More Thoughts About Reviewing Games

In my Review of Reviews post I touched upon some of my thoughts on reviewing games. As I have been thinking more about game reviews lately I felt like addressing some of these thoughts.

I find reviewing games to be quite challenging on many levels. Recently I have chosen games with fairly high numeric ratings from BGG for the most part, but just having a high numeric rating does not automatically mean that I will enjoy the game. To add to this complex issue is the fact that I find many games that I enjoy conceptually but may not find to be mechanically amazing, and others that I find to be quite fun even though I can see that mechanically they are flawed. Below I will briefly talk about three of the things I have been thinking about.

How Important is Fun?

This may sound ridiculous to some but one of the issues I have had with reviewing and rating games is that some games are a lot of fun but I am almost embarrassed to admit it. This likely is the result of having played too many Eurogames recently and many gamers’ insistence that a good game must be something more like Puerto Rico than Last Night on Earth. Still, I enjoy playing LNOE but these days I really don’t enjoy playing Puerto Rico. On the other hand do I want to recommend Last Night on Earth to all gamers?

Essentially I sometimes wonder what I am rating about the game.

Inflated or Deflated Numeric Ratings

This leads me to a problem I often see on BGG. Many fans wishing to inflate their favorite game’s rating will give a “10” to a game that maybe does not deserve it or likewise give a “1” to a game simply because many people like it and they do not. While I am not the biggest fan of Puerto Rico the idea of anyone giving it a “1” simply seems absurd. Even if you do not enjoy the game it seems that it deserves a point or two simply for its solid design, playability, solid construction etc.

I guess that this would lead us to having multiple parts to a game rating. For example a rating for Design, Components, Fun Factor etc. This is not at all what I am suggesting as it actually leads to more numbers but in a sense it would be a far more accurate way of measuring a game.

Okay, Good, or Great for What it is

Sometimes my biggest problem is that that a game will have a mediocre rating on BGG more because of the kind of game it is rather than how good it is at being that kind of game. For example, Apples to Apples will never be that highly rated as it is a party game. What would be more valuable, I would think, than knowing how it compares to Puerto Rico or Arkham Horror would be to know how it compares to other party games.

This is easier to do with a party game than it is to do with some other games, but better categories for games would go a long way in making reviewing better and more accurate. This always reminds me of when I was a kid and I would see a dumb action movie get a bad rating and think “but I liked it…”. In truth what would be better would be to know how that dumb action movie compared to other dumb action movies. Knowing that reviewers think that Summer Hours is better than Wolverine doesn’t mean as much as knowing that they preferred Star Trek to Wolverine.

Not Quite Final Thoughts

This is really something I have been puzzling over for years and it will probably not be something I solve any time soon. One thing I would like to say is that I am tired of reading “This is hardly a game”, “This isn’t a game”, or “There is hardly a game here” in the comments or reviews of games on BGG. The Eurogamers use it to describe a game with obvious moments of chance while the Amerigamers use it to describe any game with too much “math” and other people use it whenever they don’t like the way a game plays. In all cases I find it to be a foolish statement that I hope I have never used or at least will never use again.

In relation to this I have noticed that my ratings always seem to pull toward the middle. Perhaps this is because I see merit in almost all games even when I do not personally find them enjoyable. I’m really not sure if this is a good or a bad quality in a game reviewer.

  1.  

    Great thoughts!

    I agree that some games will suffer just because of the nature of what they are. But ultimately, as you mentioned, that speaks more to the stuffy nature of the gamers rating them than it does to the weakness of the rating system.

    And ultimately, that’s why personal comments and written reviews are sooooo much more valuable than any rating system could ever be.

  2.  

    Thanks. Yes, which is why I have been trying to focus more on what I like and dislike about games rather than on giving them a numeric value compared to all games.

    Still… I have to confess that the numeric values on BGG have been useful to me. I never would have put Battlestar Galactica on my wish list or talked about it (and thus might night have received it as a gift) if not for it’s high rating. I simply never would have been interested in a game based on a TV show (a show I am only now starting to watch) if not for how high its numeric value was. This holds true for several games that have been fairly popular in our group lately.

  3.  

    I still kind of like the idea of developing sections in our reviews of “who would like this game” and gamer archetypes. Of course that would be additional work, and it’s probably known to regular readers here that I post seldom enough as it is, without raising the bar 🙂