Monday, October 3, 2016

Why I write mostly positive reviews

Erik Tenkar has a nice post up today about the dearth of negative reviews of gaming products, and why.

That got me thinking about why I post generally positive reviews.

Partly, it's because I like to keep my blog positive. I don't want to engage in trash talking, arguing, dissing the things I dislike, etc. I want to engage in discussing play, examining rules, expressing my generally positive thoughts about my hobby, and shining a light on the things I enjoy. My reviews are like that - I want to tell you about things I like, in the hopes that they might be good and enjoyable for you, too.

The other reason is that it sucks to write a bad review. First, like Erik says, you have to slog through something bad. Then, to make it worse, you have to sit down and spend time writing about it. Even when I've given something the thumbs down, I try to explain why it wasn't for me and why it didn't fit what I wanted out of it. If possible, I want to highlight the good parts. But generally, it's easier to just say, nah, didn't like it so much, I'll put it aside and not go around saying how it wasn't so good. I want to save that bandwidth for things I do like.

Bryce Lynch's reviews over at are another reason I generally don't review the things I don't like. He reviewed a few Dungeon magazine adventures and panned them rather badly. Yet, in my experience, those were great adventures. One was so memorable that as long as I played with that group (Jack, Fred, Joe, Anthony) they never really stopped talking about it. The other was such a clever challenge that they really reveled in figuring out how to crack it. Yet, they got panned on a read-through review. So I keep that in mind - maybe I don't like it because it doesn't fit my taste, or I can't see the value in it. That doesn't make it bad. It's just bad for me. I might be missing how it actually plays out and the value it really brings to the table in the right circumstances. Does knowing it's bad for me help other people?

I also distinctly remember reviews that were dead wrong. There was one in Dragon magazine that looked at GURPS and said, basically, nice enough, but SJG can't support it with supplements. Yeah, and what is GURPS most famous for? A supplement for everything.

So with all of those things in mind, I write generally positive reviews. I want to highlight the good things I find in gaming and showcase them. So those are the kinds of reviews I write.


  1. I mostly read, watch and listen to things I'll probably like.

    So if I review them then it will probably be positive.

    Do I like to read negative reviews?
    I guess, but usually I'll get bored and stop reading faster than a positive review.

  2. This is a really interesting problem to me. The hardest reviews to write are the negative reviews, and like you say, I don't want my blog to seem like a p**pflingaganza. I try to let people know why I didn't like it, and then I try to explain the type of person that I think might find it useful.

    Also, in a case of "more friends with sugar than vinegar," my negative reviews are much less popular than my positive ones.

  3. It's actually harder to write only good things, you pernicious bastard.

    Darn, there I go again, forget I said anything

  4. I think the more I like something the more critical I am toward it. I am very critical of the DF line because I like it but if I didn't really care about then I am more positive toward it because I don't care to much about it.

  5. In defense of Bryce, he doesn't review how well an adventure plays out for the players, he reviews how well an adventure is written for the GM. His primary focus is on the wheat to chaff ration of an adventure with a strong side of 'how much work it would be to run this thing'. He often IDs adventures that have a lot of great ideas buried under useless information or presented in a way that would require the GM go to a lot of effort to have the adventure table-ready.

    He prefers good adventures that are concise, well-organized, and table ready adventures to amazing adventures that are buried under extraneous detail, poor organization, and that require multiple read-throughs, note taking, and substantial re-writes.

    1. Even so, nothing I wrote was meant as an attack on Bryce. I'm just saying, my experience in having contrary play experiences on some of his reviewed items is part of why I don't post reviews of things I didn't like or find useful.

    2. Yeah, that's fair enough. Just letting the peanut gallery know that you two are coming at things from different angles.


      Don't make me choose! I love you both, Mom and Dad, Okay!?

    3. There's a reason I use the style I do.

      We can't have a decent discussion if one side comments "Well, _I_ liked it" or "WE had fun." I don't doubt that someone liked something or it played well with their group or they had a great DM. But it's impossible to have a discussion about merit when talking about taste or preferences or individual experiences.

      It's always great to hear someone relate a good experience, but its impossible to have a good discussion about merit with that as the basis.

    4. Sure, which makes sense. It's still something that's coming down to tastes and preferences and individual experiences. On my blog I prefer to highlight the things I liked, partly because I work off of that basis that my negative opinion isn't reflecting anything except my personal tastes, preferences, and individual experience. And partly for the other reasons I listed above in the post.

  6. My favorite RPG reviews and Let's Reads are those of things like World of Sinnibar, Racial Holy War, Spawn of Fashan, and of course FATAL. This is similar to my tastes in watching video reviews - I find the vitriol cathartic.

    Followed by basically anything focused on dungeon adventures like old D&D stuff, GURPS DF stuff, and the like.

    1. Heh. And I love MST3K. Yet I don't like to write those kinds of reviews about gaming material.


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