You call that a review!
We get all kinds of mud/mush/muck/muse/etc reviews on the Game Commandos site,
most of which elicit the response 'You Call that a Review?'
Some reviews do well and are worthy of your attention. Some reviews are
adequate, and do help at least a bit. The rest are more or less in the
general category of unworthy!
What's to be done to fix these up? Is there the faintest hope that the
authors of these unworthy reviews will ever write something truly worthy?
Here's my thoughts on what's wrong, and what's right, with reviews.
A Review is Not an Ad
So many, mostly admins, but also long-term players, simply write an
advertisement and call it a review. I'm sure you'll all recognize something
Shattered Totality Underworld of Purely Imaginary Darkness:
Knights Laughing About Horrendous Death!!!
(players are called 'S.T.U.P.I.D. K.L.A.H.D.s' Kewl huh?)
bazillions of mega powerful classes
skillions of new spells
hundreds of races, all totally unique
friendly people (all my friends anyway)
way cool titles when you level
a stock market
quests! yes, quests!!!!
level 20 times an hour, really!
Ask for me, and I'll give you one of my +100 to-hit, +100 damroll swords of
infinite slicing!!!! This mud Rocks!!! I'll see you there!!!!!!!!
I sometimes call these 'laundry list' reviews, or just ads. Yes, the exclamation mark count frequently
exceeds the IQ of the writer. But I digress. These 'reviews' describe the mud about at the level
you would find in the 'brief summary' in Mud Connector. Not useless, but not a review.
Players often do little better. To illustrate this, let me quote an entire 'review' posted
some time ago, verbatim:
My mud has friendly players willing to help newbies. There are also a lot of races to choose from as
well as many subclasses; lots of areas to play in with the coders making more as we speak; and a
variety of weapons to choose from.
(Yep, that's the whole thing.)
Such reviews help nobody.
What a Review Can and Should Be
The best reviews we get (excluding reviews written by the Game Commandos ourselves)
are so much better! They come from players and admins alike. What's the difference? What do they do
The excellent reviews we get have several qualities:
they mention some gameplay details (classes, races, whatever) but it's not the main thrust of the review
they explain things about the game they like, and why
they expain things they don't like, and why
they give little stories as examples from their own experiences in the game
All of this can be summed up so easily! They ask themselves 'What would I want to know about a game
before I decided if I'd like to play it or not?' Then they try to answer the question as fully as they
It's not rocket science.
What about Bias in Reviewing?
I've written (and posted) on this extensively elsewhere, so I'll be brief here. The Game Commandos solution
to bias is a simple one. We believe bias is universal and unavoidable. We believe that instead of running
off trying to find the ultimate unbiased judge, we simply let everyone write, and do our best to reveal all
the biases we can find.
We trust our readers to make up their own minds. You mean that admin really convinced you
when he said 'Our game is the greatest game ever written. Come play it today.' ? Really? Come on! Of course you weren't convinced.
You don't need someone to tell you who is a good writer, who is unbiased, etc. You'll do just fine
with your own BS detectors! Readers can and will make up their own minds. Reviewers just need to
do their best, and the readers will take over from there.
Why Review Anyway?
We get very few people who actually submit reviews to our site, compared to the thousands that visit.
They are busy, sure, but honestly, most don't care about anyone else except themselves. Why Review?
Why help anybody at all? Why give anybody the advantage of your own experience? It's a question we
can't answer for anyone, but we have our own: we write reviews to help people find the games they'll
enjoy playing, and avoid the games they won't.
Others are in the business of reviewing muds. That's great! Write a review anywhere you like, but
do take a few minutes to help out somebody else. That, in the end, is what reviewing is all about.
Just tell them why you play, all the reasons why, just like you'd tell a friend. That'll be a fine
review for any purpose.
October 1998 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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