side of the (more difficult to write, as most of those writers note) positive review.

@bkam I counter with video-game journalism. Years of unenthusiastic positive reviews cost video-game journalism it's credibility way before gamergate was a thing.

@machado Not familiar with gamergate. But is the issue with the fact that the reviews were positive, or the publications, or what? I'm interested in whether one should write negative reviews on a personal level rather than at an industry level

@bkam Gamergate was partly a protest against the conflict of interest of publications doing reviews of products from companies that buy ads on said publications.

(And partly a clusterfuck of activists, trolls, etc.)

But way before the accusations of financial motivations, people were already tuning out the sea of "yeah, sure, it's okay I guess" reviews. They are neither entertaining nor helpful in choosing what to buy.

@machado OK yeah I see. I assumed it was a conflict of interest.

Do you think it makes a difference if the stuff you're reviewing is for educational rather than entertainment purposes?

I guess I'm thinking that reading books can be hard, so a good review can convince you to do something you otherwise wouldn't. Whereas the bad review would just reinforce the default of not reading.

Then again, maybe it's a related problem if there are too many games to ever play.

@bkam Maybe focus less on quality and more on how the work is situated in the sea of variety.

Highlight the more "acquired taste" aspects of the work that might be deal-makers or deal-breakers for people on the fence, how things people have already read might affect the experience, advice on digestion (single session binge vs multi session), activities that might help put the content in perspective, etc.

@bkam @machado

On a personal level, no one can please everyone. The is a subjective element to it after all. But good and bad reviews give an outline to taste and help people with similar taste find you.

@dee @machado Yeah that's a good point. I suppose one argument in favour of writing bad reviews is that it might help people who agree with you find you.

@bkam IMO, a bad review that's all about the writer's superiority, like, "how many clever ways can I say this sucks" -- is pretty worthless.

But we can learn a lot from "bad" art! Sometimes the conversation that it sparks is more valuable than what we would have gotten from "good" art.

A constructively negative review, to me, is one that starts that conversation.

@bkam For example, were there good ideas poorly executed? A bad review can be a valuable aid to other creators in learning how to avoid those execution mistakes.

On the other hand, were the ideas themselves bad, e.g. a story that inadvertently pushes bad morals? A bad review can start a discussion about rejecting those morals and finding better ones.

I'd rather read an interesting new take on the star wars prequels ("bad") than watch The Force Awakens again ("good", but in a really boring way)

@bkam when i read a review i don't care how many stars somebody gave the thing, i care about: what's unique about this piece of art? what ideas is it grappling with? are those of interest to me? Could I get something out of this piece of art that I couldn't get elsewhere?

there are a lot more reasons to take in a piece of art other than just "it's Good", after all.

maybe the point of a review should be to draw those reasons to the surface, not to give a "rating".

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Refactor Camp

Mastodon instance for attendees of Refactor Camp, and members of various online/offline groups that have grown out of it. Related local groups with varying levels of activity exist in the Bay Area, New York, Chicago, and Austin.

Kinda/sorta sponsored by the Ribbonfarm Blogamatic Universe.

If you already know a few people in this neck of the woods, try and pick a handle they'll recognize when you sign up. Please note that the registration confirmation email may end up in your spam folder, so check there. It should come from administrator Zach Faddis.