Talking About Games: Positivity, Negativity
Where the first four parts of Talking About Games focused on the words employed by board game reviewers and players, we now zoom into the stratosphere with the haste of an eagle diving at a plump squirrel. That’s right, I’m talking big picture. For the next few months, we’ll be talking about criticism more broadly — what it is, what it’s good for, and the biggie, why it is. Important, I mean. Critical, if wordplay is your jam.
Today, our topic is positivity and negativity. And it came about because of two happenings that made me ask why I bother writing about board games in the first place.
Both happenings landed within a week of each other. First, my inbox caught some hate mail. Nothing new about that. But what set this one apart was its bizzareness. It accused me of not playing a certain game more than once, of harming the livelihood of the game’s designers, and then attempted to bribe me into writing a retraction. A short time later, somebody started a thread on BGG asking whether reviewers had a responsibility to address comments claiming they’d played the game incorrectly. This wasn’t written to me directly, but I have good reason to suspect its author had me in mind. When I pin this string to the corkboard in my basement, I’m not being completely crazy. I was only playing String Railways. Honest.
Today’s piece isn’t about those events. The email was obviously trolling, worth little more than a contemptuous laugh, while the thread was entitlement incarnate, both ignorant of the work reviewers invest into their craft and blissfully unaware that engaging with strangers on the internet isn’t always wise. For the record, no, I will not write a positive review for money. Also, I will gladly attempt to rectify mistakes, but only when the rule in question was actually wrong and significant enough to have modified my impression of the game. In both cases, the message is the same: someone feels like they’re owed something when they aren’t.
However, these events got me thinking: I’ve never received a nasty email or a forum rant over a positive review. Yet when I really consider the issue, it’s the positive review that does more tangible damage.
Yes, you know I’m going to explain that bomb.
To express what I mean, let’s do a mental exercise. Imagine two games with corresponding reviews. The first is a game you love, but somebody has panned it. The second is a game that came highly recommended, but it turns out the thing is a stinker.
In my case, the game I enjoy (picked at random by glancing over my shoulder at the Forever Shelf) is Millennium Blades. The game I dislike (selected by looking at my sell immediately stack) is Vault of Dragons. In both cases, my imagined strawman review is the exact opposite of my own opinion. Strawboy McStawverson writes that Millennium Blades is the anime pornography version of Egyptian Rat Screw, while Vault of Dragons is “super compelling with its clever decisions.” Hissss.
Because this is the internet, my gut reaction to both is somewhat similar. I have a keyboard. I have an opinion. Why not smash them together in the hope that I’ll persuade McStrawverson that he’s wrong about everything? Where my reactions differ is that I’m far less likely to bother telling him off for his positive review. I might roll my eyes. Maybe I’d type, “Nah, this one didn’t click for me.” The negative review, on the other hand, has earned itself both barrels. The author isn’t merely wrong; he’s a mutant from an alien world who intends to deceive me, and I plan to let him know that I know about it.
But… why is that?
Time and money are valuable. Even mental bandwidth is precious. Learning a game requires at least two of those three resources. Often all three. If a negative review prompts me to ignore a game, what have I lost? Only hypotheticals. Maybe I would have loved the game. Maybe it would have been a great fit for my group. More likely, we would have played it twice and moved onto the next shiny thing. But even in the best worst-case scenario, chances are that I play it later, love its pants off, and buy the game on the aftermarket. Maybe it costs a tiny bit more. Maybe I make an unfavorable trade for it. Really, that’s bad luck. Most of the time I can probably get it cheaper.
Then there’s the positive review to consider. What does it do? Well, it says I’m missing out. It shows me shiny pictures that capture my interest. It hypes up the game, sometimes even to unreasonable levels. If it’s persuasive, I spend time and bandwidth and possibly money on it. When it’s a letdown, I don’t feel the need to scream at the person who claimed it was the best game of the year, even though they’ve actively helped expend my time, money, and attention.
In other words, it’s natural to get upset over a negative review. But it’s the negative review that’s more likely to do me a service.
Criticism is many things. Plenty of so-called critics thumb their noses at being considered a buyer’s guide — and to be clear, criticism shouldn’t merely be that — but there’s really no escaping that aspect. Which is why, when speaking to an audience of people who play games, a positive review is more likely to be damaging. On an immediate level, it often functions as marketing, which subtracts from people’s time, money, and attention. On a longer timescale, it also impacts the broader culture. If bad games are endlessly praised, where’s the incentive for games to get better?
