Why Subjectivity Is Sometimes Needed In Reviews - lmvalle Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Why Subjectivity Is Sometimes Needed In Reviews

While I myself am interested in more objective reviews, I also must admit that personal experiences often figure into even the most minute of estimations. I don't think we should discard opinionated responses entirely from reviews, because experiences can inform an audience. However, many think - sometimes with good reason- that having many experiences revolving around a particular subject makes them "educated" or their opinions somehow more authoritative, when in reality some of them lack the basic knowledge or understanding of the different processes involved in the field.

For instance, let's take film critics. While the reviews cannot be totally objective, their experience of studying the elements of film does lend them more credence than the opinions of those who have no basic training or understanding of the fundamentals, be it editing, lighting, scriptwriting, or tonal composition. The same is true for game journalism or any process, where figures study and research the concepts related to their field. This leads to what designates the importance of the subjective experience: the ability to recognize when certain skills are being applied successfully.

While anyone can learn about writing an essay or a criticism, - take the classic five paragraph essay format taught in most high schools for instance - it takes skill and experience to recognize when these concepts are being applied efficiently, and not simply used in a manner that isn't constructive to the overall body of work. This ability to reflect on past experiences as examples of what works and what doesn't beyond the basic functions of the product reflect what is unique about the subjective experience when applied: it "informs" us and allows the critic to use the knowledge he has ascertained in a way that allows his audience to understand beyond the artificial, which is the singular weakness of the objective review.

An objective review cannot make an estimation of value, only function, for value itself is inherently steeped in the aesthetic of the ostensible society, and hence intersubjective. Impressionist art is now valued immensely, although it confused art critics during its rise; Melville's Moby Dick is hailed by literary critics as a classic, despite being criticized and commercially unsuccessful in its initial publication; Custer's Revenge is, well... it's still the worse game ever made. But you understand my point, hopefully. Culture, in itself, is instrumental in establishing the standards for what makes a product successful in terms of value.

Objective reviews cannot tell us why, to take an example, Michelangelo's Pieta should be considered a classic work, nor can it explain the value of the drama depicted in Caravaggio's paintings without some measure of non-objective evaluation in relation to particular notions of beauty, in his case, dynamic form and chiaroscuro. The chief importance thus, and this in my opinion separates "good" reviews from "bad" ones, is that what we know about a subject as well as our own society's tastes and understandings is what allows us to differentiate between "cookie-cutter" works that use the same old formula and gimmick and those who truly innovate in gaming.

I'm not trying to say that the subjectivity used in reviews is infallible, as certain cultures will have biases, some deliberate, others unintended, that directly influence their own experience of the product. Sometimes, in the most banal of situations, the personal opinions of the reviewer blatantly skew their own perception of the product being reviewed, and as a result, criticism or praise is exaggerated. However, we must be careful of the deceptiveness of objectivity, as it is often the first tool used to mask bias.


In short, while I aspire to see more objective reviews, I think that personal opinion is inherently tied to the experience of gaming. Sometimes we'll agree, and other times we'll disagree. What's more important, in my opinion, is that others learn and study these processes as well, so that they won't be swayed so easily by bias, and through this exchange, broaden their understanding of different perspectives.

QUESTION: HAVE YOU EVER DISAGREED WITH A REVIEW THAT WAS GOOD/BAD? FEEL FREE TO COMMENT BELOW!


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