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Subject: Is "too light" a valid criticism? rss

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Robert Sanders
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I guess the subject of this thread is pretty self-explanatory, but let me flesh it out a little.

I recently watched a review by a game reviewer I respect, and who is generally well respected. He commented very positively on a game, with very little in way of substantive criticism, then rated the game a 6, commenting that the game is too light for him.

Personally I dislike numbered rankings - I worked in whisky when a pretty decent whisky, nothing special, would rank 75-80. It's all pretty stupid. However, if you are going to rank, shouldn't a game be rated for what it is, not what style games you prefer? If I rated Pandemic Legacy a 5 because I don't like co-operative games, I'd be an idiot. If a restaurant reviewer talked badly about a seafood restaurant because he doesn't like fish it'd be a joke.

Or, is this different? Maybe he's just saying modern games have a lot of potential, which this doesn't achieve. This is a blended whisky compared to a single malt. A starter compared to a main course.

Any thoughts?

[I could enlarge the debate to how the online community treats easy to play, family-friendly and filler games in general, but I think this question is enough.]
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I rated Pandemic Legacy a 5 because I don't like co-op games. It was great for a Co-op game, but it was still co-op and I don't like co-op.

To address your question: I like it when reviewers rank good games low because it isn't their type of game. When I find reviewers who have similar tastes to me and do this kind of filtering, it helps me pick out games that I will enjoy rather than games that are good (or even great) but I will not enjoy because they aren't my kind of game.

If you don't agree with the reviewer's tastes, find a different reviewer whose tastes align with yours more and follow them instead.
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If you know the reviewer and know where their tastes fall in the spectrum, then saying something is "too light" is valid if you enjoy heavier games or if you enjoy lighter games. You have to know what that person means by "too light" in order to make it a valid data point.

Edit: ninja My point was made right above me. laugh
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Rich Keiser
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It's fine, because it is a criticism, which is subjective to the critic.

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robs42 wrote:
if you are going to rank, shouldn't a game be rated for what it is, not what style games you prefer?

I don't believe thats even possible. All of our experiences are informed by our biases and preferences. I say explain those biases and put the review in that context and then rank accordingly, so people with similar leanings will form similar conclusions. Sounds like the reviewer did exactly what he/she should be doing.
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Robert Sanders
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Quote:
If you don't agree with the reviewer's tastes, find a different reviewer whose tastes align with yours more and follow them instead.


What if I'm just watching a review on Youtube to see if my non-hobby gamer family will like a game. How much effort do I have to put in? Seriously. Do I have to be part of the online community for a month, a year, to work out exactly what a reviewer likes and doesn't like? Again we are talking about light games which play well for families with kids. I'm not looking to see if I'll like Uwe Rosenburg's latest offering.

Also, I don't think this is supposed to be a BGG "style" ranking. If it's on Youtube then why should I think that 6 means "OK - will play if in the mood"?
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robs42 wrote:
Quote:
If you don't agree with the reviewer's tastes, find a different reviewer whose tastes align with yours more and follow them instead.


What if I'm just watching a review on Youtube to see if my non-hobby gamer family will like a game. How much effort do I have to put in? Seriously. Do I have to be part of the online community for a month, a year, to work out exactly what a reviewer likes and doesn't like? Again we are talking about light games which play well for families with kids. I'm not looking to see if I'll like Uwe Rosenburg's latest offering.

Also, I don't think this is supposed to be a BGG "style" ranking. If it's on Youtube then why should I think that 6 means "OK - will play if in the mood"?


I hear what you are saying, but given the subjective nature of most reviews, you have to know the reviewer. There is a reason why Zagat and Michelin reviews are given such importance, because people "know the reviewer." They eliminate the need to know the reviewers as individuals, and instead, allow you to (right or wrong) quickly put your trust in the name of the reviewer's organization.
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If you're looking for an entry-level game for a non-gamer crowd, then something that an established reviewer acknowledges as quality, but "too light" actually sounds like a positive endorsement for your situation.
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Quote:
Is "too light" a valid criticism?


It is for me.
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You mean the reviewer rated the game a 6 on his personal ratings here on bgg?

I rate games based on how much I enjoy playing them, should reviewers use a different standard here? (By the way, I consider a 6 a positive rating for a game.)
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Francisco Gutierrez
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I usually associate “too light” with wargames which prioritize playability over historical details.

While someone might enjoy that the game is more accessible, others would want a historical simulation, of sorts. I won’t enjoy a game which sacrifices too much detail. Consequently, low rating.
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Robert Sanders
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No. At the end of the video it was flashed up as a 6. Also, I guess I'll say this a Dice Tower reviewer and you can just roll through the scores on their website.

