April 16, 2009

If I were to call a design choice "moronically stupid" in a review - one of a game I went on to give an extremely high score to - would that make this review unprofessional?

Just received a very angry email from a developer who thinks so, and is unhappy with the words what I wrote. Oh dear. :(

(On a serious note, actually quite put out by that. It's a game I really love, and a developer I really admire. Was caught between wanting to vehemently defend my wording and opinions, and feeling a little obliged to apologise, since it was in no way intended to cause offense. The wording just sounded good, y'know, and conveyed a message about what I went on to pretty much call the game's only flaw. Settled for a "sorry the wording's bad, hope you aren't offended, still maintain my opinion, might consider rewriting that bit" sort of answer.)

Most recent blog posts from Lewis Denby...

honestgamer honestgamer - April 16, 2009 (12:52 PM)
Well, when you say "moronically stupid," you are calling the developer a moron (since "moronically stupid" means literally that it's so stupid only a moron could've been responsible for it).

I think one problem the Internet's edgiest reviewers have is that they're so anxious to write something that sounds good that they don't necessarily stop to think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of such 'clever' praise.

I'm not saying you're doing that in particular, as I don't feel that you are, but I think that a lot of the rest of us can sometimes fall into the trap without meaning to if we let down our guard. It's the easiest thing in the world to resort to such phrases, gaining an audience of readers that love scandal and mudslinging in the process, so it sometimes can take a lot of effort and restraint to find a different/better way to get a point across. Sometimes in the rush to churn out a review, we are guilty of forgetting that.
Suskie Suskie - April 16, 2009 (02:17 PM)
It just sounds redundant to me.
Lewis Lewis - April 16, 2009 (03:09 PM)
"Well, when you say "moronically stupid," you are calling the developer a moron (since "moronically stupid" means literally that it's so stupid only a moron could've been responsible for it)."

I hadn't thought about it like that, to be honest. Perhaps it wasn't amazingly judged phrasing. I was surprised to receive the email, though, I must say - particularly one that questioned my professionalism. Whether I was right or wrong to write that, isn't it something you just grit your teeth over?

When you put your product out there for review, surely you waive your right to complain about anything people might say, providing it isn't factually incorrect?
honestgamer honestgamer - April 16, 2009 (04:57 PM)
Unless you used a similar tone throughout your review, it's a bit of a stretch to call you unprofessional. Certainly, the use of the phrase 'moronically stupid' was unprofessional, but your writing is typically all sorts of professional in other places so the occasional deviance isn't a crime against humanity (even though it would be best avoided).

As for the comment about putting a game out there and thus opening yourself up to whatever people say, that's true and it isn't. Certainly, people have every right to say whatever they want as long as they're not resorting to libel. However, depending on where you post your review, there are different standards about what would be considered reasonable.

Posting a review on a site that presents itself as professional--from HonestGamers to Resolution to IGN to GameSpot or Eurogamer or whatever else--indicates that you're holding yourself to that standard. There's an expectation from a game publisher that if you savage their game, you'll do so with reasonable points and you'll do so without incindiary language like 'moronically stupid' or 'developed by trained monkies' or 'this game is pure crap' or any other number of insulting phrases that belong in a heated argument or on YouTube.

I don't think it's wrong of the game developer to call a game journalist on it when the game journalist does something like that. With that said, it sounds in this case like the developer needed to cool down a bit before writing to you and probably could have chosen his own words more carefully.

In any event, your opinion was your opinion. Changing the phrasing wouldn't be a bad idea, but letting the response from the developer factor into your score for this game or other games--something you're clearly not going to do--would be the only error you might make.
bloomer bloomer - April 16, 2009 (06:32 PM)
I think the developer was right to call you on it, whatever tone they used. Otherwise, I think Jason already said the wise stuff.

In terms of the creative side, IE: 'If I put something out there, shouldn't I be ready for any opinion on it?' - there was a local musician here (I forget who, a lady) who said something I realised I agreed with. It was that she didn't mind any review of her work, positive or negative, so long as it was well-written. In the land of the not-well-written is where most of the obnoxious negative writing schticks Jason has mentioned live.

If someone reviewed my CD with the phrase 'moronically stupid', I'd probably yell at the reviewer too, for breaching their duty of care as I see fit, as in a way they have lapsed badly into the not-well-written. It may be only for a second in your case, but from the artist's end, it can be experienced as the kind of breach that makes everything else irrelevant.
zigfried zigfried - April 16, 2009 (09:14 PM)
I don't have to worry about being professional, because Jason takes the heat for anything nasty that I write.

I think you're pretty safe to write something as long as you really, truly believe it -- because then, even if it's perceived as offensive, you'll be able to defend your words with integrity and reason.

And when I say "you", I literally mean you. The above practice wouldn't work for everyone, because some morons believe everything they say but just come across as belligerent because... well, they're morons.

EmP EmP - April 17, 2009 (01:46 AM)
I've always just said what I felt needed saying. I think Jason secretly hates me for it.
Lewis Lewis - April 17, 2009 (02:19 AM)
It's funny. Having slept on it, I'll totally put my hands up and say it was a case of badly judged phrasing. I didn't mean the developer was a moron, of course I didn't. I thought one particular bit of level design was hideous in its arbitrary rule-breaking. Having had it explained to me, it's lost its arbitrariness, making it appear less stupid - though still frustrating and counter-intuitive.

But the email still pissed me off.

Firstly - I dunno, whenever I've had stuff reviewed I've submitted to the fact that people can and will say what they want. I've had a tonne of hideous reviews of my music (don't start with the jokes) that are completely unprofessional - one springs to mind that was totally an "I hate this genre" rant.

I didn't complain about that review. I wouldn't even think about complaining about a largely positive review. This is easily the most glowing praise I've given a game all year. The criticism was a single sentence, in which I highlighted how much that level stands out, because the rest of the game is so good.

I think what surprised me the most is that, well, I've had moans as a result of negative reviews before, but never this. Most people who get in touch about a review I've written are thanking me for the kind words, so that's what I've got used to. Maybe that's a bit arrogant, but it still meant this knocked me for six. In fact, I've had one developer get in touch over a game I 6/10'd here, agreeing with my criticisms and thanking me for my honesty. It's a marked difference, y'know?

If the email had been along the lines of "Thanks for the review, but that sentence was a bit harsh. Here's what we were trying to do with that bit:" then fair enough. I'd be totally fine with that. But it wasn't. The email opened with something like "Wow, call that a professional review?"

I was going to review this game for HG as well, but now I don't feel comfortable doing it. A) because I still stand by my opinion and don't want to cause more of a fuss, and B) because I don't really feel as enthusiastic about the game any more. That's really silly on my part, certainly, but goes to show how important good PR is.
bloomer bloomer - April 17, 2009 (09:31 PM)
Yeah. Well, your experience (as described! I haven't seen the email!! etc. etc.) gels with my main point - there are some breaches you can make where the recipient will discount everything else you've written. And you can kinda see why if you twist enough. As you say, all you did was make a mistake with one phrase, but it was of the danger category, and the guy was one of those who reacted in that manner.

It's a backhanded compliment that he perceived the damage of the remark because he viewed you as someone working to a high standard. If it was some moron on youtube, obviously nobody would care what they said. So it's also about venue.

I don't know who slandered your music or where. When I said I would complain if someone 'moronically stupid'ed me, that only applies if it was a venue or person where I'm led to expect better, and also believe what they say may have effect :)

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