Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sloppy Arguments in Game Reviews

This blog post is a good opportunity to show the merits of Vapor Culture in practice. Several months ago, for some random reason, I was reading an actual game magazine to see how their reviews worked. Considering that I have a fairly different agenda than the average person who "can't believe they get paid to review games for a living", I ended up pretty angry about what they were writing.

In particular, several of the reviews knocked scores for reasons silly enough that I worked myself into a rage. Using block quotes, citing people's names, and generally shredding anything I could find, I wrote a pretty scathing blog post about bad reviewing habits. I then chucked it onto the vapor culture pile, had a nice walk, and got on with my life.

A few weeks later it was time to add photos and give it my first edit. Having calmed down, I couldn't really understand why I had such a bug up my ass. Any valid arguments I made were drowned out in nasty jokes, sarcasm, and the general sound of 'WHHAAARRRGGBLLL'. More problematic was that I realized I was guilty of several of these things I was railing about so much.

Normally, I would've just tucked the file under my 'You're an Idiot' folder in my Documents. Instead I threw it back into the waiting to be edited pile and decided to mull it over. To make sure I wasn't just complaining about certain problems, I went onto Twitter and did an impromptu poll. Several issues I'd never thought of were suggested. I also decided quotes and naming people would just make critics get defensive instead of listening. If the post wasn't going to improve game criticism, I didn't want to publish it. Otherwise, I'd just come across as grubbing for attention.

It's still a testy topic and someone has already rolled into the comments, but it's a helluva lot better than if I'd just written it the weekend before and then posted it for a rush. The other aspects of vapor culture, fleshing out the ideas and editing, are also present. Improving the quality of writing on the internet is not just an exercise in having a good idea, it's making sure that idea is given time to work itself out.

That's the theory, anyhow.

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