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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 57 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Why Reviews Are Next to Useless  (Read 16295 times)
John Wick
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« on: July 17, 2001, 11:34:00 AM »

Check this out. Two reviews of MISTS OF AVALON (I won't tell you what I thought of it because it's really not that important, is it?)

http://www.culturevulture.net/Television/MistsofAvalon.htm

and

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2001/07/13/DD230637.DTL

Go read them both, and tell me if these two people saw the same film.

Here's the point:

There's nothing in the world that says you have to like everything. You don't. People see things differently, appreciate different things. How can anybody - I don't care who they are - tell you whether you should or shouldn't buy something based on their own perceptions?

There you go. My rant for the day. Check out the reviews, come back and tell me what you think. I'll be here, drinking my herbal tea, trying to sort out why people NEED other people to tell them how to think.
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Carpe Deum,
John
Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2001, 11:43:00 AM »

Reviews are about awareness -- "This product is bad, don't waste your time or money!" or "Hey, check this out...it's really good!"  And you have to judge the review (an opinion) based on the credentials of the reviewer.

Just think, John m'boy...without your review I would have never seen The 13th Warrior, right?
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2001, 12:00:00 PM »

Wow John.  I don't think I could possibly disagree with you more.  These reviews did exactly what they were supposed to do...although the first was far more complete.

Sure it had a negative bias, but so what.  As a reader of reviews I am plenty smart enough to 1) identify the bias, and 2) decide whether it is a bias I share.  I find reviews where the reviewers bias is obvious to often be MORE useful than ones attempting to be objective.  When the bias is obvious its much easier to filter out.  When its carefully masked under the guise of objectivity filtering becomes more difficult.

These reviews (particularly the first one, as the second was clearly a fluff piece) told me exactly what I needed to know about the mini series.  Production value will be less than extraordinary but better than your usual made for TV fare.  The movie sticks to the book mostly but chooses to emphasize sections which translate better to TV (like battles) and deemphasize sections which don't translate as well (like long expositions on the nature of religion and truth)...also not surprising given the producer.

In short the review says this:

If you are an anal retentive nit picky Mists of Avalon fanatic you are likely to be very disappointed in the movie.

If on the other hand you are (like me) someone who found the Mists of Avalon book to pale by comparison to Le Morte than you probably won't be to bothered if the movie is a pale comparison of Mists.

In other words...it confirmed for me that it will be worth my time to watch.  That is all a review is for.
As
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2001, 12:01:00 PM »



[ This Message was edited by: Valamir on 2001-07-18 09:52 ]
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John Wick
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2001, 12:43:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-17 15:43, Jared A. Sorensen wrote:
Reviews are about awareness -- "This product is bad, don't waste your time or money!" or "Hey, check this out...it's really good!"  And you have to judge the review (an opinion) based on the credentials of the reviewer.


Problem is... I don't _know_ either of those people. I don't accept advice from anybody I don't know personally. How in the world can I take the advice of people I don't know?

Quote
Just think, John m'boy...without your review I would have never seen The 13th Warrior, right?
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Carpe Deum,
John
John Wick
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2001, 12:55:00 PM »

Quote

These reviews (particularly the first one, as the second was clearly a fluff piece) told me exactly what I needed to know about the mini series.  Production value will be less than extraordinary but better than your usual made for TV fare.


Go back and read the reviews again. They actually disagree on the production values. I think they were pretty cheesy, but that's my opinion.

Quote
The movie sticks to the book mostly but chooses to emphasize sections which translate better to TV (like battles) and deemphasize sections which don't translate as well (like long expositions on the nature of religion and truth)...also not surprising given the producer.


Again, that's the reviewer's opinion. I got sick and tired of hearing people say GOHD-dess (really forced and unnatural) every ten seconds. Lots of anti-Christianity, pro-pagan. One of the last things Morgaine says is "Let us not let our guilt drag us down like the priests want..." or something like that. The whole thing reeked (to me) of a "Dammit, My Religion Is Valid!" propaganda piece.

