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Subject: Thinking About Starting a Review Series - opinions sought rss

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Matt D
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Peachtree corners
Georgia
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Hello fellow Geeks.

After giving a lot of thought about game reviewers (some of which has come from some recent debates on the topic), I'm strongly considering diving into the pool to do some informal reviews with a somewhat unique angle. I'm not looking to make this into a business -- I have neither the time nor the "hustle" to do that. I just want to offer an alternate perspective to some of the many reviewers out there. If it has value, people will watch. If it doesn't, then they won't.

I however wanted to gauge some factors from my potential audience though, so any feedback would be appreciated! (Poll to follow, but comments on the thread appreciated as well)

How important do you find the quality of the video and atmosphere vs the content of the video?

I at present do not have a professional camera -- I just have the "not quite best" iPhone 5SE and a good quality Logitech HD webcam. Either of which I can probably manipulate well enough to view either an aerial of a board or prop up so I can address the camera.

I also don't think I am very important -- while I don't have a "face for radio", it's not like there is any magical visual appeal to looking at me. But would people find it disconcerting to have an entire narrative take place while observing the board versus the person talking?

If there is more than just a view of the game board, do you feel that atmosphere is important? Like, would it be disconcerting to have me talking in front of a blank white wall, or do I have to end up stacking up my games in beautiful piles like all of the other reviewers seem to have?

I appreciate any insight or suggestions anyone cares to offer. (Yes, I'm well aware that being a reviewer doesn't translate into money. I'm one of the first ones to tell folks to not go into reviewing unless you literally just want to help people make intelligent decisions about games. That will be part of my "unique twist" on reviewing. )

Poll: What is important to you in a video board game review?
1. How important is the video quality (SD, HD, 4k, etc) of the review?
High video quality (HD or better) is a must.
Anything that will not be fuzzy when compressed by Youtube is fine.
2. How important is the atmosphere/background of the video?
Plain white backgrounds are fine.
Plain white backgrounds are boring and distractingly bare.
I prefer to see the host sitting surrounded by his/her games.
I like feeling like I am watching a professional reviewer.
3. Is it important to have a variety of views in the video? (Choose all that apply)
I would be content with a video that focuses entirely on the game itself, and just see the hands of the reviewer manipulating the game.
I would want to see a variety of views (game, reviewer, box, etc) to prevent monotony.
I think it's important to make a visual connection with the reviewer and his/her face, eyes, expression, etc.
Visuals aren't important to me at all.
4. How important is explaining specifics of gameplay, rules, and mechanics in the review versus simply presenting opinions on those specifics?
Not important. I come into a review already having some idea of how the game plays.
Not important. I want to know opinions on the game before I start to research how to play it.
Important. I want to be able to come out of the video with a good grasp on how the game plays.
5. How important is it for the reviewer to provide a "rating scale" for a game?
It's quite alright for a reviewer to just present a series of specific opinions about the game.
It's important to me to see a summary and a score (thumbs up, 5 stars, 8 out of 10, etc) that represents the reviewer's overall opinion of the game.
      55 answers
Poll created by hestiansun
 
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Doug Poskitt
Wales
Cwmavon
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Well, having completed the poll, I also have the following thoughts, plucked at random as I think about your post.

I regularly - daily for at least an hour, often more - watch YouTube game reviews for games that I may be interested in, am interested in, anything that catches my eye at the moment.

I appreciate the work and time that goes into producing a review of a game for us, and I have lost count of the games that I have bought, or not bought, as a result of watching YouTube reviews. So, I have an underlying appreciation for the efforts of reviewers.

That said, there are a few points that I might make.

1) In by far the vast majority of reviews, I am puzzled how almost all of them come out so positive. Granted, there is the occasional review where the game receives a "thumbs down" (so to speak), but the balance is wrong, imo. It is not enough to restrict negative comments to "the downtime is brutal" (for example, Forbidden Stars). I wish reviewers would attempt a more balanced review and highlight the negative aspects of a game as much as they do the positive.

2) While it is important, imo, to have an overall impression of how the game plays, some reviewers concentrate too much on explaining the mechanics/proceedures of a game and not enough on the overall play of the game in terms of the overall experience; for example, how does the mechanics they explain mesh/interact together? And what sort of game experience do they produce?

3) Time. An important factor. Some reviewers get carried away and start to waffle. For me, I start to lose concentration and my attention starts to wander after about 15 mins or so. If the review goes on a length, then a text table below the video showing where the intro, components description, mechanics/proceedures and conclusion/final thoughts are is very useful.

Lest the above appear unduly negative, let me re-state that I do appreciate the efforts reviewers make; I certainly could not pull it off.

Edit: spelling
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Chris Laudermilk
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Doug made some really good additional comments.

I get why there are mostly positive reviews. It seems many reviewers just do reviews of games they like. It would suck having to spend time on a game you dislike, but it would be nice to see a considered, thought-out review where the reviewer didn't like the game. Some of the negative review comments I've read on various games are as useful as the positive--where some folks don't like specific aspects I actually do like, so it's a useful data point for me.