Keep in mind, this sword cuts both ways. I’m not saying negativity is inherently more honest than positivity. Good games should be praised. A critic should feel free to be effusive about something they love. But as it stands, that’s really not an issue in this hobby. If anything, breathless delight is the default. I’ve never once hesitated because I wondered if a review might be too positive. After all, this is the criteria for writing a positive review:
- Enjoy a game and write about it.
The criteria for a negative review, on the other hand, looks more like this:
- Play a game (which you don’t enjoy) a whole bunch so you don’t come off as an ignoramus.
- Accept that you’ll still be accused of not playing the game enough.
- Consider couching your critiques to ease the hardness of the blow.
- Try to come up with something positive to say, just so the fanboys won’t hunt you down at a convention.
- Waffle over your biases both conscious and unconscious.
- Come to terms with maybe burning a bridge with a publisher or designer.
- Have multiple people who’ve played the game take a look at your draft so you can be sure you didn’t miss some incredibly minor rule that will be used to discredit your broader points.
- Be ready to defend your statements long after you’ve forgotten the specific details.
- Linger over the publish button, its rectangularity encompassing the seething hatred of the entire internet, about to descend upon you like a mob of breakers.
It’s common to see questions about critical integrity in this hobby. The specter of paid reviews looms large for a few reasons, including instances when marketing fails to disclose itself or spends an improper amount of time editorializing.
The hard reality, though, is that most reviews are positive because positive reviews are far easier to make. There’s hardly any emotional burden. You’re spending time on a game you enjoyed and will likely play multiple times. You’re saying nice things, which feels good deep in your tummy. Yes, there will always be internet trolls, but not nearly as many as when you critique something. And what’s that gurgle? Ah, it’s that gut reaction again, warning you against hurting those friendly designers who poured their whole selves into the game you didn’t like. Readers and viewers are more abstract. They didn’t create the physical artifact that’s been hogging up your kitchen table for the past week.
Okay, so what’s my point? Today’s your lucky day, because I have two for the price of one!
First, we really need a clearer perspective about why we see so many positive reviews. Despite the presence of bad actors, there isn’t some big conspiracy. Maybe one or two small conspiracies. But not a single big one. Instead, most reviews are positive because we’re a hobbyist industry with hobbyist reviewers who write about the things they’re enthusiastic about.
But second, if we want a more robust critical apparatus, one that will give us better recommendations, hone our tastes, show us what games are capable of accomplishing, and help us navigate the x-thousand releases that clog up our bandwidth every year, it helps to understand the ways that our hobby often stands in direct opposition to those types of reviews. The problem can be as small as only reaching out with sticks and never with carrots. It can be as large as foaming at the mouth on a forum or penning a nasty email.
And I’m not necessarily talking about myself here! I’m stubborn enough that I don’t invest too much concern in somebody’s invective. But in speaking with fellow critics, these are the worries and complaints I keep hearing. Over and over again. Often enough that it’s seriously disheartening. Are there any solutions? Possibly. I have a few ideas, some of which we might discuss in the coming months. Until then, hopefully you can offer some of your own.
The next part, in which we discuss the difference between a review and critique, is already on Patreon for supporters! It will become available here in the coming weeks.
(If what I’m doing at Space-Biff! is valuable to you in some way, please consider dropping by my Patreon campaign or Ko-fi.)
Posted on December 11, 2019, in Board Game and tagged Board Games, Talking About Games, What We Talk About When We Talk About Games. Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.
This is an absolutely excellent piece. I continually have concerns about the lack of constructive criticism in the tabletop space, the closeness in the relationships between designers, company and media.
Yeah, it’s a sticky knot to untangle. Some of it is inevitable in a hobby this small, unfortunately. I’m glad to see disclosure becoming more and more the norm.
Hi! Love reading your articles. What are the games pictured in #1, 3, and 4 please?
#4: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic
Another excellent piece, Dan, and a pleasure as always. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to dishing out praise for a game I enjoy, but I like to think I don’t shirk my duties if a game feels just plain wrong, or is per se a bad egg… >gulp<
The problem is bigger than any one person, but the solution comes down to each of us. Every little effort helps, and we can all do better. Me included!
