Most Positive Reviews are Useless

This title is likely ironic coming from me, a critic that has reviewed several games both positively and negatively. The point of this post is to emphasize what makes a review useful and why most reviews, particularly the positive ones, are useless. This is another meta post that I’m making to elaborate on how I do reviews in response to feedback on Steam.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what is a review? A review is an evaluation of a particular work of art. Since the evaluation is done by an individual, these are often likened to opinion pieces, however there is a key difference. While each individual may disagree on how the art utilizes certain features, most critics should be able to agree to some degree or another what makes a particular quality good. For example, I think you’ll find nary a critic that says Microsoft Excel menu navigation is good, so if a game has Microsoft Excel menu navigation, expect that to come up in the review as a source of annoyance.

Reviews serve two major purposes. First, they are tools for communities to tell other members what to expect when they purchase a product. If I review a product and tell my friend that it’s good except for this one thing and my friend thinks that one thing will make the game unenjoyable for them, then they may not want to buy it. It allows me to save my friend some time and money. This is why the developers get into so much trouble when they start deleting reviews. They are violating the trust of the community. Secondly, they are tools for developers to learn how to make better games. One need not be a good developer to write a good review, but one absolutely must be a good critic to be a good developer. Being able to understand the failings of games is crucial to avoiding the usual pitfalls that make a game unplayable. Being able to understand why good games are good is essential to crafting one’s own good game.

What you should find (at least across my reviews) is that I talk about the components of a game and how I received them. Story, character, interface, map, combat, and anything else I can think of should all be mentioned in every single one of my reviews. Especially the more recent ones, as each review is “practice” and ideally I should improve as I write each review. While you’ll definitely find my opinions within the review (as I do write these to entertain and inform), my opinion is usually backed up by some kind of evidence. And this is why most positive reviews are useless.

Most positive reviews that I see on Steam are “Good game, enjoyed the story, nice work” or something to that effect. This is useless for purpose one, as no one knows why you enjoyed the story (and it is possible to express why without spoiling) and it’s useless to the developer because they don’t know what exactly it is that you liked. Maybe the author is trying to keep it short because people on the internet have the attention span of a goldfish, but you’re doing it wrong. Learning to write shorter reviews that cover the key components is difficult (and it’s something I’m practicing), but you still need to evaluate the game on its merits. Negative reviews don’t often have the same problem, as most people that review a game negatively complain about why they didn’t like the game. In these complaints, a negative review always offers advice on how to improve and also serve to help other buyers make an informed decision on whether they want to buy the game or not.

Positive reviews are also sometimes coloured by how much the user enjoyed the game. One of my recent reviews (at the time of writing) for Kingdom: New Lands likely falls under this category (but I did complain about stuff in it so eh?). This leads to the author sometimes overrating the game, instead of evaluating the game based on its merits.

When I buy games on Steam, I very rarely look at positive reviews. If I’m on the fence, I go straight down to the negative reviews and see what’s wrong with the game. I will still look at some positive reviews, but only the longer ones as these usually tell you the flaws within the game. I guess at the end of the day, what I’m saying is that short reviews with little to no explanation are useless, and positive reviews often fall into this category. When writing (or reading) a review, these short reviews should be avoided because they won’t help a buyer make a decision and they won’t help a developer on their next game.

Anyway, that’s my stitch. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

Where’s the Media Bias?

A common complaint I see among Sanders supporters is this ‘media bias’. As if the media is out to get Sanders and shut down their bid for the presidency. I do not believe this to be true (at least, not in the way these people mean it) and in this little blog post, I’m going to tell you exactly why I feel that way.

So first of all, I’m going to begin with the statement that all of this is an opinion. In my opinion, none of the candidates have truly been treated fairly in the media. At least, not in the bulk of the media. There are some media in which I beleive some candidates are being treated more fairly than others but, again, opinion. As far as television networks go, I believe Clinton has been treated fairly if not the nearest so. They are the one that has been consistently and reasonably critiqued by the news networks. The only one. If we regard Sanders, he has gotten plenty of coverage for a runner-up. Some may say more than enough. You can complain about the analysis, but you can’t complain that no networks talk about Sanders. Especially when you spout socialism left and right. That was the first thing they touched upon. I’m not sure, but I suggest that when the Sanders supporters claim that Sanders gets no (television) media coverage, what they’re really saying is that no one in the media agrees with them in that Sanders is going to go all the way. But even if it were true, even if the (television) media bias wanted to shut Sanders down, I have to ask the question: does it really matter?

The government, at the advent of public broadcasting, incentivized stations to broadcast news as a means of maintaining a well-informed populus. They did this by funding the stations under the requirement that these stations broadcast specific programming. These programs include educational programs, local news, supporting the arts, the sorts of things that make our culture, well, our culture. And maybe you disagree as to whether or not they’re fulfilling these needs. Well, I’ve got some news for you. I’ve done a little bit of research on television broadcasting. I didn’t read the entire thing. Most of it seems to apply to permits to construct, maintenance standards, and broadcasting (the waves being broadcast, that is) standards. I focused on the issues regarding what you broadcast. It turns out, that these stations can be fined if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. They have to renew a license every eight years or so. They do this by proving that their station held up its end of the deal (the whole broadcasting for public interest thing). But nowhere did I see that the broadcasting has to be unbiased (please correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll retract my statements). And that’s actually pretty good news because I don’t think that I’ve yet to see a program that is fully unbiased.

