Getting it

In a recent conversation I had on Twitter I was told I didn’t ‘get’ the Star Trek Adventures RPG, my review of which is pretty negative. This did two things. Firstly it annoyed me, as I’d played the game for a good number of sessions before committing my thoughts to paper. Secondly it got me thinking about the idea that any game can be definitively ‘got’. Let’s dive into it.

This was the first time I had been personally subjected to the idea, but I’ve seen it countless times as a defensive reaction to a game you like being criticised. To me it always comes across as dismissive, short sighted, and rude. I get that seeing a game you enjoy being criticised can feel like a personal attack, but good critics will never think of it that way. All we are doing is sharing our thoughts on this particular game: how we felt about it, does it do what it proclaims to do etc.

In these times where the majority of our interactions are taking place online, we owe it to ourselves and all those we interact with to police ourselves and be mindful of the impact words can have on others. I thought it might be worth starting a conversation about how I try and interact online. This is specifically about platforms like twitter and Facebook where the primary form of interaction is the written word.

Don’t

First and foremost you can just not. If someone doesn’t like the same thing you do, then agree to disagree and move on. If you find yourself the subject of trolls then block and mute are your friend. I would hope that such things would never get to the point of police involvement.

The other side of Don’t is that you should not tag the designer/company in your defence of their product. Likely they know about the review already and aren’t really interested in getting pulled into an online firefight.

Talk Softly

If you have passed through the don’t stage and honestly believe that you have a solid point to make, talk softly (the big stick is not required).

For starters get names and pronouns correct. Loads of people on Twitter have their preferred pronoun in their bio, and on many platforms real names will be obvious. Showing people this little bit of respect will go a long way to having your voice heard. If you can’t be bothered to go as far as these basic courtesies then why should anyone listen to anything you have to say.

Keep in mind that we are talking about an enterainment here. Me not liking the game you adore doesn’t invalidate your feelings. I know it can feel like that sometimes, and you want to bang the drum for your game, but if all you want to do is get angry then see our first point don’t.

Games will always be a subjective art form and the very idea that a reviewer can be entirely objective is fundamentally flawed. I expect people to disagree with me, it comes with the territory of being a critic. I welcome those disagreements and I am always happy to explain my reasons to anyone who asks. Sometimes we are just going to plain disagree though, and that is fine. You aren’t going to convince me of the merits of this game and I am not going convince you it isn’t any good or vice versa.

Always Add

I think one of the things I always keep in mind when crafting a reply is “What am I adding?”. If the answer is nothing, then I just don’t reply. If I am coming across as detracting from the original poster, then why am I bothering? I’ll just be making someone feel bad.

We should always aim to add to a conversation: a different point of view, a story about a time we enjoyed this game, an anecdote that makes you have fond memories of it. Talk softly, read your reply before sending it. Those few seconds of reflection can be the difference between a nice conversation and a hurled insult. 

Context is King

We are living through extraordinary times, the situation changing daily as each of us struggles to respond to the new pressures of day to day life. 

During this time, games will still be made and played, and of course the critical apparatus should keep on turning. At all times as critics that our hates, are another persons loves. We can criticise without taking joy from those who admire what we do not. Our word is not sacrosanct, nor should it ever be considered so. 

As readers and consumers remember that critics want to engage, we want to hear that you enjoyed where we did not. It gives me hope that the hobby appeals to a wider and wider audience, day after day. We must always remember that we all love the hobby, just not always in the same way. Add to the conversation, talk softly, and where we can do neither of those things, just don’t. 

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Author: Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

2 thoughts

  1. I often find people who complain about a negative review of their favourite game quite odd. For one thing, it always seems an odd thing to do to even read a review of a game if its already your favourite. I see reviews as sources of advice for something I’m considering buying, if a game is already my favourite the only reason to read them seems to be in search of some kind of echo chamber. Which I suppose would be even more upsetting when the echo chamber returns the wrong thing. It sometimes feels like there are fans who subscribe to and read every review of a game in order to police what they see as the ‘wrong’ answer.
    A question that I’d ask of someone about to post against a critical review is, would you post that form of complaint if it were a glowing review? The number of times I’ve seen people complaining that a critical reviewer hasn’t played the game enough is insane, but I’ve never once seen that charge levelled against an overly gushing reviewer. If reviews are subjective you should be making those sorts of objective demands of all your reviewers, but there are people who think that there is a right and a wrong answer for a review, and if you got the wrong answer, you clearly need to study harder.

    Like

    1. The ‘you haven’t played it enough’ thing really bugs me. Who is to say what that is? I remember seeing someone saying you should play any game x times where x was in double digits if I remember right. Does that count for UNO? Snap? I don’t think so. It is weird to seek out reviews of games you already own and love. You know you love it, that is good enough. I may not like it, that is also fine. I’m not coming round your house and setting fire to it.

      Liked by 1 person

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