Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Blog Receives a 7.3/10

I've been a fan of video games for most of my life. In fact, I even argued that game design is a form of art in some cases.

I've also enjoyed reading books for most of my life. I don't have to point out that books are a medium of art (though I just did).

However, I'd say that I started reading video game reviews long before I started reading book reviews (if "long before" can even apply to someone my age). Y'know what's great about video game reviews? They reach a numerical verdict for every single video game. Most reviews specifically note the quality of both technical aspects (which you *cannot* overlook in a video game the way you can in a novel) and creative aspects, then give an overall rating with these things in mind. So, you say this game is a 7.8/10? I might play it if it's something I'm interested in specifically; otherwise, it's not quite good enough. 4.5/10? Never touching it. 9.6/10? That's worth playing no matter what it's about. That's still how I use these reviews, and it helps that the reviewers talk about both main aspects of the games (technicality and creativity) and then give a clear verdict.

Then I started reading some book reviews here and there, both to find something interesting and because I was curious because I had heard how, um, bad they can be. Most book reviews don't use numerical ratings. Now, some people can write a perfectly sound and clear review without using numbers; I know that. However, after reading several reviews, most of what I find is mush. Almost every book is "good" or better, and critics often talk about how you will "like" or "love" the book. Look how human this book is! Look at how this book is about abortion/drugs/alcoholism/transsexuals! It must be good! The whole time, I'm thinking, "Okay, fine. But is the book well-written?"

The best reasons I can come up with for why people reviewing paintings and novels don't use numbers are that a) These works often originate from a single person and reviewers don't want to come down on one person (we know whose to blame when there's only one person responsible), b) Many artists function in a circle of sycophants who praise each other ceaselessly, and c) The people working in these fields tend to be more touchy-feely than those working in, say, movies and video games. Reason "a" is especially ridiculous; screw their feelings! Just because they've enter the field of art doesn't mean they should be exempt from receiving just evaluation; adults should be properly criticized for performing poorly in their chosen profession, and that includes artists of all sorts. Reason "b" almost completely invalidates any criticism coming from involved individuals. The main effect of reason "c" is the reign of using "like/dislike" in criticism instead of "good/bad". It's easier to avoid hurting people's feelings by using the former (and hurting people's feelings is a no-no, because of reasons "a" and "b").

But, wait! Exactly how similar are books and video games? In fact, how can you even juxtapose the two? Well, for reviewing purposes, here's a list of similarities between the two:


~*Both contain technical aspects which can be horrible, great, or anything inbetween (this is what gets overlooked by so many literary reviewers)
~*Both contain creative aspects which can be horrible, great, or anything inbetween (literary reviewers tend to disguise "horrible" as "different" or "unique")
~*Both involve the combination of technical aspects and creative aspects to create a final product; the quality of this product can be horrible, great, or anything inbetween


For reviewing purposes, there's enough similarity between the two to approach both with the same basic mindset.

I realize that using number ratings wouldn't make for instantly concise and insightful reviewers (note the majority of movie critics). However, it would help clear up the mush a *little* bit ("good" book #1 may be a 3.5/5, while "good" book #2 may be a 4/5). It would also give reviewers a standing number for each book, so that they can compare future books with ease.

I doubt the shift to numbers will ever occur, for the reasons listed above. However, I can give at least one example of numbers being used for literature: Dan Schneider uses numerical ratings in his This Old Poem series. Scroll down for his rubric, which is sound. If you can give reasons for your judgment, why not assign number ratings to poetry? People are still free to like/dislike all poems as they please, no matter their rating, but good/bad can be accurately determined by objective criticism. The same applies to game design, novels, comic strips, sculptures, tattoos, and any other form of art, high or low.

I'm done. I think I'll go play that 9.6/10 video game now. Good stuff!

Take Care,

LAEvaside: It's June. Also, for the record, the title rating is a joke (I hope). [/laevaside]


Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

This post gets 10/10.

7:49 PM  

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