I also agree on time. Keep it concise and don't ramble. I only have so much time to spend, so will skip over the really long reviews. I'll also bail on one where the reviewer starts going off on tangents.

Some technical quibbles with some of the reviews out there, too. Make sure the lighting is good & color is well-balanced. Make sure the sound is good (cheap mics & echoing rooms kill it). Wobbly, Blair Witch Project cameras are not good either.

Good luck on your project!
 
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Cannon Wolf
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Personally, I appreciate reviews that show more of the game rather than the reviewer. Yes, seeing the reviewer helps establish a connection, but I don't want to be staring at a talking head for the duration of a video when I can see the game itself.
 
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claudermilk wrote:
I get why there are mostly positive reviews. It seems many reviewers just do reviews of games they like. It would suck having to spend time on a game you dislike, but it would be nice to see a considered, thought-out review where the reviewer didn't like the game.
My videos do concern mostly games I "like" (though that's not something I'd ever say in a video, as it is so subjective as to be meaningless).

Why? Well it takes many hours to think about, film, and edit a video and I don't want to spend that much time with a game that I find unpleasant and unrewarding of thought and comment. That said, no game is perfect and all of my videos analyze the gameplay and mention both positive and negative things about the games being considered.

I try to frame all my comments in light of "if you are this type of gamer, you might enjoy/dislike this aspect of the game" etc. I don't believe my own likes and dislikes are meaningful if they aren't put in a context outside of myself.

This is the same reason why I make every effort never to say a game is "fun" or "awesome" or anything else that like which is really a meaningless comment to anyone else.

This is also why I always title my videos with some version of 'discussion/analysis/review' since I try to do all those things in each video. I also provide lots of time tags so people can just go to the part of interest to them.
 
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Jim Hagan
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I actually prefer game-play and demo videos over reviews. If I hear about a game, I want to know how it is played and then I can decide if it is something that I want to purchase.
 
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mortego
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Kind of off-topic:

This thread reminds me of guys I knew who were Magic Pro-Tour types (or at least wanted to be) and would feel like they needed to be a judge only to find out that they would rather be PLAYING in a tournament rather than judging a tournament.

@OP: do the reviews, if within a couple years you start to get a following then GREAT!
 
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Claudio Coppini
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For me the two most important things are:

1) Objectivity
I know it's quite difficult to be completely objective, but I really like reviewers that try and put their analysis of the game mechanics before their personal taste. Some people just plain say that something in a specific game doesn't work just because they don't like it, and it's usually quite obvious.

2) Communication
Good communication is a must. I don't mind the technical specs of the video review as long as the reviewer manages to grab the attention of the viewer also by being able to communicate his/her thoughts in a simple and clear way.
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Osiris Saline
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Great to hear you're looking into presenting your views on games you enjoy!

I'll answer the poll points and include suggestions with them:

1. How important is the video quality (SD, HD, 4k, etc) of the review?

Video footage that isn't terribly compressed is fine to me, less time uploading, less time rendering. Your first reviews should be about getting into a rhythm and seeing what works before you put those extra hours into perfecting the technical side of editing and such. If a review is poor then it being in HD means nothing.

2. How important is the atmosphere/background of the video?

I don't mind how plain a table or background is, if the video is flowing along then it's fine, and if you have the presence (in script/voice/stature) to make a vast background of games worthless? That's great!

Even if you throw a sheet over a washing line in your house with a design on it, that's cool, or wholesale avoid showing your own face while talking which should also shorten the review time if your commentary is over the game/play moments. I'm used to shooting zero budget stuff due to poverty so seeing less typical backgrounds, or skipping the talking head stuff itself is awesome to me.

3. Is it important to have a variety of views in the video?

Much like above, if your script, editing, and presence are enough then a variety of shots may not be necessary. As long as your camera has a tripod and avoids shaky cam syndrome. Even if you rely on the base level still image JPEG cut aways with 'TITLE' written on them to split up the review (allows people to skip to those sections easier too) then that may be enough alongside one shooting angle.

PLUS, I grew up watching Ashens, so hands & a brown couch are all I expect of premium quality Youtubers.

4. How important is explaining specifics of gameplay, rules, and mechanics in the review versus simply presenting opinions on those specifics?

They are not at all important in a review UNLESS you are looking at the layers of the game most people ignore, those where the game design does something so clever that most people won't even notice.

If you aren't going deep into long running impacts of a mechanic that effects the turn in ways we haven't even noticed, then skip the explanation, if your reviews are of games you generally enjoy already, don't sell us the game or it's form, just mention how good the game is and mention why in your own unique way.

As much as meeple are cool and love indepth things it's painful that many reviews are basic runthroughs of the game with only a smidgen of opinion at the end. DiceTower has done that for years, and too many people imitate their schtick.

If you can, shove a link to the board games official site rulebook download page and mention at the start of reviews you won't be doing playthroughs & thorough explanations if your intention is review appraisals and not a series of mechanic vids.