But then again, you may have seen things differently... which is my point. :wink:

Also, the movie didn't just accentuate the events of the book differently, it out-and-out changed them. I didn't even recognize the first half hour of the movie, turned to The Wife and said, "Gee. They could have saved a few bucks by not buying the rights to call this thing Mists of Avalon." Only in the second hour did the movie begin to look like the book.

Quote
In short the review says this:

If you are an anal retentive nit picky Mists of Avalon fanatic you are likely to be very disappointed in the movie.

If on the other hand you are (like me) someone who found the Mists of Avalon book to pale by comparison to Le Morte than you probably won't be to bothered if the movie is a pale comparison of Mists.


Actually, I rather liked EXCALIBUR much more than both the movie and the book version of Mists.

Does that make it a better film? Who knows and who cares? Mists of Avalon is an important book in a lot of people's libraries. Not mine. It doesn't belong in my library. But that doesn't mean it doesn't belong in yours.

The reviewers both use very definitive statements. They completely disagree with the casting of Vivienne. I don't mind that at all. What I DO mind is the way they use the language. Go look at what they say. One says, "She's the best woman for this role," and the other says, "She's the worst woman for this role." Who CARES what they think? I'm sure there are people out there who HATED Jack Whatshisname as Wolverine. I thought he was great.

Like The Rock says: IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!

I didn't like either the book or the movie. That doesn't make it an invalid or valid work. For some people, it's the most important book they've ever read in their life. And that makes it sacred. Don't go pissing in other peoples' holy water.

Endnote: One of the worst forms of argument is appeal to authority. A review is nothing more than that. What's worse, it's an appeal to YOURSELF. And there's nothing more arrogant than that.

Take care,
John

[ This Message was edited by: John Wick on 2001-07-17 16:56 ]
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Carpe Deum,
John
Damocles
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Posts: 43


« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2001, 01:14:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-17 16:43, John Wick wrote:

Problem is... I don't _know_ either of those people. I don't accept advice from anybody I don't know personally. How in the world can I take the advice of people I don't know?


Well, I don't know about you, but here is how it works for me: I read the review and judge it the way I would anything else. If there are internal contradictions or mistakes about stuff I know about, the reviewer loses credibility in my eyes. If he talks about other works he likes and which I disliked I conclude he has probably different tastes so I take that into account. Etcetera. Stuff like that. Then, it may happen that I watch some movies (or whatever) that he  has reviewed and I kind of get a grip on whether he has a clue and if his taste is close to mine or how it differs.
With rpgs, for example, if Kenneth Hite recommends something then, for me, it's at least worth to take a closer look in the store at it, check out the website, and maybe some other reviews.
I guess this is all kind of obvious, but, well, you asked.
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Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2001, 05:52:00 AM »

Thats exactly what I do Damocles.  There are some movie reviewers that I can pretty much bet that I'll like a movie if they say it sucks.  Or if a reviewer says its the best movie since "X" and I know I like (or don't like) X that goes a long way to filling in what I need to know about the reviewer.

But in the end, it doesn't really matter if the reviews are always right (often times I think I'll like something from the review...like the Mummy Returns...and it turns out mediocre).

What matters is that without reviews I'm going in blind...flip a coin 50/50 as to whether it was time/money well spent.  If by reading reviews I can shift the odds to 60/40 or 70/30, I can save an awful lot of time and money in the long run...even if any particular individual review got it "wrong".

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JSDiamond
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2001, 09:48:00 AM »

Well, I think most of us weigh the facts (read: 'opinions') contained in any review.  The problem is, as I see it, the wholesale selling of some half-wit's sh*t opinion masquerading as credible journalism.  Anyone can build a webpage; a site; a zine.  But an editorial is not a review.

