What Do I Know About Reviews? Game Systems Are Hard
Reviewing game supplements, whether it be sourcebooks, adventures, or rules options, is a fairly simple thing for me. I mean, I still have to put in the time to read them, consider them, take notes, and make sure I’m providing useful information. But all of that is pretty standard diligence once you establish a pattern of how you want to present your review.
Game systems are hard.
Why is this? Well, because it’s a simpler mindset to think “if I already like this game system, is this a good addition to that system,” and from there to think, “if this was a good investment, was it an above average investment,” and “if this was good for people that like this game, is it good for people that like other games?”
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Some game systems are a little bit simpler than other game systems for me to evaluate. If I am reading a new Powered by the Apocalypse game, it’s a lot easier to focus on what it does differently and if that deviation emulates a genre well. If you are creating a new version of your Star Wars or 40K game, and the core mechanics are the same, it’s a lot simpler to look at what is different and to analyze why that aspect was changed.
Games and Art
Part of the problem is that game design is something that I consider an art. While you could argue I’m not much of a game reviewer (I won’t give you much pushback), I’m definitely not an art reviewer. I can tell when something is speaking to me on a level that a similar product may not, but I’m not going to be able to evaluate whether that makes another game more or less worthy on the artistic front.
On the other hand, my brain is telling me how easy it would be for me to bring something to the table, and evaluates how presenting similar rules or mechanics at the table has gone in the past. This doesn’t mean that I won’t factor a game’s artistic value into a review, just that some games might be brilliant pieces of art that don’t feel, to me, as if they will function well at the table, and the review is going to give both of those aspects of the game design some weight.
Standard Disclaimers And All
There is absolutely no reason you should take my word for anything. I’m hoping to spread some information and to start discussions. I don’t know any more than any other gamer (hence the name of the blog). My star ratings are based on my criteria, and are native to my way of thinking and gaming. So if you vehemently disagree with what I’ve come up with in one of my reviews, I’m certainly not telling you that you are wrong. I’m just hoping that I provided enough of my point of view that it was worthwhile to measure your own thoughts against what I presented.
When I was a child and watching Siskel and Ebert on At the Movies, I think this is what I have always loved about reviews of any kind. I don’t approach a review, even from a trusted source, as something that will tell me what to do so much as something that will help me see someone else’s point of view. I love deeper discussions of the things that interest me, and I hope if you spent the time reading this, that you do as well. More than that, I hope that my opinion has some kind of value to you when you read it.
But to bring all of this around, reviewing full game systems, especially systems that aren’t primarily based on previous game engines, is really hard for me. I don’t make art, and I don’t want to tell someone that their art doesn’t have value. I can only evaluate games–as games–based on the filter of gaming that aligns with my approach.