Interesting analysis. Some of your arguments is why I always look for negative reviews or comments. Saying something is good is easier than describing what is good about it, but saying something is bad usually comes with some kind of specific argument even if plain stupid. Negative arguments are thus easier to evaluate.
Doesn’t reviews of war games differ in how they’re positive? Mostly positive in view of the effort and research made in producing these games, but it takes more effort as a reader to guess whether it’s a game for you or not. User ratings at BGG are in my view more modest, leading to that many war games are underrated compared to other game categories at BGG. In my view, though, these modest ratings looks more sane than actually all those highly rated games being viewed as that awesome by everyone who bought it.
Psychology probably comes in to it as well. If someone told you “it’s fantastic” and you hence spend money on it, you want to feel good about it, don’t you? I at leas finds it easier to be more neutral when I play a game I didn’t buy myself.
I promise, I won’t harass you by mail for being utterly wrong about “Food Chain Magnate”!
I would definitely agree that there’s a different attitude, in general, when it comes to wargames. Some of that is the audience’s native comfort level with examination — there are myriad ways to evaluate a wargame, and that’s to be expected. Not that every wargamer is inherently wiser or anything silly like that, but the culture does tend to be more willing to hear out an argument.
Google works in mysterious ways. I guy I at times listen to, when in the mood and having the time, is Enrico Viglino. Out of the blue zeros and ones Google suggested me to look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDOPq7XnTAY&t=192s
Enricos reviews are at times painfully sincere, but there’s something about the guy I like. Anyway he has some input as well on subject. Quite early in the monologue he states that while he probably likes all games he review, he doesn’t have the time to make positive reviews. The rest, the arguments, I leave to those who decides to watch and listen.
I think there is always a challenge with context (or maybe level of game experience). What I mean by that, at it most drastic example, the recently published 1862 may be an interesting game for gamers who have played a lot of 18xx but not 1862…but for a Wingspan player, could go either way (good or bad).
I know, I know…that is a drastic comparison with a bit more to unpack.
I just tend to feel that the levels of experience have an impact on how a game is perceived, enjoyed, understood. And it also has an impact on the review/reviewer. Because a person who first experiences ‘engine building via worker placement’ may have their mind blow if they had an enjoyable experience vs. someone who has played 50 of these game types and can decern the subtle difference between worker placement.
I completely agree. Which is one more reason it’s important to figure out which reviewers mesh well with your own approach to board games, and be willing to “grow out and in” to new critics.
people vote with their eyeballs. critical reviewers will attract the audience that values that work. Others can go to geewhilackersaboardgame.com
Mark Bigney ‘all the games you like are bad’ !! 🙂 I like his work
So Very Wrong About Games is a great source of game criticism. Chris Farrell (Illuminating Games) is excellent as well.
I appreciate your negative reviews, and none of your positive reviews have come back to bite me… yet. 🙂
You’ve hit the nail on the head: the problem with effusively positive reviews isn’t merely that they waste people’s time and money on a mediocre game, but that they lower overall standards in ways that will perpetuate a cycle of wasting money on mediocre games. Really it’s (unintentionally) a form of gaslighting: this game stinks, but the famous reviewers all went nuts over it, maybe something is wrong with my perception or my taste?
The really beneficial role that negative reviews play, then, is as a calibration device. If a reviewer only churns out positive reviews, I have to wonder what it would take to possibly get this person to say something bad about a game; and consequently I have to ask whether I can really trust this person’s opinion (not that they’re being dishonest, but they just might not have any standards). Negative reviews help one to understand the /principles/ on which a reviewer’s tastes are based.
To me the people that shout down negative reviews are doing a grave disservice to gaming. And yes, I read (and commented on) the BGG thread you mentioned and also concluded it was your reviews that the poster had in mind, but I also thought the person’s argument was all wet, and said as much. Keep doing what you’re doing. You will never please the unsmart, but smart people know that this is good stuff.
I really like that perspective, Jeff. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received has been when certain designers credited me with helping improve their designs through critiques. Most notably, I was incredibly flattered when Cole Wehrle included me in the rulebook of Pax Pamir’s second edition. How cool is that? Critiques can improve our gaming culture, not just act as consumer reports.
And thanks for speaking up in that thread! I didn’t stick around for the responses, but it was gratifying to see that the first few seemed well aware that the issue was being portrayed rather simply.
Jeff, I totally agree with you with a small caveat.
