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You call that a review!

by Ilya

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 like this:

Die knight! 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?)

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 right?

The excellent reviews we get have several qualities:

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 can.

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.

Ilya runs the Game Commando's web site which contains mud reviews for muds in its mud listing.