Friday, September 9, 2011

This post is worth8.75/10

At some point I stopped reading reviews, for anything. Actually that's not exactly accurate. I stopped reading anything in a review except the last paragraph. That golden bit of text is where most any author give me what I want: a quick summary of what he thought, and whether he feels this thing is worth my time.

I realize this policy might be an affront to people who write reviews for a living, and consider them valuable, but I stand by it. The fact is, as a form of communication I think reviewing is incredibly weird for a couple of reasons.

1. Experience is inherently a partnership between the viewer and the viewed (a bad way to phrase it, since there are usually more senses involved, but you get my meaning). As a separate entity from myself, you can't infer much at all about my reaction to the same thing. It'd be like if you tried on clothes for me, or (when I was single) dated a girl on my behalf—very little of what you'd find would have any relevance to my experience.

2. Most anything that gets reviewed I can investigate on my own for a nominal fee. I can try electronics out at a store, rent movies or see them in the theater for an (arguably) small price. Video games do have such a high cost that a bad review might save me a considerable amount, but that's why I use Gamefly and buy PC games on the cheap.

In fairness, there are things that a good reviewer can do:

-Provide perspective from a very knowledgeable person who can evaluate a product against its competitors, or a book/movie/game in terms of his experience with the medium
-Offer a discussion of a thing's merits, so that I think about it in a different way or notice elements that I might otherwise miss.

But both of those benefits are more useful after I've had direct experience, not before. They are elements of academic analysis, not a purchase recommendation.

So what do I need before direct experience? I need to know where to invest my time. Don't tell me what's "good" and "bad." Tell me what's interesting and boring. Direct me toward things worth looking into, give me enough data to recognize something that's not. And by all means keep putting it in the last paragraph, its as good a place as any.*

*Don't bother saying that you skipped to the last paragraph of this post, I've beaten you to it.

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