“If a reviewer only churns out positive reviews, I have to wonder what it would take to possibly get this person to say something bad about a game; and consequently I have to ask whether I can really trust this person’s opinion (not that they’re being dishonest, but they just might not have any standards). Negative reviews help one to understand the /principles/ on which a reviewer’s tastes are based.”
While I agree with this in principle, I have trouble with the “if a reviewer only has positive reviews, I have to ask if I can trust their opinion” part of it, and it kind of gets back to that whole “review/critique” thing.
Amateur reviewers (like me) who basically just play games for fun and then decide to review some of them aren’t really going to play games that they don’t like often enough to do a really good negative review. Especially if it’s a longer game.
Not only is it potentially a waste of time for little gain (I’m spending 12+ hours to play a 3-hour game enough times in order to have enough experience to give it seriously negative consideration) but it may not be possible depending on the game group. If everybody hates the game, why should they spend their valuable gaming time just to help me review a game?
They’re not going to.
I do agree that a good negative review is very helpful. That’s why I love Dan’s!
But not everybody can do that many of them to earn your trust and I don’t think they should necessarily be discounted just because they only have positive reviews in their repertoire.
If you want to be a reviewer, even an amateur, you want to write negative reviews from time to time for a bunch of good reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates intellectual integrity to your readers. If all you do is positive reviews, people will ask questions about your reliability and whether you really have the essential quality of the reviewer, that being taste. Secondly, well-written bad reviews can be enormously entertaining, and you need to try that writing and figure out how to do it, because it’s another tool in your toolbox. Because thirdly, no game is for everyone or nobody. All reviews should involve the positive and negative in some way. If you find your voice for writing negative reviews, you can use that voice when writing generally positive reviews to talk about the bits of games that some people are not going to like, and how a game that generally succeeds may fail in some areas. Unless you’re reviewing Reiner Knizia or Mark Simonitch, overwhelmingly the most likely category for even a well-executed game to fall into is only partial success (the biggest overall category is mostly a failure).
To be a reasonably competent reviewer, you need “positive” and “negative” tools. Any reasonable review is going to use a mix. And the way you hone that skill is writing the occasional bad review. Now, a game has to be interestingly bad to justify a negative review, or at least your bad review has to be against the conventional wisdom. And your writing has to be good; people won’t tolerate badly-written or badly-argued negative reviews in a way that they will (apparently) for positive reviews. But if want to be more than just another hack on the internet, you’ve got to do it.
Interesting piece – I too have wondered often why the standards of critical writing in the board game space are so low. When I spent more time doing critic-y sorts of things, I always aspired to the great book and movie review writers I admired. But it seems to me that boardgame writers are much more like video game writers, who have to write for a generally less intellectually invested audience who just want to know if it’s going to be fun and run on their hardware. The other problem of course is that there is little or no revenue stream associated with critical writing, and certainly none with negative reviews. To make any kind of returns on review writing, you have to move product, not unlike video games. That means positive reviews.
I would take some issue (maybe) with one thing you said: “Plenty of so-called critics thumb their noses at being considered a buyer’s guide — and to be clear, criticism shouldn’t merely be that — but there’s really no escaping that aspect.” When I first started doing critical work, I saw my job as basically helping a reader decide if they should buy/play a game or not. As I matured as a thinker and writer, I found this an increasingly unhelpful framing. I unknowingly gravitated to the classic questions of criticism: what is it trying to do, does it succeed, was it worth doing (once I discovered this was a formalized critical structure, that helped a lot). It’s not that I don’t think I might be informing a buy/no-buy decision. But I find my real job as a writer is simply to facilitate deep understanding and to be punchy and entertaining. Not just to say that I liked or didn’t like a game, but to explain why in such a way as to be interesting whether you shared my tastes or reference points, and even you may have no intention of playing or buying this game at all. I do think that a critic, to really do work that has value, has be much more concerned about whether their own product is interesting than what conclusions the reader will draw.
Thanks for your perspective, Chris! Interestingly enough, I’ve gone through a similar transition, except I’ve swung back to the idea that critiques will always function, in part, as advocates for or warnings about particular cultural artifacts. But it’s possible that my perspective is informed by my current goals, which are to function in both capacities as much as possible with what limited free time I have.
Going to agree with the general reaction – this is a great article. But that is positive praise so it is not good 😛
No, seriously, good article. Thing is, I’ve found the opposite too, but not in reviews by people that take their time to write or make a video; the “Game X is shit” criticism.