Although I differ on the actual manner in which one should go about reviewing games, I like Brian Gleichman's (?) almost architectural framework for doing so.  Though I regard Ron Edward's policy of playing the game for a few sessions as invaluable for being able to report 'from the trenches' if you will.

The point of who is doing the review might help too.  But even one's best friend may not like all of the same things, so why should the reviewer.

So, what it comes down to, I believe, is integrity, honesty, and a professional 'aloofness' from the trappings of commanding gamers' attention.    

Jeff
 
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JSDiamond
Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2001, 10:33:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-07-17 15:34, John Wick wrote:
Here's the point:

There's nothing in the world that says you have to like everything. You don't. People see things differently, appreciate different things. How can anybody - I don't care who they are - tell you whether you should or shouldn't buy something based on their own perceptions?


*sigh*

Wick rants about reviews AGAIN.

I've heard most of this before.  I'll bet most of us have.  In the world of not understanding things I just can't help but wonder why.

My big problem with the rant is he's essentially saying "Reviews are useless.  Stop writing them.  Stop reading them.  Just go see the movie [or play the game or read the book, etc.] for yourself."

As if reviews will cease to be read or written because he says so, I don't care if his arguement is for what's wrong with reviews is sound or not.

The fact is, people like to try before they buy.  They want to know if they'll like something before they invest time and/or money into it.  It doesn't matter if it's they're friends giving them a personally taylored recommendation or logging onto Ebert's web page.  The idea is to ask someone what they thought about something to attempt to judge if it's something they'd enjoy themselves.

Quote

I'll be here, drinking my herbal tea, trying to sort out why people NEED other people to tell them how to think.


It's not so much about people needing to tell other people what they think (although it is in there.  Otherwise you wouldn't have told us what you think about reviews, would you?)  It's more about people ASKING for other people's opinions.  You can read anything you want into that from sheep mentality to lack of person conviction to whatever.

Fact is, Roger Ebert would not be able to make money telling people what he thinks if there wasn't a market for such a thing.

Personally, I'd like to see you put the energy and passion you've shown for this rant/crusade/discussion into a game, John.  It'd kick ass for sure if you did.
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greyorm
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2001, 10:10:00 PM »

Ok, so John says "your opinion doesn't matter" but then he goes into a long exposition about the horrors of advocacy and the faithlessness of the reproduction...
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2001, 11:04:00 PM »

OK, I'll jump in - fitting way to end a LONG day at work:
Quote

On 2001-07-17 15:34, John Wick wrote:
How can anybody - I don't care who they are - tell you whether you should or shouldn't buy something based on their own perceptions?

They can't.  Some people find listening to what they say helpful in making up their own minds, though.  It's admittedly tricky - the reviewers have a bias, you have a bias, you can fall into all kinds of traps (using what someone else said to reduce your personal "risk" in liking/disliking something, falling into a herd mentality, etc.) and . . . well, it's tricky.  But not useless, neccesarily.
Quote

I'll be here, drinking my herbal tea, trying to sort out why people NEED other people to tell them how to think.

Again, they don't.  NEED someone to tell them how to think.  Well, some people might, or at least they're convinced they do . . . but I digress.  The point is, some people LIKE reading what other people think, and using that to help them make their own decisions.

John, what's so hard to understand about that?  If you're just arguing "beware reviews - they may not be all that you think they are!", I'm with ya.  That doesn't make 'em next to useless, though - just tricky and problematic, like so much else in life.

There, I've said my piece.  Now anyone who cares can "review" it :wink:

Gordon C. Landis
 
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John Wick
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2001, 11:35:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-07-20 02:10, greyorm wrote:
Ok, so John says "your opinion doesn't matter" but then he goes into a long exposition about the horrors of advocacy and the faithlessness of the reproduction...


That was the whole point of it. MY opinion on the validity or non-validity of the MoA movie is just as irrelevant as the two reviewers' opinion.

