Once More With Feeling

Reviews are not, and cannot be, objective. As writers, we can try as best we can to mitigate against our own opinions, we can try to step into someone else’s shoes. As human beings, we have a certain empathy that allows us to understand how something might affect someone even when it might not be affecting us.

When I used to do freelance game reviews, for Frugal Gaming or for TheGameJar (many of my work is found is still found here), I strove to cover as many bases as I could. Especially early on, I tried to address games without getting personal. I wanted to say that games might be technical masterpieces, even if they left me cold. Partly, it was because I was smug. I hated the idea of someone calling out something I’d missed, or suggesting I hadn’t seen it from this angle or that. Really, as I then learnt, it’s no way to review something. Reviews are not, and cannot be, objective. Not fully, anyway.

I was originally writing to build a portfolio, with a dream to write on one of those ‘big’ gaming sites, and I figured they were looking for these objective pieces. On the contrary, though, I began to realise that the reviews I enjoyed reading myself were the far more personal ones. I enjoyed reviewers who didn’t pull their punches, reviewers that called publishes out on awful practices. I preferred people who liked bad games but could say why, and people who could analyse the medium into such detail as to tear apart examples of seeming perfection. Why? Because these reviews were from the heart. They weren’t just trying to tick all the boxes (Have I mentioned the graphics? Have I mentioned the sound? Have I mentioned the plot?), these reviews told you how someone felt, the experience they had. They’re real things. To ignore emotion and to aim for the objective… It’s boring, it becomes too clinical and dull. It’s also nigh on impossible, as opinion on this or that sinks in somehow… so why stop it? Reviews are not, and cannot be, objective.

It’s my opinion, my unashamed and personal opinion, my unfiltered and utterly subjective opinion, that this is how we should judge any medium we wish to call an Art. We can praise technical prowess, but when devoid of feeling it is worthless. When I read up on the latest hardware, I want to know it’s technical specs, but when I read up on the latest game, book, movie, song, I want to know how it feels. If a game moves you to tears, I want to know. If a book changes your life, I need you to tell me. I don’t want to count the pages of a book, judge a game by its frame rate, rate an album on the amount of tracks. Give me a game that lasts an hour and moves me, rather than a game that lasts ten times that and leaves me empty inside. Moreover, give me your review based on how much you unapologetically enjoy something, regardless if it’s the ‘norm’ or not.  Reviews are not, and cannot be, objective.

*****

PlayPositive is, in it’s aim, a vehicle for this. I want to discuss the positive, with an emphasis on making it a healthy discussion too. Constructive critique is, in my eyes, a positive… it encourages the betterment of something, and the sharing of ideas. In that sense, I’d love you to share your ideas here with PlayPositive. Have something you love? Let us know. Want to write a post? Let us know. Please, come along and tell me how something makes you feel!

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