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Jim Felli - On Ratings
I generally glance at the rating number when looking at anything online. If it is extremely low, I pass over it without digging in. If it is extremely high, I generally read the few negative reviews (but not too many of the positive ones). If it is mixed, I like to read a selection of reviews, but still mostly the negative ones. I find that negative reviews often offer a more direct look at what I am interested in learning about the product. They generally are shorter and get directly to their point. Many times, the negatives for the reviewer are actually positives for me.
As an English teacher, I have to create rubrics for class, and the goal is to make them objective, so that anyone using the rubric and looking at the essay will arrive at the same score. This is not easy, but it is a good exercise for thinking clearly about the essential parts of what you want to evaluate. I like to design games, and writing rubrics has helped me with writing rulebooks.
On occasion, a written review isn't worth very much.
The biggest issue I have with any game review is that I have significant doubts regarding whether the reviewer has actually played the game. I'm not a big components guy, and as often as not a reviewer's primary observation is how it looks on the table. The minute I see this the shields go up, and the writer has to work hard to convince me they know what they're talking about. I can review a game's components without actually having a copy. So can everyone else, so it's more or less worthless content.
The long form reviews here on ThereWillBe.Games are getting the job done. There's enough content regarding the inner workings, the interesting conflictions and the shortcomings, to keep me invested. But that's not something you'll find on other sites where anyone can punch out a review in half an hour and typically do, because quantity is more valuable than quality.
Regardless of our desire for objectivity
Who's "our"? You got a mouse in your pocket, Jim?
This recent shrieking about the need for objectivity in reviews is ridiculous. Reviews are not objective. They cannot be objective. They should not be objective.
I don't want a dry scientific analysis of a game. I can read rules and look at photos myself. I want to know if it's fun to play. Is that subjective? Hell yeah it is. So the reviewer's job is to get that across.
And that's hard. It's hard to adequately describe the feeling of playing a game, of encountering, through play, what works, what doesn't, what should but doesn't, and -- most fun -- what shouldn't but does. Not a lot of people can do that -- I certainly can't -- but because of the current age, everyone is free to give it a whack. And instead of saying, "yeah, most people aren't good at that and we should really sift through and find those that are" we have instead embraced this dumb idea that the problem is that reviews aren't "objective" enough, that the actual review potion should be a dispassionate evaluation of measurable and differentiable(?) categories.
The punchline to this is that it doesn't matter, because not only are we reviewing absolutely unnecessary nonsense, we're doing it for an audience who, 99 times out of 100, simply wants a "review" to justify a decision they've already made. "I want to buy this game because it's pretty. Oh, BoardGameHobo said it's good! That settles it, in the basket it goes!" Or "I want to buy this game because it's pretty. Oh, BoardGameHobo said it's bad! Well, he doesn't know what I like, so in the basket it goes!"
A single review almost always has little value on its own. You'll need either more reviews from that person so you can establish how your tastes line up with theirs or you'll need an aggregate of reviews on the item to compare across the board.
As always, my personal view on the issue is that fewer people need to be writing "reviews" in the first place. Don't add to the noise by throwing your fifteen paragraphs of rules with "I liked it and it's worth of space on your shelf" summary at the bottom in to muddy up the waters. Nobody cares. Just give it your strong 7 and be done with it. Leave the talk to people who know what they're doing.
I agree. Wholeheartedly.
Sagrilarus wrote: The long form reviews here on ThereWillBe.Games are getting the job done. There's enough content regarding the inner workings, the interesting conflictions and the shortcomings, to keep me invested. But that's not something you'll find on other sites where anyone can punch out a review in half an hour and typically do, because quantity is more valuable than quality.
Overall, though, I agree with Legomancer on a philosophical level. Concern with a non-existent "objectivity" is often a Gamergate thing.
It's now ubiquitous and inescapable. If you have reviews and want them indexed correctly by Google, you have to include a rating. If you don't want to custom code scale metadata, you use a 5 star rating.
I’ve got a guy rating STF as a 2 because he doesn’t like dexterity games, and he uses his ratings as a reminder to himself.
Until you can get everyone in the world on the same page (read: never) all of this is interesting banter, but banter nonetheless
From there, most games are a "geekbuddy analysis" away from my own evaluation of whether I'm really interested in playing or not.
It's essentially the same as aggregating your favorite reviewers but it also distills the written material down to what's immediately important or relevant to the reviewer.
As for aggregate ratings... those provide nearly zero information for me.