Why it is “shit”? What part of it was “shitty”? What were your expectations? It is an issue of you not liking the theme or setting? The mechanics?
No, it is “Is shit, burn it”.
Most of the time, a negative review by somebody I trust and know by virtue of having read their takes may not even be negative for me – because it will include an explanation, and I can see if it is going to be a question of me liking something the reviewer doesnt. And same with positives – when you give details, people can see that maybe is a great game of some type that is not, by any means, your type.
But just “GREAT GAME!/SHIT GAME!” give us nothing.
I certainly hope I’m not advocating for calling games “shit,” Jesús! My ideal is nuance; but in practice even middling reviews tend to draw ire. Crud, even some positive reviews catch flak for having said anything negative at all. The goal, for me, is in-depth examination, regardless of where that takes the review or critique.
Oh, of course not. But that is what passes for “criticism” in the community of players I find 😛 Would it be more people payed attention like you to really examine things and give detailed accounts of what worked, what didnt, what does it means for game design as a practice and art, etc.
Its just that tribalism – if I like it it has to be GREAT and if I dont it is RUBBISH – mentality that interacts with stuff like this – the capacity for feedback in this “new” era of media, and makes that any sincere appraisal will get you people screaming that you are obviously a pawn of X if you say something bad about that game or if you praise that other one.
In fact I hear the opposite phenomenon a lot – people complaining about how “all reviews” in the “media” are “positive” (all in quotes because, of course, nobody really see them all), which means they are all “propaganda” because for sure everybody is in the pocket of Big Tabletop. And, as you say, the moment you say something bad … then you are accused of being paid or have a personal vendetta against a company or a designer, or against a genre or you are a rabid Eurogamer and cant understand Ameri games or the other way around.
You’ve hit the nail on the head, Jesús. I see so many people commenting that they don’t trust reviewers and insisting on a conspiracy — “Big Tabletop,” indeed! — but negative reviews are immediately and harshly penalized. These reactions aren’t necessarily coming from the same people, but it’s hard to recognize that when you’re facing the wall of public response on your screen.
This is probably a sidestep from the positivity/negativity issue, but what makes me come back time and time again to Space-Biff is the humour and snarkiness. That’s the kind of positivity and negativity i like.
Good enough for me! Thanks, bento.
I’m the poster of that BGG thread. Your entry prompted me to add a little more there, but here I am just popping in to say I’m sorry you are receiving hate mail. Been there and it stinks. I am also incredibly sincerely sorry if my post indeed caused you to wonder about bothering to do your work. You correctly called me out on my entitlement in that OP, and though we have some disagreements I would consider losing your content to be an enormous blow to the hobby.
I do have a question if you don’t mind. In your examining of why you bother to do the work of reviewing games, what did you decide was your answer? What drives you to do this?
Thanks, and please keep on keeping on.
Thank you so much for your comment, Derek.
Before I answer your question, I’d like to say that I hope I didn’t come across as calling you out; my goal was to talk about the ways negative reviews are punished compared to positive reviews, and I certainly had no intention of directing anyone your way. When I say that it isn’t always wise to respond to strangers on the internet, my original draft also used the word “safe,” which I decided to omit because I didn’t want to overstate the case when it came to your forum thread. On more than one occasion in the past, seemingly innocuous rules questions have escalated into ever-longer responses, in one case culminating in a death threat against me and my family. My policy these days is to not bother responding unless it seems I’ve (1) actually made a rule error, in which case I generally check and possibly replay the game, and (2) that error actually affects my judgement of the game.
I’m not above making rules mistakes; if anything, I would be severely worried if they didn’t happen now and then! As always, I appreciate the reminder to do my best to ensure that every writeup is an accurate reflection of my experiences with a game. However, I can’t tell the difference between genuine concern or somebody brigading me. So unless the issue strikes me as worth correcting, I’d rather bow out. In general, I don’t even bother cross-posting negative reviews to BGG anymore, because most of my truly negative reactions began over there.
To answer your question, I do this for a few reasons. In spite of the periodic rotten egg, I adore this hobby’s emphasis on face-to-face interaction. It lets me meet people I never would have met otherwise; and more than meet, it lets me befriend them in a way that doesn’t often happen in other hobbies. I also love what this hobby is accomplishing thematically, with games that express their creators’ rawest feelings about a particular topic. Further, it’s a joy to evaluate those games; for me, the hobby isn’t playing board games, it’s writing about board games.
