Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why I read reviews

This post is going out at 11:59 PM on New Years Eve 2011 (GMT), so before I start, I'd like to say 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I've been thinking about why I read reviews for a while, but the catalyst for writing this post was brought on by the Lone Tiger Gamebook Reviews blog which I contribute to.  I noticed that it got quite a few views and I think it's because the blog is about reviews.

First, I'd like to thank David Walters (who has written some great ebooks), Richard Palmer (who has a blog on SF books) and Sam Richards (who has brought gamebooks to Twitter) for their contributions to this post with our twitter discussions.  Thanks all.

A good review gets to the point.
I'm an obsessive review reader.  I read reviews about everything - Dr Who, board games, computer gamesfilms, books, TV showsgamebooks.  Oh hang on, I write some of those reviews.  Anyway, I read reviews about all these things and more.  I read reviews about things I'm going to buy.  I read reviews about things I've bought.  I read reviews of things that I'm never going to watch or read or play.  And I don't think I'm alone.  Four of my five most viewed blog posts are reviews (the other one being the introduction to how to write a gamebook) and even though at the time of writing, the Lone Tiger Gamebook Review blog only has two posts, it has way over 100 views a day.  Zhu Bajiee, in his review of his first year states that ' others have pointed out generally about OSR blogs the creative stuff gets a lot less hits than the commentary and review stuff.'  

So it seems that people like reviews.  In this post, I'm going to analyse why I read reviews and hopefully, it will resonate with other people as to why you read reviews.

Why I read reviews of  things I haven't partaken in yet (but may do so)

Yes.  Even that episode.
This one should be pretty straightforward.  I read reviews of things that I haven't watched or played yet to find out if they will be worth watching or playing.  However, strangely, this is the least common reason as to why I read reviews.  I can't remember a time when a bad review put me off something or a good review made me want to partake in something.  No matter what Den of Geek  says about the latest Dr Who episode, I'm going to watch it.  I don't care if Eastenders came top of the TV ratings with an amazing story, I'm not going to watch it.  I enjoy reading all gamebooks, even the bad ones.  If it's a gamebook, I'm going to want to read it.  It's the same with everything else.  reviews don't really sway my decision over whether I am going to partake in something or not.  Oh well.  On to the next stage.
It will ruin your life.

Why I read reviews of things I have already partaken in.

This I do a lot.  I have read the reviews of Fighting Fantasy books from Mark J.Popp's website at least a dozen times.  I scour forums for peoples' opinions on gamebooks I know intimately and I read reviews of films and TV shows I've watched.  I don't just read reviews of them either; I also want to understand how they are broken down into their tropes.

But why?

There are quite a few reasons actually.  I suppose, one reason is confirmation.  I want to know if someone else had the same opinion about something as myself.  It's a bit like having a one sided conversation with a friend about it, but instead, you are just listening.  Reading other peoples' well written opinions on things helps you form your own opinions, express them and lets you understand where you fall in relation to other peoples' views on something.  Or maybe it will show you that you are ALWAYS RIGHT and that everyone else is ALWAYS WRONG! (thanks to @redrichie).

There was no poetry, however.
Another reason for reading a review is that the review may highlight something that you missed.  There are many subtleties to TV shows, films and writing and sometimes it is a pleasure to go over something one more time to pick up on new delights.  Reviews can help point that in your direction.  For example, TVTropes informed me that the Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011 Dr Who Christmas Special) had a reference to Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy at the beginning (the spaceship announced 'People of Earth!'  just like the Vogon ship in HGTTG).

Takes me back towhen I was 8.
Another reason why I like to read reviews of things that I have already experienced is for nostalgia.  It's nice to kick back and remember the first time I finally saved the world of Orb from the Talisman of Death or blew up Helgedad or invented the method of fighting combats where I just assumed that I won.  It's not nice when said nostalgia leads to watch the Flight of the Conchords songs on Youtube when I should be finishing off this blog post (they are very funny though).

Reviews are informative.  Reviews may give some background into the creative process that may have gone into the finished product.  It may explain a lot about certain things that you spotted.

Why I read reviews of things I never intend to partake in

I like reading reviews because I can see someone give their opinion in an erudite way.

Reviews in themselves can be entertainment.  Charlie Brooker has made an art of reviewing things with his acerbic wit.  There are also several hilarious reviews on Amazon for certain items such as this mystical t-shirt or this excellent book on silicon-29.

'Unfortunately I already had this exact picture tattooed on my chest, but this shirt is very useful in colder weather.' - Overlook 1977

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