5. How important is it for the reviewer to provide a "rating scale" for a game?

Unimportant. Extremely unimportant. Opinions matter, arbitrary numerical score out of a larger random number do not.
 
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Chris Graves
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One thing that I REALLY like is an engaged host. Some video reviewers sound like a robot or monotone like they are not having fun. Then there are some that will stumble over what they are saying and say "Um" every five seconds, which makes me feel they didn't have any kind of game plan for the review/play through, and I I get turned off. As far as rules verses a straight review...I like how Rahdo does the run through, then he gives his final thoughts. It allows me to chose if I want to hear his thoughts, then watch game play, or I can just start with a play through.
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Robert Moore
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Well if you do decide to start making videos, I'll definitely check them out and give you feedback on the first one or two if you want. I've dealt with you enough via math trading to feel that you're a reasonable person capable of rational thought - definitely a quality I think reviewers should have.
I think it's really a matter of looking at what currently exists in the videos you see here on BGG and either emulating what you think works or attempting to fill the niche of what you think is missing. For us, we started making videos for games that had minimal or no coverage. As we got into a rhythm, we then started to cover games as we were trading them, attempting to explain why we didn't like those games in the process. Last time I checked, we definitely have more negative than positive reviews, which apparently is uncommon on BGG.
Before you go out and buy a camera or lighting equipment, shoot some test footage of a game you really want to cover, edit it together, and see what you think of it. Our first two videos used an HD webcam for gameplay footage, which at the time we thought would work pretty well, but the framerate was low and it created choppy footage that we deemed unacceptable. You might find that what your iPhone gives you is good enough for your purposes.
Be careful about quick movements if you're doing handheld shots. See some of Rahdo's first videos for reference. It takes a bit of mental adjustment to remember to pan your hand slowly across what you're looking at so that people don't get nauseated by blurred motion.
It's good to see from your survey that people want to come away from a video understanding how a game plays. That's what we feel is most important about our videos - the instructional aspect. I have however heard people claim that all they watch is the review section and others (definitely fewer though) say they only care about the gameplay footage. You can't please everyone, so ultimately I'd say just make the videos you want to make and people will either watch them or they won't.
 
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David Allen
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Ha! I was just thinking about starting a griping thread about how many review videos are just dumpy middle-aged guys, way too close up, spieling in monotone with lots of ummmms and errrrs. As a dumpy middle-aged guy myself, I get way too much of that when I look in the mirror. even if you never end up doing review videos yourself (And I hope you do, based on your thoughtful approach) then hopefully the poll results will serve as warning/advice to other potential reviewers in the future.

1) show the game! Show some cool moves! Some potential scenarios! If you have any animation ability whatsoever, from Flash to Maya3D or whatever, please use it!

2) Write a script beforehand and stick to it.

3) I personally think numeric scales are not good because they imply a platonic standard of perfection, which is why everything ends up getting rated highly on sites like this. No one wants to be mean to a game they like but they also can't imagine something deserves a 10 because it implies that it's not only the greatest game EVER but the greatest game that's even POSSIBLE, which, I mean, come on.

Giving things a 1 or a 10 implies the existence or even possibility of some South Pole of game crappiness and some Ultima Thule of game awesomeness and perfection, which is ridiculous. Every game (just like every movie, book, or whatever one is reviewing) sets out to fulfill a goal. "This game sets out to combine the thrill of lawn darts with the deep thematic elements of a bestselling historical romance novel." Does it do that?

I think you need to approach reviews with a decided standpoint. Like, if you are a Euro-type fan and you are reviewing something like, I dunno, "Massive Darkness," it's OK to say "This is one of the few dungeon crawl games I have ever tried, so take this review from the perspective of someone who is neither dismissive of the idea or too jaded by playing too many similar games. I think there are only a handful of people out there that have played SO MANY games that they can just talk about any game from the perspective of a "Universal generic gamer," and frankly, even then they probably shouldn't.

Whatever game you are reviewing has antecedents it can be compared to--do that instead. Example: Let's say you were reviewing something like "Cry Havoc."

"I am a fan of the area control dynamic coupled with combat and strong thematic elements. I like GAME A from 2002 and GAME B from last year. Cry Havoc performs that task better than A but maybe not as good as B." Or, it's better than both, whatever."

Personally, I think the Shut Up and Sit Down reviews and videos are the gold standard and have made it almost impossible for me to watch the usual suspects any more.
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Matt D
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I appreciate all of this feedback. It is super useful to me.

It tells me a few things:

1. I can probably just start off without having to invest in any new tech. (This will help out with the wife)

2. No one needs to see my mug. Which is cool -- I won't need to get a nice neat hair cut.

3. My unique twist will likely be well appreciated by the community.


I've got a bit of momentum now...I think I might try to squeeze the first one out in the next day or so.

Keep posted here, and keep the opinions coming if you've got them.

Now I just need a cool name...
 
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