Now let’s remember that running a station costs money. To make money, you need people to be watching your channel. This incentivizes stations to broadcast popular programs. As an unintentional side-effect of this, stations need to broadcast bias. Because the fact of the matter is that people like to be told that they’re right. They like to be justified in their views. Unfortunately, this means that if stations want to reach the most people, they need to broadcast to their audience. They can’t afford to cast open a wide net and hope some people gravitate towards them. Or at least, that would be inefficient. It’s much safer and easier to just form your echo chamber and rail against the gods and have your viewers come with you. Do I like this? No. Not in the least. I agree with the sentiment that these stations should broadcast unbiased news. It SHOULD be fair. It SHOULD be balanced. When it isn’t, it just turns me off from stations. But I am in the minority, I’m an idealist. The fact of the matter is enough people want these echo chambers that the stations aren’t changing their programs.

And to be completely honest, I don’t blame them. This is their business. They’re in this to make money. I would never presume to tell others how to run their business, especially since I have no stock in this business. If you want to make changes in a business, buy stock in them. Perhaps some of you are members of a website or another. Do you realize that every time you log in, every time you enter that space, that you can be removed from it at any time? You have the right to voice any opinion you want on any website. But you need to remember that you are a guest there, and the owner has every right to remove you should they so desire. So when I see people complaining that Sanders isn’t covered enough, I can’t help but wonder if Sanders might have some agenda that is against their self-interest. Broadcasting Sanders in a favourable light can only hurt their business. Why would you demand that someone hurt their own business? So no, even if the stations are Anti-Sanders, even if that claim is substantiated, I’m not sure that it matters. The stations are under no obligation to cover Sanders in the way that you desire. They are under no obligation to broadcast unbiased programs. Hell, every educational program aimed at kids that I can think of eventually has the ‘drugs’ episode and the ‘guns’ episode. And these are topics which are covered in a VERY biased way.

Hold up though. I live in a first-world society. Maybe you do too. We have something called the Internet. Personally, I think that the Internet is a much more efficient, if not also more dangerous information highway. Ideas can spread faster than ever before, even across oceans. The Internet is here, and I fully support our new Google Overlords. And speaking of Google Overlords… maybe you’ve heard of YouTube? It’s a wonderful website full of user-generated content. And people across the world can reach other people across the world with their opinions on this YouTube. And you can hear these opinions at any time, not just at 6PM on Channel 5. Even better! You can pause and rewind broadcasts! You can carefully pull apart something that someone has said, which is a feature not everyone with a TV can abuse. What do we find on YouTube? What sorts of opinions? All sorts. If you want Pro-Sanders media, look no further. The only problem is that you have to slog through so many masses of stuff that it can be hard to find the actual “good” stuff. But like I said at the start, the internet is very messy.

Also, can we briefly mention online pubs? If ever you wanted to find Pro-Sanders media (remember, this is part of the media as well!) you better bring a raincoat because the tsunami comes. Salon.com, Huffington Post, Washington Post, LA Times, all of these pubs feature a fairly heavy Sanders bias. Why, today Salon.com published an article saying that Wisconsin was a total blowout for Sanders. He won in 99% of counties! Wow! Only they neglected to mention that Sanders only won close to 57% of the popular vote! It’s a total misrepresentation of the race! And this is the same bullshit I see coming from the Pro-Sanders camp daily. They note how Sanders wins states but not delegates. They note how Sanders wins counties and not delegates. The popular vote is the important thing when distributing delegates. Sanders got +9 from Wisconsin, barely denting the lead Clinton has over them (still well over 200+ delegates). God damn, I can’t scroll down their article list without seeing tremendously left-leaning articles. The titles make me sick to my stomach. And it gets even better! Notice how all of the TV stations favor Clinton? Many pubs favor Sanders over Clinton! Why is bias on one media acceptable while bias on the other is unacceptable? Tell me that Sanders supporters. Where is the line drawn for the hypocrisy? It’s sickening. Completely and utterly disgusting.

If we want to talk real anti-candidate bias, we should be talking about Trump. I have yet to find an outlet without bias regarding Trump. Either they’re Hitler (by the way, let’s forget that Sanders is Lenin) they’re racist, they’re some kind of extremist that breeds violence. But such claims are just propaganda. Trump has never directly told his supporters to go out and cause trouble. Granted, some violence is coming from Trump supporters, but that’s not Trump. Trump isn’t inciting this violence. Trump isn’t sending their supporters to disrupt rallies. Trump isn’t sending supporters to disrupt private, peaceful events. I recently came across a video of an experiment (in a very loose sense of the word) of a guy pretending to support Sanders and the same guy pretending to support Trump. As a Sanders supporter, it was all thumbs up, peace, and smiles. No one aggressed him. As a Trump supporter? Lots of violence, and one person even admitted that they were supporting Sanders before attacking this host. Why is Trump met with violence, while Sanders is not? Why does the media seem so intent to destroy Trump? Bias

While Clinton ‘may’ have television under wraps, Sanders has the Internet. One is vastly more powerful than the other. And it seems like the entire left is out to paint Trump a Nazi, a nationalist, a racist, and any other kind of non-white bigot. The left is scared of Trump, the right is scared of Trump. If I were Trump, I would be seriously scared of assassination right now. And I’d like to note, when I make these posts about Trump, I’m not trying to support them. I’m trying to support being fair to them. I’m trying to support being fair to every candidate. Which I don’t see happening at all. So to bring us back to where we started, is there a media bias? Most definitely. But I think if we’re going to begin the discussion about media bias, perhaps we should start with Trump.

Artemis Hunt

Where’s the Media Bias?