I’ve talked a lot recently about all the blogs and stuff I read, and in all of what I come across, very little makes me as mad as when I find out that someone has written a “review” of a game after playing it only one dern time. I mean, seriously, that’s not a review; it’s a freaking session report!
I have a lot to say about this, but in order to set the stage a little for my coming stream of frustration and raving hatred, I think that I need to start by sort of defining what a review is and what it’s for. As I see it, there are two main things required to qualify something as a review:
- It has to contain some personal opinion about the game, and
- It is published in some way for public consumption (at BGG, on a personal blog, youtube, print magazine, or whatever else)
Implicit in #2 is the fact that the author of the review feels that his or her opinion of the game is worthy of public view and therefore valuable in some way to the audience. And in most all cases, that value would be as a tool to help the reader decide whether or not to invest (time, money, interest, effort) into the game.
Can you have an opinion of a game after just one play? Of course. And you can feel free to act on that opinion all you want in deciding whether or not you want to further invest in the game. What I strongly believe, however, is that an opinion formed after just one play is not valuable to other people, and therefore shouldn’t be shared under the guise of a review.
In other words, while you have the right to your thoroughly ignorant opinion, please keep it to your freaking self!
Because, first of all, it’s really hard to get things right the first time you play a game. Even with experienced gamers who are used to reading and teaching rules, it is still a pretty rare thing to get every rule straight and played correctly the first time through. And even if the stars do manage to align and you get all the rules right, it’s even less likely that you will fully grasp them all and really “get” the game. Because until this happens and you internalize the rules somwhere in your noggin, it will be impossible for you to have a truly informed opinion of the game.
But above and beyond actually understanding the game properly, there’s also the issue of whether your opinion is actually of the game itself, or if it’s more about the game experience from your particular play. Because, while the actual gameplay contributes heavily to the experience you derive from playing it, there are still a lot of other factors involved. There’s stuff like the mood you were in, where you played and the atmosphere of that space, the other people involved in the game, expectations about what you all thought the game was supposed to be, and butt-load of other things that I can’t even think of right now.
Some of you out there may then ask, “Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, how freaking many times do I need to play a game before I can review it and not piss you off?” Heck if I know. “Enough,” I suppose, is the right answer. You know, at the point where you can be at least relatively sure that your impression of the game isn’t marred by a lack of understanding it or the rest of the game experience.
And until that’s true, your thoughts just aren’t very valuable to me or anyone else. So until you’re willing to invest the effort necessary to develop an informed opinion, please find another way to get your geekgold or whatever else you’re getting from writing the review, and leave the reviewing to people who are.