I guess my main point is that a score of 6 can be off-putting for an inexperienced crowd that don't know the reviewer. The scoring is more of my issue than the comment.

Does a film reviewer give a film 3 stars with his only criticism being he doesn't like horror? If it's not your cup of tea why are you reviewing it at all?
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robs42 wrote:
No. At the end of the video it was flashed up as a 6. Also, I guess I'll say this a Dice Tower reviewer and you can just roll through the scores on their website.

I guess my main point is that a score of 6 can be off-putting for an inexperienced crowd that don't know the reviewer. The scoring is more of my issue than the comment.

Does a film reviewer give a film 3 stars with his only criticism being he doesn't like horror? If it's not your cup of tea why are you reviewing it at all?


Oh, okay. Yes that does seem odd for a reviewer.
 
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robs42 wrote:
If I rated Pandemic Legacy a 5 because I don't like co-operative games, I'd be an idiot.

Any thoughts?


I don't think that is a fair assessment. I mean, I personally haven't found many Co-ops that I enjoy, doesn't mean I shouldn't play them and rate them. I just haven't found one I enjoy...yet.

I give all games the same fair shake, and rate them accordingly. As they are, well, my ratings for games I've played.
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robs42 wrote:
Is "too light" a valid criticism?
Sure. Why not? Tic-tac-toe is too light.

The idea that reviewers are objective or should be is false. Nobody is objective. And I wouldn’t want them to be. What I want is a reviewer whose tastes align with my own. Or failing that, a reviewer whose tastes I can translate into my own.
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Pete
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I don't think there are any invalid criticisms.

Pete (wonders what that would look like)
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Robert Sanders
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Quote:
robs42 wrote:
Quote:
If I rated Pandemic Legacy a 5 because I don't like co-operative games, I'd be an idiot.

Any thoughts?



I don't think that is a fair assessment. I mean, I personally haven't found many Co-ops that I enjoy, doesn't mean I shouldn't play them and rate them. I just haven't found one I enjoy...yet.

I give all games the same fair shake, and rate them accordingly.


OK. Fair enough. Maybe I was harsh, I just feel judging should be on the merits of the game, especially when the score someone gives effects the game's ranking. I definately hear your point though.

When it comes to professional reviewers though it strikes me as odd. We're not just talking about how a game ranks on BGG, but can effect how much it will sell.
 
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Too light.... for what?
If that's established, it's valid.
If it's not, it's not.
 
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All opinions are subjective. A snobby film critic who prefers art films will probably not give a great review to an action-adventure blockbuster made for large audiences. I think the question you're asking is whether a reviewer should keep the target audience in mind when making the review (even if they personally don't like the thing), which I would say, absolutely, yes they should.

Reviewers should be expected to give bad reviews for games that they normally don't like: if they hate multi-player solitaire Euros, or hate highly combative Ameritrash games, they are fully entitled to say they didn't like it. But a truly good reviewer would be one to say: this isn't for me, but if you're an X type of gamer, or you like games like X, you might really like it. That's something unfortunately very few reviewers do.
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Well, light games are objectively worse than other kinds of games.
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robs42 wrote:
[I could enlarge the debate to how the online community treats easy to play, family-friendly and filler games in general, but I think this question is enough.]

Your initial question is not enough, because the highlighted part above is the actual question.
"lightness" is just its superficial level.

P.S.: It's not "online community". It's hobbyists. And a particular type of hobbyists at that. Just happen to be common on bgg.

I.
Best introduction into the issue is one of older Michael Barnes's posts on "fun first design"
Cracked LCD: Fun-First Design

Michael Barnes wrote:
I do have fun playing Mage Knight and Labyrinth, but it’s very different than the fun I have playing Abaddon.

The fun I have with those games is from the sense of discovery of strategic routes through the mechanics, how the mechanics describe setting and concept, and in the hobbyist notion of drilling down through layers of depth to get at those nuggets of entertainment.

With Abaddon- and other games like Magical Athelete, Talisman, Chaostle, and the Really Nasty Horse Racing Game- that fun is much more at a surface level, not buried beneath rules and process. You don’t have to work at being the kid on the back of the box cheering.
Michael Barnes wrote:
It strikes me that there is a clear distinction between “fun-first” design and those designs where elaboration of detail and coordination of mechanics- in some ways the true technical artistry of game creation- are the primary focus. This division can extend to explaining one of the chief differences between so-called “casual” and “hardcore” games. In a “casual” game, you may have a single mechanic and the intent is to entertain and engage the audience without demanding commitment or that drilling-down action through layers of systemic rules. “Hardcore” games insist that the player work for the fun, and in fact that process of working for the fun often IS the fun. The question becomes which of these kinds of games is fun to you at the time you’re playing them.I’ve come to always ask myself when playing any game, before any other consideration “am I having fun doing this?”
Michael Barnes wrote:
We may talk a lot about wanting to play Here I Stand, but what we really want to play is more Cosmic Encounter and King of Tokyo. Because in games like that, the fun rises to the top almost immediately and there’s no buy-in or lead-in to get to it.