At any rate, thank you again for reaching out! I appreciate your perspective and enthusiasm for this hobby. Hopefully we’ll be able to share a table someday.
That’s awesome Dan, thanks for taking the time to reply and go into a bit more detail When I was ‘exposed myself’ writing reviews on the internet it was decades ago and probably a (slightly) gentler time. I certainly didn’t receive any death threats, so I’ll admit I’m probably a bit more naive than I thought about what you endure and what the repercussions of engaging in conversations can be. That would obviously and understandably affect your online interactions. I’ll accept ignorant along with the entitled label for that, and honestly I do apologize for any sour feelings I engendered.
I’m an east coaster, so if you are ever around at a PaxU or something I owe you a brew or a meal, or both.
Thanks for your time.
Usually I say something like, “self-entitled piece of crap” but I like yours: “entitlement incarnate”.
Very insightful as usual Dan.
“most reviews are positive because we’re a hobbyist industry with hobbyist reviewers who write about the things they’re enthusiastic about.”
This has usually been my assumption. BG reviewers are not getting paid much (or anything) so if talking about games is a passion than why would they spend their free time on games they don’t enjoy?
VERY broadly speaking I feel like I’m seeing more critical analysis all of the time. That is to say, analysis that can acknowledge what works with a game and what doesn’t regardless of their personal feelings.
Something I enjoy about your blog Dan is that I come away not thinking about whether a game is good or bad but rather do the dynamics, narrative and tensions that you described appeal to me. The final judgement is not at all the most important part usually. That’s much more valuable and allows me to arrive at excitement (or not) by my own metrics.
That’s a good point, Nathan, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like review scores — far too often, the discussion revolves about the digit at the end of the writeup rather than the words contained within it. My goal is always to be clearly expressive of my experiences with a game. If I’ve done a good enough job of that, hopefully readers will be able to glean, at least in part, how they might feel about the game I’m writing about, rather than sticking to my conclusions.
Thank you thank you thank you for this price. Please always keep doing what you do.
I also want to add that this article is as important as a piece about board game criticism can be. The “review” scene is dominated by rules explanations and wide-eyed enthusiasm that often pumps up “meh” games that just aren’t has good as games that have come before. I really appreciate honest commentary from a seasoned eye such as yours, especially when it is written so entertainingly.
I’m glad to hear that, and thank you for sharing!
This is very interesting. I do find it fascinating that one of the conclusions is that writing negative reviews is much harder than positive ones. I think I would assert that writing “proper” reviews is much harder than writing bad reviews.
I think both positive and negative reviews could benefit from more rigor. Generally speaking, it’s almost impossible that a game exists that’s both perfectly positively awesome without any flaws, or that one exists that just so terrible it has nothing positive about it. I love many games, and I could point out a handful of flaws in even my favorite among them. Being able to think critically even about things you love is a vital skill.
so in either case, I feel like if someone is going to write a review, positive or negative, there should be some baseline expectations. Like, for it to be a real review, they probably should play the game more than once. Or if there are multiple different asymmetrical factions involved, should they have experienced all or most of them?
In any case, any review by someone who only lavishes praise, or conversely only poops on something, especially after only experiencing a tiny fraction of what that something has to offer, is not really valuable.
I’m someone who doesn’t write negative pieces about anything because honestly, that’s not my bag. I generally enjoy reading negative criticism if it’s honest, but my skill is, I think, in contributing my own unique perspective and in really getting into the details of where joy and love come from when interacting with media of all kinds. I also try to write fiction without conflict for a variety of (often health-related) reasons, so I definitely think that what I would want in board games writing is not so much more negativity–which is definitely bad for your heart if you go looking for it too often as I do–as a better language for thinking and talking with each other about experiences that is generous and flexible.
While I understand the argumentation given in this article that negative reviews are more burdensome for the reviewer I don’t have the feeling that negative (or mediocre) reviews are that rare. Caveat: I am talking about things published on Boardgamegeek and I include video reviews. While I do not always share the opinions of Tom Vasel or Zee Garcia I think they just say when they don’t like something. On the other hand there are some reviewers I cannot take serious as they seem to be involved in just about every kickstarter campaign as a praising (p)reviewer.
Pingback: Talking About Games: Critique Criteria | SPACE-BIFF!