MY OPINION DOESN'T MATTER.

Watch the thing yourself, and make up your own mind.

The reason I picked those two reviews in particular was their incredible divergence. I'm not sure those two people didn't watch two entirely different films.

Look, here's my beef with the whole thing in crystal clear terms.

Reviews piss me off. Even complimentary ones. Why? Because a review is the ultimate "appeal to authority" argument, and the authority is the reviewer himself.

"Listen to me. I know what is bad and what is good. I'm an expert because I tell you I am."

Most reviews make blatant claims without any kind of support.

"The art is bad." (subjective; you mean "I don't like the art.")

"The writing is bad." (subjective; you mean "I don't like the writing.")

Seldom, if ever, do reviewers back up their claims. They make the claim, then move on to another point.

Ron's Orkworld review is very kind and says a whole bunch of nice things about me and my orks. But he also says, "Orks are not hypocrites," and I have NO CLUE where he got that from. And I'm the Author!

But that's what Ron took away from the book. Is it right for me to tell Ron "Look buddy, you're wrong about orks. They ARE hypocrites and you just got your head up your butt." No, it's not. What Ron carried away from the book is his own. Books, movies and all other media are communication. What you get out of Mists of Avalon and what I get out of it are two entirely different signals. At the very least, reviewers can acknowledge that. At the very least, reviewers can write a review with that knowledge in the front of their heads when they write.

Anyway, chew on that while I go to lunch. See ya! :smile:
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Carpe Deum,
John
greyorm
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2001, 09:09:00 PM »

Quote

Most reviews make blatant claims without any kind of support.

There used to be a rant somewhere (here?  GO?  don't recall) about a review of Sorcerer, one which was removed by a forum administrator for unknown reasons, wherein I said more-or-less the same thing as the above about reviews and reviewers.  So I'm with you on that count.
I just found it a tad ironic to state, in a thread you started on the relative worthlessness of opionions, your opinions. [grin]
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
John Wick
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2001, 01:15:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-07-21 01:09, greyorm wrote:
Quote

Most reviews make blatant claims without any kind of support.

I just found it a tad ironic to state, in a thread you started on the relative worthlessness of opionions, your opinions. [grin]


A thread on the relative worthlessness of unsupported opinions (as the quote above suggests).

Let's use a food analogy.

I love spicy food. I eat peppers right out of the jar. I always get the spiciest curries, always order Tobasco sauce at restraunts and am currently munching on cauliflower that's been pickled in pepper sauce.

I love spicy food a lot.

Now, if I were to give you a review of an Indian restraunt by saying "It wasn't too spicy" and you've never had Indian food before, you'd be very surprised stepping out of that restraunt, probably saying something like, "That Wick doesn't know what he's talking about! It's spicy as hell!"

I said, "It wasn't spicy."
What I should have said was, "It isn't spicy to me."

When a reviewer writes his review, it's important to give the reader a sense of context. All too often, I see reviews of... oh let's say the AMBER DICELESS RPG:

"The rules are too vauge."

Well, obviously, considering the type of play that game invokes. Duh.

To the person who wrote that review, I have to ask:

1) What other games do you play?
2) Have you ever played a diceless game before?
3) Are you familiar with Zelazny's Amber books?
4) Did you play the game, or are you just making a judgement based on your reading.

"Capsule reviews" (those written by people who just read the book and haven't actually played it) are USELESS. Especially those who make any kind of comments about the game system. 7th Sea's game system MUST BE PLAYED. You can't just look it at, YOU MUST PLAY IT TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS. Every review of 7th Sea that said, "I didn't playtest the rules, but they looked _______" just made me quiver.

All too often, reviewers make absolutely no qualifying statements at all. They don't talk about how they play, what games they play, what they like to play, what they've played lately or any other kind of statement.

And that is someone who is not on my schedule. Life is too short, and they're wasting my time.
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Carpe Deum,
John
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