So for many a hobby gamer engeneering part of figuring out how a game works and how to optimise it is more important than - starting the engine, rolling down side windows, putting on some music and enjoying a roadtrip in a good company. This goes to the level that many games now are being made just for this type engineering tinkering. (Interaction and enjoying a ride ist verboten.)

So in this perspective a game being "too light" might mean one that doesn't appeal to a tinkering engineer.

II.
Another option would be hobby gamers often favoring brainburing games and asking for a sort of puzzle solving/challenging gaming experience. Well, okay, there's a game for everyone out there. However when favoring brainburny games gets mixed with hobbyist elitism that looks down on mainstream games for the muggles, we get dismissive smirk at lighter games. "There's no game in that box" they cry.

III.
If you put I. and II. together you can also get a weird result of many a gamers not understanding light games. See, engineering mind likes things tangible and tinkerable, levers to pull, sums to do, spreadsheets to optimise. Light games can be about social engagement, psychology, group dynamics, mind games, etc. It seems like many a geek can't grasp this level and recognize being as complex (or potentially more) than finely tuned clockwork gizmos of zillion interlocking mechanismus.
They would say oh, Win, Lose, or Banana only has one decision per 3 players in the whole game and even that one is a coin toss, because they never learnt to read faces. Shrug.
EDIT - P.S. Oh and when a game asks for more from its players than just executing rules and being passive pushers of buttons of a gizmo they bought, and asks for more involvement, gamers don't see it as a game. They don't engage, so nothing happens (duh), but then they claim "it's no game there". Gee, you think, Sherlock? You're supposed to contribute to make a game there. - And games of this type are often light social games with simple rulesets.

IV.
Oh yeah, combine light blindness (what a lovely phrase) from III. with elitism from II. and you get the whole "meaty games" "main course" carnivorous BS. And light games can't stand on their own, of course not, they're just "fillers". [:eyeroll:]




Okay, back to your "main" question

robs42 wrote:
Is "too light" a valid criticism?

It depends on the argument and contextualisation.

robs42 wrote:
However, if you are going to rank, shouldn't a game be rated for what it is, not what style games you prefer?

If I rate a game on BGG then it's 100% subjective.
It's an opinion.
So, yeah, it's ALL about what I prefers.

robs42 wrote:
I recently watched a review by a game reviewer I respect, and who is generally well respected. He commented very positively on a game, with very little in way of substantive criticism, then rated the game a 6, commenting that the game is too light for him.


Well, here I could write another post as long as this one about geeks not understanding what a review is. What geeks at best produce and label as review is actually an opinion (subjective writing). Review is a dialectic writing (dialogue with the game, trying to figure out what the game tries to do and see it from its point of view). If one reads so called reviews as opinions, one should be ok.

If one does attempt to review, then it's a good idea to explore what the game actually tries to do regardless of one's personal tastes and biases (okay that's hard, but try to take your personal tastes into an account and try going over your biases. Hey if you're a curious type this type of exploration is fun!)

robs42 wrote:
Or, is this different? Maybe he's just saying modern games have a lot of potential, which this doesn't achieve. This is a blended whisky compared to a single malt. A starter compared to a main course.

If you don't show me the review I lack material for even a half baked hypothesis.

Me thinks it's most likely reviewer simply can't see beyond their personal taste.

EDIT: moar grammar + a new comment
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Wait... How are light games objectively worse? That seems like the textbook definition of subjective.
 
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onewingmatt wrote:
Wait... How are light games objectively worse? That seems like the textbook definition of subjective.
Taking Skutsch seriously I see.

Pete (supposes we all make mistakes)
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I think that the Dice Tower usually does a pretty decent job of putting the right reviewer to each game. That said just due to the amount of reviews they do I'm sure they get it wrong from time to time.

And I'm sure even Zee finds some games too light
 
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robs42 wrote:
Is "too light" a valid criticism?

It depends on context and expectations. I probably won't criticize a 10-minute dice game for being too light, but if it's a game that gives you just an illusion of strategy and takes 3 hours, I may.

Quote:
If I rated Pandemic Legacy a 5 because I don't like co-operative games, I'd be an idiot.

There is a guy who does just that, except that he rates them a 2. And I agree with you here. devil
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