On Comps and Reviews

IF Comp 11 is around the corner, and G+ just told me there will be about 40 entries this year. The thing is getting bigger and bigger, right? So I started to wonder about the point of writing reviews. Not that I have written many. Or any. What I write here is as reviewish as my curry chicken is fine cuisinish. So, what are these things most of us write?

Most reviews are statements of the personal feelings one has about a given title. Let’s call this one Review Type Alpha. To my little eye, these reviews have license to be both spoilery and evil. Things like, I think the prose was shitty, the NPCs laughable, the puzzles childish, and so on. The reviewer is just stating his opinion of both the game as a whole, and details of it.

Other kind of review is the one which aims at a possible gamer, not the game itself. Review Type Beta, or something. This review should try not to be spoilery, and should refrain from being evil. The reviewer is writing something to help a lonely and lovely player, during a stormy night, decide if he wants to play carrot adventure or eggplant adventure. It is something like a book review or a movie review should be on a magazine.

Lets go for a Review Type Gamma, as a review that aims the author. It addresses issues that both work and fail in a game, but focusing on what could be done to improve upon it. These reviews don’t bash per bashing, but they are written in that pleasant way, almost like a professor talking with his student about some paper. Yes, I know some professors are hard core violent when doing this, but the point is always trying to get the student to improve the present work or refrain from messing up future ones. Many times, these are the most annoying reviews to read, if you’re not the author.

So, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Beta reviews are the ones I like to see in IFDB, not in blogs about comp entries. A Beta review aims at the possible player of a possible title, but, during a competition, a reviewer/voter should try playing them all, not just the ones who sound good, so what’s the point of a Beta review during a competition?

A competition isn’t a betatesting playground, so Gamma reviews shouldn’t be expected by the authors. Bitching around a reviewer for not having submitted bug reports, or not having sent private emails with suggestions, not only it is stupid, as it is also stupid. So, don’t be stupid, is what I’m trying to say.

Competition related, I think Alpha reviews are both the appropriate kind, and the most common ones, since they’re there to justify the score given. They are also excuses to do many things, such as blowing off some steam, being hateful just for the sake of it, making fun of others, showing off how funny and smart and educated and creative and prosaic and capable of solving the Schrödinger equation you are, etc. Many dislike this. I don’t. I love this. I love that a review is something on top of being about something. So shoot me.

But are Alpha reviews helpful to an author? Well, here’s the thing: a review, being Alpha, Beta or Gamma, is always helpful to the author. Let’s take the “This is plain shit (TIPS)” review: is it helpful? Yes: it tells the author that a particular person disliked everything about that game. If the same reviewer liked a title with which the author identifies himself with, then it tells the author that it probably failed his attempt, but a TIPS review coming from someone who loved the latest Nicholas Sparks, may tell you you’re on the right track and fill you with joy. What about a TIPS review from someone who only writes TIPS reviews? Is it helpful? Good Lord, yes. It is there so that authors can polish their filters. You see, we have to build, alter and maintain filters throughout our lives, mainly on the Internet, where everything that can happen, will eventually happen. Having good filters is a sign of intelligence, so if you always take a TIPS review to bed, regardless of its origins, then, I’m sorry to tell you, you’re a dumb fuck.

But what are the most violent reviews of them all, as far as an author is concerned? I don’t think that are the ones that insult your work. Again, a Sparks fan insulting you work should make your day. The worst reviews are the ones who point out flaws with which you agree, but that you failed to address when writing your piece, and you failed it either because you didn’t see it as a flaw yourself, or just because you’re just not that good enough to work it out. Those hurt like knives. Saw knives. Saw knives piercing your eye balls. Saw knives piercing your eye balls and a bucket of nitric acid down your throat. By the way, you know what’s the pH of a 200 mL solution with 1,26 g of nitric acid? It’s 1,3!

  1. S. John Ross says:

    The reviews you classify as “Beta” are the only kind I ever care to read, and the only kind I’d ever write. I find the others perplexing at best.

  2. Matt Wigdahl says:

    A TIPS review, as you describe it, is about as useful to an author as overhearing some random guy in an elevator call you an asshole in an unrelated conversation. Sure, you could go research the speaker and figure out if you should really care, but why bother? Alpha reviews are fun to read and almost a tradition in the Comp, but unless there is real analysis hiding in the snark, they’re not that useful to an author. Not that that’s the only justification for writing them, of course.

    • leandro ribeiro says:

      «Sure, you could go research the speaker and figure out if you should really care, but why bother?»

      You shouldn’t bother, but you should also learn how to cope with it, otherwise you’ll be punching the guy in the face. You see, most people, when bumping into a TIPA (This Is Pure Awesomeness) review on a blog, won’t have any issues with it, but a TIPA review has the same value as a TIPS review, since it just tells you that a particular poster completely liked or disliked your title. If you don’t know that person, then they are both helpful reviews since they provide opportunity for you to work on your filters. If you know the person, and you know what kind of titles the person praises, then it can give you some help regarding where your works stands.

      But mind this: a review is always as helpful as the author wants it to be. Even a detailed, well intended review can fall off a ripped bag if the author dismisses everything he reads as stupid, or ignorant, or something. What I’m trying to say is not that we, the reviewers, should write TIPS or TIPA reviews, but that we, the authors, should always look at them as a result of a multi-colored community, and should always try to grab what we can from them. Even if “I should learn not to mind this” is all we can grab, then it was already helpful.

      «Alpha reviews are fun to read and almost a tradition in the Comp»

      I’m afraid I was misunderstood. Alpha reviews are not necessarily funny or snarky reviews. They’re the ones that just state the opinions of the player regarding a title, without trying to be instructive to the author or to other players. Alpha reviews can, therefore, be funny or boring, short (TIPS and TIPA) or long and detailed, snarky or serious, but they are always reviewer-centric: they focus on what the reviewer felt and on what he thought when playing. That’s why I think they’re the most natural during a competition: because when we vote, what we are doing is assigning a number to all those thoughts and feelings.

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