Being critical, yet professional.
If you’ve browsed around Falcon Game Reviews at all before reading this, you may have noticed the tagline says something along the lines of “Unprofessional Opinions On Games” or something like that. To be honest, I actually strive to be pretty professional despite that. If you could see my correspondence with various game developer contacts – a select few of which have been absolutely wonderful – you’d see that I’m very formal, with a little sprinkled-in levity.
I think that’s important. After all, when you’re reaching out to a company or individual with the intention of seeking review copies or information about a game, you want to treat it as a business interaction. At least that’s my take on it. Maybe you’d be comfortable with the approach of “Hey bro, I wanna play that game you made and I’m too stingy to buy it. Mind sliding me a free copy so I can vomit words onto a page about it after playing it for a couple hours?”
Okay, maybe you wouldn’t do that. Also, if someone were that honest about their intentions, I doubt they’d be seriously expecting anything in return. Not to mention that most folks seeking free stuff in exchange for a poorly composed review would be unable to string together a series of coherent sentences.
Where was I?
Anyone that has taken the time to create anything knows that to create something you want to share takes time and effort. The amount of time you sink into your creation, along with the degree of effort you put forth, dictates the quality of what you make. If you want to make something you’d be proud to share, you pour your heart and soul into it.
Game developers do this. The people that make the games we play spend hundreds of hours writing code, designing assets, crafting environments, composing scripts, and standing in front of a whiteboard with a bewildered look on their face as they try to reconcile plot points that have been presented by an exhausted team of writers.
I just made that last part up. There’s no story there.
My point is that actual people slave over the games they’re creating every day for years on end, and bare their creation to the world to be viewed and evaluated. That’s where people like me come in. Publications, YouTubers, Twitch and Mixer (yeah that’s still a thing) streamers, bloggers, and delusional teens come out of the woodwork when a new game is announced, pleading with the marketing departments of publishers and developers to receive a free copy of their newest game. Some of the bigger fish just get handed those copies preemptively, because they’re big and can get the game out in front of millions of people. I’m not bitter at all.
Anyways, tons of work goes into making video games, so it makes me wonder something. It makes me wonder if I have the right to be harsh when criticizing games. I sure as hell don’t know how to make a game, so is it okay for me to criticize something I can’t do myself?
Please Don’t Take It Personally
Something I struggled with early on in my writing is how it would be received. I’ve worried endlessly about whether or not people would enjoy what I have to say, or if they’d disagree with me. Perhaps, some would be so violently opposed to my viewpoint that they’d resort to attacking me personally, or calling into question my competence as a writer and critic. Frankly, I’ve often found it to be rather devastating to have someone criticize something I’ve written, and my posts average at around 1500-2500 words at the most. I can’t imagine what it’d be like for me to spend years writing something, only for people to come out telling me it’s trash.
However, there’s a difference between criticizing someone’s work, their creation, and criticizing the person behind it. Similarly, it’s one thing to examine a game and offer an evaluation of it, and another to just lob attacks at it.
I feel like I haven’t been overly harsh when reviewing games or talking about them, and I strive to not make things personal. It isn’t fair to those folks that spend the majority of their days in front of a computer, crafting an experience meant to be distributed to thousands, if not millions of players. Still, I believe that there’s a threshold you cross when you ask people to pay for your creation.
Finding The Right Path
At the heart of all of this is honesty and professionalism, on both the creator’s and critic’s behalf. If you send out your creation to be evaluated for its quality, you should understand that you’re opening your work up for criticism. Likewise, as a critic, if you receive something for free for the purpose of review, you shouldn’t go easy on it because of that. Also, it’s important to understand that under no circumstances is creator obligated to give you anything in the first place. Expecting something for nothing other than a review of it is probably the pinnacle of entitlement.
The moral behind all of this? Be professional, not personal.
What are your thoughts on the whole reviewer/creator relationship? Do you feel like you’re obligated to go easy on something if it’s given to you? From the creator’s perspective, what is expected of reviewers?
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