Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reviews, the internet, anonymity and being a prick

Among other things I am a reviewer. I review novels and games for a variety of websites...including my own (I need to have some content of my own too).

As a reviewer I have a kind of oath with myself that I will fully read the material and review the material honestly. I will focus on what is written. I will NOT delve in to the author as a person as really that's none of my business. The author's skill at telling a tale or a game developer's skill at crafting a plot (or lack therof) is fair game, but calling out an author as a douchebag is strictly verboten.

1. Respect. I am a professional at what I do, and the author or developer is as well. I respect what they do and the efforts they make. Sometimes we excel at what we do and sometimes we fall short. Not every novel is going to be a Best Seller nor is every game going to be a hit. It's just the nature of things. There is no malice involved in any of my reviews. I review products as objectively as possible. PRODUCTS...not the people who made it. I put my own bias, expectations and fandoms aside and judge the book/ game as it is.

2. When I look for a product to buy, I look for reviews that are as objective and complete as possible. I want someone who has read the book fully and can comment honestly about their opinion of it. Now you must realize that I don't take one review as gospel. I read several. The best reviews I can find. From those I decide whether the novel/ game is worth my time. We all have limited time these days. I find the fanboy ranty hater reviews (as well as the fanboy OMFG I LOVE IT-reviews) absolutely worthless. Those reviewers have an agenda and the material either agreed or disagreed with it and they now rant/ rave about it. Total rubbish IMO.

3. The internet is an amazing thing. We have the ability to do almost anything. If I want to go online and call out every douchebag in the world from behind a wall of anonymity, I can do that. If an author shits on my favorite character or writes a game that changes canon as it has always been, throwing the IP under the bus, I can write a review saying that Gav Johnson is a total fucktard! You betcha!
But why?
Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you should.
I can't speak for everyone, but I'm not so ego-centric that I believe MY opinion is anymore (in)valid than anyone else's. For every person who hates that dastardly Gav Johnson guy, there is another one who is pleased as punch at the changes made. Besides, authors/ designers don't operate in a vacuum, they are given overall direction ( least on shared-world fiction). People need to understand that there are many things going on, decisions made behind the scenes before anything is written.

I tend to review a lot of game fiction. These are based on shared-worlds. For example Wizards of the Coast's Forgotten Realms setting is one I tend to review fairly often. I have reviewed a lot of R.A Salvatore's Novels. I would like to believe that I have given Mr. Salvatore an honest, forthright and fair review of his novels. I think he's an exceptional writer. I have given some of his novels less-than-stellar reviews due to superheroic characters that are nigh-impossible to challenge. I believe that Mr. Salvatore has improved his craft over time (and he was never a bad author at any time) and I also firmly believe that there are likely dictates from on-high that he is given regarding what he writes.

I think shared-world fiction writers in some ways write with one hand tied behind their back. The publisher has a direction for the setting and the writer writes within those boundaries. Some things they can fiddle with, some things not. These things change over time. Once upon a time the Black Library would have never published a book with a Xenos protagonist. Not so today. When games are developed, the publisher has a direction they are going. This is true whether the publisher is Wizards of the Coast or Games Workshop. The writers often have the overall course plotted for them and they get to write within those boundaries. Depending on the publisher those boundaries may be written in sand or blocked in with stone.

When I write a review I have to take all this in to consideration.
While I may dislike the overall direction of D&D 4E and the changes to the Forgotten Realms in order to bring the timeline current to the newest edition of the game world (spellplague, death of many gods and characters, re-shaping the lands) I'm not about to hide behind a facade of anonymity and say that Cam Kemp is a douchebag because he killed off my favorite character. These guys are mandated to a certain degree to advance the timeline and many things will happen: characters WILL die. "You can either write them a nice death, or you can write for someone else"

I think it is a western civilization-thing and an American-thing in particular, but we tend to want someone to blame. We are also completely ego-centric and tend to think only of what WE like, OUR favorite characters, MY favorite codex or special character and really give less than a shit about anyone else. Authors and Game Devlopers tend to catch the brunt of this in the teeth, which is really sad. Honestly I think it wouldn't be anywhere NEAR as bad if people could treat others with a modicum of respect...regardless of internet distance.

There is no excuse for being an internet arse-hole.

No comments: