Side note about comp reviewing

Hey, so. I’ve been following my plan of posting net-positive reviews here for the comp (and I have assorted others in the queue; not nearly done yet). There were a couple of games I played that I thought had some pretty awesome aspects but didn’t fit into that program, and I commented on those at a second site which is specifically positive in tone. But from the feedback, that’s come off as condescending/dickish/as some kind of consolation prize. So I’ve taken those down, and I apologize.

It was, if anything, a self-indulgence: it’s been a little harder than I expected to draw the line between net-positive reviews and not, and there have been quite a few times when I wasn’t sure I could write a net-positive review about a game, but I still liked some aspect of the game so much that it felt like I needed to find someplace to say so.

However. Like I said: I didn’t mean to be a dick to anyone, and I’m sorry. If I offended you and you want to talk about it, please feel free to email me.

17 thoughts on “Side note about comp reviewing”

  1. I wish to thank you for your awesome attitude. Wish there was more like this through the Net.

    Never leave us alone, Emily. Said by a guy who actually got better at Game-design thanks to a review of yours.

  2. I mean, if “be reviewed by Emily Short on her main blog” becomes a prize and any other form of discussion from you becomes a consolation prize, then what is “don’t get reviewed by Emily Short at all”? Going down that route seems a bit of a rock and a hard place for everyone involved, and I don’t envy those dilemmas @_@

  3. I sent over a tweet before the competition that said basically “Say whatever you’d like, net-positive or no, it’s all feedback that I’d value and that others could learn from”, but that was a few months ago, before I was listed in the ballot so I don’t know if it got lost in the feed. So yea, if you plan on doing a net-negative review of my entry you totally have my permission, should you feel you need it!

    1. Yeah, I do remember that.

      Without getting into the particulars of your game, I’m not sure whether it makes sense as a process thing to have some authors opt in to negative reviews that way. Might other authors be annoyed that there was an implicit positive signal because the game appeared on the blog, even though the review itself was negative? Might players? Might some people think “oh, I didn’t know I was allowed to opt in, I would’ve done that too”? Etc. Changing an established rule halfway through is the kind of thing that tends to be socially expensive unless there’s a really good reason.

      I do know I don’t want to end up in a place where I’m taking a survey to ask authors what they want to hear from me, because

      a) ugh so much administrivia
      b) it creates an impression of contractual obligation of some kind which I can’t support
      c) it doesn’t work. I have been in the situation where someone has explicitly said to me that they were fine hearing whatever kind of feedback I had for their game, they just realllly wanted my opinion — and then being annoyed with me for years afterwards when my review was unflattering.

      Not to mention that at some point we cross over from “a thing I can just about still manage to do to support the community” into “what I do for a living, only in this case not paid.”

      1. Thanks for the clarification!

        One hopeful thing I do see though, is that the Interactive Fiction community as a whole is certainly getting bigger and bigger, and I think it’s possible this might be the turning point after which individual reviewers/writers become less of a linchpin of the community and a larger press body forms, taking the pressure off. But I’m one of these people drawn in by the whole Twine thing, so I don’t know how much weight my predictions here are worth! Oh, and if you’d like to discuss particulars of my entry, my email is: orihaus[at]gmail[dot]com.

      2. Yeah, agreed. I don’t think it’s a great thing for the community for individual reviewers to carry too much sway. I’d really like to see a healthy enough reviewing community that authors feel they can comfortably shrug it off if they don’t hear what they hoped to hear from a specific person. I’d also really like us to get to a point where there’s more cross-communication between interactive story communities.

        I’m doing a little tentative outreach in this regard this year and trying to see if I can get some more people involved. Don’t know how well that will work, but it’s a shot. (On which topic: I am doing a review swap thing with a few folks from other communities/who don’t normally review IF Comp, whereby they review a comp game and I review something they want to see me cover. I have probably room for one or two more of those arrangements, assuming the game in question isn’t long, so if someone reading this is interested, lemme know.)

  4. Unfortunately Ms Short has also received negative feedback for reviews that weren’t 100% positive.

    I admit I would have been upset if I didn’t receive a review at all (but wouldn’t have blamed Ms Short for NOT giving the free gift of her time and expertise), although “sparkly reviews” as a name does sound sarcastic despite the inherent goodness of the site (and, obviously, the reviewer herself).

    I’m so glad I’m not a reviewer of Ms Short’s calibre who has to make this kind of judgement call and then be blamed for it. Her reputation inside and outside the private author forums remains that of an unusually smart AND considerate person.

    If it’s any comfort, I don’t think it’s possible to please everyone, especially with the broad range of IF Comp authors.

    (Not sure if I’m talking to Emily or to the rest of the world, but wanted to help…)

    1. Yeees, there was some reason for the blog title being that way when we set it up, a few years ago now. I’ve forgotten what the reason was, and it was clearly an error. (I vaguely considered changing it, but wasn’t sure whether that would help.)

      From my perspective it could be a relief to write for, though, because it pried apart the feedback-to-authors role and the advice-to-players role.

  5. It honestly super sucks that you’re dealing with so much blowback for your remarkably even-handed reviews, imo.

  6. Just a thought. Have you considered listing all the net-positive reviews upfront? I feel like it might be worse to refresh your page every day and, after a month of waiting, never see a review, as opposed to knowing right away one isn’t coming.

    1. Hm. No, I didn’t consider that — partly because when I started posting reviews, I hadn’t finished playing. I have now, though, so I suppose in theory I could push a round-up post even though there are still a bunch of reviews in queue waiting to come out. Would that help?

      1. Maybe. I’m not an entrant, though I’d think I’d prefer to know if I were? Perhaps someone else can chime in with their thoughts.

  7. Sounds like a good idea (doing a roundup of net-positive reviews so people can stop holding their breath), although that also means some people will be unhappy (but better to know sooner rather than later, I think). MAYBE it would work as a “these are my best picks” (ie overall positives that will have full reviews later) and “these are good bits from other games” (the ones that were on sparkly before).

    I just realised that calling games “My favourites among the non-parser games/my best picks/recommended/my top twenty/etc” might be more gentle than “net positive”.

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